Prices Have Stayed Stable While Cars Have Improved

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Cars, trucks, and SUVs have become more fuel-efficient over the past decade, but at what cost? Are consumers footing the bill for greener rides? A new analysis by Consumer Reports reveals some surprising results.

As cars have become more complex, with regulations demanding better fuel efficiency and safety, it’s easy to assume that the price of a new car — which can feel sky-high — must be higher, too. So Consumer Reports dug into the data, looking at the prices of hundreds of cars it bought over nearly 20 years. 

Consumer Reports analysis found that from 2003 through 2021, the price of new vehicles did not increase once we adjusted for inflation. That’s despite some big improvements: Average fuel economy improved by 30%, saving consumers an average of $7,000 in lifetime gas costs per car. 

And significant gains were also made in safety, with improved crash protection and technology to help avoid a collision. Electronic stability control and backup cameras are now standard on new vehicles. And many manufacturers are now including automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning.

But even if the prices of individual vehicles are staying the same, data show people are paying more for new cars. Why? Consumers are buying more expensive vehicles.

Sales of SUVs have doubled, while sales of less expensive sedans and wagons have fallen.

Consumer Reports says you’ll get more bang for your buck by buying a car vs. an SUV.

Consumer Reports’ top tip next time you head to the dealer: Whatever you choose, don’t buy “more vehicle” than you need. It can cost you in financing, insurance, fuel economy, maintenance, and depreciation over time.

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