It's fair to say that most consumers would prefer a green vehicle, one that has a lower impact on the environment and goes easy on costly fuel (in all senses of the term). The problem is that most people can't – or won't – pay the price premium or put up with the compromises today's green cars demand. We're not all "cashed-up greenies."
The truth is that most Americans can't afford a new car, green or not. In 2013, the average selling price of a new vehicle was $32,086. According to a recent Federal Reserve study, the median income for American families was $46,700 in 2013, a five-percent decline from $49,000 in 2010. While $32,000 for a car may not sound like a lot to some, it's about $630 a month financing for 48 months, assuming the buyer can come up with a $6,400 down payment. And that doesn't include gas, insurance, taxes, maintenance and all the rest. It's no wonder that a recent study showed that the average family could afford a new car in only one of 25 major US cities.
In 2013, the average selling price of a new vehicle was $32,086.
AutoTrader conducted a recent survey of 1,900 millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) about their new and used car buying habits. Isabelle Helms, AutoTrader's vice president of research, said millennials are "big on small" vehicles, which tend to be more affordable. Millennials also yearn for alternative-powered vehicles, but "they generally can't afford them."
When it comes to the actual behavior of consumers, the operative word is "affordable," not "green." In 2012, US new car sales rose to 14.5 million. But according to Manheim Research, at 40.5 million units, used car sales were almost three times as great. While the days of the smoke-belching beater are mostly gone, it's a safe bet that the used cars are far less green in terms of gas mileage, emissions, new technology, etc., than new ones.