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Newsflash: Texans Drive Trucks

Posted: Feb 03, 2011 10:10 a.m.

Let’s say you live in the California, and the couple next door owns a Toyota Prius and a Honda Civic. Will you buy the same models? Probably.

No, we’re not being presumptuous. Where you live can predict your next car purchase. According to a new study from TrueCar.com, vehicle buying habits vary by region. Shoppers on the East and West Coasts are more likely to buy foreign models, while consumers in Middle America favor US-born vehicles, and Texans – of course – are into trucks.

When you think about it, this data makes sense. If you live in Middle America, you’re more likely to buy a Ford or Chevrolet. That may be because American automakers have been big employers in states like Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. Only three foreign models – the Toyota Corolla, Camry and Hyundai Sonata – made the list of the top ten cars in Middle America.

As for Texas, the results are predictable, too. Not only do trucks go hand in hand with cowboy hats and rough terrain, but top selling models like the Ford F-Series are also practical work vehicles. Texas’s economy relies on petroleum, coal, natural gas and farm products such as cattle, cotton and vegetables for revenue. Rugged four-wheel drive trucks are the best way to navigate worksites and transport farm equipment.

Not only does this study reveal interesting buying patterns, it gives insight into human behavior: We’re influenced by the people around us – whether we like it or not. If your Californian neighbors brag about their Priuses and look down on gas guzzlers, you’re going to want to fit in. Economic incentives also influence the cars people buy. In 2010, shoppers in California could get a $3,000 tax break on their plug in hybrid. Some large metropolitan areas also allow green cars to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes even if they don’t meet minimum occupancy requirements. The result? Time is money in rush hour traffic, and residents on the East and West Coasts may buy the Prius, which happens to be a foreign car, to avoid congested evening commutes.   

Unfortunately, TrueCar’s data doesn’t tell us everything about regional buying habits. For starters, we can’t infer why shoppers in California and New York prefer Toyotas and Hondas. Are they so far removed from Detroit that they’re not pressured into buying American? Maybe. But, if they move to Middle America, would they trade their Honda Accord for a Ford Fusion? That’s possible too, but Toyotas and Hondas are popular across the country, and at least one makes the top ten list for each region. That means shoppers who buy a Camry or Accord will fit in anywhere.

If anything, this data’s just fun and interesting, even if it doesn’t provide all the answers. Regional buying habits do reveal one thing: A lot more goes into choosing a car than a good value and personal preference.

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