Image, not environmentalism: A qualitative exploration of factors influencing vehicle purchasing decisions

Previous quantitative research has suggested people take environmental impact into account when choosing cars, and are largely uninfluenced by issues of image. However, neither of these claims appears to reflect current car buying behaviour in the UK. The authors hypothesised this may be due to the nature of the questions typically used in earlier research, which may have prompted participants to consider environmental issues, and downplay the role of image, more than they would spontaneously. The current research provides a qualitative exploration of factors important to people when deciding which car to buy. Open-ended discussion with recent car-buyers revealed the factors which were most important during the participants’ decision making processes, without prompting participants to agree with ideas raised by the experimenter. These issues were explored in two studies, using a series of focus groups (Study 1), and one-on-one interviews (Study 2). In both studies, the two most central factors were issues of practicality and finance, consistent with previous research. However, unlike in previous research, both studies found image had substantial impact on purchasing decisions. Further, earlier explicit surveys claimed people often considered environmental factors when choosing a vehicle, yet these were hardly mentioned in the current studies. This highlights the importance of using a range of research methods when studying personal travel decisions. Key areas for follow-up research and implications for policy makers aiming to increase uptake sales of low-carbon cars are discussed.


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  • Accession Number: 01633911
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 1 2017 9:36AM