Women are more likely to prioritize safety and affordability in shopping for cars, while men appear to seek out cars based on exterior styling and "rugged" reputations.
Researchers from auto information company Kelley Blue Book collected online surveys from 13,000 U.S. adults who visited KBB.com between January and June. The site offers insights on car pricing and reviews. Surveys were anonymous and linked to responders' online shopping data.
"Like comparing apples to oranges, men and women have different factors of importance when choosing a vehicle, influencing their brand research based on qualities that matter the most to them," said market intelligence manager Diana Duque-Miranda.
She noted older men typically gravitated toward "heritage" brands they grew up with – Lincoln, for example, and Buick.
Search data showed 76% of women in the study sought out safety features in their next new car purchase, compared with 61%.
That surprised Arthur Henry, another Kelly Blue Book manager. "When I think of solid cars, I also think of safety," a priority analysts found more often in women's searches.
The survey data showed men tended to gravitate toward models considered "rugged," Henry said. Twenty-eight percent of men were more likely to shop for such vehicles, compared with 19% of women, he said.
Duque-Miranda noted women were more likely to seek out features once considered luxury – such as leather seats, USB ports and parking sensors – that are now becoming standard in lower-priced vehicles.
Fuel efficiency also ranked high among 67% of women, compared with 48% of men.
So how did brands fare in the battle of the sexes? Lincoln, Audi, Jaguar, Scion and Cadillac topped the list of 10 makes most likely to be sought out by men. Women were more likely to browse options from Volvo, Infiniti, Fiat, Acura and Nissan.
The study's analysts said they thought these findings might be self-reinforcing when it comes to future buyer behavior.
"I don't know that shoppers are aware of these priorities," Henry said. "The separation may become bigger. Once something is labeled, consumers tend to go that way. If you say, 'This is a man car,' men will say, 'Yeah, I'll go with that,' while women shy away -- and vice versa."