Car Culture

Truck buyers are more price conscious, less brand loyal than we thought

CarGurus has recently published its second-annual truck buyers survey and the results are even more surprising this time around.

Trucks have always been big business, but now buyers are more price-conscious and less brand loyal and that could change the whole game.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Truck buyers are an interesting group of people. Among them, you'll traditionally find some of the most brand-loyal consumers in the automotive space as well as some of the most price-conscious.

The truck segment is also interesting because of how quickly it's changing. What were once utilitarian penalty boxes on wheels are now rivaling some of the world's most popular luxury cars when it comes to opulence.

To help make sense of what's going on in the world of trucks, CarGurus.com has again conducted a survey of truck owners. This time around, CarGurus expanded its sample size significantly to more than a thousand current and former truck owners. What were the takeaways?

To start with, the upward march of truck prices is beginning to undermine some of that fierce brand tribalism that we've traditionally associated with truck buyers. CarGurus found that 67 percent of buyers think trucks are too expensive in 2019, with more than 80 percent of survey participants over the age of 45 agreeing with that.

Around 54 percent of those surveyed said that price would cause them to consider switching brands, with 70 percent saying that they'd jump ship to another brand if their current make boosted prices by $10,000. The second biggest cause for switching was fuel economy, which 47 percent of buyers said would make them change up.

One of the factors driving prices of trucks up -- apart from luxury touches like leather and wood -- is the massive increase in the amount of tech that trucks have seen in recent years. Whether that is something as simple as a touchscreen infotainment system or as complex as Chevrolet's super-advanced cylinder deactivation system, it all costs money. Still, a slim majority of 54 percent of buyers approve of how tech-laden their trucks are.

"With pickup truck prices on the rise, many owners are reconsidering their current brand, or in some cases whether they will repurchase a pickup at all," said Madison Gross, director of consumer insights at CarGurus, in a statement. "While truck owners still have strong brand and category loyalty, the challenge for car manufacturers and dealerships is that loyalty is increasingly less reliable as a driver of sales."

As many as 17 percent of those polled said that they wouldn't consider buying another truck, citing fuel economy and cost of maintenance as the primary factors for leaving the segment. Of those that have already dumped their trucks, 35 percent switched to a sedan and, surprisingly, only 37 percent moved to an SUV or crossover. This goes against the broader market trends we're seeing, where SUVs are crushing sedan sales.

What we'd be curious to see is how these types of sentiments found by CarGurus translate across different kinds of trucks. For example, does a midsize truck owner care more about their brand than a full-size truck owner? Or is the person who buys an F-150 more of a tech evangelist than the person who drives a Ram 3500 HD?

We'll have to wait until next year to find out.