Research Reveals: America’s Most Loved Cars Have The Worst Drivers

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Written by
Cara Carlone
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Do US drivers prefer cars that are owned by bad drivers? The research suggests they might.

Insuranceopedia has analyzed data that finds a correlation between poor driving and brand popularity. In many cases, the safest and most reliable cars are actively disliked – while brands with the worst drivers are growing in popularity.

Key Takeaways

  • Toyota is the second most reliable car brand, yet the third most disliked

  • RAM drivers are most likely to be involved in a driving incident – but rank among the most liked cars

  • Mercedes Benz is the only brand that is both widely liked and unlikely to be involved in an incident

The APEAL Study

The U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study ranks car brands based on the level of emotional attachment and excitement their vehicle owners exhibit. This helps us look beyond sales figures, which are shaped by multiple factors, including how widely distributed the brand is and individual economic considerations. Instead, we can see how popular the brand itself is with users.

Top 5 Most Popular Car Brands (USA)

Top 5 Least Popular Car Brands (USA)

  1. Dodge
  2. Jaguar
  3. Porsche
  4. Land Rover
  5. BMW
  1. Chrysler
  2. Subaru
  3. Toyota
  4. Volkswagen
  5. Mazda

However, when we compare these rankings to findings about the reliability and driver behavior of specific brands, a strange pattern emerges. With a few exceptions, brands that are strongly associated with poor behavior such as DUIs and speeding tickets rank highly in the APEAL study. And those that are less likely to be involved in such incidents are often among the least popular.

Bad Driving Doesn’t Harm Brands

BMW drivers are nearly twice as likely to have a DUI than any other driver, yet are the fifth most liked brand. Dodge drivers are the 4th most likely to have one – and they are still the #1 most liked brand.

A similar trend occurs in reverse. Mitsubishi and Volvo were the least likely to be involved in an incident, yet Mitsubishi is the 6th least liked brand – and Volvo ranks in the middle of popularity. Of the 5 brands least likely to be involved in a driving incident, Mercedes Benz was the only to be in the top half of the APEAL study.

Equally, while Subaru is the second least popular brand and the third most likely to be involved in an incident, it is also among the most reliable brands – according to another study. And Toyota is the 3rd least popular brand, yet ranks exactly in the middle in terms of the number of incidents – and is the 2nd most reliable.

The only brand that performed consistently across all factors? Volkswagen: it is the 4th most likely to be involved in an incident, the 4th most unreliable and the 4th most disliked.

Explaining the Pattern

There are multiple potential reasons for these surprising correlations. First, it may simply be that the average car owner doesn’t know or care about the behavior or reliability of different brands. Their perceptions are shaped entirely by marketing, rather than their experience of other owners.

It may also be the case that car drivers are more likely to be attached to their car. The APEAL study looks at the strength of feelings owners have about their own car, which means it may simply be that drivers who speed and drink-drive are also more likely to care about their car.

However, there is another more provocative conclusion available: that drivers actually like poor behavior. Could it be that brands like Ram, BMW and Dodge actually increase their allure through an association with a higher volume of speeding tickets and DUIs? It’s impossible to say. But if that were the case, it could have intriguing implications for insurance companies.

“This data reveals that brand perception is not negatively harmed by poor driving – and it may actually be improved by it.” – Max Coupland, CEO at Insuranceopedia

Our Methodology

Our findings are based upon a comparative analysis of two recent surveys. The first is from LendingTree and uses QuoteWizard data to assess the frequency of various negative driver behaviors in the USA, broken down by car brand. The second is from J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, which uses responses from 84,555 car owners after 90 days of car ownership.

We then used data from a Consumer Reports study that looked at 20 “trouble areas” across over 330,000 vehicles to understand whether the reliability of car brands shed further light on our initial findings.

Looking For Insurance On Your Vehicle?

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Whether you’re a new driver or looking to switch providers, our user-friendly interface simplifies the process, allowing you to make informed decisions about your car insurance with confidence. Let us streamline your search and find the perfect policy tailored to you.

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