US car buyers prefer sedans to SUVs, petrol or diesel to electric, and price is more important than performance. But they want their vehicles to last – much more than they care about comfort or speed.

How do we know? We asked them – 1,314 of them. Some 94 per cent of US households already own a vehicle and 48 per cent own at least two. Even so, more than three-quarters say they’ll buy another within the next three years with 59 per cent – mainly aged in their 30s – planning to purchase before the end of 2020.

However, while the 37 per cent of Americans claiming they would purchase a pure electric vehicle slightly exceeds the proportion that would not, another 28 per cent say they’ll buy only if there is an incentive.

Even though nearly 20 per cent said they would pay an additional USD3,000 for a new-energy vehicle compared with an internal-combustion engine – and a quarter would pay a USD10,000 premium – 30 per cent are not prepared to pay anything extra.

The lack of US charging stations is an even greater deterrent than price to going electric and 77 per cent of our survey think an electric vehicle needs a minimum range of at least 120 miles.

We asked a broad section of America about their current and future cars. About a third are aged under 34 and another third over 55, with an equal male-female split. Some 41 per cent are families of four or more, 17 per cent single and 27 per cent couples; nearly half have children. Two-thirds own their home rather than rent and most live within 10 miles of a city-centre. Nearly a quarter earn USD30,000 to USD60,000 – but most household incomes are higher.

Most drive an average 30 to 60 miles a week and currently, 92 per cent of their vehicles are petrol or diesel with another 4 per cent hybrids. Just 4 per cent are plug-in or battery electric vehicles. Three-quarters of those with more than one automobile have a sedan, or saloon car, with just over half owning sport-utility vehicles.

Despite claiming to be prepared to go electric, 71 per cent say they’ll still chose petrol or diesel for their next car; 11 per cent would go electric and 17 per cent buy a hybrid. Half want a mid-size vehicle rather than a smaller or a larger car, but three-quarters want an engine of above 2.0 litres.

Apart from people saying they’ve already got a car, the main reason given for not buying is price – far ahead of preferences for ride-hailing, public transport, maintenance costs or parking difficulties. Of sedan buyers, 42 per cent think price most important with 24 per cent choosing performance; for SUVs the figures are 37 per cent and 27 per cent.

But the vehicle’s life is by far the key factor in buying: 24 per cent of our survey keep their cars for more than 10 years. Longevity is almost twice as important as technological features, which are twice as critical as comfort or speed. Environmental factors and emissions rank very low with US buyers.

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