Your "Dream Car"? Depends on Where You Live

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Jan 22, 2018

It’s a cliché, but clichés usually contain at least a hard center of truth. West coast and Northeast Americans go for foreign cars; the Midwest, the South, Mountain states and the Southwest trend domestic, and also buy so many pickup trucks that the Ford F-150 is, perennially, the most popular vehicle in America.

The top five aren't surprising, but the regional breakdowns are quite interesting. (Gold Eagle graphics)

Does that mean you’ll never see a Ferrari in Arkansas? Of course not. America is a far richer and stranger country than any cliché can contain. But a new survey sheds some light on regional buying patterns.

The Gold Eagle blog surveyed 2,000 people across the U.S. about their “dream cars,” and where you live makes a big difference in what you want to drive. Still, the top five overall are all American-made: Mustang, Tesla, Jeep, Corvette, Camaro.

It’s when you look more closely at the results that the differences emerge. It’s not surprising that the Northeast and Pacific go for the Tesla as their top pick, but that the Southwest also votes that way is a bit of a game changer.

The Mustang makes hearts beat faster in the Midwest and Southeast (as expected), but the Mountain states opting for the Range Rover? Couldn’t have predicted that. And take a look at the survey below. People don't actually buy their dream cars, do they? Dreams tend to be impractical, after all. A Mustang or Camaro isn't going to work if you have three kids. Neither one has a back seat worth the name.

Demographics could account for some of the more startling results. Millennials are big Tesla supporters, the survey says, and huge numbers of them have flocked to places like Washington, D.C. and Texas, says Governing magazine.

People define “dream car” differently across the country. The Northeast and Pacific say “sporty” and “efficient” (respectively) and Tesla works for both categories. The Mountain states, Southwest and Southeast say “luxurious,” and that leads them to…the Mustang? At least the Range Rover makes sense there.

If you look at the top vehicle buy in every state, it’s almost striking how regional we are. The Northeast, for instance, is home not only to Car Talk but to lots of foreign car buyers. Here’s the breakdown: Vermont and Rhode Island (Toyota RAV4), Connecticut and New York (Nissan Rogue), Honda CR-V (Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey).

Breaking the pattern are the rugged individualists in Maine, Delaware and Live-Free-or-Die New Hampshire, where the Chevy Silverado 1500 is tops.  

The Pacific Northwest is all about the Subaru Outback—it’s the bestseller in both Washington and Oregon (which don’t agree on much else).

America loves the Ford F-150--except in the Northeast. (Flickr/Williawc)

The Ford F-150 is the top choice in 22 states, not one of them in the Northeast: Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming.

Do women dream about Teslas? Not according to these stats.

Women don't tend to fall in love with the Teslas as much as men do, and they're quite a bit cooler to the Corvette. But they love their Jeeps.

There are also political dimensions to all this (see the video below), but let’s not go into them here. It’s fair to say, though, that people don’t always buy pickup trucks because they move a lot of stuff around; or Japanese cars because they like the fuel economy and have studied the consumer reliability studies. Car buying is ruled by the heart, not the head, as is made clear by America’s SUV buying spree.

Have any states remained immune to the SUV’s appeal? Yes! Compact cars are favored in California, Ohio, Florida, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, with top honors going to the Honda Civic, Toyota Yaris and Toyota Corolla.

This video is awfully revealing--armed with A Google Street View of your car, demographers are making predictions about how you vote:


Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One