Below Prime Car Buyers Less Loyal Than Average Car Buyer

Below prime car buyers are less loyal than the average car buyer, are making “practical choices” as they re-enter the market, and are trading in slightly younger vehicles this year than last according to a new brand loyalty report released by

The report lists the top five brands for loyalty and purchase, as well as the most traded-in model years for below-prime car buyers. What’s more, the report is based on an analysis of trade-in data from January 2013 through September 2013, and offers a snapshot of the large population of car-buyers who are below prime.

Below-prime car buyers, according to the report, are most loyal to Kia overall, with Nissan trailing a close second. When looking at the brands consumers are buying most when trading in, Chevrolet topped the list followed by Ford. While import brands score highest for loyalty, according to the report, it is the domestic brands that these buyers are opting for more than any other brand. 

The Below-Prime Brand Loyalty Report is based on an analysis of funded loans used to purchase a new or used vehicle, and where a trade-in was part of the transaction.

Given the fact that brand loyalty for the below price car buyer is almost half (24%) that of the average buyer (44%), Chevrolet’s strong showing is significant, the report states. Chevrolet’s recent introduction of competitively priced, feature-rich sedans with good fuel economy, such as the Cruze and Malibu, as well as its traditional strength with trucks, continues to resonate with below-prime consumers. 

While the average age of a vehicle on the road today is 11.4 years, the average age of a vehicle traded in by below-prime car buyers is 8.8 years, a 6% decrease from the previous year’s 9.4. The most traded-in model year is 2006 and the top five years traded-in all pre-date the recession.

Here are the top five below-prime car buyer loyalty brands listed in the report:






Here are the top five model years traded in by below-prime car buyers:






What was the biggest surprise from the report?

“The vehicle age at which these customers are trading in,” Sam Lopez, VP Direct Marketing,, told Loyalty360. “With all that’s been written about how long the average consumer is holding on to their car, it was a big surprise to see that below prime customers are coming back to the market sooner than the average car buyer.”

Below-prime buyers are laser-focused on value and getting the most for their money, Lopez added. “They aren’t opting for vehicles that resemble the rest of the market, where according to some reports the average vehicle is close to or at $30,000. That is why we see Kia top the list instead of perennial best-sellers like Toyota or Honda. These customers will hunt for the right vehicle that will stretch their dollar the most while not sacrificing on core features.”

Lopez offered some advice to car manufacturers.

“All manufacturers offer vehicles for this segment of the market, and would do well in 2014 to highlight vehicles that this segment is choosing,” he said. “From a Kia Optima to a Dodge Dart or Nissan Versa, these are vehicles rich in features, but competitively priced that appeal to the below-prime segment. OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) can spend a little more time highlighting these vehicles from their lineups in order to reach these customers to bring them into brands. Since they are less loyal, or have been, they can be marketed to on features and price rather than brand alone. It’s a big opportunity for the OEM that takes advantage of this.”

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