June 25,2010, 2010 -- Stylish yet affordable, Volkswagen's Beetle is the auto most likely to be purchased by women, according to a study of 13 million U.S. vehicle registrations over the past two years.
Men are most likely to go for a brawny, gas-chugging GM truck or even a powerful Bugatti with a $2 million pricetag, according to the findings of Truecar.com, the California-based auto pricing information company.
The nation's population is more than 50 percent female, yet women account for just 36 percent of new car registrations, the study found. Among all new car owners registering Beetles, more than 56 percent were women.
"It fits the description of what women want in a car," Jesse Toprak, Truecar's vice president of industry trends, told ABCNews.com. "It's cheap to maintain and own... It gets good gas mileage. It's practical to get around in big cities yet it's stylish to drive in hip metropolitan areas. It's kind of a home run from all those different perspectives."
What do men want – in a car?
"The old image of the macho man that likes the big trucks and exotic cars still holds true and the data proves that," Toprak said. "There were not many surprises from the male perspective."
The highest percentage of male registrations listed expensive, exotic brands such as Bugatti (100 percent), Ferrari (94.4 percent), and Lamborghini (93.5 percent), the study found. Among mass-market vehicles, men tended to register hulking trucks from General Motors, Chrysler and Toyota at far higher rates than women.
Gender Differences Where the Rubber Hits The Road
Survey findings were based on the gender listed on the car registration alone but that may differ from the actual number of women buying cars or driving them.
Female buyers also tended toward smaller sport utility vehicles. The Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4 made up five of the nine vehicles registered by more women than men.
Other cars registered to women at least 50 percent of the time included VW's Eos, the Volvo S40 and the Nissan Sentra. Kia was the brand with the highest percentage of female registrants (45.8 percent), followed by Suzuki (44.2 percent), and Mini Cooper (43 percent).
The Kia, in the $15,000 to $20,000 price range, is popular among younger females and first-time car buyers. "Those buyers tend to be very much 'value' oriented," Toprak said. "They are trying to get the most amount of car for their money."
Of some 200 vehicle models in the sample, just nine had more female registrants than male. Most of those brands are being purchased by women in their 20s and 30s who don't have large families.
"Perhaps it's just a matter of convenience," Toprak said. "What that means is that when somebody goes to buy a family car, sometimes, especially if they have kids, it's easier for the male to go and register the vehicle and deal with the paperwork."
Toprak attributed the gender differences in the registration numbers in part to the fact that many banks require the primary income earner to be on the registration first. He said anecdotal evidence suggests that in many cases females make or influence in the decision of which car to buy. Teenagers are also influencing the choice of cars their parents drive.
"Increasingly, mom and dad are turning are turning to teenagers and saying, 'Hey, you know how the internet works. Do a little research and tell me,'" he said.
Car makers are trying to reach that increasingly influencial teen audience, said Toprak, noting Ford's sponsorship of American Idol.
The country's economic straits also affected the findings. "If we had looked at a period that was overwhelmingly positive and with a growing economy we probably could have seen more fashionable and higher priced vehicles on the female side," he said. "The reality is that consumers are now looking for value -- a lot of car for the money."
He Says Bugatti, She Says Beetle
For his part, Toprak said he drives a blue Chrysler 300Z with a powerful hemi engine. His wife: A Toyota Sienna minivan.
"If you can get away with the non-cool factor, there is nothing more practical than a minivan if you have kids," he said. "I think we've gotten over trying to look cool with three kids."