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Priceonomics writes stories about data provided by their customers. They say they are obsessed with creating and spreading quality, data-driven information. Their latest release is titled Which Car Brands Have the Most Loyal Owners? When we took a closer look, we found all is not what it appears to be, for several reasons. 

  1. Casual readers will likely conclude this is about new cars, but the study included only used cars. This leaves out the 17 million new car buyers each year in the U.S.
  2. Second, findings include only CarMax shoppers. CarMax sells a million used cars a year, which is only about 2% of the 43 million used cars sold in the U.S. each year.
  3. Third, their findings are only for people who traded in one used car on another.

Which car brands have the most loyal owners?

According to the very narrow CarMax study, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Ford are the top three auto brands for customer loyalty. Others study car brand loyalty, too, so we looked at some studies from other sources and saw none found the same results.

    • BrandKeys: Hyundai, Ford, and Toyota. 
    • Experian: Ram, Ford F150, Lincoln. 
    • Edmunds: Toyota, Subaru and Honda.
    • Cartelligent: BMW, Lexus, Audi. 
    • Consumer Reports: Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet. 
    • Autoguide: Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln.

There you have it – 14 different auto brands in The Top Three, 7 different brands in First Place – conclusive proof of automotive brand loyalty. Researchers are seldom surprised to see such differences in findings from analyses that claim they are studying the same thing. Studies that appear in the media rarely include descriptions of methods, samples, or how terms are defined.


Real loyalty is consistently purchasing the same brand over an extended period of time. Buying a second car the same brand as the first does not cover an extended period of time. True auto loyalty would be buying the same brand three, four, five times in a row and more. So what we have is a measurement that if accurately titled would say: A One-Shot Analysis of Brand Repurchase Among People Trading in One Used Car for Another at a CarMax Dealership. This is miles away from their title, Which Brands Have the Most Loyal Owners? Neither Priceonomics nor CarMax has any interest in telling you their claim is not what it appears to be.

As a study, Car Max’s is a failure. Trading one used car in on another may be one measure of automotive brand loyalty, but only a shallow one. Is your company over-generalizing from limited information?

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