The Prius/Hummer Index: What Cities Buy the Smallest and Biggest Cars?

Priceonomics, an innovative online price guide for just about everything, shared their findings on the best markets for expensive, cheap, big, small and foreign cars

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See part one of Priceonomics' car market investigation: The Car Snob Index

People have vastly different car budgets by geography. In Salt Lake City, the median price of a used car for sale is $13,900 while in Allentown, PA it's only $5,400. The cities that buy the most foreign cars aren't even necessarily the ones that rank high in the Median Price Index. Oklahoma City, for example, buys mostly American cars and its citizens have the fifth most expensive taste in cars.

We thought it would be interesting to see where Hummers and Priuses were popular. After all, both elicit strong emotions in people (see SouthPark's "Smug Alert" regarding San Francisco and Prius-owners).

The Prius is most popular in large cities in California like LA and San Francisco. Allentown PA is the Hummer Capital of the US (it was also coincidentally the "Least Hipster City in America" in an earlier analysis).

Because Subaru's are known as being popular among outdoors enthusiasts, we looked where they rank highly:

Burlington, Vermont, likes Subarus way better than everyone else in America. Congratulations on your ruggedness!

CODA: Bad Grammar Will Cost You

Switching gears slightly, we examined how word choice in used car ads corresponds to price. For example, if you describe your car as a "total piece of crap", how will its price compare to similar cars not phrased that way?

We categorized the language used into 5 categories: 1) Description of Features 2) Vacuous Marketing Language ("excellent" car) 3) Evidence of a Guilty Conscience (no rust on this car, seriously!) 4) Signal of Desperation (I really need to sell this car) 5) Cataclysmic Events (car is better used for parts).

Interestingly, advertising that your car is able to do things that cars are supposed to do like "run" and "pass inspection" are associated with lower prices. Same with offering to trade the car or being open to "best offers."

One of the most interesting tidbits is that using incorrect grammar appears to have an economic cost.

All else equal, it pays to use proper grammar when you're trying to sell something.


Is it weird that people in Tulsa drive different cars than in New Haven? Is there really any good reason why people in one mid-sized American city drive one brand of cars and a different brand in another? Even today, American-branded automobiles might be manufactured in Canada and Japanese-branded ones in America. The line between a domestic and an international brand is clearly disappearing over time.

The Internet can spread information about what are the best products and globalize their distribution so anyone can buy them. It would seems strange if the people of Akron refused to use an HTC phone because it was Asian, but that norm still exists in some places for cars. When, if ever, will we all just be buying the same stuff?

This article originally appeared on Priceonomics.