This marks a drastic shift in the mindset of buyers. In 2006 gas mileage occupied the fourth spot on the list and in 2001 it was all the way down in the 22nd spot.
The survey, conducted by Consumer Reports, indicates that buyers are increasingly open to cars that are billed as efficient. These include hybrid models, all-electric models, diesel-powered models and vehicles equipped with downsized engines. It also shows that women are more worried about the environment and about U.S. dependence on foreign oil than men are.
The quick shift in buyers' mindset is largely attributed to high gas prices all around the nation.
"These results make it clear that high fuel prices are continuing to impact driver behavior and influencing future purchase considerations," said Jeff Bartlett, the deputy auto editor at Consumer Reports.
Automakers in the United States see the shift in perception as a necessary step towards increasing the average gas mileage of new cars sold.
"Long-term, sustained, consumer support for fuel-efficient vehicles is essential to any automaker meeting these very aggressive fuel economy standards we've now got in place," explained Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
The survey showed that after gas mileage, buyers are most interested in quality (17 percent), safety (16 percent), value (14 percent) and performance (6 percent).
Photo by Ronan Glon.