Motorists are foregoing style, size and colour when it comes to buying a car, opting instead to search for the most economical car within their budget.
The findings are based on searches performed on Carmony.co.uk, the approved used car website.
Petrol electric hybrid cars proved very popular with searches increasing by 32% year-on-year.
The findings, based on searches performed in March 2011 compared with March 2010, show an increase in searches based on budget and fuel efficiency; searches for cars priced between £5,000 and £10,000 rose by 40%, while searches for cars achieving over 40mpg increased by 36%.
Searches for petrol cars decreased by a fifth compared with March 2010, while diesel fuel cars made up for nearly 80% of total fuel searches in March 2011.
A spokesman for Carmony.co.uk said: “Although Britain was gripped by recession at the start of 2010, the long term impact of the country’s economic difficulties hasn’t gone away.
“In the past year we’ve seen a new coalition government, a rise in tax, VAT and fuel duty, and job cuts across many sectors.
Motorists have been hit hard and those looking to buy a car have to make their budget stretch even further.
“It’s not just the outright price of the car that motorists have to consider. Motorists are becoming more savvy when it comes to running costs and the change in search habits on Carmony.co.uk reflects this.
"It’s so important to understand how much it will cost to actually own a car and the more prepared a driver can be about the potential costs, the better.”