Almost half of motorists say the need to save money is their primary reason for beginning the process of buying a car.
Cost factors were the key trigger for 46 per cent of people who have bought in the last six months, with 18 per cent of people specifying the need to run a more economical car.
Some 21 per cent stated that their old car would cost too much to repair and this was a factor in deciding to buy a new one, according to a poll by marketing solutions provider St Ives Group.
The research was conducted amongst 1,000 people.
Participants were asked a range of questions on their recent purchase, from the make and model they bought - and how that compared to cars they had previously owned - to the detail of what information they were looking for at each step of the decision-making process.
The top reason for deciding to buy was simply desire for a new car, with 34 per cent of people stating they wanted a newer car and six per cent being attracted by the launch of a new product or model.
Highlighting the power of marketing, 17 per cent of those surveyed were triggered by ads, recommendations by friends and contact directly from a dealership or salesman.
According to the research, an average purchase journey can take up to four months, with half of this time being spent committing to the decision to buy and the other half spent deciding what car to buy.
Low-cost and mainstream vehicle buyers follow a very similar purchase pathway, only visiting a dealership when they are ready to buy, once all their research is completed.
However, premium vehicle buyers take a distinctly different route, stating they visit the dealership midway through the purchase journey, and afterwards seek reassurance or confirmation that their choice is the right one through research and word of mouth.
Stephen Scales, principal at Incite, a division of St Ives which carried out the research, believes that car companies should take notice of the significance economic factors continue to have on people’s desire to buy cars.
He said: “News that the UK economy grew by 0.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2013 will have been music to the ears of many industries; specifically car manufacturers which saw production slashed during the downturn.
"Yet our research shows people are still in the mindset of saving money.
“Many are more interested in buying a car that is cheaper to run. Although the economy appears to be growing, confidence has not completely returned and buyers are still looking for affordable options.
"It’s an attitude that would seem to validate the industry’s move to more efficient performance.
"Highlighting this to consumers, even in a growing market, will remain key to attracting customers to a particular model.”