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Cars that attract the ladies (and guys)

If you find yourself without a date this Valentine’s Day, maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s your car.

According to a new survey by Insure.com, women say that attractive men tend to drive black Ford pickup trucks. Men report that attractive women drive red BMW sports cars.

The survey of 2,000 men and women asked what type, brand and color of vehicle are driven by the most fetching members of the opposite sex.

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Women ranked these styles as cars that attractive men drive:

  • Pickup trucks: 32%
  • Sports cars: 27%
  • SUVs: 16%
  • Sedans: 11%
  • Hybrid or electric: 9%
  • UPS truck: 4%
  • Minivans: 2%
  • Mail truck: 1%

The top brands of car for attractive men, as ranked by women, were Ford (16%), Chevrolet (13%) and Porsche (11%).  Women overwhelmingly point to black (53%) as the color of cars driven by good-looking men, followed by silver (16%) and red (13%).

Here’s how men ranked car types for attractive women:

  • Sports cars: 39%
  • Sedans: 22%
  • SUVs: 20%
  • Pickup trucks: 10%
  • Hybrid or electric vehicle: 6%
  • Minivans: 4%

Men envision desirable gals in BMWs (16%), Mercedes-Benzes (14%) and Porsches (10%). The top car colors for attractive women were red (40%), black (23%) and silver (14%).

So true

What cars do attractive people drive?To test the merits of the survey's findings, we turned to experts at some of the leading automotive websites and automakers.

"The findings strike me as very accurate," says Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Chicago-based Cars.com. "Among the general public, a black pickup truck is a reflection of a masculine owner. A woman walks up to a black pickup truck and says to herself, 'Here's a guy who can help me move, bring me large gifts from Crate & Barrel and do repairs around my condo.'"

In addition, black vehicles in general are the most difficult to keep clean, Wiesenfelder adds. "If it's a clean black pickup, she might subconsciously be thinking to herself, 'This is a guy who can wash my car as well,'" he says.

As a reviewer of new vehicles, Wiesenfelder often slides behind the wheel of pickup trucks, so he's in a good position to judge the response. "That's when I find I have a lot more friends, and a lot more dates than I realized," he observes.

Wiesenfelder thinks there a several factors at play in the choice of red BMW sports car for women. First, the BMW is a luxury car, so it suggests the owner has a disposable income. "As a single man, that's attractive to me," he says. "I don't want to carry the entire relationship."

BMWs are also known for performance, he observes. They feature quick and very responsive handling. That indicates a woman accustomed to hairpin turns, who would not accuse him of driving like a maniac should he take the wheel of her BMW and test it on a long winding highway.

"There's nothing worse than a woman with motion sickness," he says.

The expert view

At Santa Monica, Calif.-based Edmunds.com, automotive editor Mike Magrath and senior analyst Jessica Caldwell also view the survey results as plausible, if not scientifically accurate.

Magrath observes that "there's just something about a truck, and it doesn't matter whether you're in Santa Monica or San Antonio. It's rugged, but it's still a guy who's put together enough resources to buy one and keep it on the road."

"It makes sense,” says Caldwell. “It brings forth the image of the rugged tough guy.” But Caldwell also drops a hint about her own personal preferences. “Some women like a lot more cosmopolitan guy, driving a Range Rover or Tesla Model S."

Magrath has a quibble with the red BMW sports car’s top ranking, but mostly because of the color. "The red BMW is a little high maintenance for me," he observes. "A black or white BMW I can get behind. It's sporty, elegant, and it requires the investment of enough time and money to suggest the owner is someone successful."

Caldwell offers one more way to up the ante: When she drove a manual transmission, "that would be the first thing guys would comment upon, once they got in my car," she says.

Mailing it in

While mail trucks ranked last as a vehicle that attractive men drive, Caldwell points to “chick cars” as especially troublesome for male drivers.

“I would think twice about dating a guy driving a VW Beetle, or anything labeled a chick car," she says. "Telling your friends, 'Yeah, my new boyfriend drives a VW Beetle,' that would be very humiliating."

For women, green minivans are date-killers – men rank these last as vehicles that attractive women drive.

The inside story of red

BMW Z4

The BMW Z4

For more on the appeal of red BMWs, we turned to authority Alexandra ("Sandy") McGill, lead color, material and finish designer for BMW Group Designwork USA.

Labeling red "red hot," McGill reports that if a driver wants attention, he or she drives a car in red, which makes forms seem more voluminous. While men prefer warmer reds, women prefer cooler or violet-toned reds.

"Red has a visceral effect on the human body and psyche," she says. "Not only does red quickly catch the eye, it makes the pulse quicken, blood flow faster and increases adrenalin. Red is associated with athletics, energetic activities and fast speed. It is popular for sports cars, coupes and convertibles. More red cars are sold in the United States than anywhere else in the world."

And red exudes confidence. That makes it ideal for BMW, which McGill calls "an emotional car." BMW has 10 exterior red colors, including solids, metallics and a matte red, she says.

A logical purchase might be the all-new BMW 4-Series Coupe, available in Vermillion Red Metallic, which emphasizes the sporty qualities of the car.

Contrary to popular myth, red cars do not cost more to insure. However, sports cars are the most expensive vehicles to insure. Insure.com’s car insurance discounts tool will help you save money no matter what car you drive.

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150

Ford Motor Co. did not respond to a request for comment about the survey results.

The importance of a clean car

No matter what brand of car you own, Magrath says either gender can make their cars more appealing by taking good care of them. "How well a car is maintained is a determinant of attractiveness," he asserts. "Like the black Ford truck and the red BMW, it goes beyond simple conveyance. It says this woman cares about how she treats herself and how she maintains her possessions."

Wiesenfelder agrees that “if the car is well kept, there's a better chance the owner takes good care of him or herself."

These observations are supported by survey results. When asked what’s most important about a car belonging to the opposite sex, people say:

1.      That it is clean. (Women: 45%. Men: 43%.)

2.      That it is reliable. (Women: 37%. Men: 29%.)

Less important are:

3.      That it is interesting. (Women: 7%. Men: 12%.)

4.      That it is new or new-ish. (Women: 6%. Men: 9%.)

5.      That it is expensive. (Women: 4%. Men: 6%.)

Cigarettes and trash

Both genders are most turned off by vehicles with cigarette butts in the ashtray, according to survey results.

Women are less forgiving of bad music and loud exhaust. Men are more easily alarmed by political bumper stickers and car dents.

Auto-related turn-offs were:

  1. Cigarette butts in the ashtray. (Women: 23%. Men: 23%.)
  2. Trash on the seats. (Women: 22%. Men: 23%.)
  3. Playing bad loud music. (Women: 21%. Men: 16%.)
  4. Bumper stickers for political candidates. (Women: 9%. Men: 13 %.)
  5. Car dents. (Women: 6%. Men:  11%.)
  6. Loud exhaust. (Women: 14%. Men: 9%.)
  7. Pine tree air freshener. (Women:  5%. Men:  5%.)

Caldwell believes most folks are also put off by Hawaiian leis dangling from rear-view mirrors and backseats inhabited by stuffed animals.

The fact of the matter remains: Your persona is intrinsically linked in some way to the vehicle you drive. You may be able to leverage that to boost your odds of a date to the movies this Saturday night.

“Your car always reflects something about you,” says Wiesenfelder. “You don't always know what, but it must reflect something."

Survey methodology

Insure.com surveyed 2,000 licensed drivers age 18 and over, split evenly between men and women and divided across age groups and regions. The online-panel survey was fielded in December 2013.

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