We assessed the relative importance healthcare consumers attach to various factors in choosing a primary care doctor (PCD) in a cross-sectional, in-person survey. Three survey locations were used: doctors' offices, a public shopping area, and meetings of a women's organization. A total of 636 community residents, varying across major demographic categories, participated. Participants completed a 23-item survey, designed to assess which factors consumers perceive as most relevant in choosing a PCD. Participants perceived professionally relevant factors (e.g. whether the doctor is board certified, office appearance) and management practices (e.g. time to get an appointment, evening and weekend hours) as more important than the doctor's personal characteristics (race, age, gender, etc.). Participants' own characteristics bore little relationship to the perceived importance of doctor characteristics. Factors patients perceive as most important to their choice of a PCD are also those that have the greatest effect on the quality of healthcare they will receive. However, they do not always have access to this information. A better understanding of the factors that influence people's choice of a PCD can contribute to efforts to provide them with the resources to make well-informed decisions in selecting among healthcare options.