Buying & Leasing a Car

How We Choose the Best New Car Values

We pick Best in Class and Best New winners based on performance, value and safety. Half the score is awarded for value, including resale, fuel efficiency, front and rear legroom, headroom, and cargo space (trunk space or the space behind the second-row seats in a wagon, crossover or minivan). Sedans are ranked within price categories. Crossovers, minivans and wagons aren’t broken out by price, so we also score on a scale that rewards lower prices.

See Also: Best New Car Values, 2014

A vehicle’s safety (represented by crash-test ratings and features such as airbags and traction control) counts for one-fourth of the total score, and performance for 10%. The remainder of the score derives from our impressions while test-driving the cars. We assess design and comfort as well as dashboard layout.

Keys to a great deal. Only the most desirable vehicles actually sell for the suggested retail price. That’s why we also list the invoice price (all prices include the destination charge). Our invoice price does not reflect the “holdback,” which is money refunded to the dealer by the carmaker after a vehicle is sold. Ideally, you’ll negotiate a price as close to the invoice as possible. Our tables list the Fair Purchase Price from Kelley Blue Book. Check for the price in your area.

Another measure of a vehicle’s worth is its resale value three and five years down the road. These figures, also supplied by Kelley, are the estimated price that a dealer would pay at trade-in, expressed as a percentage of the sticker price.


We show five-year total ownership costs, which take into account the out-of-pocket costs such as fuel and insurance, as well as the car’s loss in value. That includes serv­ice costs, which are an estimate of maintenance and repairs over five years.

Finally, we choose the most fuel-efficient vehicles based on annual fuel costs, using gasoline prices of $3.40 for regular, $3.70 for premium and $3.90 for diesel, and assuming 15,000 miles of driving each year.

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