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.
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 national average price from TrueCar. Before you shop, check www.truecar.com for the average price near you.
Another measure of a vehicle's worth is its resale value three and five years down the road. These figures, also supplied by TrueCar, are the estimated price that a dealer would pay at trade-in, expressed as a percentage of the sticker price.
Don't neglect ownership costs. In our tables, service cost is an estimate of the cost of maintenance and unscheduled repairs over five years. Insurance cost is an estimate of the annual premium a middle-aged driver with a clean driving record would pay.
Finally, we choose the most fuel-efficient vehicles based on annual fuel costs, using gasoline prices of $3.70 for regular, $4 for premium and $4.15 for diesel, and assuming 15,000 miles of driving each year.
About the Tables
Sources for the data: TrueCar provided new-vehicle data. Service and insurance costs were provided by Vincentric. CarBargains shopped for the best deals on our Best New vehicles. Best leasing deals came from LeaseCompare.com.