How We Choose the Best New Car Values

A guide to our annual Best New Car Values rankings.

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) 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.

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

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We show five-year total ownership costs, also supplied by Kelley Blue Book, which take into account the out-of-pocket costs such as fuel, insurance and service costs, as well as the car’s loss in value. We also break out 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 for regular, $3.35 for premium and $3.75 for diesel, and assuming 15,000 miles of driving each year.


All data in our tables was supplied by Kelley Blue Book. Here’s an explanation of prices:

Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: The Kelley Blue Book® Fair Purchase Price for new cars is generally the midpoint of the Fair Market Range. It is Kelley Blue Book's estimate of what a consumer could reasonably expect to pay in during the period between December 19, 2014 through January 15, 2015 for a new vehicle with standard options, excluding taxes, title and fees. It's based on actual new-car transactions, plus data from other reliable third-party sources as well as market conditions.

MSRP: The MSRP, or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, is the price set by the manufacturer and does not necessarily reflect the price actually paid by consumers in your area. The MSRP shown here includes destination and freight charges but excludes services and handling fees and state and local tax, title and license fees.

Invoice Price: Dealer invoice represents the dealer’s cost for the vehicle only and doesn’t include any of the dealer’s costs for advertising, selling, preparing, displaying or financing the vehicle.

©2015 by Kelley Blue Book Co, Inc., ©2014, 12/19/14 – 1/15/15 Base Edition. All rights reserved. Kelley Blue Book assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.

Jessica L. Anderson
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Anderson has been with Kiplinger since January 2004, when she joined the staff as a reporter. Since then, she's covered the gamut of personal finance issues—from mortgages and credit to spending wisely—and she heads up Kiplinger's annual automotive rankings. She holds a BA in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the 2012 president of the Washington Automotive Press Association and serves on its board of directors. In 2014, she was selected for the North American Car and Truck Of the Year jury. The awards, presented at the Detroit Auto Show, have come to be regarded as the most prestigious of their kind in the U.S. because they involve no commercial tie-ins. The jury is composed of nationally recognized journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, who are selected on the basis of audience reach, experience, expertise, product knowledge, and reputation in the automotive community.