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Choosing the best car or truck

Consumer Reports vehicle Ratings and road tests provide an effective means for online subscribers to compare models, and are backed by deep data that can shed further light on a vehicle's performance. Ratings can be easily scanned and filtered by the parameters that matter most to you in the New Car Selector. (An advanced used car search provides comparison tools for pre-owned models.) Here you can rank the vehicles by several factors, including the Overall Score.

The Overall Score reflects the findings from more than 50 individual tests and evaluations conducted at our 327-acre Auto Test Center. In addition to traditional acceleration and braking tests, many exclusive tests, including avoidance maneuver, wet braking, emergency handling course, real-world fuel-economy tests, noise and ride-comfort courses, headlight tests, and antilock-brakes test, are performed by Consumer Reports auto engineers. (Learn more about how we test cars.)

Another important insight is a vehicle's predicted reliability. Each year, Consumer Reports National Research Center collects and analyzes data on more than a million vehicles. From this research, we provide reliability information in several forms. For used-car buyers, we give Ratings for 17 trouble areas over 10 model years, so you can see a model's individual strengths and weaknesses. We also provide a Used Car Verdict for each model year that sums up a vehicle's overall reliability. For new-car buyers, we provide a Predicted Reliability Rating that indicates how vehicles currently on sale are likely to hold up. (See our latest reliability Ratings.)

As you conduct research, you will want to look beyond the purchase price to projected owner costs to understand what you might be spending on that model in the years ahead. A complete breakdown that includes depreciation, fuel, insurance, maintenance, and repair costs can be found in every new-car model page. As you will see, buying the less-expensive vehicle doesn't ensure lower long-term ownership costs. Checking these figures can help you to predict your relative out-of-pocket expenses for years to come.

Clearly, there are many considerations in choosing the best sedan for you. To make the selection easier, look for models that are Consumer Reports Recommended. Those vehicles have performed well in CR's tests, have average or better reliability, and, if crash-tested, provide good overall safety.

Whether you use our New Car Selector, A to Z lists, or know exactly the models that you wish to research, target a sedan that meets your requirements today and the years ahead—though resist the temptation to buy more car than you need. Otherwise, you might pay more initially, and then continue to pay through fuel, finance charges, maintenance, and eventually, depreciation. (Read our step-by-step car buying advice.)