Best new-car values biggest bang for your buck

Our scores reveal which cars deliver the biggest bang for your buck

Published: December 18, 2014 06:00 AM
Toyota Camry Hybrid
Photo: David Dewhurst Photography

Some cars might be inexpensive but leave you feeling unsatisfied. They might not be good values, leaving you feeling as if you have overloaded on junk food. To help you steer clear of those empty calories, we compiled Consumer Reports’ best-value scores. They make it easy to identify which cars provide the most for your money and which ones could leave you feeling ripped off down the road.

To calculate our value Ratings, we analyzed more than 200 recently tested vehicles, focusing on road-test scores, predicted reliability, and five-year owner-cost estimates. The better a car performs in our tests and reliability Ratings, and the less it costs to own over time, the better its value. The best car represents about twice the value as the average car.

Hybrids generally did well in our analysis, especially the Toyota and Lexus hybrids and the Lincoln MKZ. None of them are a bargain, but they’re good values because they delight you with luxury or convenience at every turn, don’t require frequent trips to the dealer, and won’t soak your bank account every month.

This year’s best value is the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Smooth and capable—but not exciting—our model’s $29,000 as-tested price is affordable for the roominess, comfort, and all-around functionality it delivers. Its 38 mpg overall is impressive for a midsized sedan. And it’s stone-cold reliable. Which means that your dollar goes about twice as far with a Camry Hybrid as with the average-value car, according to our analysis.

Sure, you could buy the comparable Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for about $2,300 less than the Camry Hybrid XLE. But the Sonata’s jerky transitions from gas to electric irritated our testers. Its predicted reliability is less stellar than that of the Camry Hybrid. And its 33-mpg overall barely surpasses the best nonhybrid sedans, which cost less. In the end, the Sonata Hybrid represents merely an average value.

The bottom of the pack has a mix of expensive, unreliable German luxury sedans, big SUVs with voracious fuel appetites, and outdated and noncompetitive small Jeeps. But not all SUVs are poor values... 

The complete story (available to online subscribers) digs deep into the data, and it is followed by more than a dozen charts detailing the findings, including projected cost per mile.

Editor's Note:

 This article also appeared in the February 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine

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