The Car with the Best All-Around Value Is…

By dancurranjr On March 5th, 2009

2010_toyota_priusThe characteristics we look for in a new car seem to be constantly changing. Last year, it was gas mileage. Before that, it was size. But if there’s one thing everyone can agree on right now as a paramount attribute in a potential new car, it’s value.

For that reason, Consumer Reports has just released its first ever ‘value pick’ in it’s annual auto issue, out today. John Linkov, managing auto editor for the magazine, said that in an era of saving money, it does not makes sense to just buy the cheapest car on the lot. You can save thousands in the long run by buying a car that may cost a little more on the sticker but will provide great ownership costs, reliability and performance over its lifetime.

The Honda Fit took the award for best value in small cars, while the Toyota Highlander won for best value in mid-sized SUVs. The Infiniti G35 was declared the best value in upscale sedans. But the best overall value went to the popular Toyota Prius, a hybrid.

The Prius had a road test score of 80/100, Linkov said, and a five-year cost of $26,250, which is surprisingly low for a hybrid with a higher starting cost. Consumer Reports’ formula gave the Prius a $325 dollar value per point, making it the best all-around value it tested.

That’s not news to CNBC Managing Editor Tyler Mathisen, who personally owns a Prius and couldn’t be happier (or ‘smug,’ as he joked). But to him, value is more than just a formula – it’s the sense of pleasure you get from driving a car. While Consumer Reports does not take style into account for its value picks, some people might find the extra cost of a BMW or Mercedes to be worth it for the pleasure it affords them. But Linkov warns that luxury cars also come with higher ownership costs, from parts to service, and they also have a higher rate of depreciation.

Whatever you look for in your next set of wheels, remember that value is more than just the price on the window. Of course, the best value might be to not buy a new car at all and just keep your current ride for a little longer.


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