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How to find the cars that offer the best value

How to find the cars that offer the best value

When shopping for a new car, it is natural to want to get a great value for your automotive dollar. And that's what our latest best new-car values analysis is designed to do.

Simply stated: Vehicles that are reliable, perform well, and don't cost much to own represent the best values.

In our calculations, we factor the overall test score, based on more than 50 tests conducted at our 327-acre facility. We then include predicted reliability--our forecast of how new models will hold up based on the latest Annual Auto Survey, in which subscribers told us about their problems with 1.2 million vehicles. And finally, we add in our five-year owner cost estimates that factor depreciation, fuel, insurance premiums, interest on financing, sales tax, maintenance, and repairs.

With the calculations complete, we find that the Toyota Prius stands as the best value on the market today, unseating the four-time champion Honda Fit. Sure, there are less expensive vehicles, but the Prius offers a comfortable ride, competent handling, roomy interior, excellent reliability, and, of course, great fuel economy.

Looking at trends, we find that luxury cars are predictably poor values. Some return little in the way of performance for their high cost and risk of expensive repairs. The data shows you're almost always better off spending less on a family car or a basic SUV than springing for something with a luxury brand name, if you seek value. But we found good values in every class.

Standouts include:

Small hatchbacks: Toyota Prius
Small sedans: Toyota Corolla
Family sedans: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Upscale sedans: Acura TSX
Luxury sedans: Cadillac CTS
Sporty cars: Mini Cooper
Wagons: Toyota Prius V
Small SUVs: Honda CR-V
Midsized SUVs: Toyota Highlander
Luxury SUVs: Lexus RX

See our complete report on the best and worst new-car values for scores and costs per mile, as well as more findings.

More from Consumer Reports:
2013 New Car Preview
Best & worst used cars
Complete Ratings for 200 cars and trucks

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on Yahoo!. Copyright © 2007-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.