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How We Rank Vehicles

how we rank carsOur rankings are based on two main sources:

  1. Our own expert editors and vehicle testers’ personal experience in evaluating the listed vehicles.
  2. Trusted industry groups such as Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS).

We endeavor in our rankings to make clear whether our results are based on our own judgments or those of outside sources.

There is no “best vehicle.” By ranking various vehicles and listing the pros and cons, highlighting notable features, and answering frequently asked questions, our goal is to give you, the shopper, the information you need to decide for yourself which vehicle is best for you.

Ranking Criteria

We apply different ranking criteria to different lists.

  • Family Cars: Safety, value, and reliability are often the top priorities of shoppers, making those our main focus.
  • SUVs: Vehicle’s performance like towing ability, spare tire availability, roof-top cargo capability, off-road ability, and cargo capacity will instead make up our criteria.
  • Sport Cars & Sporty Crossovers: Driving satisfaction is the primary focus. Therefore, power, handling, and driving excitement are emphasized.

We feel every vehicle should have an infotainment system that makes operation safe and easy, so expect that to always play a role in our evaluations and rankings.

Here is a closer look at some aspects of vehicles we consider in our rankings and evaluations of vehicles.

Safety

The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) offers the most comprehensive safety data for American-market vehicles. IIHS conducts the most thorough safety testing and performs its crash tests at the highest speeds. We also like that IIHS includes headlight and driver-assist technology in its scores.

Reliability

There are three sources we feel are the best for comparing the reliability, durability, and quality of vehicles.

  1. Consumer Reports. This non-profit group is independent and free from bias in a way almost no other group is. We value the owner survey data this organization compiles to create its model reliability scores.
  2. J.D. Power. Offers brand-level insights that help a consumer know how brands rank with regard to overall quality.
  3. CarComplaints. We often use CarComplaints to look for details on model-level reliability. This organization is one of the best at uncovering repeated problems of specific models.

Performance

Performance is important when comparing models within a given segment. We use a wide variety of sources to comment on performance. Most often, we are referring to real-world performance, and we prefer our own testing experiences.

We also use performance numbers such as 0-60 MPH times from outside sources, and we name them when we do so.

Ride Quality

We primarily rely on our own testing experiences when we comment on ride quality. Handling and comfort are combined in this category.

Driving Excitement & Driving Satisfaction

One of the most subjective areas of vehicle ranking is driving impressions. We test over 100 individual models each year on public roads (safely) each year. In addition, we are able to conduct emergency maneuvers and test the limits of vehicles safely on closed courses.

Our aim is to learn how vehicles feel from a driver’s perspective and then pass that knowledge to shoppers.

Fuel Economy

There is no better source for fuel economy, EV efficiency, and EV range than FuelEconomy.gov. This EPA website is the best source for official energy data, and we use it almost exclusively. If our own testing reveals differences in observed fuel economy, we may also add that information.

Capacities & Dimensions

Passenger volume, cargo volume, towing capacity, and other such objective data are sourced from the manufacturers.