Why five-year, cost-to-own results aren’t all there is to buying a new car


Look behind the numbers.

The subcompact Chevrolet Spark may be Kelley Blue Book’s five-year, cost-to-own overall winner but that doesn’t mean shoppers should automatically pass on other brands and models.

The Toyota Yaris iA and Nissan Versa, for example, finished just behind the Spark among subcompacts.

But the subcompact field is crowded with at least 13 vehicles competing for a shopper’s attention. And if the cost of ownership isn’t your primary concern, there may be other subcompacts worthy of consideration, based on expert and consumer reviews at KBB.

Honda Fit is KBB experts’ pick among subcompact competitors.
Honda Fit is KBB experts’ pick among subcompact competitors.

These same considerations apply to the other 22 categories, 60 vehicles atop the cost-to-own ratings from compact cars to full-size pickups, electric cars and luxury full-size SUV/crossovers.

Returning to our example, the Honda Fit, which has a five-year cost of $30,224 that is higher than all three of the category cost-to-own leaders, is rated No. 1 by KBB experts (9.4 out of 10). The Spark (7.7), Versa (7.6) and Yaris iA (7.0) ranked from 8 to 10, respectively, in the category.

Also beating out the cost-to-own leaders, according to the experts, were the Hyundai Accent (8.9), Ford Fiesta (8.8), Nissan Versa Note (8.8), Kia Rio (8.6), Toyota Prius c (8.4) and Toyota Yaris (8.0).

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Expert opinions were based on some combination of driving dynamics, comfort and convenience, interior and exterior design, value and safety.

Apparently, however, experts are one thing, and consumers are quite another in rating vehicles.

The Spark and Yaris iA fared a little better with consumers, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, among 13 subcompacts rated, while the Versa came in 11th. Consumers rated the Mitsubishi Mirage Toyota Prius c and Volkswagen Golf as their top three vehicles.

Following are the expert and consumer rankings and ratings for the subcompact category:

Experts

  1. Honda Fit – 9.4
  2. Hyundai Accent – 8.9
  3. Ford Fiesta – 8.8
  4. Nissan Versa Note – 8.8
  5. Kia Rio – 8.6
  6. Toyota Prius c – 8.4
  7. Toyota Yaris – 8.0
  8. Chevrolet Spark – 7.7
  9. Nissan Versa – 7.6
  10. Toyota Yaris iA – 7.0
  11. Fiat 500L – 6.1

Consumers

  1. Mitsubishi Mirage – 9.5
  2. Toyota Prius c – 9.3
  3. Volkswagen Golf – 9.1
  4. Chevrolet Spark – 8.8
  5. Toyota Yaris iA – 8.8
  6. Toyota Yaris – 8.8
  7. Honda Fit – 8.6
  8. Fiat 500L – 8.6
  9. Hyundai Accent – 8.3
  10. Kia Rio – 8.1
  11. Nissan Versa – 7.6
  12. Nissan Versa Note – 7.6
  13. Ford Fiesta – 7.4

In another example, among mid-size pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab was the category winner with a $37,029 five-year cost to own, followed by the Nissan Frontier King Cab at $37,177 and the Toyota Tacoma Access Cab at $37,340.

Just as in the subcompact car category, expert and consumer opinions tended toward other models with no agreement at the top between the two lists as you can see by the following rankings:

Experts

  1. Toyota Tacoma Access Cab – 8.9
  2. Toyota Tacoma Double Cab – 8.9
  3. GMC Canyon Extended Cab – 8.7
  4. Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab – 8.5
  5. Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab – 8.5
  6. Nissan Frontier King Cab – 7.7
  7. Nissan Frontier Crew Cab – 7.7

Consumers

  1. Honda Ridgeline – 9.3
  2. Nissan Frontier Crew Cab – 8.9
  3. Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab – 8.7
  4. Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab – 8.7
  5. Nissan Frontier King Cab – 8.6
  6. GMC Canyon Extended Cab – 8.6
  7. Toyota Tacoma Double Cab – 7.7
  8. Toyota Tacoma Access Cab – 7.7

Obviously, this shopping thing depends a lot on the individual’s needs – whether financial considerations, expert opinions, consumer views or some other yardstick is most important.

Lists like KBB’s cost-to-own awards can be helpful, but then you need to look deeper into the numbers.