It’s the start of tax season and for many, that long-awaited tax return check that will be the down payment is the only thing between them and a new vehicle in the driveway.
However, what to buy may be a much more difficult choice than imagined. Yes, trucks and sport-utility vehicles are still rolling off dealership lots in big numbers, but is a new Ford Explorer or Chevrolet Traverse the right vehicle for you?
Fortunately, there are plenty of reference materials to access when looking for the new ride, including the U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 Best Cars for the Money, which covers 14 automotive categories and highlights vehicles that provide consumers with the best combination of quality and value.
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The best brand? Well, Honda earned four of the awards this year, the most of any automaker. Here’s the five category winners that may be of the most interest to buyers:
- Best Compact Cars: Kia Soul
- Best Compact SUVs: Honda CR-V
- Best Midsize Cars: Toyota Camry
- Best Luxury Small Cars: Audi A3
- Best Luxury 3-Row SUVs: Acura MDX
“Honda has a well-earned reputation for quality,” says Jamie Page Deaton, managing editor of U.S. News Best Cars. “The winners show that the brand goes above and beyond when it comes to offering smart tech features, comfortable day-to-day performance and great utility.
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“Each of Honda’s winners also has a good reliability rating, so buyers can enjoy their new car worry-free, with fewer repairs to help keep ownership costs low.”
Here are the rest of the 14 classes:
- Best Compact Car: Kia Soul
- Best Large Car: Toyota Ava
- Best Luxury Midsize Car: Lexus ES
- Best Midsize Car: Toyota Comry
- Best Subcompact Car
- Best 2-Row SUV: Ford Edge
- Best 3-Row SUV: Kia Sorento
- Best Luxury 2-Row SUV: Lexus RX 350
- Best Luxury Compact SUV: Acura RDX
- Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey
- Best Subcompact SUV: Honda HR-V
Toyota and its luxury brand, Lexus, each won two awards, as did Honda’s luxury brand, Acura, and Korean automaker Kia. This is the second consecutive win for both of Kia’s models, the Soul and the Sorento.
The Audi A3 is the sole winner from a European brand, and the lone award winner from domestic automakers is the Ford Edge. The Lexus RX 350 is winning a Best Car for the Money award for the ninth time.
The Best Cars for the Money awards will be presented to the winning automakers at the Chicago Auto Show on Feb. 8. The Best Cars for the Money methodology combines quality and value data into a composite score. Within each of the 14 categories, the vehicle with the highest score is named the Best Car for the Money in that category. Quality is measured by the overall score a vehicle achieved in the U.S. News car rankings at the time the awards are calculated.
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The rankings, updated regularly, compare cars on the basis of safety, reliability and a consensus of industry experts’ opinions. Value is measured by a combination of a vehicle’s five-year total cost of ownership provided and the average price paid for the vehicle at the time the awards are tabulated, as calculated by TrueCar.