How We Value Cars: IntelliChoice Ownership Costs Explained

Purchasing a brand new automobile may be an thrilling, emotional, from-the-gut resolution—and it may be a punch within the intestine if you later uncover how a lot it prices to insure or gas that automobile, or how little it’s price when it’s time to search out new wheels. Ownership prices, somewhat than the mere transaction worth, needs to be on the forefront of your buying standards. Luckily for you, MotorTrend’s associate, IntelliChoice, has you coated.

IntelliChoice’s 5-Year Cost to Own and Best Overall Value Awards

IntelliChoice has been on the forefront of analyzing automobile possession prices for greater than  30 years. Our Best Overall Value of the Year (BOVY) Awards acknowledge these mainstream autos whose complete value of possession is considerably decrease than anticipated in comparison with different fashions in the identical class. These autos usually are not simply glorious values—they’re the top-ranked fashions of their respective lessons. Although there are numerous components to contemplate when shopping for a brand new automobile, the annual BOVY winner checklist is a fast reference that spotlights the autos that promise the perfect return in your funding.

Value Ratings

In addition to our BOVY awards, IntelliChoice assigns a worth score to each mainstream mannequin bought within the U.S. Models obtain a score of Excellent, Above Average, Average, Below Average, or Poor. These worth scores spotlight the true standout autos in every class and are based mostly on the full of depreciation, gas, insurance coverage, financing, upkeep, charges, and restore prices. Overall worth scores are decided by taking the person outcomes of every trim inside IntelliChoice’s mannequin line teams and producing a mean, which is then in comparison with the opposite mannequin traces within the automobile’s class. The high 10 to 15 p.c of fashions inside a category obtain an Excellent worth score.

Interestingly, historical past exhibits that within the overwhelming majority of instances, a redesign has no main impact on a mannequin’s general worth score—however when there’s a change within the score, it’s extra more likely to be a small enchancment. In addition, though a mannequin’s general worth score might fluctuate from 12 months to 12 months, it’s pretty unusual for it to vary a couple of grade up or down.

SmartChoice Awards

IntelliChoice’s SmartChoice awards are given to fashions that carry out particularly effectively in a number of particular person possession value areas. These autos are both the perfect or among the many finest (high 10 p.c) of their respective lessons and are named a SmartChoice of their explicit possession value areas. We current SmartChoice awards for retained worth, complete possession prices, working prices, gas, upkeep, and repairs.

Find the Best Value by Trim, Too

IntelliChoice additionally charges autos by particular trim. Once you identify which mannequin you’re serious about, navigate to the IntelliChoice software on that automobile’s purchaser’s information web page and use the trim selector to see how a specific trim charges inside the mannequin lineup. Because many autos have quite a few trim ranges and the worth of every may be dramatically completely different, some trims could also be higher values than others. Higher trims might not maintain their worth as effectively. (Numerous high-tech electronics and different choices develop out of date rapidly, and that tech might entail greater upkeep prices.) Also, greater trims might have powertrains that scale back the gas effectivity of the automobile. Any or all of those possession value areas can negatively affect the worth score.

Now to have a look at the person areas of possession prices.


It’s a tragic reality of life that each automobile’s worth depreciates—some rather more than others. This determine is our proprietary calculated projection of how a lot a automobile’s worth will lower over 5 years. Each trim degree of each mannequin is individually analyzed by reviewing the historic used worth developments of a given automobile’s ancestors. This is sort of all the time the most important possession value space and thus has essentially the most affect on a automobile’s general prices and worth score. We assume that after 5 years you promote your automobile in a private-party transaction (not a trade-in to a supplier) and that the automobile is in good situation with 70,000 miles on the odometer.

IntelliChoice evaluates worth on the trim and mannequin ranges.

Fuel Cost

This is our calculated five-year complete value to gas a automobile, based mostly on EPA mileage figures. We assume your driving patterns are 60 p.c freeway and 40 p.c metropolis and that you just drive 14,000 miles per 12 months. (Although proper now your annual driving mileage is probably going far much less, bear in mind we’re wanting 5 years into the long run.) As that is written, the present gas worth assumptions are $2.61 per gallon for unleaded common, $3.02 for unleaded midgrade, $3.27 for premium, and $3.04 for diesel, all topic to inflation of 0.5 p.c. These costs are based mostly on Energy Information Administration six-month averages for self-service gas.


This is our willpower of the full value to insure a automobile for 5 years. Of all of the possession value areas, this may fluctuate essentially the most relying on you and the coverages you choose. By operating our calculations with a “typical” driver, we are able to a minimum of mean you can make apples-to-apples comparisons between autos. We assume the principal driver is below 65, lives in a suburban or city group, and has greater than six years’ driving expertise with no chargeable accidents. We additionally assume the automobile is for private use. These prices are based mostly on limits of $100,000/$300,000 for private legal responsibility, $50,000 for property harm, $25,000 for medical bills, and $25,000/$50,000 for uninsured motorist protection. We additionally assume complete/collision deductibles of $500/$500.


This is just the full value of curiosity when financing a automobile. We assume you’re making a 10 p.c down fee on a 60-month mortgage with an annual rate of interest of 4.61 p.c. Your APR will rely on numerous components, together with your credit score report, the model you’re serious about, the time of 12 months, and whether or not you’re preapproved for financing on the dealership. You might qualify for a greater fee than the one we use for our calculations, however our financing prices do illustrate how rather more curiosity you’ll pay because the automobile’s MSRP goes up.


This is our projected complete value to keep up a automobile for 5 years, based mostly on providers carried out typically at producer’s beneficial intervals. Other providers are achieved at chosen intervals. The value per service is predicated upon industry-standard service instances and nationwide labor fee averages. Parts costs are based mostly on producer’s urged checklist costs the place obtainable. In our calculations we consider producers that embrace free scheduled upkeep.

State Fees

This is our calculation of the full value of title, registration, and miscellaneous preliminary charges, in addition to renewal charges for 5 years. These charges will fluctuate relying on the burden, MSRP, and sophistication of the automobile, and as every state has its personal guidelines and rules—oftentimes staggering of their complexity—we calculate charges for each potential automobile and state mixture after which decide a sales-weighted common for every automobile.


Despite the enormously improved reliability of at the moment’s vehicles, some repairs are going to crop up. This is our willpower of the five-year complete value of anticipated repairs to your automobile. The determine is predicated on prolonged service contracts that may pay for repairs for a minimum of 5 years or 70,000 miles with no deductible. Service contract pricing is adjusted down for an affordable revenue and a longer-than-standard producer guarantee.

Other Factors—Average Sales Tax

For our calculations we decide a nationwide sales-weighted gross sales tax, which we at the moment have at 6.5%. Some states have vehicle-purchase-specific tax charges or an advert valorem tax, which we have in mind. In addition, 12 months one title and registration charges are included, and they’re based mostly on a state sales-weighted common and on IntelliChoice’s most up-to-date honest market worth for a given automobile.

Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Tax Credits

If a automobile is eligible for plug-in hybrid or electrical automobile tax credit, we’ll point out that below our possession value graph. Keep in thoughts these credit can disappear over time, and also you might not be eligible for them in any respect relying in your tax scenario. That’s proper: You should have a federal tax legal responsibility on the time you buy a plug-in hybrid or electrical automobile, and you may declare a credit score solely as much as that quantity. These credit usually are not rebates or incentives.

Brad Taylor contributed to this text.

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