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How We Rank Used Cars | How We Rank New Cars

Our used car rankings are based on the consensus opinion of America's top automotive experts, as well as reliability, safety and total cost of ownership data from third-party providers. The rankings do not rely on our own tests or U.S. News editors' preferences.

We rank used cars against each other based on an overall score that that combines the component scores listed below in a weighted-average formula. Critics’ opinions comprise 30% of the overall score. The remaining 70% is divided across other components, with weights that are derived from the results of a Used Car Shopping survey performed by U.S. News.

The components and their weights are as follows:

  • Critics’ Opinions: 30%
  • Performance: 13%
  • Interior: 12%
  • Operating Costs: 14%
  • Safety: 14%
  • Reliability: 17%

In cases where a component score is unavailable, we use a previous model year’s score if the model was part of the same generation and has a score; otherwise, we apply a make-level average or class average score in its place to calculate an overall score.

How We Calculate Component Scores

Analysis of Expert Reviews

For each used car in the U.S. News rankings, our editors analyze credible reviews of the car to come up with a score representing what professional critics said about it when it was new. The reviews were gathered from major newspapers, magazines and automotive websites. For each third-party review, we score the car on three different components.

  • Performance: The performance score represents the reviewer's written assessment of a car's handling, braking, acceleration, ride quality and other qualitative performance measures.
  • Interior: The interior score represents the reviewer's written assessment of the car's interior comfort, features, cargo space, styling and build quality.
  • Critic’s Rating: The score represents the overall tone and how strongly the reviewer recommends the car.

Cars that won major automotive industry awards in a particular model year, such as Motor Trend Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year, receive an increase in their Critics’ Rating score to reflect the particularly strong recommendation the awarding publication or group gives to the winners.

Analysis of Data Points

In addition to the analysis of professional reviews, we analyze data points of particular interest to used car shoppers, including safety, reliability and operating cost data. These data points and their sources are described below:

  • Safety: The safety score is based on a compilation of scores from the two leading vehicle safety rating agencies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Reliability: The reliability score is based on the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) rating or, if unavailable, the J.D Power Predicted Reliability rating. VDS ratings are based on survey responses from original owners of three-year-old vehicles, measuring problems they experienced in the prior year. The Predicted Reliability rating is a forecast of how reliable a car might be over time and is derived from historical trending for a vehicle and/or manufacturer in J.D Power’s Initial Quality Study (IQS) ratings and VDS ratings. When factoring into the overall score, the JD Power rating is doubled to convert it to a 10-point scale.
  • Operating Cost: The operating cost score is based on projected five-year costs for fuel, maintenance and repairs, as provided by Vincentric, LLC . The total five-year operating cost is calculated using this formula: 10 x ($100,000 – Op Cost)/$100,000.

Other

Used car average prices, used to assign vehicles to price-based ranking lists, are provided by ClearBook, a TrueCar product. These reflect recent average transaction prices that vehicles have sold for nationally.