Best Vehicle Values: Overall

If you think the "cost" of your vehicle is the price of your vehicle, you've got a big lesson to learn. The vehicle that costs the least to buy isn't always the best value in its segment, because other costs in addition to purchase price are important in determining the overall value equation. So as you consider the purchase of a new vehicle, to get the most for your money, you should look at several factors in addition to price in determining what vehicle might be the best one for you.

If you don't have an advanced degree in cost analysis, you will be glad to learn that IntelliChoice, a Primedia company that earns its keep poring over ownership and leasing cost data, has done much of that work for you. IntelliChoice's value calculation accounts for the price of a vehicle and the accumulated costs of depreciation, maintenance, repairs, fuel, fees, financing, and insurance. The value measurement analyzes data compiled on more than 1,000 car, truck, and SUV models and projects what these costs will be for the upcoming five-year ownership cycle.

This all sounds mighty scientific, but a couple of caveats are in order: first, Intellichoice's value calculations are based on the aforementioned five-year ownership cycle. If you plan to keep your car, say, eight years, the value calculation can be significantly skewed. A second caveat: over the course of five years the predominant "cost" for most vehicles is depreciation, and Intellichoice estimates depreciation since it can't see into the future to obtain actual used-vehicle price transaction data for cars that are currently new. (If they could, that skill alone would make them a pot of money.) Because of this, if Intellichoice depreciation estimates prove to be wrong, the company's value estimates will be wrong as well.

Based on their analyses, IntelliChoice bestows the Best Overall Value of the Year awards to recognize cars, trucks and SUVs that will cost significantly less to own and operate than their peers. The Best Car Value under $24,000 is the Honda Civic DX Sedan, while the Best Car Value over $24,000 is the Toyota Avalon XLS Sedan. Both cars parlay relatively low purchase price, high resale value and low maintenance and insurance costs to take the titles.

Toyota wins another award with the Toyota Tacoma Xtracab 2WD, the Best Truck Value under $26,000. A domestic model does the trick as the Best Truck Value over $26,000 -- Ford F150 XL Flareside SuperCab 4WD. Toyota seems to solidly rule SUV top values. The Best Sport Utility Value under $30,000 is the Toyota RAV4 2WD, and the Best Sport Utility Value over $30,000 is the Lexus RX 300 2WD. Interesting, too, that two-wheel-drive SUVs are better values than four-wheel-drive versions.

In addition to the six category winners, IntelliChoice also recognized the following vehicles as class winners:

Subcompact ClassHonda Civic Coupe
Compact Class under $17,000Honda Civic Sedan
Compact Class over $17,000Toyota Prius Sedan
Midsize Class under $21,000Honda Accord Sedan
Midsize Class over $21,000Honda Accord Sedan
Large ClassToyota Avalon
Near Luxury ClassLexus ES 300
Luxury ClassMercedes-Benz E-Class
Small Wagon ClassVolkswagen Jetta
Midsize/Large Wagon ClassSubaru Legacy
Base Sport ClassMercedes-Benz SLK230
Sport ClassChevrolet Corvette

Sport Utilities:
Compact Sport Utility Class under $20,000Toyota RAV4
Compact Sport Utility Class over $20,000Subaru Forester
Intermediate Sport Utility Class under $30,000Toyota Highlander
Intermediate Sport Utility Class over $30,000Lexus RX 300
Full-Size Sport Utility Class under $40,000Toyota Sequoia
Full-Size Sport Utility Class over $40,000Toyota Land Cruiser

Compact Pickup Class 2WDToyota Tacoma
Compact Pickup Class 4WDToyota Tacoma
Full-Size Pickup Class 1/2 Ton 2WDToyota Tundra
Full-Size Pickup Class 1/2 Ton 4WDToyota Tundra
Full-Size Pickup Class 3/4 Ton 2WDChevrolet Silverado C2500
Full-Size Pickup Class 3/4 Ton 4WDChevrolet Silverado K2500
Full-Size Pickup Class One Ton 2WDFord F350 Crew Cab
Full-Size Pickup Class One Ton 4WDFord F350 Crew Cab

Minivan Class under $26,000Honda Odyssey
Minivan Class over $26,000Toyota Sienna
Full-Size Van ClassFord E350 Wagon

Boston native Tom Ripley now reports on the world's automotive industry and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France.