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 based on an overall score that combines the component scores listed below in a weighted-average formula. Weights 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: 22%
- Performance: 11%
- Interior: 11%
- Total Cost of Ownership: 19%
- Safety: 17%
- Reliability: 20%
In cases where a component score is unavailable, we use a previous model year’s score, if available.
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 Opinion: 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 Critic’s Opinion 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 total cost of ownership data. These data points and their sources are described below:
- Safety: The safety score is based on a compilation of crash test 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 J.D. Power rating is doubled to convert it to a 10-point scale.
- Total Cost of Ownership: The total cost of ownership score is based on costs for depreciation, financing, taxes and fees, maintenance, fuel, insurance, repairs and opportunity cost as provided by Vincentric, LLC .
Used car average prices, used to assign vehicles to price-based ranking lists, are provided by TrueCar, Inc. These reflect recent national average transaction prices that vehicles have sold for.