Purchasing a car is a lot like purchasing the online car insurance that will protect it. You compare, you contrast, and you weigh the value against the cost. Usually finding the best car, truck, or SUV comes down to finding one of quality within your budget. It's a long process, but it doesn't have to be.
To help you with your search, U.S. News & World Report created the Best Car for the Money awards. Only vehicles that combine long-term value and quality are recognized.
"U.S. News' list is perfect for drivers looking for value."
Besides faithful standbys like Honda and Toyota, there was a nice variety of auto makers represented in U.S. News' list. There were some new additions as well. This year's awards saw the first-time inclusion of the affordable and luxury subcompact SUV categories, which have grown continually popular as gas prices stay low.
While the Best Cars for the Money awards are a bit too numerous to name them all, here are a few highlights from the winner's circle:
Compact car: Honda Civic
Based on the Civic's responsive handling, roomy interior, and plentiful cargo space, it's no wonder critics chose it as the best compact car. No longer content to coast on name recognition alone, Honda's most famous ride combines high-quality engineering with low long-term ownership costs to earn its reputation as a generational favorite.
Upscale small car: Audi A3
While the base 2016 A3 comes with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that's perfectly fine for daily driving, it's really the two turbocharged 2.0-liter engine options offering more potent power that get drivers excited. This is simply a fun car to drive. The luxurious interior and responsiveness to even the lightest touch sets a new benchmark for all entry-level upscale sedans.
Midsize car: Toyota Camry
Drivers looking for a quiet ride love the Camry. Undoubtedly an improvement on the previous year's model, the refreshed 2016 Camry offers easily controlled handling, a comfortable and roomy interior, and the kind of intuitive infotainment system that won't have you angrily pecking at the screen trying to find the name of your favorite artist or where you missed a turn.
Upscale midsize car: Acura TLX
Steady handling, generous seating, and bountiful standard features make the TLX – admittedly not the flashiest of the upscale midsize class – an undeniable bargain. Running on a fluid eight-speed transmission and quiet as a chapel, it is the perfect vehicle for drivers who value a smooth, uninterrupted driving experience.
Compact SUV: Hyundai Tucson
Few competitors can match the Tucson's extensive list of standard and optional features. Add a slick powertrain and roomy cabin to the mix, and it becomes even clearer why Hyundai's compact SUV took the title of best bang for the buck in its class. For drivers searching for a jack-of-all-trades vehicle, the Tucson may very well be the answer.
Upscale compact SUV: Lexus NX
Though no major changes were made for 2016, the NX didn't have a whole lot to improve on in the first place. Sure, it may not have the most powerful engine in its class – though the turbocharged four-cylinder it has is more than enough for most – but it does have a sharp-looking cabin and a roomy backseat perfect for accommodating passengers in style.
Subcompact SUV: Honda HR-V
Critics pointed to the HR-V's tranquil ride and adaptable interior when naming it one of the best subcompact SUVs on the market. It is a practical and reliable vehicle, without many bells and whistles, but that is part of its appeal. Those looking for excellent views and a high driving position will find the HR-V well-suited to their needs.
Upscale subcompact SUV: BMW X1
Completely redesigned for 2016, the X1 boasts solid power tied to a four-cylinder engine. Steering is sporty and responsive enough to handle even off-road situations with confidence. On top of the versatility offered by the X1, drivers get good cargo capacity and the obvious allure of the BMW badge for an affordable price.
Full size pickup truck: Ram 1500
Nothing is sacrificed for cost-effectiveness in the Ram 1500. Ranked second among many contenders on U.S. News' list of the best full size pickup trucks, it features impressive fuel economy (particularly with the turbodiesel package) and a very comfortable ride. That's not to mention the 1500's interior, which is certainly one of the nicest seen in any truck.