There are few certainties in life. Sure, there’s death and taxes – but then again, with the recent tax cut, maybe not so much. Traffic is pretty much a given, especially when you’re late for work.
When it comes to picking out the car you’ll use to get to work, however, there is one thing you can always count on: the ultimate cost of owning the vehicle will out-weigh the actual transaction price.
Cost to own versus purchase price
You know that $500 you negotiated off the sticker price for your last car? While quite impressive, it pales in comparison to what you’ll end up paying to own and drive the car. That’s not to say car shoppers should stop negotiating a fair price.
Au contrare! It all goes into the stew of what you spend. The thing to remember is that choosing a good car that reduces expense and holds value over the long haul is worth more than a deal.
Here’s an example: the base sticker price (including destination charge) of a Subaru Crosstrek is $23,710. The Crosstrek’s 5-Year Cost to Own is $34,724. According to the seventh annual Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own Awards,that’s the best, or lowest, cost to own in the compact SUV category.
And let’s say you’re in the world of trucks. You’ve decided that a new Ford F-150 is ideal, with a base sticker price of $29,005. It seems like the F-150 is a solid choice on all counts. And indeed, Kelley Blue Book researchers say that the Ford offers the lowest cost among pickups – yet it still adds up to $48,362.
What does cost of ownership include?
There are many ways to divvy up vehicle cost of ownership data, and quite a few credible sources of that information. In addition to Kelley Blue Book, check out Edmunds’ True Cost to Own, and Consumer Reports, as well. Just note that any cost of ownership index should include things like depreciation, fuel usage, maintenance costs, insurance, finance fees, and more.
The objective for all is to give car buyers a clear picture of the total amount of money they’ll spend over the long term.
Lowest cost to own SUVs and trucks
We’ve taken the winning trucks and SUVs in Kelley’s 5-Year Cost to Own Award and assembled them here, with our shopping advice. Note that the base sticker price includes destination charges and is based on the least expensive model with an automatic transmission.
For example, the cheapest Honda HR-V is fitted with a 6-speed manual; for $800 more you get a continuously variable transmission. That’s a far more realistic – and common – purchase.
2018 Buick Encore
If you like a quiet interior, style and lots of features, then give this premium compact SUV a standing ovation – it looks great and is competitively priced in the class.
It’s not so fun to drive, however, and safety scores could be better: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Encore an “Acceptable” score for the passenger side small overlap front test. It also received a basic score for front crash prevention, as the Encore doesn’t yet come with automatic emergency braking.
Our verdict? Give it a look, but be sure to compare this car with downstream competitors like the Mazda CX-3.
- Base model sticker price: $23,985
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $38,607
- Ratings and Review: Buick Encore
2018 Chevrolet Tahoe
Judging from sales, families love the Chevy Tahoe. And for good reason: it’s a big and roomy truck that can, when equipped, tow up to 8,600 pounds. It also boasts GM’s notable MyLink infotainment system, and it looks great in all black with dark-tinted windows. Boo-ya!
The problem is that the Tahoe is getting a little old and probably won’t get a significant redesign until 2020 – or later. Meanwhile, the Ford Expedition is an all-new truck that’s getting rave reviews. The Ford, by the way, came in second for cost of ownership, at $64,733.
- Base model sticker price: $48,795
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $62,167
- Gallery: 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe
2018 Ford F-150
At this point, full-size truck shoppers have to make just one decision: Buy the Ford F-150 now or wait for the all-new Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado to make it to the local dealership.
Because until those new models pop up on lots, the F-150 might be good enough to turn the heads of many a Chevy or Ram loyalist.
Hmm. Just kidding about that. Regardless, it’s the best-selling truck for lots of reasons, including a fresh style, aluminum body, great standard powertrain, and much, much more, including a cost-to-own award.
- Base model sticker price: $29,005
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $48,362
- Short Report: Ford F-150
2018 Honda HR-V
New in the 2016 model year, the Honda HR-V is little bro to the CR-V, and probably is a few generations away from matching that vehicle’s level of refinement. Still, it’s a subcompact SUV that does small and economical things very well.
Despite what some would call a noisy interior, our reviewers thought the HR-V was a “drivable, parkable, packable, shareable solution.”
You won’t like the lack of power, but you will like it’s interior versatility – and the fact that it’s a cost-to-own champ.
- Base model sticker price: $21,445
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $32,874
- Gallery: Honda HR-V
2018 Infiniti QX60
The Infiniti QX60 is the luxury ride you want when style, comfort and simplicity are what you need. Qualities like “fun to drive” aren’t really at the top of the list here, though the ride is comfy and you’re treated to a plethora of premium accouterments. Ahem.
More sensibly, you’ll love the QX60 for its great safety ratings (IIHS and NHTSA), whisper-quiet cabin, and unique styling. Another reason? A 5-year cost of ownership of $51,517.
- Base model sticker price: $44,295
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $51,517
- Ratings and Review: Infiniti QX60
2018 Infiniti QX80
Now this is a flagship. Big, bad, and bodacious, the 2018 Infiniti QX80 is a lounge on wheels, slathered in leather and made quiet by pounds and pounds of insulation. Sure, it’s still body-on-frame, but frankly that’s part of the charm.
The 2018 model is also refreshed, with new styling to the front and rear of the vehicle. The same powertrain exists, however, so the question is whether or not the 2018 styling and technology updates are enough to keep the QX80 competitive with the likes of a new and improved Lincoln Navigator.
- Base model sticker price: $65,745
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $78,170
- First Drive: Infiniti QX80
2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
It used to be that the Jeep Wrangler was a hard case. It was reserved for rock climbing and stream driving, for going off the path and making up new roads.
Not anymore – though it’s arguably more capable than ever. Today the focus is on suburbanites, and the updated 2018 version delivers. In fact, changes are focused on creature comforts, efficiency and pavement drivability.
So yes, it can and will do the Rubicon. But now it also does the shopping mall better than ever.
- Base model sticker price: $33,690
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $36,244
- First Drive: 2018 Jeep Wrangler
2018 Subaru Crosstrek
There’s a lot of utility, capability and value stuffed into this small SUV. That’s in part thanks to standard all-wheel-drive, high ground clearance and a redesigned interior and exterior.
This is a practical vehicle that checks the box on all major considerations: safety, economy, cargo room and visibility…to name just a few. Naysayers might get cranky over the styling, or the power. But hey – small potatoes!
- Base model sticker price: $23,710
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $34,724
- First Drive: Subaru Crosstrek
2018 Toyota Tacoma
A sign of the Tacoma’s long-running popularity? It’s the only midsize pickup truck with a nickname. Sure, there might be GMC Canyon out there named Brad, or Harvey – but to universally be called “Taco,” that’s a testament to real truck enthusiasm. It’s well-earned, too, because the Tacoma has been a rugged and practical vehicle for many years.
For 2018, it receives more safety equipment, such as pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with sway warning, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control.
Given the improved competition (looking at you, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon) the Tacoma will need that and more to stay on top. To that end, a great cost of ownership number can’t hurt.
- Base model sticker price: $27,025
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own: $37,083
- Review: Toyota Tacoma
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