Kelley Blue Book (KBB) has named Kia as the best overall carmaker and Audi as the top luxury brand in total costs for the first five years of ownership.
KBB, one of the industry's most prominent pricing guides, reached its conclusions after studying key money points, including fair purchase price, projected depreciation, financing charges, car insurance premiums, state fees and anticipated costs for fuel, scheduled maintenance, and repairs.
In its praise of Kia, KBB evoked love of the underdog: "The quiet little Korean carmaker has been progressing steadily in quality and sales, and is now seen as a strong bargain when it comes to ownership as well … (it offers the) practical blessings of excellent fuel economy and inspired resale value."
As for Audi, KBB described it as "a luxury brand that appreciates its audience and respects its audience's cash ... Audi holds its cost-to-own value tight throughout the entire life cycle."
KBB also listed its favorite cars -- with their five-year ownership cost -- in several of the most popular categories:
Compact: 2012 Kia Soul ($31,417): "Its lowest-in-category fair purchase price matched with outstanding fuel and insurance cost figures combined to give it nearly a $1,300 advantage over the Hyundai Elantra."
Hybrid: 2012 Honda Insight ($32,884): "The lower fair purchase price and subsequent lower depreciation figure helped this five-passenger five-door claim top spot over its sportier two-seat cousin, the Honda CR- Z."
Mid-size: 2012 Hyundai Sonata ($38,476): "Although not the cheapest, the Sonata's significant advantages in the areas of insurance and fuel costs moved it ahead of the Kia Optima, which shares the same basic platform architecture."
Luxury: 2012 Audi A5 ($56,908): "The Audi A5 earned its laurels on the strength of its outstanding resale value and best-in-segment insurance costs, which combine to give it nearly a $5,000 total advantage over the Volvo S80."
Crossover: 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe ($42,628): "This mid-size people-mover outpaced the Kia Sorento based on its combination of lowest fair purchase price and lowest long-term depreciation coupled with lower maintenance and insurance costs."
Electric: 2012 Chevrolet Volt ($40,629): "Even though the Nissan LEAF boasts a lower fair purchase price and racks up less in the way of depreciation, fuel cost and state fees, the Volt's slightly better maintenance figure and huge advantage in insurance costs make it number one."
For the full list of more than 20 auto groupings, visit KBB's 2012 Total Cost of Ownership Awards.
Lori Conarton, communications director for the Insurance Institute of Michigan, says having a vehicle that costs less to repair can typically result in lower auto premiums: "How much it will cost for insurance is based on a lot of factors, including safety features and the price to repair or replace it," she says. "So, taking into consideration influences such as dependability and depreciation may result in savings."
Pete Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, agrees, saying safety features play a key role in a car's insurance cost. "A car's safety features, design and overall handling on the road will help it avoid accidents; and when involved in an accident will protect the driver and passengers," he says. "This will reduce the cost of claims -- both property and medical -- and reduce the overall cost of insurance."
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