How to Separate Valid From Irrelevant Car Reviews

Tips on how to read and evaluate whether a car review is valid for you


Forbes released a report last year listing 13 cars to avoid. In this post, we’re going to look closely at the review criteria and provide tips on how to assess each rating. The Forbes criteria consist of the following:

  • Consumer Report rating
  • Reliability rating
  • Overall engine performance and handling
  • Interior space
  • Fuel economy
  • Resale value after 3 and 5 years
  • Consumer Report rating

Consumer Report Rating

Consumer Reports provides us with information that is based on extensive research, consumer surveys and in-house expertise to help us make better purchasing decisions, promote fair competition and empower businesses to deliver better products and services. The Consumer Reports website offers an abundance of information on cars. Needless to say, CR reports are trustworthy and reliable. However, before you tackle any study, keep in mind a few important tips:

  1. Define what your priorities are in a vehicle.
  2. Understand what the criteria of a review include.
  3. Compare the review criteria to your own priorities.

No report or review can set your priorities for you. That’s on you. Are you looking for a safe and affordable car for your teenager? Are you looking for a larger vehicle that can comfortably accommodate your growing family? Or is it cargo space that matters most? Understanding your own needs is your starting point. Once you have your must-have list, you will be better able to sort through the  reviews. Consumer Reports are especially valuable but only where your needs match the criteria used in setting the rating for a vehicle at hand.

Reliability Rating

Reliability is not something that you would take lightly for either a new or a used car. You don’t want to spend extra time or money on car repair than you need to. No one does. When you’re presented with a report on Best Cars of 2017, for instance, have a look at how “best” is defined. This study is not an extension of the 2016 Forbes report, since the focus in the 2017 report is on road tests, reliability, owner satisfaction and safety—the 4 drivers behind this ranking. Now things will make more sense, right?

Reliability is accounted for in the overall ratings of both the 2016 and 2017 reports. With each report, questions you should be asking yourself are:

  1. How much weight is reliability given in the overall score?
  2. Is the assessment based on new or used cars?
  3. How are the top reliable cars ranked in terms of performance and fuel economy or other criteria that are on your must-have list?

Always match your needs to the criteria that led to the score rating. Don’t accept a rank at face value. Look under the hood to get the full picture.

Overall Engine Performance and Handling

With today’s advanced technology, experience and global competition, it is rare that you will find a vehicle on the market with poor performance and handling. Some cars are engineered better than others, however, leading to better performance and handling over their counterparts. In the end, if you’re looking for a vehicle with a large cargo space but are ultra-sensitive to fuel cost, for example, you may be willing to trade off speedy acceleration to get what you really need.

Interior Space

If interior space is important to you, then reviews of cars with scores high on this scale are valid. Keep in mind that if you’re looking at a sub-compact car that’s roomy on the inside, yet you’re 6 feet tall, you’re going to find a mini-cooper or Ford Fiesta more cramped than the car you’re trading in. A subcompact car may not be right for you. Moreover, if you have a family and need to clip in a car seat in the back row, then backseat space is a priority when shopping for a car. Sub-compact cars are made to save on space. With a smaller body, they have a smaller engine, which sets the expectation of fuel economy. Many drivers opt for an SUV and a 6- or 8-horse power engine, but can’t expect to benefit from savings when at the gas pump. In that case, comparing sizable SUVs to other SUVs of the same class is valid.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy matters to your wallet and to the environment. When looking at a car review, here’s what you need to evaluate:

  • Does the study account for fuel efficiency?
  • Is the review comparing vehicles of relative size?
  • What is the ratio of city versus highway mileage used in the fuel-efficiency tests?

There are plenty of reviews and car comparisons that focus strictly on fuel-efficient vehicles, including both cars and SUVs. Should you opt for a vehicle that is on the higher end of the scale in terms of gas consumption, make sure you review some tips and tricks to save on gas. For instance, did you know that your car consumes less gas with the windows closed when driving at a speed greater than 55 km per hour? Also, keeping up with regular maintenance such as testing your spark plugs is a gas saver? And there’s more. Weather conditions have an impact on how much gas your car burns. Learn some of the tricks you can use when driving in cold weather or hot weather to keep consumption at a minimum.

Resale Value After 3 and 5 Years

Resale value plays a role in the purchasing decision of vehicle. How important that criterion is depends on you. If you lease and flip your agreement to a new car every 3 to 5 years, then it is unlikely that resale value matters. If you tend to drive a car for 10 years or perhaps until it is completely run down – we all know someone who does – then you care less about resale value and rather take pride in how much you end up saving over time.

Car reviews help us understand which car makes and models hold more value than others. If you plan to resell within 5 years, make sure you factor that in to your purchasing decision.

The bottom line is that no matter how reputable the source of a car review is, the details in the study are critical. Evaluate how applicable a report is relative to your priorities, whether the study lists the top cars of the year or the top 13 cars to avoid. And once you’re ready to start shopping, we invite you to browse the car inventory at Global Auto Sales.