Take the hassle out of choosing the best bang for your motoring buck with our definitive guide to Australia’s best value-for-money cars in Australia.
THE notion that some cars are duds while those at the other extreme represent driving bliss is at the core of any comparison – just as the idea that some cars are money-pits while others are inherently easier on the wallet is central to Wheels’ annual Gold Star Value Awards.
Considering that a car is the second-most expensive purchase most people make, and the most complex product almost anyone buys, it’s important to have the right advice on both fronts. When fine dynamics and fiscal shine coincide in a decent-driving, value-packed product, you have a Gold Star car.
The dominant cost of car ownership is depreciation – the chunk of the initial outlay that vanishes over the first few years, much of it (as popular perception suggests) the moment you drive out of the showroom.
Of the 63 cars that made the podium in 2016, the healthiest three-year retained value figure belongs to the Audi RS3, which held 67 percent of it’s value, while the worst went to the Ford Falcon Ecoboost (34 percent). For the Falcon, that means $24,000 gone in three years, and it only costs $36,400. Yet our analysis says the Ford is the second-most cost-effective car in its class – yes, large cars are a depreciation disaster.
Depreciation makes up as much as three-quarters of the cost of owning a car from new; then there are running costs including fuel and insurance. Annual premiums, obtained online from AAMI, range from just over $500 (for the average light or sub-light hatch) to a bit less than $2000 for a typical large luxury sedan. Fuel costs run from less than $700 annually (the turbo-diesel Volvo S60) to more than $1800 – a Falcon sedan again, this time the petrol six-cylinder G6E Turbo.
More than 2000 cars were evaluated for the 2016 Wheels Gold Star Value Awards. Read on as we uncover the stellar buys in each of 21 categories.
PERFORMANCE $75K to $150K
Don’t hurt your wallet just for some cheap thrills. The Audi RS3, Lotus Elise S, and Alfa Romeo 4C will tickle you in the right spots without breaking the bank.
View the results
GOLD STAR CRITERIA
The biggest cost of ownership for most new cars. Of the 2000-plus cars number-crunched, Glass’s three-year retained value figures ran from 33 percent on a base model Toyota Aurion to 69 percent on another Toyota, the Landcruiser GXL.
Comprehensive insurance quotes obtained online from AAMI for a 35-year-old male living in Chatswood, NSW, Rating One for life, no finance, private use.
Annual fuel cost was calculated on ADR combined-cycle consumption figures – not real-world, but a good base for comparison. Annual distance travelled is taken as the ABS Australian average of 14,000km, and fuel prices on the day were used.
Most new-car buyers set out with a budget in mind, so the survey is divided into price brackets. The real cost of owning the car is depreciation, which is where purchase cost comes into our value analysis.
It’s relatively easy to put a representative number on the three-year cost of depreciation, fuel and insurance, so the total of these running costs equate to 80 percent of a car’s score.
Widespread fixed- or capped-price servicing schemes would make it possible to compare car servicing costs, but for the fact they’re not universal. We can score service intervals; a longer interval may result in less expense and it will certainly be more convenient, so it takes the maximum 10 points.
If nothing else, a seven-year warranty gives greater peace of mind compared with a three-year warranty. However, it’s impossible to put a hard cost on what an extra-long warranty is worth; it only translates into cash if something goes bang and is fixed without cost. Warranty accounts for 10 points of 100.
Stay tuned as we reveal more of Australia's Best Value Cars each day.
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