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Gold Star Value Awards Explained

17 Oct 2014 Best Value Cars

Wheels Gold Star Value Awards

We’ve crunched all the data so you don't have to. Here’s our definitive guide to Australia’s best-value cars

WHEN you’re in the market for a slick new motor, the process of comparing, tyre-kicking and dreaming is seemingly filled with infinite possibility.

But actually laying your cash down at the dealership can snap you from a daydream into a grim reality of lacklustre resale values, wildly expensive insurance premiums, spiralling repayments and untold thirst for premium fuel.

What if someone could expose the hidden costs, crunch the numbers, present the data, and draw conclusions about how to best spend your hard-earned on a brand new car? Enter Wheels’ annual Gold Star Value Awards.

We take the cream of the crop in a number of vehicle classes – just about all of them, in fact – and break each car down into key cost components such as annual fuel cost, insurance premiums and depreciation, then feed the data into a clever set
of formulae.

More than 200 cars are tipped into the hopper, but just one winner in each of 20 classes is earns the coveted Wheels Gold Star Award for value.

Gold Star Value Awards Explained

Class ceiling

Gold Star Value Awards eligibility is capped at $150K. The reason? Even the best $150K car will lose almost $50K to depreciation in the first three years – far more than you’d spend on fuel, insurance and other running costs.


The biggest cost of ownership for most new cars. Of more than 200 cars number-crunched, three-year retained value figures – as supplied by data authority Redbook – range from less than 40 percent to more than 70 percent of the MSRP.


Annual fuel cost calculated based on ADR combined-cycle consumption figures – not real-world, but broadly comparable. Annual distance travelled is taken as the Australian Bureau of Statistics average of 14,000km.


Comprehensive insurance quotes provided by AAMI for a 35-year-old male living in Chatswood, NSW, Rating 1 for life, no finance and private use.

Purchase price

Most new-car buyers set out with a budget in mind, so Gold Star Value Awards is divided into price brackets. The real cost of owning the car is depreciation, which is where purchase cost comes into our value equation.

Real cost

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-price or capped-price servicing schemes should make it possible to compare servicing costs. Except there are still some brands or individual models without such schemes. As a result, service intervals are scored. A 12-month interval (or longer) will usually result in less expense (and certainly be more convenient) compared with six-month or nine-month intervals, so takes maximum points. Cars with variable or ‘condition-based’ service intervals are also awarded the maximum 10 points for this discipline.


There’s potentially money to be saved in having a longer warranty. If nothing else, a five-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 warranty is worth – it only translates into cash if and when something goes bang and it’s fixed free of charge. Warranty also accounts for 10 points out of 100.