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Frugal Shopper: For Happiness, Don't Sweat The Numbers Page 2

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The exemption would apply to companies that sell fewer than 400,000 vehicles per year in the U.S.

The exemption would apply to companies that sell fewer than 400,000 vehicles per year in the U.S.

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The formula Consumer Reports used included road tests, reliability ratings, and estimated total ownership costs over five years—in other words, depreciation, the cost of insurance, maintenance and estimated repair cost, even fuel costs.

Back in 2008, CR broke down those ownership costs into average percentages, and depreciation was by far the largest portion, at 46 percent of those total costs over five years. At that time the less impressive resale values of Kia and Hyundai models offset their low prices, long warranty coverage, and relatively good reliability records, for example, even though the Honda Fit is more expensive than the Hyundai Accent.

For this year, calculating these figures out and averaging them for a cost-per-mile estimate over five years, CR saw costs ranging from 42 cents per mile for the Honda Fit to $1.70 for the Mercedes S550. So if you keep them both for that long, the Benz costs about four times as much to own.

Buying a vehicle solely on buff-book performance-number bragging rights is silly. So is buying one based only upon ownership-cost numbers.

If you're setting out looking for a new car, and you're on a rather tight budget, you're quite simply better off to make a well-informed decision. Consider how the vehicle drives, how you feel behind the wheel, how your family fits, whether it has the features you need, whether it's good enough on gas, whether it'll cost too much to keep up, and whether you think it'll but not sweat these numbers.

Angular Rear Exterior View - 2010 MINI Cooper Hardtop 2-door Coupe

Angular Rear Exterior View - 2010 MINI Cooper Hardtop 2-door Coupe

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One model that we have trouble arguing with on CR's list—one that makes sense both from a fiscal standpoint and for being a blast to drive—is the base Mini Cooper. The Cooper remains the top pick in CR's sporty cars category, and it's one of The Car Connection's top-rated vehicles. It's maintained a good reliability record, strong resale value, and very low fuel costs (thanks to an EPA rating of 28 mpg city, 37 highway), and we can vouch for the day-to-day ownership experience.

 
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