We've changed our rating system; here's what you need to know

August 10, 2016

Researching your next new car can be a complex, frustrating process. Sorting through car reviews, reading them, deciding which ones make sense—it's not as easy as it should be. 

The Car Connection was conceived to help you through that process. Since we launched in our current form in 2008, we've completely revamped the way we review cars.

Over the next two weeks, we're rolling out changes to the way we rate cars. We think those changes will make it simpler for you to see which vehicles we recommend. (You'll see some updated scores already, as we work our way through vehicles already reviewed for 2017.)

2007 Buick Riviera Concept

2007 Buick Riviera Concept

Our approach

Why change? Well, we had some very good reasons.

When we started today's TCC back in 2008, the car world was promising visions of hydrogen-powered cars, new Saabs and Hummers, even hot coupes like this concept Buick Riviera. Suffice it to say that things change—and so do goals.

The basics here at The Car Connection remain the same. We use decades of our experience on-staff to help you find the right car.

All told, our editors drive hundreds of new vehicles each year, traveling around the world and within our own hometowns to bring you the first, best information on the new vehicles that interest you.

Each year, we review up to 300 new cars, trucks, and utility vehicles, and assign them a rating so you can compare cars—even in different categories.

In the past, we've assigned those scores on a scale that assumed some knowledge of the universe of cars, which isn't always the case. Also, we didn't do enough to reward cars with excellent fuel economy and safety scores.

2017 Hyundai Tucson

2017 Hyundai Tucson


What’s new?

Beginning with the 2017 model year, we've adopted a new ratings scale that begins at a score of 5, and allows us to award or deduct points based on how well a car meets specific criteria. Our ratings will be spread over a wider range, and as a result, you'll get a better idea of how vehicles rank and rate against each other. Here's some of the method behind our madness:

• It’s not like grade school. Our ratings go from 1-10 with 5 being an average score. In the past, most of our ratings have fallen between 6 and 8, and while our new scores may be lower, it doesn’t mean we like the car any less. An overall score of 5 is average—anything above is better than average.

• Our new rating system better reflects how people look at their cars. We start in the middle, and add or take away points based on features, usability and drivability. It’s pretty simple!

• We give each car a clearer path to 10—and to 0. Our system is designed to better identify what’s exceptional in new cars.

• Our ratings are reviewed by experts, every week. Editors constantly evaluate every new car rating to make sure we’re giving readers the best information.

• We’ve factored “Green” into the overall average. We know many readers and shoppers prioritize fuel economy and we’re rewarding efficient cars.

• When data isn't yet available to make a solid ranking, we'll tell you and keep it from the affecting the overall score until we know for sure.

For a full discussion of the ratings system, find out more about how we rate cars.


Just the FAQs

How does this affect old ratings?

The new rating system won’t change the old scores. Vehicles from the 2016 model year and before will operate under our former ratings system.

For most cars, our overall rating this year from last year may drop by 1-2 points even though our opinion hasn’t changed. We’re using the whole range of ratings available to us to give you a more accurate measure for how we feel about a car.


How often are ratings changed?

We re-evaluate our ratings for new cars at least once a month—if not more.

We're also adding and adjusting scores we've already set for the 2017 model year to bring them better in line with our new system. Pardon our dust while we're under construction, we'll be done in a couple of weeks!


How does this affect “Best Car to Buy” awards and nominees?

It doesn’t affect it much! We’re still looking for the best new cars to buy based on value, comfort, quality, and style. We’ll explain those awards and our selection criteria when voting season begins.


How can I tell if you recommend a car?

We’ll tell you! For most models, we’ll identify our picks for powertrain and popular combinations we think are important to buy. We'll also strive to explain clearly how we reached each vehicle rating.


Odds and ends

We’re rating cars based on the whole automotive spectrum—from Acura to Volvo, and every automaker in between. Predictably, a more expensive car may have a higher rating compared to a less-expensive car, but our compare tool easily lets readers know what’s a better value in each segment.

We’re also constantly updating our comparisons to keep readers informed.

As always, we’re eager to hear from you. Leave a note in the comments below or email us to tell us how we can do better.

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