“Which car should I buy?”
It’s one of the most common questions our editorial team receives. With nearly 300 models on sale, and a new car being the third most expensive purchase someone can make behind a home and college education, deciding what car to buy can be a daunting and dizzying process. That’s why we’ve whittled the field down to eight finalists for our Best Car To Buy 2024 award.
The idea behind our long-running award system is to simplify the often complex process of car shopping. We won’t dare tell you what car to buy as every shopper has different needs and priorities. But we can help show how your choice rates with competitors or help you navigate everything that’s new and worthwhile, as well as what isn’t.
Best Car To Buy methodology
With more than 100 years of automotive experience, our five editorial judges assess disparate vehicles on a level playing field, accounting for a spectrum of performance capabilities, design styles, safety and convenience features, and, above all, relative value. That’s the essence behind our unique TCC Rating system applied to every new vehicle on sale now. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
We’ll explore the merits of each Best Car To Buy finalist in the weeks to come before announcing the winner on Jan. 3, 2024. Our sister publications will do the same, with Motor Authority targeting the enthusiast and luxury demographic, and Green Car Reports focusing on electrified powertrains and the evolution of the automotive industry.
At The Car Connection, relative value remains paramount to our evaluation process. We’re a tight-fisted bunch, and not just in response to the average transaction price (ATP) of every new car sold hovering around $47,000 (and shoppers taking on record loan terms). Two years ago, the ATP was $41,000. Last year, we changed the criteria for Best Car To Buy to eliminate the $50,000 price cap that had been in place since we started our annual award in 2011. Most new cars would be disqualified under our old rules.
Best Car To Buy 2024: Hyundai Ioniq 6, Kia EV9, Nissan Ariya
To qualify, a vehicle must be new or substantially redesigned for the model year, and it has to be made available to our judges and arrive in dealer lots for you to buy before our announcement. We still place a priority on cars priced below $50,000, but with more expensive EVs and more expensive trucks becoming more popular, we’ve raised our consideration threshold to $100,000. Anything above that will be considered negatively, but it still won’t be disqualified entirely.
Our Best Car To Buy 2023 winner was the Ford F-150 Lightning for being a quicker, cleaner, roomier, and as capable take on the F-Series, the bestselling vehicle in America for more than four decades. It was evolutionary, and while prices have fluctuated wildly, the 2024 F-150 Lightning can be had for about $52,000.
That’s in contrast to our Best Car To Buy 2022 award in the $21,500 Ford Maverick small pickup truck. We don’t prefer trucks, and we’re not paid by Ford. Our award system operates independently and accepts no advertising dollars for awards. Ford struck a chord in back-to-back years, and we proudly stand by those choices. Other recent Best Car To Buy winners include the Kia Telluride, Subaru Forester, Honda Accord, and Chrysler Pacifica. That’s how we roll.
The 2024 model year was tougher than usual, with eight finalists instead of the usual five. That reflects how much good product has arrived now that pandemic-induced supply chain issues are gone and factories are churning out as much as dictated by demand.
Here’s a snapshot of the eight finalists, with deeper analysis to come in the following days.
Best Car To Buy 2024 finalists
New for 2024, the Buick Envista hatchback represents the most affordable entry point into Buick and, at $23,495, one of the best new car values on the market, along with the related 2024 Chevrolet Trax. Its raked windshield, short overhangs, and long arcing roof look more like a sporty wagon than the crossover it’s being marketed as, but no matter its segment, the Envista looks sharp without looking cheap. A 136-hp 1.2-liter turbo-3 pairs with a 6-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive only, but it comes well equipped with an 11.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a suite of standard safety features. At about half the price of the ATP, the new Buick Envista stands out.
Longer, larger, and much improved over the first-generation Chevy Trax, the new Trax now grows into the space between the smaller Trailblazer and larger Equinox on Chevy’s lineup. The hatchback with front-wheel drive only shares a lot with the related Buick Envista, including its 137-hp 1.2-liter turbo-3 and a welcoming starting price of just $21,495, including destination. Standard features include driver-assist features such as automatic emergency braking and active lane control, as well as modern touches like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
Redesigned for 2023, the Honda Accord arrived too late in the year to qualify for last year’s award. The midsize sedan carries over its winning ways with an even more efficient and cleaner hybrid model expected by Honda to make up more than half of all Accord sales. It’s more practical and proletarian than its predecessor, lacking the fake wood trim and fancy gear selector, but the 11th generation Accord is longer, wider, cleaner, and has a simpler infotainment interface to complement its always good handling, value, and efficiency. Hybrid models get up to 48 mpg combined, and the $33,000 hybrid is a good value.
2023 Honda Pilot
Same story with the redesigned 2023 Pilot three-row crossover SUV: it arrived too late in the year to be considered for our 2023 award. An off-road-oriented TrailSport model reflects the burlier design of the new Pilot, but its 3.5-liter V-6 has been revised to burn less emissions. A new all-wheel-drive system shifts up to 70% of the 262 lb-ft of torque to the rear axle, and torque vectoring apportions it to the wheels with the most grip for more traction on and off road. Most versions have heated front seats and wireless smartphone connectivity, and all Pilots come with good standard safety features and top crash-test ratings. It starts at about $38,000.
Hyundai Ioniq 6
The Hyundai Ioniq 6 electric sedan’s slippery, curvaceous shape reflects its reason for existence in being the most efficient electric car on sale now. It’s also one of the more affordable, with a starting price of $38,615 for the single-motor version with the smaller 53-kwh battery pack and 240 miles of range. To get the larger 77.4-kwh battery pack and 361 miles of range, it’ll cost $43,565 this year. Those data bits are appealing, but its efficiency rating of 4.2 miles per kwh makes it more efficient than the Tesla Model 3, and as efficient as the six-figure Lucid Air. Factoring in cost of ownership, the Ioniq 6 is a steal.
Kia’s largest vehicle takes the brawny allure of the Telluride three-row SUV and applies it to the electric future. Seating up to seven passengers, the all-electric EV9 boasts a 304-mile range with the 99.8-kwh battery pack fitted on Light Long Range models for about $61,000. A dual-motor all-wheel-drive system is available for about $5,000 more and a range of 280 miles. It’s loaded with luxury-like convenience and safety features and though it may seem expensive, it’s at least $20,000 less than the few other three-row electric SUVs on the market right now.
We waited until the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version of the Ariya electric crossover (dubbed e-4orce) arrived to consider it for Best Car To Buy and it’s a good thing. The five-seat electric crossover with a range of up to 272 miles is not only Nissan’s most progressive product, the Ariya is its best and heralds a bright restart for both Nissan and its luxury imprint, Infiniti.
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
Toyota Grand Highlander
Toyota’s newest nameplate, the Grand Highlander three-row crossover SUV splits the difference in size between the Toyota Highlander and the Toyota Sequoia full-size SUV. In roominess and being able to fit eight passengers, the Grand Highlander does it better than both of those. There’s more room in the third row, though the raised floor that helps fit the hybrid battery pack squeezes toe room. Accordingly, Toyota pits the Grand Highlander as the more luxurious Highlander, with better standard features and the choice of three engine options, including the Hybrid Max 2.4-liter turbo-4 with two motors that can’t be had on the regular Highlander. The Hybrid Max only gets 27 mpg, versus up to 35 mpg in the Highlander with all-wheel drive, but the Grand Highlander is the Highlander to have.
A legend redrawn. The redesigned 2023 Toyota Prius (it arrived too late for last year’s award; see above) looks almost nothing like its ovoid predecessors but still dials up the efficiency with up to 57 mpg combined. The hybrid hatchback and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid variant are the most efficient and powerful Priuses yet, and the wedge-shaped design turns heads for good reason, though second-row headroom can be limited. Loaded with expected convenience and safety features, and priced below $30,000, the new Toyota Prius goes long on gas and consideration.
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