Low-cost cars for an era of rising gas prices

Kia Soul Kia Motors America

With gas prices 40 cents a gallon higher than at this time last year and possibly headed for record highs, car shoppers will be focused on gas mileage. That MPG rating is an important -- but not the only -- cost factor to consider.

Kelley Blue Book has run the numbers over a projected five-year period and picked total-cost winners among 2012 models. The formula includes purchase price; depreciation; insurance costs; and, of course, outlays for gas.

Senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan at GasBuddy notes that the average rise in gas prices from New Year's Day to the year's peak, usually in early summer, has been 93 cents. If that pattern holds, the national average, $3.32 at New Year's and now $3.51, would top the 2008 record peak of $4.11 per gallon as recorded in by the AAA fuel gauge. Tensions with Iran and its threats to close oil-shipping lanes increase that prospect.

But most people will keep a new car for several years. "Car shoppers should take the time to compare vehicles for total cost of ownership," says Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book. "While a vehicle might be less expensive up front, the cost of fuel for that model, insurance and other expenditures might make it the less appealing choice."

Hottest new small cars for 2012
5 used cars NOT to buy
Gas price relief: New Honda cheaper to drive

Among overall brands, Kia ranked as the lowest-cost mainstream brand, and Audi topped luxury brands. The Kia Soul, Optima and Sportage are all low-cost, although only the Soul won its category. Audi scored with low depreciation and relatively strong gas mileage among luxury competitors.

Here is the full list of lowest-cost vehicles from Kelley:

SUBCOMPACT CAR:

Nissan Versa

COMPACT CROSSOVER:

Nissan Juke

COMPACT CAR:

Kia Soul

CROSSOVER:

Hyundai Santa Fe

MID-SIZE CAR:

Hyundai Sonata

LUXURY CROSSOVER:

Lexus RX 350

FULL-SIZE CAR:

Chevrolet Impala

MID-SIZE SPORT UTILITY:

Jeep Wrangler

ENTRY-LEVEL LUXURY CAR:

Volvo C30

FULL-SIZE SPORT UTILITY:

Ford Expedition

LUXURY CAR:

Audi A5

LUXURY SPORT UTILITY:

Audi Q7

HIGH-END LUXURY CAR:

Lexus LS 460

HYBRID UTILITY:

Ford Escape

SPORTS CAR:

Mazda MX-5 Miata

MID-SIZE PICKUP TRUCK:

Toyota Tacoma Regular Cab

HIGH-PERFORMANCE CAR:

Lexus IS F

FULL-SIZE PICKUP TRUCK:

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular Cab

HYBRID CAR:

Honda Insight

MINIVAN:

Mazda MAZDA5

ELECTRIC CAR:

Chevrolet Volt

  • Jerry Edgerton On Twitter»

    View all articles by Jerry Edgerton on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

Comments

Market Data

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Market News

Stock Watchlist