How Consumer Reports Automotive Ratings Work

Obtaining Consumer Reports Automotive Ratings

You can obtain a full Consumer Report for your potential automobile by subscribing to either the organization's Web site or magazine. A subscription to the Web site costs $26 per year [source: Consumer Reports]. When you go to the Consumer Reports Web site, you can access a list of vehicle models that have been evaluated by consumers.

You don't have to be a member to glean information from the site, however. Although you need to be a paying subscriber to get a full model report, you can get an indication of the cars' performance based on a checklist system on the Web site. The first-tier models are marked with a red check; these vehicles performed well on all of Consumer Report's tests, have average or above average reliability ratings and give good crash protection if crash tested. These cars also cannot have tipped during their government rollover test, or they must have electronic stability control.

Second-tier vehicles, indicated by a check inside a circle, meet even more strict guidelines. In addition to meeting all of the first-tier requirements, these cars are included in front-offset and side-crash tests conducted by the Institute for Highway Safety and give very good crash protection [source: Consumer Reports].