BOISE – During the pandemic, some Americans were forced to put off a long-awaited vehicle purchase.  To help prospective owners make an informed decision before they sign on the dotted line, AAA has published its annual Car Guide, including comprehensive ratings of dozens of new vehicles with the latest technology.

AAA engineers tested 59 vehicles using industry-leading procedures to identify this year’s winners.  Overall recognition was awarded to the 2020 Tesla Model Y, but given Idaho’s terrain, some may prefer the Truck category winner, the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 2WD Crew Cab:

Category Vehicle
Overall 2020 Tesla Model Y Long Range (electric)
Small 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier (electric)
Midsize 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Large 2020 Volvo S90 T8 (plug-in hybrid)
Pickup 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 2WD Crew Cab SLT (diesel)
SUV/Minivan 2020 Tesla Model Y Long Range (electric)
Best Under $35,000 2020 Subaru Outback premium (gasoline)
Best $35,000-$50,000 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier (electric)
Best Over $50,000 2020 Tesla Model Y Long Range (electric)

“To be eligible for consideration, vehicles must be equipped with at least one advanced safety feature, such as automatic emergency braking or lane keep assist.  They must also be either all-new, completely redesigned, or a fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicle,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “But that’s just the beginning of the process.  We also evaluate other important details like handling, ride comfort, interior noise, emissions, acceleration, and more.  The winning vehicles have to check all the boxes.”

What to know before you buy

Before making a vehicle purchase, drivers should consider the following:

  • The vehicle’s purpose. How will the vehicle be used?  What trips do you normally take?  How much space do you need?  Will you use it primarily to commute, or for longer trips?
  • Needs vs wants. Is the number of people who ride in the vehicle expected to change?  Is your top priority speed?  Luxury?  Fuel economy?
  • Narrow it down, but not to one. If you have two or three different models that you are willing to consider, you’ll have some room to negotiate and a better chance of getting a good price.  Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, contact your insurance agent for a quote on each vehicle before you visit the dealer.
  • New, or new to you? A new vehicle will come with a manufacturer’s warranty and the latest technology, but a used vehicle will likely be cheaper to insure and maintain.
  • Finance carefully. Consider the true cost of the vehicle you’re buying, including depreciation, and find out how much you can get for a trade-in.  Be careful about the length of a loan – at some point, you could owe more than the car is worth.  If that’s the case, consider purchasing gap insurance to cover the difference in the event of a total loss.

“The best place to begin a test drive is in the back seat,” Conde said.  “When you aren’t driving, you’ll notice things like unusual engine noises or other potential concerns, and if the back seat isn’t comfortable for you, it may not be for your passengers, either.  Plus, it’s nice to have the dealer representative demonstrate systems and features so that you know what to expect before you leave the lot.”