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Five Surprising Automobile Values

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These vehicles make for great investments, not to mention great rides

Lexus RX 450H

Midsize SUVs aren’t the first category one might look at for value, but the 2013 RX450h – the “h” stands for hybrid – starts at an MSRP of $46,310 but made the US News and World Report’s Best Cars for the Money list because of its “outstanding fuel economy in a luxurious package” and “some of the best reliability ratings in its class.”

In other words, more bang for the buck, and with an EPA-estimated 32 MPG in the city, it’s a buck that lasts longer on every tank.

"Though expensive compared to the non-hybrid RX, the 2013 Lexus RX 450h delivers on its promise of impressive fuel economy, utility, power and luxury,” notes Edmunds.com.

Ford Focus ST

Ranging down in size and in price, the 2013 Ford Focus ST (MSRP $23,700) was named Best Compact Car for the Money by US News and World Report.

“With nimble handling, good fuel economy and an upscale interior, reviewers say that the 2013 Ford Focus excels where other small cars fall short,” says US News and World Report.

"The Ford ST is not exactly a world-beater in terms of refinement, handling balance or ergonomics,” explains Automobile Magazine. “But it does offer a lot of car and performance for the money, it scores an undisputed 10 on the entertainment scale, and it won't fall apart when pushed to the limit.”

Subaru Outback

Named Best Wagon for the Money by US News and World Report, the Subaru Outback combines low ownership costs with reliability, spaciousness and family-friendly features. Known for its versatility, the Outback “successfully combines the utility of an SUV with the drivability of a car, making it one of the best wagons in the class,” the magazine’s website states.

“It's as spacious and capable as a conventional mid-size SUV, but delivers the fuel efficiency and driving characteristics of a sedan,” Kelly Blue Book agrees. “The Outback also provides the all-weather mobility afforded by Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive and an elevated seating position for a more commanding view of the road.”

Starting at an MSRP of $23,495, “The Subaru Outback is expected to retain higher than average residual values over a 5-year period, besting the Ford Escape and the Nissan Rogue, but falling just shy of the Venza, CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox,” KBB continues.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Speaking of residual value, the FJ Cruiser, a tribute to the legendary FJ40 Land Cruiser, topped KBB’s 2013 Best Resale Value Awards.

“The Toyota FJ Cruiser manages to be both more pleasant and more rugged than one might guess, and offers better predicted resale value than any other 2013 model,” according to KBB.com.

Of course, the FJ Cruiser (MSRP $27,030) is designed for a certain driver and a certain owner.

“We like the FJ because it shuns the trend to move to a more car-like (and less capable) unit body. You won't find any cushy air suspensions or luxury trimmings inside the FJ Cruiser. Instead, Toyota has given its off-road stud a sensible, easy-to-clean interior with just the right amount of modern conveniences to keep the FJ Cruiser up to date,” states KBB. “No one will argue that the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser SUV isn't fun, but it does have a number of practical drawbacks including poor fuel economy, some wicked blind spots and a not-so-roomy cargo hold.”

Scion tC

Car buyers may not yet be accustomed to the Scion brand - an offshoot of Toyota - but Scion vehicles are quickly making a name for themselves. The Scion tC - also a member of KBB’s tribe of 2013 Best Resale Value Awards winners - starts at only $18,725 and delivers style, reliability, excellent fuel economy and more than ample high tech options.

“Scion's attractive pricing combined with Toyota's reputation for dependability makes the 2013 tC coupe compelling for anyone looking for a fun coupe with reasonable amenities,” KBB notes. “The car's appeal lies in spirited styling, lots of features, surprisingly good audio systems for the price and freedom to personalize the car. Actual over-the-road performance may not live up to everyone's expectations, with modest horsepower and soft suspension, but it's entirely adequate for a city and suburban runabout.”

Those in the market for a new car should keep in mind that the sticker price only tells part of the story. Fuel economy, reliability and resale value all play an important financial role, making these five value surprises a good starting point for a new car search.

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