Research & Testing
Rating Methods Overview
CR’s unbiased data and insights are at the core of our ratings, content, advocacy, and other programs. Ratings methods vary by product category but typically share the same key criteria—safety considerations, product performance, and where applicable, longer-term reliability and owner satisfaction. CR is unique in that our ratings blend in-lab (or on-the-road) test data, consumer usability studies, and consumer perceptions reported by survey.
To get notifications of ratings changes as well as test protocol updates, contact us.
Autos Evaluation Factors
The Reliability Prediction is a major factor in the new vehicle Overall Score. It is a forecast of how well a new model is likely to perform over time. The prediction is based on feedback from the CR Member Annual Reliability Survey (fielded in the spring and summer). To predict reliability on a specific model, up to three recent years of data are considered as long as they are in the same generation of the new car. When a reliability history for the model is not available, the history of the manufacturer and similar models will be considered.
Safety is another major factor in vehicle scores and is affected in many ways. First, many aspects of the road test that involve safety are weighted strongly, such as measured braking distances, visibility, emergency handling, acceleration, and controls. Beyond the road-test score, the Overall Score also can be affected positively or negatively by standard advanced safety systems, such as forward collision warning (FCW); automatic emergency braking (AEB); pedestrian detection; blind spot warning (BSW); subpar results in crash tests; and monostable shifters that lack adequate rollaway prevention logic. Note that CR’s Top Picks are awarded only to those vehicles that have AEB with pedestrian detection as a standard feature.
Comfort and Convenience
Ride, quietness, and seat comfort are stressed in our road tests. However, it should be noted that sporty cars and trucks have different scoring schemes that put a higher priority on performance and capability.
While aspects such as acceleration, handling, and steering feel are important in every car, they are weighted much more heavily in sports cars. Towing and hauling capability are emphasized in pickup trucks.
Also scored is fuel economy, or range and energy usage for electric cars. Other aspects of sustainability are currently being considered.
Buyer’s remorse is an aspect that is also considered in calculating the Overall Score for vehicles. It is calculated using the percentage of owners who tell us that they definitely would buy the car again.
Appliances and Electronics Evaluation Factors
Lab tests for each product category focus on the core functions the product is meant to perform. While we consider industry standards for testing a particular product, which gauge the minimum level of performance required, our tests are informed by consumer usage studies and meant to find the highest-performing products.
Reliability is a factor in the Overall Score, but depending on the product category, it’s based on how important longer-term reliability is to consumers.
Our Predicted Brand Reliability ratings are based on a statistical model that estimates problem rates within the first five years of ownership, for products that are not covered by an extended warranty or a service contract. Data is collected annually from CR member surveys, with tens of thousands of surveys completed for both major appliances and electronics. We survey members on kitchen appliances (cooking appliances, dishwashers, refrigerators) in the spring; major electronics (smartphones, TVs), summer; and laundry appliances (washers, dryers), fall.
Satisfaction is computed by calculating the percentage of owners who tell us they are extremely likely to recommend their brand of major appliance or electronics to friends and family. This question appears in all our product surveys in each of the four quarterly questionnaires.