How Much Does Consumer Reports Spend on Buying Cars in 1 Year?

Consumer Reports, a magazine known for its unbiased reviews, spends money buying new cars to test every year. This is so the company can review as many cars as possible and provide the best buying options to its readers. Since Consumer Reports knows which vehicles have the best value at specific price ranges, it stands to reason the site negotiates good deals when buying its test vehicles.

How much does Consumer Reports spend on buying cars?

Car shoppers roaming Ford and Cadillac car sales dealerships in Colma, California
Shoppers roaming Ford and Cadillac car dealerships | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

To gauge accurately how much Consumer Reports spends in one year, we would have to know what vehicles the company is buying and at what price. For example, in 2015, Consumer Reports spent about $2.7 million purchasing about 50 cars. So, the average money spent in 2015 on each car was about $54,000. This purchase occurred in a year when the average price for new vehicles was about $33,500.

According to the Kelley Blue Book, the average price for new cars was $48,681 in November 2022, which is $2,250 above the average price on October 21. So, $3.5 million was possibly spent this year buying test cars. Of course, it’s not important how much Consumer Reports spend on vehicles but how by spending on cars, the site helps you get the best value when purchasing them.

How does the review site buy cars for testing?

Consumer Reports buys cars anonymously. This is done to prevent manufacturers or dealers from manipulating Consumer Reports staff and reviews. For example, a dealer could try to sell the Consumer Reports car buyer a specific trim-level car for next to nothing to showcase that particular car. The dealerships and sellers may even convince the buyer to borrow a vehicle to gain publicity for a specific model. 

Consumer Reports staff buy a car based on what CR members are interested in buying or learning about, not what might be the coolest vehicle to drive. So, the company purchases and tests various cars, including compact to midsize SUVs, electric vehicles, compact pickups, hybrids, luxury cars, and more.

For example, Consumer Reports bought cars and SUVs priced below $25,000, between $25,000 to $35,000, between $35,000 to $45,000, and $45,000 and up. These purchases helped to test and review cars in 2022

How does Consumer Reports get the money to purchase cars?

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Consumer Reports can present unbiased reviews because the company doesn’t accept contributions from businesses or corporations with which there might arise a conflict of interest, whether real or perceived. The conflict of interest may impact impartiality and is why Consumer Reports does not provide the opportunity for advertising in its print or digital magazines.

Imagine if the company had a car manufacturer that presented a source of revenue in the form of advertising. CR wouldn’t want to lose that source of revenue by providing a bad review of the automobiles, so the review would not be unbiased, or, at the very least, would be perceived as unbiased. Additionally, the car manufacturer may want to restrict Consumer Reports to review only specific cars and models. Again, this kind of pressure does not encourage impartiality. 

Consumer Reports is a nonprofit entity that pays for the cars with individual donations or donations from foundations with a mission related to CR’s core values but unrelated to a business or corporation. Consumer Reports also receives revenue from grants provided by governmental agencies and other nonprofit organizations whose missions also align with Consumer Reports.

In addition to donations and grants, another source of revenue for buying cars is through magazine and website subscriptions. Members can choose between $10 monthly, $39 yearly, or $59 yearly membership subscriptions.