What It Really Takes for a Car to Get Consumer Reports’ Recommended Label

It’s not uncommon to see Consumer Reports reviews and recommendations of new and used cars. But have you ever wondered what the selection process entails? How does the CR team decide which vehicles are worthy of consideration? You also might want to know more about the CR Recommended label, including what it really takes for a car to achieve the distinction.

We explored the requirements behind the consumer advocate group’s selections. As it turns out, a car must be pretty impressive to make the cut.

Why a Consumer Reports recommendation matters 

Consumer Reports recommends the 2022 Kia Telluride, shown here with a gray interior
Consumer Reports recommends the 2022 Kia Telluride | Kia

Before buying a vehicle, you might check Consumer Reports for the latest survey data and reviews. If the car in question has the “CR Recommended” label, it means the team approves of the model. And when any vehicle earns the CR Recommended label, manufacturers are authorized to display the endorsement online, on the car, and in the dealership.

So, how does the “CR Recommended” process work? According to Consumer Reports, the group purchases products it believes are test-worthy. Its testers anonymously purchase the vehicles at retail pricing and never accept donations or payments from manufacturers.

After spending quality time with the product and putting it through rigorous testing, the team assigns scores to determine whether it deserves the coveted CR Recommended checkmark.

Consumer Reports considers many factors when evaluating cars, including reliability, owner satisfaction, road test performance, and overall safety. The road test alone involves over 50 trials at CR’s 327-acre test facility in Colchester, Connecticut. The teams assign performance scores on usability, ride quality, and noise.

The safety scores include official IIHS and NHTSA ratings and evaluation of available driver assistance features and safety equipment. Those vehicles with advanced safety systems, such as equipment to help reduce crashes and minimize potential injury risks, earn extra credit. 

CR editors and testers offer feedback in a consumer Q&A session during Consumer Reports’ Talking Cars podcast, citing that the vehicle’s overall score determines the official CR Recommendation endorsement. And a significant component of that overall score comes from actual vehicle ownership experiences. CR issues surveys to collect information from members to help determine predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. Asking a vehicle owner if they’d buy the car all over again can be very telling. 

Of course, you don’t have to buy a car with the CR Recommended label. But if you want to purchase a ride that’s been tested and evaluated to the hilt and have a better idea of what to expect in owning a particular model, Consumer Reports is a great place to look. It takes the guesswork out of considering the latest models so that you can make the smartest purchasing decision.

How long has Consumer Reports been around?

You’ve heard of Consumer Reports, but you may not know the history behind the group. In 1936, consumers didn’t have an effective way to gauge the quality of products and services on the market. Sometimes, vague ad claims and misleading information prompted shoppers to make poor purchasing decisions. CR was born out of this need for product accountability and continues to evaluate and rate products and services. 

As a result, consumers have a resource to help them make informed decisions and see unbiased reviews before spending their hard-earned dollars. The independent and nonprofit member group brings transparency, truth, and fairness to the marketplace. And one area where consumers appreciate insights is the automotive industry. Let’s face it — buying a vehicle requires homework.

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