Contrary to what TV commercials might have you believe, there is no one perfect car for every person. The best car for you can depend on such things as your driving habits, your family, your financial status and more.

One of the first considerations is how much car you can afford, says The Credit Union National Association. If you are borrowing, it advises, you need to calculate how much monthly payment you can handle. All monthly installment payments, plus rent or mortgage, shouldn't be more than 40 percent of your monthly take-home pay.But there are other considerations as well. The folks at the Center for Auto Safety, an independent consumer group founded in 1970 to improve vehicle/highway safety and design, believe that the more you know about various cars, the easier it will be to choose the car that's right for you. This is why the center publishes "The Car Book," by Jack Gillis, which rates new cars in crash safety, fuel economy, repair costs, warranties, insurance costs and complaint history. This year's edition includes availability of air bags and anti-lock brakes. ("The Car Book" is available at bookstores or by writing to the Center for Auto Safety, 2001 S. St., W., Washington, DC 20009. Cost is $13.50 by mail.)

Some of the lists from "The Car Book" are included here.

Complaint index

Based on complaints registered with the government and analyzed by the Center for Auto Safety. Insufficient data is available on cars introduced in 1992 and 1993. Cars with the best ratings:

Honda CRX ('88-'91)

Mazda RX7 ('81-'85)

Plymouth Champ ('81-'83)

Nissan/Datsun 200SX ('84-'88)

Porsche 911 ('81-'83)

Honda Prelude ('83-'87)

Toyota Supra ('82-'85)

Datsun 200SX ('83-'85)

Toyota Corolla ('81-'83)

Mercury Zephyr ('81-'83)

Honda Civic ('81-'83)

Mercedes Benz 240 ('81-'83)

Mitsubishi Mirage ('89-'92)

Daihatsu Charade ('88-'89)

Oldsmobile 88 ('81-'85)

Toyota Celica ('81-'85)

Lincoln Mark Series ('81-'82)

Chevrolet Sprint ('85-'88)

Dodge Colt ('81-'84)

Nissan Pulsar ('87-'90)

Chevrolet Nova ('86-'88)

Toyota Corolla ('84-'87)

Crash test index

Measures a car's ability to protect its occupants in case of collision. Cars with best numbers are:


Ford Escort

Subaru Justy

Geo Storm

Hyndai Excel 4dr.

Hyndai Excel 2 dr.


Dodge Daytona

Chevrolet Beretta

Ford Mustang

Nissan 240SX

Honda Prelude


Saab 9000

Volvo 240

Toyota Camry

Ford Tarus Wagon

Honda Accord

Chrysler Concorde

Dodge Intrepid

Eagle Vision


Ford Thunderbird

Mercury Cougar

Cadillac Seville

Buick LeSabre

Oldsmobile 88

Pontiac Bonneville


Chrysler Town & Country

Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan

Plymouth Voyager/Grand Voyager

Chevrolet Lumina APV

Oldsmobile Silhouette

Pontiac Trans Sport

Fuel economy

Based on EPA's fuel economy ratings:

The Misers



Geo Metro XFi53/58$328

Honda Civic HB VX48/55$353

Geo Metro LSi46/50$374

Suzuki Swift46/50$374

Honda Civic42/46$409

Geo Metro Conv.41/46$419

* Based on driving 15,000 miles per year


maintenance costs

The cost of following the manufacturer's recommended program for preventive maintenance can vary significantly among automobiles. Costs are based on national averages for labor rate, retail parts prices and suggested time to perform each item on the schedule. Cars with the lowest PM costs for 1993 are:

Audi 90 $0

Audi 100 $0

Volkswagen Fox $350

Volkswagen Eurovan $375

Volkswagen Golf/GTI $375

Volkswagen Jetta $375

Volkswagen Passat $380

Volkswagen Corrado $420

Hyundai Elantra $480

Hyundai Excel $480

Hyundai Scoupe $480

Hyundai Sonata $480

Repair costs

In figuring typical repair costs, "The Car Book" selected nine items likely to need replacing during the first 100,000 miles. 1993 cars with the least expensive repair costs include:

Jeep Cherokee $1,344

Chevrolet Astro $1,464

GMC Safari $1,464

Saturn SC $1,492

Saturn SL $1,492

Buick Roadmaster $1,535

Chevrolet Caprice $1,535

Cadillac Fltwd. Brougham $1,555

Chevrolet Lumina APV $1,561

Oldsmobile Silhouette $1,561

Pontiac Trans Sport $1,561

Isuzu Amigo $1,577


"The Car Book" compared 1993 warranties in five areas: basic warranty, powertrain warranty, corrosion warranty, transferability and deductibles. Based on a weighted index, cars with the best warranty include:

Cadillac Allante





Resale value

Using statistics compiled by the National Automobile Dealers Association, the 1988 cars that held their value best include:

Honda Accord

Honda CRX

Toyota Camry

Honda Civic

Volkswagen Jetta

Toyota Tercell

Nissan Sentra

Toyota Corolla

Mazda 323

Acura Integra

Auto theft index

Based on statistics from the Highway Loss Data Institute, the following cars are the least likely to be stolen or vandalized:

Lexus ES 250 4dr.

Toyota Camry SW

Subaru Loyale 4WD SW

Honda Civic SW

Ford Escort SW

Plymouth Horizon 4dr.

Ford Escort 2dr.

Mercury Sable SW

Dodge Dynasty 4dr.

Maxda MPV

Subaru Legacy 4WD SW