Value stocks are a core component of any well-rounded portfolio. However, there's no doubt that certain companies have proved to be better long-term buys than most of their peers from a value standpoint.

With this in mind, we asked three of our contributors which value stocks they think every investor should own. They suggested Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), IBM (NYSE:IBM), and Ford (NYSE:F). Read on to find out why these three top value stocks may be worth buying and holding for the long haul. 

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Every investor needs a healthcare stock

George Budwell (Johnson & Johnson): While the healthcare sector has been moving higher over the past few years, it still sports several classic value stocks that are worth buying and holding for pretty much forever. In fact, I think healthcare behemoth Johnson & Johnson sits at the top of this list -- despite generating an enormous 132% total return on capital over the past five years.

JNJ Total Return Price Chart

JNJ Total Return Price data by YCharts

Although J&J doesn't exactly stand out as an exceptional value stock (it has a slightly above-average price-to-sales ratio of 4.75 and its forward price-to-earnings ratio of 16.6), the company does offer substantial value for investors with a long-term mindset. The underlying reason J&J has been able to repeatedly trounce the broader markets and maintain a top-notch growth profile is management's emphasis on research and development -- especially within its pharma segment.

The basic issue at play is that far too many pharmas rely on a single flagship product to drive the bulk of their growth, making them susceptible to seasonal downturns, patent challenges, or the outright loss of exclusivity for the product in question. J&J, on the other hand, has built a highly diverse pharma portfolio that has proved capable of withstanding these headwinds.

At a recent investor update, for instance, J&J's management announced plans to file for regulatory approval for up to 10 new blockbuster products over the next four years, and around 50-plus line extensions for medicines already on the market. Simply put, this healthcare company really has no equal when it comes to the efficiency of its clinical pipeline. And that's the overarching reason J&J is an absolute must-own value stock. 

Patience is a virtue

Tim Brugger (IBM): It's been a rough year for IBM, with a big drop coming in the past several weeks, after the company announced disappointing earnings. Shares have dropped 11% since April 18.

IBM once again reported a year-over-year revenue drop last quarter. Its $18.2 billion in sales was a 3% drop from last year and marked the 20th straight quarter of declines. At this point, even some of the world's top investors have bailed on IBM.

Thing is, measuring IBM's performance based on anything other than its all-important strategic initiatives doesn't factor in its ongoing transformation from legacy hardware to cognitive computing, data security, mobile, and its primary revenue driver, the cloud. 

CEO Ginni Rometty set an objective to drive 40% of total sales from IBM's strategic imperatives by 2018. Last quarter, the combined key units generated $7.8 billion in revenue, equal to 43% of IBM's total sales. For the trailing 12 months, strategic imperative revenue is tracking at 42% of sales.

So not only is IBM ahead of its own schedule, but its whopping $14.6 billion annual cloud revenue run-rate also puts it near the top of the provider list in one of the world's fastest-growing markets. And the good news is that IBM was already inexpensive at the time of its first-quarter news, so it's become an even better value now. Toss in a nearly 4% dividend yield and a forward price-to-earnings ratio of just 11, and IBM stock is a value investor's dream

This American icon sells for just 3.5 times free cash flow

Rich Smith (Ford): Have you driven a Ford lately? Maybe, maybe not. But if you ask me, Ford stock is a good value stock that every investor can feel comfortable owning -- especially at today's prices.

Thanks to the arrival of its long-awaited downturn in auto sales, pessimism about Ford stock is hitting new highs while its stock price plumbs new lows. Last week, Ford's April sales declined 7.2%, which was the worst number of any automotive manufacturer. Ford's stock promptly sank 4% in response to the sales report.

Yet this turn in the cyclical auto-sales market hardly came as a surprise. We've known it was coming for months, if not years. And now that the decline has arrived, it's offering value investors the chance to buy into Ford at some very attractive levels.

Based on trailing-12-month-earnings, Ford shares now cost only 12 times earnings. Yet while sales are falling, analysts surveyed by S&P Global Market Intelligence believe that Ford will maintain its profits and even continue growing in profitability. Projections call for earnings of $1.54 per share this year, valuing the stock at 7.2 times current-year earnings. And profits are predicted to grow at a modest 6% rate over the next two years -- before reaccelerating to a very respectable 15% pace over the next five years. Meanwhile, right now, Ford is pumping out so much cash from its business -- $12.8 billion in free cash flow over the past 12 months -- that its price-to-free cash flow ratio is a ridiculously low 3.5.

Value stocks don't come much cheaper than this, folks. And Ford is a value stock that I think every investor needs to take a good, hard look at. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.