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Every year, awards are handed out to the best vehicles on the market. These awards can help consumers choose the best vehicle, as well as promote an automaker’s ability. MotorTrend has been evaluating, testing, and ranking cars for decades and has become one of the most trusted voices in the automobile industry. But how do they decide on which cars walk away with the prize?

MotorTrend awards: the difficult selection process

MotorTrend is considered to be one of “the most popular and trusted” magazines and organizations to cover every aspect of the industry, according to Zeigler Auto Group.

Every year, MotorTrend uses its experts to recognize and award “the best new or significantly refreshed car in a given model year,” according to Wikipedia. The MotorTrend Car of the Year award, also known as the COTY, was first handed out to Cadillac in 1949.

It has provided consumers with reliable data ever since. Now, MotorTrend’s awards extend to every vehicle type. The people at MotorTrend use thorough organized testing, evaluations, and standard comparison to judge these vehicles for an award.

For the 2018 model year alone, MotorTrend evaluated 81 vehicles, ranging in sticker tag prices from $20,000 to $150,000. According to MotorTrend, the criteria used to judge vehicles helps to level the playing field and allows each vehicle to be judged on its own. The “best of the year” award is handed out by MotorTrend to a vehicle in each category: car, truck, and SUV.

Car of the Year award

In the car category, MotorTrend looks at all types of sedans, coupes, and compacts. Cars go through more than a week of testing and evaluations. Plus an additional two 14-hour days it takes to make a decision. Finalists for the Car of the Year award were driven through diverse driving conditions, over a 27.6-mile loop that puts every ounce of the vehicle to the test.

SUV of the Year award

When testing vehicles in the SUV category, MotorTrend uses data collectors that collect information up to 20 times per second to evaluate performance, handling, and overall quality. SUVs are taken on an off-road course to test real-world driving, strength, and reliability.

Truck of the Year award

According to MotorTrend, trucks in the running for the Truck of the Year were driven for more than 800 miles over more than a week’s worth of testing. The experts gather data by running frustration tests, towing trailers, and measuring acceleration and control on different areas of the road, with varying degrees of elevation.

The six criteria used in MotorTrend’s process

Whether it’s a car, truck, or SUV, MotorTrend uses the same six criteria to fairly assess and judge new vehicles in every model year. Basically, these categories of criteria help each vehicle to be judged not only accurately, but fairly. Here are the six criteria that MotorTrend uses to decide who’s the best of the best:

1. Design advancement: 

Experts judge each vehicle on the execution of its design, the styling of the interior and exterior, as well as the selection or use of materials. A panel of judges, including former Head of Design for Chrysler, evaluates each vehicle on its design, quality, and function of design.

2. Engineering: 

MotorTrend experts look at the integrity of every vehicle. This includes its total concept, execution of design, and use of technologies that benefit the driver or rider.

They judge things like new tech in engine or fuel systems, new suspension or transmission advancements, as well as how engineers use space and technology within the vehicle. Additionally, experts judge vehicles on its ability to fit people and cargo and the success of its infotainment systems.

3. Efficiency and economy: 

Each vehicle is examined for its fuel-economy. To do this, experts compare its economy to other vehicles in the same category, also taking into consideration a vehicle’s operating costs, weight, and even recyclability.

4. Safety: 

Safety is one of the most important aspects of awarding a vehicle. That being said, MotorTrend takes its safety criteria very seriously. They do this by closely examining (and testing) safety measures that protect the occupants. They also test the vehicle’s ability to help avoid the crash or accident in the first place as well.

5. Value and reliability: 

Value isn’t just about how much you buy the vehicle for, so MotorTrend judges a vehicle’s purchase price, as well as how much you get for that money. Judges compare the value of other vehicles in the same segment, finding the best value, for the best cost.

6. Ability to perform: 

Lastly, MotorTrend looks at how well a vehicle does the job it is intended to do. For instance, off-roading vehicles should be strong enough to go over most obstacles, while luxury cars should certainly ride like one. Basically, this category not only ensures consumers get what they pay for but is also typically used to determine a tie-breaker situation.