Dear Driving for Dollars,

I’m starting to look at buying a new car and I’ve been paying more attention to advertising. It seems like all the carmakers spend a lot of time promoting the various awards their cars have won as if that proves their worth.

If I buy a car with a lot of car awards and accolades, does it mean I’m getting the best in its category?

— Bert

Dear Bert,

We all know the term “best” is relative and just about anyone can create an award for anything. That said, many of the car awards specific cars receive are backed by substantial research or analysis. For example, Consumer Reports’ “recommended” rating for specific models is backed by their independent testing as well as its surveys with its very large group of members, who are average Joes reporting on their experience with a car they own.

J.D. Power and Associates also uses surveys with thousands of new car owners to arrive at its reliability ratings. Top ratings in crash tests — the Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and five-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — are given based on regimented tests in which researchers crash the cars and analyze damage and impact to crash-test dummies.

So, yes, in many cases, a car receiving top accolades is truly big news and a testament to its quality, reliability and performance.

To get a better picture of what the car awards actually mean for a vehicle, go to the company website that has given the award for that specific car. You’ll find details about the process the company followed. Read it for yourself and make your own judgment about the award’s value.

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