'Tis the season for 'car of the year' awards, and we're right there with the rest of the media.

Next Monday, we'll announce the winner of our second annual Green Car Reports "Best Car to Buy" Award winner for the 2012 model year. At the same time, our sister sites--MotorAuthority and TheCarConnection--will announce their winners as well.

And we've set up a special page, Best Car To Buy 2012, that lets you scan all the stories we've written about the candidates and the award. It includes the 2011 contenders and last year's winner, the 2011 Nissan Leaf--the first battery electric vehicle to be sold in volume in the U.S. in many, many decades.

So why have we joined the awards parade?

While we write a lot about future vehicles, many of our readers seek practical information about which cars not only save gasoline but also reduce their impact on the environment.

To help answer that question, last year we rolled out a new "Green Rating" for every 2011 car we reviewed on our comprehensive reviews site TheCarConnection.com. And we're continuing that practice for 2012.

But a single winner here on Green Car Reports offers many benefits, including the call to get car buyers focused on why that particular model was our Best Car To Buy for its year.

Green Car Reports 2012 Best Car To Buy award

Green Car Reports 2012 Best Car To Buy award

With that, here are the rules, virtually identical to those we published last year:

The Rules

The selection process begins with all new vehicles introduced or significantly updated for the 2012 model year. To be eligible, vehicles also must be available for purchase by April 2012. This eliminates few contenders, while bringing you the best information as soon as possible.

NOTE: We goofed, and in the original version of this article, forgot to update our price limit to $60,000--now corrected--which as one commenter pointed out, would make the Infiniti M35h ineligible. We apologize.

We apply a $60,000 $50,000 base-price cap on entries, to focus on mass-market vehicles and eliminate ultra-luxury green machines that sell in such small numbers that their cumulative impact is negligible. We rank the contenders by the numeric scores found on TheCarConnection's full vehicle reviews.

Finally, we choose the greenest new vehicle(s) from the top of the rankings, based largely on the ratings. Ties and qualitative issues are then discussed by High Gear Media editors who weigh other factors, including market impact, consumer significance, and lifetime environmental impact.

The nominees for GCR's Best Car to Buy 2012 are:

We'll highlight each of these cars in its own story during the course of this week.


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