All hail that mighty make, Tesla. Last month the California-based manufacturer of exclusively upscale electric vehicles captured the attention of the mainstream auto world after its Model S garnered Motor Trend's Car of Year award in mid-November. All 11 judges "unanimously voted the first vehicle designed from the wheels up by a fledgling automaker," as a statement of America's capacity to still lead the planet in innovate car manufacturing.

The previously under-the-radar company has now enjoyed a title wave of attention for its signature model, so much so that those now wanting to purchase a Model S have to prove their desire with a $5,000 reservation fee. (Fully refundable, of course). Why all the hype about what's essentially a very nice looking electric car?

Well, most auto industry insiders feel the car transcends the "very nice looking electric" label. Praises Motor Trend themselves, "The mere fact the Tesla Model S exists at all is a testament to innovation and entrepreneurship, the very qualities that once made the American automobile industry the largest, richest, and most powerful in the world."

Yet the inundation of accolades does not come without some controversy, naturally. Yahoo! Autos, which also named the Tesla S their 2013 Car of the Year, cites (but doesn't necessarily counter completely) several complaints against the tony Tesla: it's "not affordable," at $50,000; Yahoo! and Motor Trend are chastised for being overly confident in the car, "not yet knowing how reliable it will prove" over the years; and that picking such a fancy, souped-up car actually amounts to a "boring" fanboy choice, not one that comprehensively considers what will pique serious curiosity and practicality.

Electric cars might also be "an extraordinarily bad idea," an idea Forbes recently explored. "Cold weather and fast driving" could seriously shorten the length of driving time that an electric can demonstrate, a phenomenon the article refers to as "range anxiety," which can become problematic in an emergency scenario. The Nissan Leaf, heralded perhaps even more so than the Tesla S, is the primary focus of Forbes' critique. Yet some of it may hold true for Tesla's jewel as well.

All of this makes us wonder: what makes a vehicle your own personalized Car of the Year? How do you set about determining that automobile, and seeking about that dream car? Here's some advice on how you can tailor the car-hunting experience on your own terms, not just those of a vaunted car publication.

Head to the websites that make dream-car shopping easy. has a reputation for simplifying auto purchases. If you don't discover what you want from using the site's local search option, activate the search filter to survey how many cars are on sale nationwide. If you can't find your dream car via HertzCarSales initially, try expanding your search criteria and perhaps some of our other great deals will satisfy your driving needs. Finally, consider or another vehicle history report service to check cars before you go to see them.

What kind of car does your life (specifically) need most? Believe it or not, some people actually would do better with a convertible -- the sort of person who needs to make a statement of desirable exclusivity. These cars feature expressive designs, but restricted access to the back seat that seriously limits their practicality. You might even consider the hatchback, the once ubiquitous auto shape now derided as old fashioned, but that's making a comeback with more stylish designs and an emphasis on their environmental advantages (like their fuel economy). And there's no car like the minivan to efficiently transport loads of people to and fro.

Consider pursuing a classic car as your vehicle of choice. These automobiles whose elegance has lasted over time are often much more affordable than newer models of similar or even lesser appeal -- barring Formula 1 racecars and the like, of course. Should you maintain the vehicle well once you own it, you could actually notice the car's worth augment in value. The National Auto Dealer Association's (NADA) Classic Car Price Guide Book, Hemming's Classic Car, or a comprehensive eBay search could shed light on just how much that hot rod is worth. Classic cars carry a reputation as more reliable than newer cars -- less technology might make them more resistant to wear and tear.

Are you really sure that an electric, hybrid or diesel would be best? The style of driving you do shapes the decision whether or not an electric, hybrid or a diesel is right for you. Electrics obviously use no fuel at all. Hybrids do use less fuel around town, when low speeds and frequent braking keep them running on battery power longer. Diesel drivers will see their sweetest reward on the highway, though diesel cars are more efficient than gasoline guzzlers at low speeds, as well. All of these approaches will stretch your fuel dollar or eliminate entirely the need for a fuel budget. Yet be conscious of the premiums you'll be handling up front (again, $5,000 for a Tesla up front!) and the distance you'll have to drive to make up for your costs. The fuel economy may seem economically advantageous now, but that shift quickly since fuel prices fluctuate so erratically.

All Wheel Drive (AWD) is not for all drivers. All-wheel drive is considered to be a safety feature in regions with challenging winters. But the everyday driver will only notice with all-wheel drive when accelerating, due to the traction that AWD adds. All-wheel drive doesn't improve a car's capacity to stop or turn. Most buyers don't grasp is just dramatically winter tires can transform the driving experience. They are less expensive than upgrading to an all-wheel-drive car, and don't have the year-round negative impact on your fuel economy that characterizes a car having to drive all four wheels all the time.

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