A commuter car is a vehicle that has a special mission. Unlike a family car, sports car, or a vehicle you intend to use primarily for fun, a commuter car has one goal - to make your commute as comfortable and trouble-free as possible. We test vehicles at iSeeCars and have determined without any doubt that a good commuter car has certain attributes that can help make a long commute in traffic more tolerable. In addition to the facts and figures we will use to rank the best commuter cars, we are going to share our first-hand experience with readers based on our real-world testing of these vehicles in Metro Boston commuting. 

iSeeCars has assembled a list of the ten best cars and crossovers for commuting. Our team of researchers narrowed the field by looking at four important criteria for commuter cars. First, quality. The vehicle you rely on to get you to and from work must above all other things be reliable. It’s no accident that vehicles with a strong reputation for durability, quality, and reliability are so often chosen as commuter cars. 

Next up, driving comfort. iSeeCars chose only vehicles with ample driver legroom for this list of the best commuter cars. Every entry has, at a minimum, 42 inches of driver legroom. Being cramped in a car is no way to begin or end your workday. All of the vehicles on this list, regardless of their overall size, will provide most drivers with room to stretch out behind the wheel.

Let’s face it; You are a little groggy some Monday mornings and dog-tired on Fridays after a long work week. And so too are all of your fellow commuters. You are going to slog into work come rain, sleet, or snow. You deserve a safe car. Every vehicle on the list has earned atleast a 9.0 iSeeCars safety score based on ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

Lastly, fuel-efficiency is also an important aspect of a commuter car. The vehicles on this list all achieve above-average gas mileage for their classes. 

We understand that vehicle owners need to satisfy more than one mission with the vehicle they own. Few of us buy a vehicle solely for driving back and forth to the office. So, to make this list of the best commuter vehicles more meaningful we have broken down the list into two groups. The best cars, meaning sedans and coupes, and the best SUVs, which will of course include crossovers. Whichever vehicle shape you opt for, there are some excellent choices available from a variety of brands. We will start with the cars first. 

Top 9 Commuter Cars - Sedans and Coupes

Best Commuter Cars
Rank Car Reliability Score Safety Score MPG, comb Leg Room (inches) New Car Avg Price 3yo Used Car Avg Price
1 Honda Civic Coupe 9.1 10.0 32.5 42.3 $24,150 $27,044
2 Honda Accord Sedan 9.0 10.0 28.8 42.4 $31,435 $28,671
3 Toyota Prius hatchback 8.9 10.0 52.0 42.3 $28,673 $25,233
4 Honda Civic Sedan 8.6 10.0 33.5 42.2 $25,000 $24,529
5 Toyota Corolla 8.5 9.0 32.0 42.3 $21,630 $24,218
6 Mazda MAZDA6 8.4 10.0 28.5 42.2 $30,188 $25,660
7 Mazda MAZDA3 8.3 10.0 31.3 42.2 $26,950 $23,051
8 Nissan Altima 8.3 10.0 29.5 44.7 $29,400 $23,708
9 Subaru Impreza 8.0 9.0 29.5 43.3 $21,115 $23,239

#1 -  Honda Civic Coupe

The Honda Civic is a vehicle that has grown up. We knew the Civic and loved it when it was a tiny economy car. Today, the Civic is offered in three body styles and over 15 trims, all of which are intermediate or mid-size in EPA passenger volume. 

The Civic Coupe is a vehicle that is fun to drive, has looks that qualify the car as a great date-night ride, and above all, offers Honda practicality. The Civic is a vehicle that is “bigger on the inside” than you would expect from its outside dimensions, and nobody does commuter car packaging better than Honda

What boosted the Civic Coupe to the top of our objective list was its durability, great safety score of 4.8, and a Combined EPA estimate of 32.5 MPG. Beginning with the 2019 model year, the Civic has the following standard safety features: forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, and automatic high-beam headlights.

The Civic scores high in every category. We were glad the numbers proved what we suspected all along; The Honda Civic is a commuter car that is hard to top. It also is our choice for the Best Small Car.

# 2 - Honda Accord

If you need or want a slightly larger commuter car the Honda Accord Sedan is a great choice. The Accord is nimble, fun to drive, and makes a great car for those who may have a client in the vehicle or who may carpool.

The Accord is a car with a great reliability score, a perfect 5-star NHTSA rating for safety, and great fuel economy for its size. The Accord also holds its value better than many sedans in its class. Those who are interested in a roomy car should start here.  The Accord is praised for its sporty handling while offering more passenger room than most of its competitors. It also has appealing engine options, starting with its responsive 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 192 horsepower. Standard safety features include: forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with road sign recognition, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, driver drowsiness monitoring, and automatic high-beam headlights.

#3 - Toyota Prius

The Prius has been topping lists since it appeared twenty years ago. Owners of Prius cars know that it is much more enjoyable to drive than naysayers would like to believe and the Prius has a record of reliability that is unmatched in the green vehicle world. 

With a mileage rating above 50 MPG (Fifty!) the Prius rivals fully-electric vehicles in cost of energy per mile. The Prius also has an unusually-long range of just under 600 miles. With a normal commute, you may only need to fill up twice per month. 

The Toyota Prius is now offered in many versions. Is it snowy where you work? Opt for the all-wheel drive Prius. Does your company offer free EV charging? Opt for the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid and snag some free electricity. Whichever Prius you choose, your commute will be more economical in a Prius than in almost any other vehicle. And Toyota’s Prius has earned Top Safety Pick awards from IIHS. The Prius is a car that makes commuting not just economical, but sensible. 

#4 - Honda Civic Sedan

After singing the praises of the Civic Coupe, what is left to say about the Civic Sedan? A few things. First up, the Civic Sedan is about the same size inside as cars in the segment above it were just a generation ago. This is a big car we all remember as being compact. 

The Civic Sedan also tops any coupe for commuters with families. You can’t buckle up your bundle of joy in the back of a Civic Coupe without bending and twisting. The Civic Sedan offers 90% of the coolness of the Coupe with much more practicality.

#5 - Toyota Corolla 

The Toyota Corolla’s efficient 2.0-liter engine achieves an EPA-estimate gas mileage of 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

Whenever we test a Corolla Sedan we fall back in love with the Corolla all over again. The Corolla Sedan drives like a car twice its price. The engine is quiet, the mileage is impressive. Perhaps most of any vehicle on this list, the Corolla has earned a reputation for reliability.  The Corolla comes with standard features including a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Corolla is a safe bet in any trim and whether new or used (assuming you do your due diligence). With an entry-level price close to $20K, plus two years of included maintenance when purchased new, the Toyota Corolla is the value pick of this group. 

#6 - Mazda Mazda6 

Psst. Want to know a secret? The Mazda6 Sedan is a luxury car hiding in the mainstream segment. It is also the pick of the litter in any four-door comparison test done by enthusiast magazines. The Mazda6 handles great and can be purchased with an optional turbocharged engine for extra power. Both available engines come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Mazda’s interiors top the quality and styling of many premium brands we test. With options on higher trim levels like heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel, the Mazda6 is easily the most comfortable sedan on this list of great commuter cars. 

#7 - Mazda Mazda3 Sedan

If there is a sports car hiding in this list of commuter cars it is the Mazda3. With a 2.5-liter engine and optional AWD, the Mazda3 line is a very sporty compact car. Like its big brother, the Mazda3 is the winner of almost any comparison test it is entered into. We recommend the Mazda3 to those who want an all-weather commuter car, but don’t want a crossover

#8 - Nissan Altima 

The Nissan Altima earns a spot on any list of great commuter cars. Newly updated with optional AWD, the Altima is a tweener. It’s a bit more car than a Corolla, but not as big as an Accord. We think it is a perfectly-sized commuter car.

Nissan also has the best infotainment setup on this list. Easy to operate, intuitive, and modern the Nissan Altima is a commute car for those who want more space than a compact car offers and who value a great interior design. 

#9  Subaru Impreza 

The Impreza is the unsung commuting hero of the Subaru line. With standard all-wheel drive, impressive interior and cargo space, and a fun ride, the Impreza is much more car than Subaru owners from a generation ago will remember. 

We found the Impreza to be a car that punches above its weight class in terms of refinement. All Subarus do well in harsh winter conditions and the Impreza is no exception. Shoppers will find that there are few commuter cars with AWD to be found at this low price point. 

The Best Crossovers and SUVs For Commuting

Best Commuter SUVs
Rank Car Reliability Score Safety Score  MPG, comb Leg Room (inches) New Car Avg Price 3yo Used Car Avg Price
1 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 9.2 10.0 28.0 44.2 $45,704 $32,530
2 Hyundai Santa Fe 8.5 10.0 26.0 44.1 $34,930 $29,774
3 Subaru Outback 8.4 10.0 26.2 42.9 $35,447 $34,333
4 Subaru Forester 8.1 10.0 26.4 43.0 $31,507 $31,394
5 Toyota RAV4 8.0 9.0 26.0 42.3 $31,025 $31,467
Commuting in wild or wintery weather presents added challenges. For commuters who need all-weather capability, SUV /crossover vehicles are the obvious choice. 

Crossovers also have inherent ease-of-use features. They tend to be easier to enter and exit due to their higher seat height. Many drivers find visibility is better. And the added ground clearance means these commuter vehicles also can go down roads that a normal car can’t. 

#1 - Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The first-ranked Highlander Hybrid offers better combined fuel economy than many smaller crossovers on this list due to its advanced drivetrain. With the best overall longevity score and a perfect 5 for safety, how can a commuter ignore the Highlander Hybrid?

The Highlander Hybrid is simple to use in the real world because there is no plug. The Highlander Hybrid’s great fuel economy is also unusually safe in the real world. In past IIHS studies, the Highlander Hybrid has had the lowest driver death rate per mile of any vehicle. 

#2 - Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe ranks fifth for its combination of quality and value. The Santa Fe consistently earns high rankings for predicted reliability and was named as a top SUV by JD Power. The Santa Fe also has above-average fuel economy for its class with its base engine with an EPA estimated 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

#3 - Subaru Outback

The second-ranked Subaru Outback is a cross between a crossover and a wagon and has the best attributes of both. This go-anywhere vehicle is very car-like in its highway ride, and can traverse backwoods logging paths with zero difficulties. You can even get an Outback with skid plates to protect it from stumps and rocks. 

While many commuters won’t need that capability on a daily basis, the Outback’s great fuel economy and perfect safety score make it an easy pick for a daily driver. The Outback also tops the list of our Best Small SUVs.

#4 - Subaru Forester

What makes the Forester a standout for commuting? It has great fuel economy, perfect safety scores, and is a top three in terms of longevity.

We also think the Forester has the best outward visibility of any vehicle on this list. It’s bigger inside than one might guess. This commuter “car” is also perfect for any family getaway and is the ideal college move-in day vehicle. The Forester combines the Outback’s off-road abilities with the more traditional SUV profile many buyers prefer.

#5 - Toyota RAV4

Over the past few years, the Toyota RAV4 two-row crossover has often been the top-selling non-truck in America. This is no accident. Buyers fall in love on the test drive, and then most have years of trouble-free motoring. 

Most of the superlatives mentioned about the Subaru Forester could easily also fit the RAV4. This crossover is the ultimate multirole vehicle. With a solid fuel economy score and high safety scores, the RAV4 is a commuter vehicle with credentials. A new version costs an average of $31,025 and a used Toyota RAV4 from the 2017 model year costs an average of $20,183.

Honorable Mentions - Best Commuter Crossovers and SUVs

“Commuting is polluting” in the minds of many environmentally conscious drivers. There are many commuters who would prefer to reduce their carbon footprint while owning a commuter car they can afford and enjoy. We have good news for those commuters.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has been the best-selling affordable green crossover in America for over a year now. It is worth a look for any commuter. However, we’d wait for the upcoming RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid . With up to 42 miles of zero-emissions driving, and an outstanding fuel economy when operating in hybrid mode, the RAV4 Prime deserves a look. 

Honda CR-V

This popular compact SUV is also now available as a Hybrid. 

Ford Escape

The Ford Escape is now available as a plug-in hybrid

All three of these two-row crossovers offer better fuel economy than a compact car, and the plug-ins make it possible to complete a typical commute without using any gasoline.

Best Commuter Cars Under $10,000

Even if you’re on a strict budget, you can still find a quality commuter car to fulfill your needs by purchasing an older version of the best commuter cars outlined above. Here are the best used cars under $10,000 that will provide you with a reliable and pleasant drive to work.
Best Commuter Cars Under $10,000 - iSeeCars
Used Car Average Price
2010 Honda Accord $9,916
2012 Mazda MAZDA3 $9,454
2011 Honda Civic $9,379
2011 Toyota Prius $9,037
2010 Subaru Impreza $9,000
2010 Toyota Corolla $8,964
2012 Nissan Altima $8,611

Best Commuter Cars Under $15,000

With a slightly higher budget of $15,000, there are lots of options for commuter cars . Here are the best used cars under $15,000 that will make your daily drive more pleasant.
Best Commuter Cars Under $10,000 - iSeeCars
Used Car Average Price
2015 Toyota Corolla $14,653
2015 Subaru Impreza $14,523
2015 Honda Accord  $14,442
2015 Toyota Prius $14,415
2014 Honda Civic  $14,364
2015 Mazda MAZDA3 $14,133
2014 Mazda MAZDA6 $14,127
2012 Honda CR-V $14,111
2015 Honda Civic (Coupe) $13,521
2015 Nissan Altima $13,068

Bottom Line

When shopping for your next commuter car or SUV / crossover , these honorable mentions and top picks combine a roomy driver’s seat with safety, respectable fuel economy , and class-leading longevity scores. 

If you’re interested in a new car or a used car for your daily commute, be sure to check out iSeeCars’ award-winning car search engine. It uses advanced algorithms to help shoppers find the best car deals across all vehicle types and provides key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report and Best Cars rankings. Filter by make, model, price, MPG, and special features to find the best deal on your next vehicle. 

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