Whether you want to travel cross-country or drive to a neighboring state, a road trip is a popular mode of transportation for summer vacations. Even with high gas prices, car travel is typically more cost-effective than air travel with the added bonus of avoiding TSA regulations and baggage weight requirements.
Just like having the right travel companion, having the right car can greatly improve the quality of your road trip. And because everyone’s travel needs are different, we’ve selected the best road trip cars across multiple vehicle categories. After all, a family road trip with small children would require a different vehicle than cruising the California coast.
We’ve selected the best road trip cars based on reliability, fuel efficiency, cargo/passenger space, and safety. These cars also have convenience features that can come in handy for road travel, including a WiFi hotspot, smart cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, and lane-keep assist. Other features that appear on some of the vehicles on the list include rear entertainment systems and roadside assistance.
Best Small SUV for a Road Trip
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 8.8
Average New Car Price: $36,679
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $34,433
The best small SUV for a road trip is the Subaru Outback. The Outback is among the most spacious vehicles in the class and offers plenty of room for cargo and passengers. It also has excellent fuel economy. If your road trip includes rugged adventures, you can opt for the Wilderness model, which adds increased ground clearance for off-roading. The Outback comes standard with many safety features including adaptive cruise control, while more driver assistance features like blind spot monitoring are available on higher trims. All-wheel drive (AWD) comes standard so this vehicle can handle road trips in all seasons.
Best Midsize SUV for a Road Trip
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 9.1
Average New Car Price: $43,648
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $38,652
If a midsize SUV is your preferred vehicle for a road trip, chances are you have a family in tow. The Honda Pilot three-row crossover is the ultimate family SUV, which makes it an excellent choice for road trip transportation. The Pilot comes standard with seating for eight, while a seven-seat configuration with second-row captain chairs is also available. The spacious Honda Pilot offers three roomy rows of seats and comes standard with an 8-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, HD Radio, and two USB ports. Higher trims offer even more road trip-friendly features including second-row USB ports, wireless device charging, navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and the CabinTalk PA system. Front-wheel drive models get an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, which is typical for the midsize three-row SUV class.
Best Large SUV for a Road Trip
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 8.8
Average New Car Price: $67,883
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $57,792
By nature, large SUVs have dismal gas mileage, which can make them less than ideal for road trips. However, if you are hauling a large family and lots of cargo, a full-size SUV might be necessary. While midsize SUVs sacrifice trunk space when the rear seats are in place, full-size SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban have a massive cargo hold in addition to three spacious rows of seats. The Suburban can haul up to eight passengers and has 41.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row, 93.8 cubic feet with these seats folded, and 144.7 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded. Standard infotainment features include a 10.2-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, eight USB ports, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and satellite radio. Available infotainment features include a navigation system, wireless device charging, and a rear-seat entertainment system with two 12.6-inch touch screens to keep children occupied.
Best Minivan for a Road Trip
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 8.9
Average New Car Price: $49,553
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $38,914
While some think a minivan might cramp their style, others appreciate the function and features the vehicle provides. And if you’re making frequent stops with small children, the easy entry/exit process of a minivan can’t be beat. The hybrid Toyota Sienna provides the best of both worlds as a spacious family hauler and a fuel-efficient hybrid. Standard infotainment features include a 9-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, seven USB ports, Bluetooth, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Available features include a navigation system, wireless device charging, and a rear-seat entertainment system. You can even get an in-car intercom to easily communicate with rear passengers. Standard safety features include blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control.
Best Sports Car for a Road Trip
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 8.3
Average New Car Price: $49,128
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $36,338
If your cargo needs aren’t too large, a fun-to-drive American sports car can be the ultimate road trip companion. The Mustang has one of the largest trunks in its class, although the coupe is more spacious than the convertible. It also seats four passengers, which makes it more practical than a two-seater. With its base 310-horsepower turbo-four cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic transmission, the Mustang gets up to 21 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, which is more than most sports cars. The Mustang comes standard with a voice-controlled SYNC infotainment system and a Wi-Fi hot spot, and a larger touchscreen, navigation system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available. The Mustang also has a suite of standard safety features like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking. Adaptive cruise control is also available.
Best Sedan/Hatchback for a Road Trip
The Mazda 3 is a fun-to-drive small car that’s available as a sedan or hatchback. While the sedan has below-average cargo space for the class, it can do the job if you’re a light packer. For more space, there’s the hatchback that offers comparable cargo space to subcompact SUVs. The Mazda3 comes standard with a responsive 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that provides plenty of power for your daily commute. You can also opt for a more powerful 186 horsepower four-cylinder or a turbocharged 227 horsepower four-cylinder. The Mazda3 sedan gets an EPA-estimated 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, while the hatchback gets 26/34 mpg city/highway. The Mazda 3 comes standard with automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control, forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Best Electric Car for a Road Trip
Tesla Model 3
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 7.2
Average New Car Price: $57,452
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $50,572
With an electric vehicle, you won’t have to re-fuel, but depending on the length of your trip, you’ll likely have to re-charge. The Tesla Model 3 has between 272 miles and 358 miles of range, and if you use its standard navigation system, it will provide you with places along your route where you can charge the battery pack. Other standard infotainment features include a 15-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless device charging. It has a front and rear trunk, which has a total of 23 cubic feet of cargo space, which is comparable to a subcompact SUV and should provide enough room for luggage. The Model 3 comes with a full suite of standard safety features like forward collision warning and active cruise control. Available features include full self-driving capability, which can reduce the stress of long-distance road trips. These features include automatic lane change, automatic parking, and stop sign and traffic light recognition.
Best Hybrid Car for a Road Trip
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 9.3
Average New Car Price: $47,515
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $45,097
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a reliable, capable crossover with a high-quality cabin and three spacious rows of seats. The Highlander comes standard with a suite of safety features including cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and pedestrian detection. Front-wheel-drive Highlander Hybrids get an EPA-estimated 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, while all-wheel drive versions get up to 35 mpg in the city and on the highway. For comparison, AWD versions of the standard Highlander get 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Best Luxury SUV for a Road Trip
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 8.3
Average New Car Price: $52,016
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $44,654
The BMW X3 small crossover is an excellent choice if you want a premium long-distance hauler that blends efficiency with performance. The X3 leads the class in cargo capacity and comfortably seats five people with ample headroom and legroom. It comes standard with a lively 248-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and is one of the most fuel-efficient small SUVs available. It has a suite of standard safety features including blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. Available driver assistance features include steering assist and lane change assist. The X3 has plenty of standard infotainment features including a 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.
Best Luxury Sedan for a Road Trip
iSeeCars Reliability Score: 8.7
Average New Car Price: $64,181
Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price: $49,141
The Audi A6 midsize sedan is our choice if you want to travel the open road in a luxury sedan. It has a spacious, elegant cabin and features Audi’s confident driving dynamics. The A6’s base turbocharged four-cylinder engine gets 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, which is excellent for the class. The A6 comes standard with all-wheel drive so it can handle all weather conditions. The A6 standard infotainment features include 10.1-inch upper touch screen, an 8.6-inch lower touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, navigation and satellite radio. It also has a panoramic sunroof so road trippers can enjoy open-air driving. Standard safety features include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beam headlights. Adaptive cruise control is available.
The ideal American road trip can vary greatly depending on your travel preferences and how many travel companions are joining you. That’s why the best road trip vehicles exist across multiple categories. So whether you’re taking a leaf-peeping excursion through New England, a family road trip to Disney World, or an expedition through the mountains, we can help you find the best vehicle for your road trip. While all modern new cars are equipped with active safety features, some vehicles offer more standard features than others. The same goes for infotainment features, although more premium vehicles tend to have more of the latest and greatest technology.
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