Gas prices are down and chances are pretty good that Americans will take to the roads instead of the skies for longer trips this year. With spring and summer on the way, this is the time to take a look at your current ride and evaluate it against late-model vehicles that can make your road trips more enjoyable while still saving on gas costs.
Lots of Space is a Must for Growing Families
If you have kids traveling with you, their comfort can make or break a trip. Consider this: they’ve grown since you last bought a car. The best way to keep the peace back there is to ensure enough space for all those legs and arms flopping around. But you don’t have to buy a brand new vehicle; late-models are surprisingly affordable even if they’re just two or three years old.
If space is a requirement, these Kelley-recommended SUVs from a few years ago may be affordable options:
- Dodge Durango, which has rear-seat entertainment and tows a lot of weight
- Kia Sorento, which is priced less than the Dodge
- Jeep Cherokee, which gets respectable gas mileage for a V6 and remains a great choice for off-roading
CNN Money called the Ford Flex a “minivan with personality” with surprisingly good mileage. The turbocharged EcoBoost engine surprises other drivers when it breezes by on the highway. These are good choices if you also have college trips in mind in the next couple of years. If an SUV doesn’t fit your style, consider these non-nerdy sedans that Popular Mechanics calls “contemporary cruisers.” They may be less likely to embarrass the teenagers:
- Volkswagen Passat has a sporty look and gets 43 mpg on the highways
- Ford Taurus, a solid, dependable ride
- Toyota Avalon, which features supportive seats and lots of headroom and legroom
Nashville is one city with an excellent secondhand car market, particularly if you’re willing to drive a few miles outside city limits.
Road Trippers Just for You and Your Honey
If it’s just you and your honey road-tripping together, you probably don’t need to worry too much about space. Smaller cars are generally more fuel-efficient, too. Go back a few years and you’ll still get some nice features you’d expect in newer cars.
Consumer Reports favored these smaller 2013 cars for road trips:
- Volkswagen Golf TDI, with 49 mpg on the highway
- Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a reliable ride that gets 45 mpg
- Honda Civic Hybrid, which gets 50 mpg
Car Finance Options
Even if you’re buying a used vehicle, you might need to finance some of the purchase. If you have good credit and belong to a credit union, check there first. The interest rate will probably be better than at local banks. If your credit is less than stellar, remember that dealerships have often done a lot of legwork here. Many work with lenders who consider a bigger picture by looking at applicants’ employment and housing histories.
Pre-Road Trip Car Checkup
The best insurance for a smooth road trip is to give your car a checkup and tell the mechanic you are getting ready for a road trip. He or she may recommend replacing some items sooner than later, primarily:
- Brake pads
Doing this could spare you a wait for roadside assistance. Plus, if anything does go wrong, many shops will honor warranties from national chains. And of course, an oil change and tire rotation will probably be needed before and after a long trip.