How to Choose the Right Car for Long-Distance Road Trips

Car shopping can be overwhelming. With so many options, it’s hard to determine which is the right car for you.

However, there are ways to narrow down your options quickly. One of them is to determine how you want to use the car. If you plan to go on many long road trips, there are certain things you should look for in a new car.

In this article, we’ll go over what’s important to have in a car intended for long drives. That way, you don’t end up with the wrong vehicle and ultimately disappointed. Let’s get started!


The first thing to look for in any new car is affordability. The car should fit your budget and come at a fair price.

You might find that a brand-new car fits the bill or that a used car is better. Both can be great options as long as you know what you’re getting into.

For example, a used car may be due for a major repair soon, which could significantly impact its affordability.

Here’s the cost of major repairs:

  • Flat or blown tire: $10 to $250
  • Transmission issue: $1,200 to $5,000
  • Weather-related damage: $1,000 to $3,500
  • Minor collisions: $50 to $3,000
  • Engine overheating: $100 to $1,500
  • Dead battery: $45 to $350
  • Broken starter motor: $150 to $1,100

The more miles there are on the car, the higher you can expect the cost to be.

“That’s why dealerships thoroughly inspect cars before acquiring them,” says Tiger Okeley at Oak Motors. “They want to make sure the car doesn’t have any issues that will come back to bite them down the road when things go wrong for their customers.”

So set a budget and shop for cars within your price range that have been professionally inspected. Don’t settle for one just because it’s cheap. You may regret it later when it breaks down and needs costly repairs.

Interior space

Another major consideration for a long-distance car is interior space. This determines how many passengers and how much luggage you can take with you on your trips.

As a starting point, you should make sure the car has enough seating for everyone you’d like to take on trips (e.g. family or friends). Then look for large trunk spaces or backseat areas for cargo. The more, the better.

Some vehicle types that commonly fit the bill include vans, mini-vans, and SUVs. Of course, if you plan to travel solo, a large interior space won’t be as important.

Of course, there’s a trade-off between interior space and fuel efficiency. The more space you have, the fewer miles to the gallon you’re likely to get. To get the best of both worlds, consider getting a roof-mounted car carrier that you can remove to save on fuel when you’re not traveling long distances.

Fuel efficiency

Another important factor to consider in a long-distance car is fuel efficiency. If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving, it’s important to have good gas mileage—especially now that fuel costs are rising. It could save you a lot on gas!

Prioritize good highway mileage (as opposed to city mileage) since this is what matters most on long trips. Also, keep in mind that two-wheel drive (2WD) cars tend to have better mileage than four-wheel drive (4WD) cars.

On a similar note, look for a car with cruise control and overdrive features, which can help extend gas mileage even more. The better a car’s fuel efficiency, the more you’ll save in the long run.

Safety features

Every car should have safety features, but they’re especially important for long drives when the risk of an accident is higher.

Nearly every vehicle these days comes with airbags, seatbelts, and an anti-lock braking system (ABS). However, other safety features aren’t as ubiquitous. These include:

  • Blind-spot monitoring (BSM) that alerts you to objects in your blind spots with the help of a special sensor
  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC) that automatically adjusts your cruise control speed to maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you
  • Lane keep assist (LKA) helps you stay within the boundaries of your lane on the road with special sensors and cameras
  • Backup cameras that give you a visual of your car moving backward so you can avoid obstacles when driving in reverse

Try to find a car with maximum safety features to help keep you and other passengers protected on the road. However, make sure you do your research and determine what you do and don’t like.

Other convenience features

Lastly, consider other features for your long-distance car that aren’t necessary but are nice to have, nonetheless.

These include entertainment features like a DVD/streaming screen for kids to watch shows in the back, a sunroof, heated leather seats, and a remote start feature so you can ignite the engine from outside the car.

Keep in mind that adding on a DVD player for the backseat is relatively inexpensive, so this may be a great upgrade. When it comes to other features, do your research to determine what you like. You may find you really care about seat comfort on long drives.

Obviously, there are a lot of luxury features you can pack into a car, but with them come higher price tags. So settle for what you can afford and forget what you can’t.

Adding it all up

Your long summer road trips are closer than you think. Just do your due diligence in selecting a car at the right price with enough interior space, good fuel efficiency, and adequate safety and luxury features, and you’ll be on your way before you know it!