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Best car for really, really long drives

Hi –

So, in the summer of 2011, my and a buddy are going to do a mad drive around the continental U.S. We’ve got a long list of destinations – cameras at the ready! We’ll probably add 20, 30, 40 thousand miles to whatever car we drive. No biggie… we don’t mind if we recoup nothing from the cost of the car - although, the more the better, obviously. Together, we don’t mind putting out, maybe, 8,000 grand total. Give or take a few grand.

So, with really, really long drives, comfort is a big issue, reliability, mileage, and the ease and cost of maintenance and repairs. What’s the best car?


Theo Warner

You can get some ideas on expected reliablity by picking up a Consomer Reports Car Buyers’ Guide at teh local bookstore.

Comfort is entirely, totally, 100% subjective. I can drive all day in my Scion tC, but a close friend of mine cannot even ride in it. You need to take long test drives. Nobody can tell you what the most comfortable car is for you. You’ll need to find that one out all by yourself.

If you don’t mind people thinking you’re a police officer, a Crown Victoria or Grand Marquis should be something to keep in mind. Smooth ride, bench seats should make for real comfortable driving, reliable, and should have no trouble finding parts for if something goes wrong.
Police and taxi services use these vehicles almost religiously, so you’ll spit and hit about 20 people who can work on your car, as opposed to something like Volkswagen or Audi.

“…comfort is a big issue, reliability, mileage, and the ease and cost of maintenance and repairs. What’s the best car?” You have too many competing variables here to give a definitive answer. One goes up, the other goes down. What’s best for me may not be best for you. Will you be sticking to paved roads or off-roading up logging trails?

One criteria missing from your list is “safe”. If you will be driving 20k - 40k miles that’s what most Americans do in five years. You will be in five years worth of people not paying attention, drunk, text messaging, looking at their nav screens, screwing with their ipods, etc. Get a car with ABS, traction control and as many air bags as possible.

For $8k, I’d look for a 1997 - 1999 Mercedes Benz S500 or BMW 5 Series safe, comfortable and reliable.

No matter what you drive, putting 20,000 to 40,000 miles in one summer is a hell of a lot of driving. Do you plan on sleeping or eating?


PS: Spend a few extra bucks and get the Escort 8500 X50 radar/laser detector and ZR4 laser shifter before you hit the road.

A Lexus ES300/ES330/ES350 would give great comfort, reliability, and about 28 mpgs. Hard to beat.

For $8,000,000 you can have anything (8,000 grand is 8-million bucks). But you really meant $8000. Hey, I couldn’t resist! Anyway, do you guys plan on camping or sleeping in the car? I doubt you can afford hotels - that’s almost as much as the car. If you camp, almost anything will do. Maybe a nice 2001/2002 Miata. If you sleep in the car, I suggest a van. Seats that fold into beds would be nice. Maybe a small truck camper. You could find the camper and pickup truck separately, or maybe together.

I’m going to differ from the other posts and recommend a full size pick-up truck with a cover over the bed. The truck is easily serviced or repaired, the highway mileage isn’t too bad and I find the seating position in a pick-up much more comfortable on a long drive than a car.

Do either of you have a car now? That would be worth looking at?

I thot he meant $8,000 grand-total

I think the best car for this adventure would be a motorcycle. I would look for a 1999-2000 Honda Goldwing. In terms of comfort, it is like a couch on wheels. You will have to pack light, especially if you want to camp out, but all you really need is two sets of clothes each with a spare pair of shorts, an extra t-shirt, and a pair of flip flops for each of you to wear when you do laundry every few days. Try to find one with luggage racks on top of the trunk and on top of the saddle bags so you can strap bags on top of them.

If you have never ridden a motorcycle before, I suggest you both start by enrolling in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider’s Course and take it together. By the time the course is over, you will know if motorcycling is for you.

The most comfortable car for long distance driving is the car with the best seats, and that means Volvo. However on the reliablity and cost of repairs Volvo goes to the worst of class. Toyota Camry and Honda Accord seats are pretty bad for long distances, but they are best in class for reliablility.

Something in the middle would be a used BMW. Good seats, pretty reliable, and some fun factor is nice to help make all those miles more enjoyable. If Beemer’s are out of range of your budget, take a look for some Saabs. Very comfortable seats, good fun factor, and perhaps reliable.

Assuming you are relatively young and will be carrying a lot of stuf, like camping gear, beer cooler, the best car would be a Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis (same car). For $8000 you car buy a good one with lots of life left in it and, as others point out, it can be serviced almost anywhere.

Your worst nightmare would be to be stuck in the woods in Maine with a malfunctiong Volkswagen Audi, Volvo or similar hard and expensive to fix machine that will ruin your holiday.

Years ago I bought a stripper Pontiac for a German exchange-student friend who wanted to tour the continent before going back home after he finished his studies. He put 30,000 miles on a $150 car with only $28 in repairs. So, an Amecian high volume car is a good choice. Even wrecking yards will caryy parts if you need them.

Bon Voyage!!

You have but one choice. A Crown Victoria or Grand Marquis. NOTHING compares out on the open road. Millions of well maintained, low mileage examples are available on the used car market. avoid “air suspension” unless the car is relatively new. Expect 25 mpg at 70 mph, 22mpg at 80 MPH. Some owners can squeeze out 28 MPG…Seating comfort, trunk space, the air conditioning are all UNEQUALED…

Looking like a cop car in a Crown Vic has it’s advantages. People tend to move over and out of your way when they see you in their mirrors. Awaaay you go, clean sailing for you :slight_smile: Buy a plain looking car ( cheaper to purchase too ) , put your satellite antenna on the roof, a couple fog lights mounted on the grille ( fog lights in general are a great idea when doing so much driving ) , and they’ll assume you’re an un-marked.

I’d get a minivan. Sometimes you just have to take a break and catch a nap. I’d rather do that in a van on an air mattress than a sedan.

Yeah, except sometimes they slow down to exactly the speed limit and stay there.

I was looking for someone to mention the minivan; if not, I was. I hope comfort extends to ALL passengers. Ease of changing seats with a walk through, getting gear, and in some, watching video and sleeping are all part of the comfort factor. If you’re talking about the driver only, the seats would be the deciding factor. Otherwise, it’s a van with bikes, boats and other toys in tow.

…and when you get lost and drive into the wrong neighborhood someone might shoot at you.

If you want to travel right and if you can stretch your budget, a small class C motorhome is what you need. No camping, no motels, and while going down the road you can get something cold from the fridge to drink, fix lunch, take a nap, go to the toilet, stand up, stretch and walk around, sit at the table and read. We had one for about 12 years and it’s the only humane way to travel. An airplane can’t even come close to the luxury of your own house on wheels nor can any car and I don’t care if it’s a Maybach. You can also bring your dog along, your bicycle, your computer, TV, spare parts, tools and whatever. In addition, you will have room to hold whatever souvenirs you accumulate while on your trip.

The Town Car says “Hi” :slight_smile: