CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Best Delivery Vehicle

We need some advice. My husband works as a courier, driving 300+ miles daily and we’re in need of a ‘new’ car. He doesn’t need a lot of room for cargo because he’s delivering mail, paper, files. We want a workhorse vehicle since it will be running 72K miles this year. And since we pay for gas (with a minor stipend,) fuel economy is a major priority. We want a used car between four and eight years old - looks optional. Any suggestions?

For 300+ miles per day, gas costs will be a major factor. For that reason I’d look at a Honda Civic hybrid or a Toyota Prius hybrid. Either of those will get you 40+ mpg.

My coworker has a 2010 Prius for his 100 mile daily commute. It’s coming up on 175k with minimal problems. He has been averaging 47-50 mpg. He plans on keeping it another year and replacing it with another Prius.

Ed B.

1 Like

Are these miles in the city or on the highway? If it’s the highway, a diesel (maybe a Jetta) is worth a look.

Is the ability to go in snow a consideration?

I wouldn’t go with a car that’s too cheap or stripped down. With all of that time in the car, he deserves a comfortable ride, seats that adjust well, and some amenties like satellite radio or Bluetooth audio.

If in town a Prius would be good, I’d avoid the Civic hybrid (Honda has a number of issues with its hybrids). Highway would put some plus on a VW diesel, but I’m not crazy about 4-8 year old VWs. You’d do OK with a Civic HF if you can find one (it’s the high mpg option).

Any 4 to 8 year old car could need timing belt replacement soon after you buy it, If it was me I would use the build it yourself feature all manufactures have and find the cheapest new car I could find. Such as Chevy Spark, Ford fiesta, Mazda 2 ( a friend has one and he went to Dallas from Tulsa and back with 3 people and luggage and got in the high 30’s in mileage) By using the sites you might find something suitable that you had not thought about.

1 Like

Very happy with our 07 toyota yaris sedan. We average around 35 mpg and have gotten over 40 when really taking it easy on the highway. Just rolled over 100K on it and no problems to speak of.

Define “not need ‘much’ space.” I get you don’t need an E350, but boxes full of paper files can be bulky and surprisingly heavy!


If he won’t be carrying more than 500 or so pounds of documents at a time, I like the Prius, for fuel economy, reliability…AND the ease of lifting reams of paperwork out the hatchback. If he does a lot of stop and go, the hybrid will save beaucoup bucks. If highway…well, the battery ought to last almost forever, 'cause it is essentially not being used.

My brother has been a courier for years (decades, even.) He just finds the cheapest Asian hatchback that is decently reliable. The Toyota Yaris is a good choice. It’s not a very nice car or highly desirable, but it is very reliable and economical. A Mazda3 is a bit larger, but won’t cost much more used. The Honda Fit has an oustandingly roomy cargo area and is super reliable, but it is also popular, so I suspect its reaale value is higher. The Hyundai Elantra Touring is more like a small wagon, so even roomier, but only a good choice with a manual transmission as the automatic is just a four-speed and its freeway gas mileage isn’t very good. For a very cheap car there is the Nissan Versa hatchback. The current one is awful. The one from a few years ago was cheap and not nice, but was very thrifty and should be super cheap used.

Hope this helps.

Thanks, everyone! About the Prius, we looked at one but then heard from a relative that the battery ($5K) has to be replaced every 5,000 miles. If we’re looking at a used, wouldn’t that be cost prohibitive? And if we go newer, isn’t all the milage destroying any resale/trade in value?

SO appreciate any advice.

1 Like
About the Prius, we looked at one but then heard from a relative that the battery ($5K) has to be replaced every 5,000 miles.

Your relative needs to get better sources, or get their own info, as that is laughable. And wrong.

Prius cars are now extensively used in taxi service and the batteries last at least 200,000+ miles. Since comfort is important, I would not buy a sub-compact such as a Yaris, Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta.

A Prius is the best choice, the next best would be a Mazda3 with the Sky-Active direct injection engine. Both are roomy enough for packages, and have good highway comfort.

My cousin has a Prius and has driven the heck out of it. 175k miles in a few years of ownership, on the original battery pack, with very minimal maintenance.

And if the battery pack ever needs replacing, reconditioned ones are available for as little as $800.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tonybradley/2014/04/09/replacing-a-dead-prius-hybrid-battery-doesnt-have-to-cost-thousands-of-dollars/

I would look for a used Prius with 50k or so miles on it. You will get another 150k miles out of it with minimal maintenance.

A Honda CRV. You will be climbing in and out of the vehicle and even though the load will be small, it should’ve as convenient as a mail delivery truck. I vote for a small SUV. It will be much more conveying transferring loads in and out of one of these then most other vehicles.

About the Prius, we looked at one but then heard from a relative that the battery ($5K) has to be replaced every 5,000 miles.

I have a a couple of customers with over 200,000 miles on a Prius and still on the original battery and brake pads.

dagosa wrote:
A Honda CRV.

From some quick math, that would cost $3,000 a year more in gas than some of the other alternatives being discussed here. I’m not sure that’s worth the convenience.

Thanks, everyone! About the Prius, we looked at one but then heard from a relative that the battery ($5K) has to be replaced every 5,000 miles.

Who told your relative this??? An Oil Executive??

There have been very few Prius batteries replaced with under 100k miles. Most are well over 200k miles. I have a neighbor who has a Prius…and another friend who has a Honda Civic hybrid.
The Prius owner is approaching 250k miles on the original battery. The Civic owner has over 150k miles on original battery.

If comfort was not a factor, I second the Yaris or the Fiesta. A friend has a business that uses couriers and the drivers all have a Toyota Yaris and get 500-600K miles out of the car. Good gas mileage, cheap to maintain. I also know of somebody with over 500K miles on a Ford Fiesta who is pretty happy with the car. The Prius would be a step up, but the car itself is more expensive, it is very reliable though. So you have to see how much the comfort is worth.

@lion9car‌
"I’m not sure that is worth the the convenience " given there are more chances for finding a used compact SUVs then a used Pius a lot more has been sacrificed in the name of convenience as well should be. You make daily deliveries getting in and out of a a Prius compared to a CRV for a couple of months …then you tell me which is worth the price of admission. Everyone talks a good game, me included, to save money, but when it comes down to working, day in and day out, convenience wins out over savings many times. Given the plethora of options, finding a used compact SUV in good repair for $3k less money is a distinct possibility, defiantly making up for the difference in gas price.

The Prius batteries are holding up very well…10 years, 100K miles before you need to worry about that…New batteries are $3200-$3800… I would go with a used Prius if your driving is mostly urban start and stop…That’s where the Prius excels…If it’s more open road driving, then a VW TDI of some sort will do a better job…Find a stick shift one if you can…

The downside to these vehicles is that not everybody can work on them…A Ford Focus might deliver the lowest cost per mile to operate…When you are buying a used car, luck plays an important part. You can minimize that by doing your homework…