Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Best used car to buy for long road trips?

Hello! I am new to the site and am having a dilemma… what is a good used car to buy for distance driving?

Until now, I have been driving a 2004 Volvo S80 sedan. I bought it in 2013 with 121k miles and have since added 24k miles to it. It now needs repairs costing more than the car is worth. I loved my Volvo but I am now in the market for something along the lines of a Toyota, Honda, or Subaru, 2011 or newer. I drive from Utah to California a few times a year, totaling about 1,414 miles round trip each time.

I am just looking for something reliable and was wondering if anyone could give me an opinion, as I don’t know a whole lot about cars! :slight_smile:

The answer to your question depends far more on you than anything we can tell you. What is your highest priority? Comfort? Fuel economy? Reliability? How much do you want to spend? Why have you targeted 2011?

A Toyota, Honda or Subaru can be reliable enough to get you there and back. The smaller models, like Yaris or Fit. Subaru didn’t have a comparable model. These cars may not fit your desires if you want a bigger car. That would take a Corolla or Camry, Civic or Accord or Impreza.

Key to buying an over- 100,000 mile car is condition. Any car you are considering should be checked over by a mechanic NOT affiliated with the dealer you might buy from. At that kind of mileage, condition is more important than brand. Consider that cheaper models will get you a newer car within your budget and that can be a good thing given you only drive 6000 miles a year.


Rather than focusing on a specific make and model, the OP should be searching for a vehicle that has been maintained flawlessly–or at least that has been maintained very well. Even a make and model that has a history of very good reliability can become a money-pit of very high repair expenses if the previous owner(s) were lax with maintenance.

A car that is being sold by an individual, rather than a dealership, has a decent chance of coming with maintenance records that can be compared to the vehicle mfr’s maintenance schedule. When people buy my cars, not only do they get every maintenance invoice, but they also get a chart that I compiled, which allows me (and future owners) to see exactly what services were done, as well as the date and the odometer mileage of each service.

But, as Mustangman mentioned, even a car that looks good to you will need to be vetted by a mechanic of your own choosing. You will likely pay ~$100 for that type of detailed pre-purchase inspection, so you will only want to take that extra step with a vehicle that you are sure that you want to buy. A mechanic can detect collision damage that you might not have been able to see, as well as incipient mechanical problems, and can steer you away from a vehicle that would be a monetary risk for you.


What’s your budget?

Good advice! In addition, I would add that you buy a vehicle that’s common so that any repairs in the boondocks are easy and cheap!

I have a friend in Houston, whose late father in law in Chicago left him a Jaguar XJS, 12 cylinder model. He took a one way ticket to Chicago and a week later and $2400 in repairs, finally got the car home. He should have trailered it to Houston and then have it inspected!

My choice would be a Hyundai, Mazda 3 or similarly reliable vehicle with 50,000 or so miles on it. Age will determine what you pay. And by all means have a mechanic inspect it; Do this well in advance!

Under no circumstances buy a Volvo or similar expensive and troublesome vehicle.!


As I tell my friends and relatives, I owned a Volvo…ONCE


The advice above is good. I’ll add that you’ll probably get more for your money with Kia or Hyundai over Toyota or Honda.

To people used to long trips, 1400 miles is not much, for almost any properly maintained car, with a very few bad brands excepted.

My daughter learned to do long trips. Her husband is very protective. So, the first time after they married, she wanted to drive a 3000 mile round trip to the Quad-Cities to visit Grandma, he freaked out a bit. For him, the roughly 200 miles to San Antonio was nearly a polar expedition. To her San Antonio was just the first restroom break.

He finally realized she had done it a number of times before they married. So he let her go and she had the usual great time.

1 Like

Thanks for the advice! I do believe I have learned my lesson by buying that Volvo. :slight_smile: My budget is $10,000 or less, and I am looking for a 2011 or newer with lower than 100k miles based on my best financing option. I was looking for a Toyota, Honda, or Subaru because those cars are very common where I live (I always hear people say that Subarus are the state car of Utah, lol). True, 1400 miles is not that far, but I get the feeling that driving through the Mojave for hours takes a toll on a car, plus other random trips made to my in-laws’ place in middle-of-nowhere Nevada, 12 hours round trip. I also commute to neighboring cities every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

I am glad to hear that the specific make matters less than I thought and to have a car checked at a mechanic before buying! I will be sure to do thorough research on each specific car I check out. This is my first time buying a car all by myself, as well as dealing with auto financing, so everyone’s input is much appreciated. :slight_smile:

I could recommend the car I use for long road trips, a 1998 Honda Civic with 280,000 miles on the odometer, but what I like probably isn’t the same thing you like.

I like having a small fuel-efficient vehicle that I can use to pile on the miles without having to spend a lot on fuel. I like the simplicity of a stick shift and roll-down windows. I like that I know this car from fender to fender and can tell when something is wrong before it becomes a problem.

Based on your last car, you probably value things like comfort, safety, and you probably wouldn’t be happy driving an 19-year-old economy car. Therefore, I recommend you not ask strangers for their opinions about what they like, and focus on finding a car that suits your needs by perusing the latest Consumer Reports car buying guide, test driving the models that appeal to you, and then deciding for yourself. If you don’t want to buy the latest Consumer Reports car buying guide, it might be available at your local library.

He let her go? …as if it was his choice to make on her behalf? Wow. :open_mouth:


In this case, the decision is already made, but in general, spending more on a car than you could sell it for is not necessarily deal-breaker unless you plan on selling it immediately… When you buy a new car, you typically invest $5000 more in the car than you could sell it for if you decide to sell it next week. Why then, is it so scary to invest $1000 more in an old car than you could sell it for next week? This is particularly true if you are replacing it with a used car with no warranty. Even if the used car is late model and low miles, there is a reason why someone got rid of it, and you don’t know what that reason is.

In this particular case, if you have an S70 with the nicer, leather seats, there are no more comfortable seats anywhere, and lots of S70s ran beyond 300k miles. They need headlight upgrades, and they have chronic steering rack and ABS problems, but once you sort those out, an S70 makes a great long distance cruiser.

1 Like

Fantastic posting. Manolito. A lot of people don’t seem to be able to understand that logic.

As a holder of a CPA license, I note that too many people are in what is called “bean counter” mode. No consideration for any parameters except instant dollar figures.

I used to be that way. My wife would get on the bus (no d /l) and take the daughter down town to an upscale department store. Everything cost a lot more. But, they would be in the company of friends, the employees in that store they had known for years. They would have a great time going through their shopping list. and, eat a leisurely lunch in the cafeteria with staff they also knew personally.

Late in the afternoon, they would come home, all relaxed and happy with a peaceful day.

In the meantime, I would be running around to the discount stores, saving lots of money. And, I would come home so stressed out I wanted to break things. But, no matter, I saved a few dollars in the discount store.

I eventually figured out who was foolish and not using his money wisely. It was not her.

As long as people know that another failure might make an expensive repair decision useless, I say it is a personal decision, not for a computer or calculator.

I sort of wish you hadn’t posted that, Whitey. Because I have to respond appropriately. You live in a society where 25% of all women are on psychiatric medicine, and 40% of first marriages end in divorce. I tell men on the Web that I can tell a Mexican women from an American woman, 30 feet away by the unhappy look on the face of the American woman. So, maybe your model for society isn’t too good.

My daughter is a Christian woman. When she was still a girl, I taught her the part about submitting to her husband, which is a decision to make before marrying him, not afterword.

She is one of the happiest women I know. except three or four of her friends she has taught the same principles. By her letting him make decisions, she is eliminated the constant stress of worrying about every single detail in her life. He takes care of them for her.

Yes, if he had told her not to go, she would have stayed home. Once she satisfied him she was an experienced long distance driver, and he checked that the car was up to it, he had no objection to the trip. But, part of her safety on the trip was the preparatory actions to make sure she would be safe.

they will have been married 20 years in a few weeks. They have had the grand total of zero quarrels in those 20 years. And, she has taken work related trips to places such as Australia and Germany. In every case, she makes sure all details are good before he drops any resistance.

I am sorry to see you are afraid of your wife. :smiley:

Good Greif !!!


I don’t have a wife to fear, and I consider my fiancée my equal, you know, because it’s 2017, not 1947.

I sort of wish you didn’t use religion as an excuse to rationalize treating women like children.


I do not use religion as an excuse to treat women like children. You need to read my posting again. 25% of American women are on psychiatric medicine and 40% of marriages end up in divorce. Clearly, your model does not make for happy women.

My daughter is a happy woman and so are her friends who live by the same model she does. Their husbands take care of them. Once they understand the benefits, they want it. Apparently you do not believe women have choices like that.

Let me repeat I wish you hadn’t posted that.

Managing money so you get the most utility and happiness takes some work. A friend of my wife dates a guy who is really cheap, and he does not appear to be very happy! He’s “penny-wise and pound-foolish” as the British would say. He inevitably skimps on car maintenance with predictable results.

In our family my wife manages the food budget with some input from me while we both decide on nearly everything else, except things technical, which my wife leaves to me after stating her overall goals.

This has worked well for us for 50 years now; we have a nice house and have travelled far and wide, something we both enjoy. She also has an extensive jewelry collection.

Smart money managers focus on buildng a stress-free state of consuming things. That usually buying quality and reliability and things that last. As last count we had over 75 electrically powered gadgets in our house. If they all were of the lowest quality and only lasted 2 years we would be very busy replacing thing at the rate of 36 per year!!! But we are only on our 3rd kitchen fridge now and it’s in our 4th house! That’s nearly 50 years of use.

With respect to national happiness, many studies have been made and the happiest countries are not the most prosperous! On my travels I have found Mexicans, Brazilians, Thais and Italians to be the “smilingest” people. They seem to enjoy life irrespective of their financial status. I’ve also found that in Switzerland, Sweden, and some other rich countries people don’t smile a lot. These people are often perfectionists and are constantly striving to improve; a noble effort, but you need time to smell the flowers. In Scotland I found a “nation” of chronic complainers; it’s their “national” pastime!

Americans, on the whole are friendly by world standard, but are always under pressure to consume what is advertised, regardless of affordability. This hampers being able to smell the flowers.

Clearly you think correlation equals causation. I’m glad your daughter masks her pain long enough to appear happy, in spite of your patriarchal brainwashing and religious dogma.

I suggest you let this go, because there is no way to justify this kind of patriarchy. The indefensible nature of your position makes it a losing argument, one which I could easily retort in my sleep due to its unjust nature.

I too wish you hadn’t posted your original comment about your son-in-law letting your daughter do things, as if he is her parent. I wish I could go back to thinking you’re a decent human being who doesn’t subjugate the women in his life by indoctrinating them at an early age to embrace your antiquated patriarchal beliefs.


My vote would be for Honda or Toyota, personally I would shy away from Subaru. I’m not sure about the newer models but their older vehicles are plagued with head gasket issues. Which is a shame because I love the looks and concepts of subaru’s vehicles and they probably have the best all wheel drive system available.