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

New car recommendation for high mileage driver?

Need to make a new car purchase and could use some advice on what to get. I drive 100 miles every day on the Mass. Tpk. (50 miles each way for work). A hybrid seems to make sense, but I’m not a big fan of the Prius. Any other suggestions? Price is a huge factor, but I don’t need to go used either.

Many Folks Are Of The Opinion That Hybrids Make The Most Sense For Non-Highway Use. Less Expensive, Less Complicated Cars Make More Sense For This Type Driving.

Have you checked out a Chevrolet Cruze Eco ?

Tell us your priorities for size, price, mpg, etceterra.

CSA

For a little over $12k, you can buy a brand-new Hyundai Accent.
This small car has excellent reliability, and in straight highway driving can yield over 30 mpg. Overall, it is a very good compromise between low price and high gas mileage.

I’d vote against a hybrid. That doesn’t buy you much in highway driving.

Considering that you’ll be in the car three or four hours a day, I wouldn’t sacrifice too much comfort for price.

Please give us a price range, that’s a needed starting point. You might buy a copy of the Consumer Reports car buying guide, it’ll have lots of info to let you narrow down your choices. Then let us know a few that meet your needs, we’ll be able to give you better comments that way.

If most of your driving is Highway…the a Hybrid is NOT the best choice.

Hyundai Elantra. 40 mpg. (Bigger than the Accent, same mpg.)

The Honda Insight was made to compete directly with the Prius, so it might be worth checking out.

Honda just recently came out with a “sport hybrid” called the CRZ. You should take one for a test drive.

busstoppest, hybrids do make sense, in economic terms, if you drive enough to recover the extra cost of a hybrid in fuel savings within five years. Since you will probably average about 24,000 miles per year (twice the national average), this applies to you. A hybrid might actually save you money.

Size isn’t really an issue but, for comfort sake, I don’t want a sub-compact (e.g., a Honda Fit). Likewise, I certainly don’t need an SUV or truck. It’s just me, afterall. Pricing would have to be low 20’s or less.
BTW, why NOT a hybrid? My car that was just totaled was an '03 Civic Hybrid that got ~ 45 mpg hwy. Why would I want to go to a non-hybrid that only gets, at best, mid-upper 30’s? At 100 miles per day, wouldn’t the fuel savings make up for the difference in price?

Hybrid only makes sense if your highway travel is packed in “stop and go” commuter traffic. If the flow of traffic is steady most of the time then you just need a regular car and perhaps winter tires for bad weather traction.

You don’t need AWD, 4WD, or a hybrid. Just a plain Jane small economy car. Lots of choices out there. Ford has some nice new small cars, but so do other mfgrs.

You anti-hybrid people make sense when you are talking about someone who doesn’t drive much, or someone who wants a small car and could drive an econobox without giving up what he wants, but here is an OP who drives a lot of miles and wants a highly fuel efficient mid-size car. Only a hybrid meets all of those criteria.

This guy was able to get about 45 MPG driving this same route in a hybrid. What other mid-size non-hybrid car even comes close to that?

If you liked your Civic Hybrid, check out the new one. I agree with Whitey, at 100 miles/day a hybrids a good choice if the price is right.

Let me suggest that you stop by the local bookstore and pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Buyer’s Guide. That’ll provide an overview of all the different options available as well as lots of good information on each. From there you can stop by the different dealerships and test drive the ones that look good to you.

Car selection is a highly personal decision with lots of choices. Having all the information in one place, such as in the CR magazine, is a huge help in making the initial “cut” in the list.

I’m with you on the high-mileage drivers…But getting the payback is going to take a lot longer if most of your driving is highway. The gas mileage difference is far less then the difference in city driving. There are ways to calculate it based on the EPA estimates though. If the numbers are close then I’d probably opt for a non-hybrid because of the replacement cost of the batteries. At the very least it should be considered in calculation cost.

Thanks for the input, folks. Much as I hate the way the Prius looks, it’s probably the best option. They get ~ 50 mpg hwy, and the cost is around $25k.
Incidentally, I have looked through Consumer Reports in the past and even they agree that if you’re going to be putting alot of miles on the car, then it’s best to go as fuel efficient as possible as the fuel savings - at this rate - will eventually make up the extra cost and save you money in the long run. But they wouldn’t recommend hybrids unless you really are going to be driving 100+ miles per day. I just hate the way they look!

Ford Focus

If I remember correctly, the debate about the regular vs. hybrid for mostly highway use was centered around the time it would take to make back the money extra spent to get the hybrid (the break even point). I’m not into the math (as I don’t really care), but if the hybrid costs $10K more (going by the $25K number above), how long would it take you to break even? There’s a very lengthy post about that around here somewhere.

For an equivalent car the hybrid’s about $3k more. But you’re right, if one is wanting the absolute lowest cost transportation, then a $15k car is the way to go.

A Hyundai Elantra gets 40 MPG on the highway and it costs $15,000. The Prius starts at $22,000 and is rated at 48 MPG on the highway. If gas is $4/gallon, it will take you 420,000 miles to make up the difference. The Elantra is similar to your Civic. Test drive one and see if you like it. The Chevy Cruze LS gets 36 MPG. I’d look at that instead of the Cruze Eco, which gets only 1 MPG more with an automatic. The Prius starts saving money at 125,000 miles. If you still want a Prius, that’s fine. But it won’t necessarily save you a lot of money - or any money in he case of the Elantra.

Prius is a bit bigger than the Elantra, it’s classified an intermediate. But all those cars are fine.

Edit - just checked, the Elantra’s BIGGER than the Pruis inside, 96 vs 94 ft3, the Prius does have more storage, but still the Elantra’s a good choice, depending on overall cost, of course!