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Perfect Car for an Extreme Commute

I have somewhat of an extreme daily commute and I’m looking for the perfect car to accommodate my unique drive.
Here are the details:

  1. Distance: ~100 miles (50 each way)/day.
  2. Speed: Most of the driving is on the freeway at ~70 mph with very little traffic.
  3. Altitude Change: It starts in the mountains at ~4500 ft and descends to ~2000 ft
  4. Temperature extremes: In the summer, it can be +100F. In the winter, it will get as cold as 20F
  5. Weather Conditions: Most of the time its dry with occasional light snow in the mountains during the winter months.

In terms of the car requirements here are the nice-to-haves:

  1. Generally safe. Driving this far and close to 70 mph for most of the time, I would like the car to have a decent safety rating.
  2. Good gas mileage. As you can imagine with 100 miles/day, buying gas is a huge expense and I’d like to minimize it as much as possible.
  3. Less than $10,000.
  4. A good AC. With temperatures +100F in the summer, a good AC is required.
  5. Reliable/Longevity. I like to drive cars a long time so I’d like something that will last.
  6. Relatively low maintenance costs.
  7. Four-wheel drive option (desired/not required). With snow in the winter, sometimes 4WD is necessary to get to the freeway.
  8. 4-seats (desired/not required)
  9. Fun to drive. (desired/not required)

So, what’s the best car to fulfill most of these requirements? I’m not opposed to a hybrid or diesel if it makes sense.

I would drop the AWD and go with FWD with snow tires.

Then the list is lengthy. Any compact sedan would do, Corolla, Civic, Elantra. Given hwy commute and your price range, I would skip the hybrids. If you want fun, then Mazda 3 is better.

I always drove Oldsmobiles and Buicks on my 100 mile commute.

were are you, at the southwest? look for something with robust brakes,my wifes 08 Civic has suprised me with brake life(she is murder on brakes) these things get good mileage with the AC on-Kevin

$10K budget means you can only afford a used car. Your other expectations (esp mpg) mean a smaller car. You need reliability - used Honda Civic. As soon as you buy your used Civic have every fluid in the car changed and use Honda brand fluids (only exception being brake fluid).

Then start saving for a set of winter tires.

At your price range I would recommend either a Mazda3 or a Hyundai Elantra. They are less expensive than comparable Corollas and Civics.

Wow, deja vu. I had exactly the same conditions, except for the altitude change and my commute was on a divided highway, not an interstate. I got one of those Saturn Silver Blue specials for $9995 including air back in 02 and I still have it. I retired after 10 years and 232k miles, no failures that put it out of commission, very few failures of any kind and 37.85 mpg average (I kept records on a spreadsheet). Still driving it at 252 k miles, but not as much. Not much power but good in a corner and still able to maintain 80-90 mph for extended trips on an open highway. No longer available so good luck finding something similar.

BTW, I did keep a set of chains (cable type) in the trunk, but only used them once, but that was on a cross country trip, in the Rockies, in winter.

Ford Taurus or Chevy Impala