What's the best car for a courier?

I work for a courier service and will be in the market for a newer car around June/July. I put about 2,000 miles/week on my current car so I need something that can keep up. Main things I’m looking for:
-Good fuel economy
-Compact/small size
-Dependable (especially with frequent starting)
I live and work in Kansas City so AWD isn’t a necessity, I know how to drive in the snow with a FWD. I was thinking of a Kia Soul, Scion xB, Honda Fit type of car. But are there better options?

Thanks for any input you have!

Are you thinking new or used?

What’s the nature of your driving? A lot of stop and go, short trips less than a couple miles? Or is it mostly higher speed, longer distance freeway driving?

Quoting the OP

"-Dependable (especially with frequent starting)"

A Prius sounds like a good fit. Not as cheap to buy as subcompact but the gas mileage- especially in stop and go city driving - is amazing. And reliability has been outstanding, according to Consumer Reports.

Honda Civic with manual tranny.

I did airfreight delivery for a couple of years and I can assure you that you do not want a manual transmission. Freight bills, directions, cell phone, ID badges shown to get access to sites will have both hands occupied. I used a Kia Optima and a GMC Sonoma.

We have two guys using Toyota Yaris for this kind of service and they get 500K miles+ out of them. They are not the most comfy cars but they are cheap to run.

Something that you can get in and out of all day without ending your day in pain.

Test drive the ones you mention. The Scion won’t get great mpgs. The Fit would be fun but can ride a bit rough/noisy. A Prius would get great mpgs, and with gas prices down you might get a good deal.

One thing that no one has hit upon is, what exactly are you delivering as a courier.

I’ve seen couriers that deliver patient files and lab reports from clinic to clinic and a two door sedan will do. A large manila envelope is about all they carry in to the destination.

I’ve seen others that their packages to deliver are somewhat larger and a 4 door sedan gives them better access to file boxes and such.

Then there are the ones that will deliver larger , heavier packages and need a small hand cart…sometimes a collapsible one…to roll their deliveries into the destinations.


A Yaris hatchback would give the cheapest overall cost per mile when driving 100,000 miles a year. As others mention, personal comfort may also play a role here, so you may want to drive one before you buy.

A courier?
Why, a Courier of course.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

My brother was a courier for many years, so I’ve thought about this before. You need exceptional reliability and fuel economy. For stop and start driving, nothing gets better gas mileage than a hybrid, and they can easily pay for their higher cost in a few years of the driving you’ll be doing. The Toyota hybrids have exceptional efficiency and are remarkably reliable. The cheapest is the Prius C, based on the Yaris. Unfortunately, it has a reputation for being uncomfortable, noisy, and rough riding. The regular Prius is only a bit more and is far more comfortable, but you should still try out the Prius C, as you may not find it so bad. Over several years of driving it will almost certainly be the cheapest car to operate.

Of others you mention, the Fit is a standout. It is an exceptional little car with great reliability. It is even supposedly fun to drive, with very good handling. In this price/size class the Fit is the best. I like both the Soul and the xB, but you won’t get the same gas mileage out of them as some other cars. Their freeway mpg may be competitive, but in stop and go driving they will be worse. They do have the advantage of being larger and easier to load than some vehicles, but that may or may not matter, depending on what kind of courier you are. If the slightly worse fuel economy doesn’t bother you, the xB would be my choice over the Soul because of reliability. The Soul is very decent, but the Scion is pure Toyota, and that is a very good thing.

Hope this helps.

I took a mt. bike ride the other day, and while pumping up the bike tires at the parking lot at the bottom of the trail I took a quick survey of the cars parked there. mt. bike riders in this area tend to be mostly college students or silicon valley professionals. It’s sort of hard to explain why, since mt biking is very strenuous activity, but a lot of retired geezers do the mt biking thing too. I’m guessing they started in the 1980’s when there was a big mt. biking boom era, and have just kept doing it as habit. Anyway, there were maybe 15 cars from that population. All the cars (except mine) were relatively new, 10 years max, about 80% Asian. 3 of the 15 cars were Nissan Leaf, all electric. So I was thinking a Leaf might be a good choice if the job involves a lot of short trips tooling around town, and not enough to likely run the battery down before the end of the day, and time to recharge.

Yeah George, just what a courier needs a vehicle without enough charge to reach their destination and no charging station near by.

Couriers drive more miles than you might think, except for the handful with routes in dense downtown routes. Courier companies have to be able to serve customers just about anywhere, so there are routes out that cover small towns and the countryside around them. There are also various kinds of couriers. There are the sort who run documents around from place to place and are called as needed, like bike messengers, but the most common kind run fixed routes picking up and dropping off stuff at businesses that have contracts with the courier service. Sometimes they have outside boxes so couriers can work while the businesses are closed. Those loads mainly consist of paperwork. Big customers are realty offices, title companies, and insurance agencies.

Loads are usually pretty small, so all the driver needs is any hatchback. Some of the companies also carry larger stuff, competing with the delivery companies, though they don’t necessarily deliver to homes. My brother works for a company of that sort, so he drives a minivan (Odyssey). His coworkers also have trucks with shells or SUVs. It makes it a lot harder to make a living if you need something bigger as you aren’t necessarily paid any more.

Check out the availability of natural gas filling stations in the area you serve. You can get a CNG powered Honda Civic. Last I checked it costs about half as much per mile as gasoline and it keeps your engine much cleaner than gasoline.

At 2000 miles a week, that leaf ain’t gonna cut it. That is a 400 mile a day average. The Leaf barely hitting 50-65 miles in a single charge. The Honda’s natural gas will peter out in 125 miles or so per tankful. That is 4 fill-ups PER DAY for the Honda! Those are serious no-go’s.

The Kia Soul has a 14.2 gallon tank and can get 30 mpg highway. That takes 13.3 gallons. You might get through the day on a single tank of gas. A Yaris would be close at 36 mpg with an 11.1 gallon tank, a Scion xB, no way but at least a fill-up at lunch will work.

You should test drive each choice for a good long drive. If the seat and driving position aren’t comfortable, nothing else really matters, now does it?

What about a diesel? The range is over 500 miles for the Jetta and Cruze, and you can buy one for under $20,000. The Jetta gets 46 mpg on the highway and Cruze gets 43 mpg on the highway. A car with excellent range can keep you on the road longer, increasing productivity. Not as reliable as a Toyota, but reliable enough.