Buy the Right Car for a Road Trip With These Expert Tips

the front of a 2022 audi suv

Some of my fondest memories of are of my family road trips. I vividly remember a trip we took from Los Angeles to St. Louis, Missouri.

We visited Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, the Painted Desert and Monument Valley. I still look back on that trip and remember it as my best summer as a child.

We took our family trip in a Nissan mini-van, which gave us the space and comfort necessary for several weeks of driving.  The bottom line, your car is very important!

Are you going on a road trip and are wondering which vehicle will best suit your needs. It can be a tricky choice! There are lots of options available, and choosing one can become a headache if you don’t know what to look for. So follow the tips below, and find the perfect fit!

Set a realistic budget

The budget that you set yourself should be indicative of not simply the cost of the car itself, but also if you can afford the upkeep. For example, even if you can afford a brand-new Mercedes SUV, you have to ask yourself if you can afford it. Maintenance and service, and keeping it road-ready (especially seeing as you will regularly be using it for long journeys) may cost a lot of money. Therefore, you should set up an initial budget that will cover the purchase and develop a secondary budget after considering the cost of upkeep.

My recommendation is to save money on the car, and instead use some of your budget for the fun activities you will surely want to do. After all, it’s not the driving that makes a road trip the memory of a lifetime, it’s the experiences outside of the car.

Think If You Want New Or Used

Once you have come up with your budget, you will have a better idea if you will get a new or used model. If your budget allows for it, then a new model might be preferable, but if not, you can still get really nice new cars for a fraction of the cost. You can shop around to see what is on offer, and this Audi dealer recommends speaking to a sales team, who can advise you which might be the best direction for your particular circumstance.

Nonetheless, it will ultimately be up to you what the best choice is, and if you feel like you can get more cars for your money by buying pre-owned, you should go for that option or vice versa.

interior of audi suv with television head seats

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Imagine How You Might Use The Car Daily

You may be considering the car for road trips only, but you will certainly need it for every day life too. Therefore, any decision you make should be based on this consideration. For example, a Ford Mustang may make a great road trip vehicle, but will it make sense when you are sitting in traffic on the way to work?

The type of trip also dictates what type of car to get. Are you going camping? Hauling a trailer? Brining mountain bikes? Then these are all things you will need to consider.

Fortunately, you still have lots of options that are fun, practical, and perfect for almost any situation. You just need to do a bit of research and see what’s available.

Ensure That You Have Enough Interior Space

It doesn’t matter if you are going on a trip by yourself or with several friends; interior space should be a priority for you. This extends to the seating options, layout, and amount of space for luggage and supplies. Nothing will ruin the experience of road trip faster than sitting in a cramped vehicle for hours on end.

Pro Tip: consider getting a storage box for the top of the car. Although they can decrease your MPG, they save a ton of space for you and your family inside the car.

Make Comfort A High Priority

In a similar sense to interior space, you need to ensure that any car you end up with is a comfortable space to be in. Although your passengers should be well-seated, this point primarily extends to you as the driver. In reality, this means high-qualities seating, a great driver layout (i.e., you can reach everything safely), and perhaps even heated or cooling seats. When it comes to the overall experience, it should have decent climate control and lots of optional extras. Some things to consider include:

  • A great in-car entertainment system
  • Climate control for rear passengers
  • Lots of storage space for drinks and snacks
  • Charging ports for electrical devices

Make Sure It Is As Fuel-Efficient As Possible

So now you arrive at the obligatory fuel economy section! Nevertheless, this is arguably the most crucial factor to take into account, especially as the cost of fuel continues to rise and shows no sign of slowing. You must balance the power you need to get to your destination comfortably with fuel efficiency. 

Although an electric vehicle might seem like a good idea for saving on fuel, the need to recharge the battery every several hundred miles will certainly be frustrating. Also, if you’re traveling in rural areas, or through the mountains for example, then charging stations are likely non-existent. A good compromise is a hybrid vehicle.

Buy One That Has A Low Depreciation Rate

This final point isn’t related directly to road trips per se, but it is still an essential factor to note. If you choose a pre-owned model, this won’t affect you quite as much (but you should still keep it in mind), but if you choose a new model, you will need to think carefully as each car and model have different depreciation rates. 

Luckily, the re-sale value of cars is exceptionally high at the moment due to inflation. In fact, my brother recently sold his Subaru for more than he bought it for!

Buying a car is a fantastic experience, and the fact that you will use it on road trips is even more exciting. If you follow some of the tips in this post, you’ll be able to find a vehicle that’s perfect for both your trips and everyday use.

Join the Conversation


  1. You made a good point when you said that when buying a car for road trips, you must choose one that offers a comfortable interior space. This is something that I will consider because I am planning to purchase a new vehicle before this month ends. I might need to use it on my every last Sunday of the month trips, so your tips will surely help me make a choice.

  2. says: Anna Collins

    I’ve been using my mom’s old car to drive to work, and it’s been showing signs of age nowadays, so I’m thinking of buying a new car soon instead of getting it repaired. I appreciate your tip when you said to set a realistic budget by keeping one to cover the initial purchase and a secondary budget after considering the expenses needed for upkeep. I’ll keep this in mind while I look for a Nissan dealer to contact soon for inquiries.

  3. says: Elina Brooks

    I got my license last year, but I’ve only saved up enough now to be able to buy a vehicle of my own. I’m thankful you informed us that the cost of fuel continues to increase, which is why we better choose a car that is as fuel-efficient as possible to avoid high vehicle expenses. I’ll keep this in mind when I look for New Kias for sale this weekend.

  4. It made sense to me when you said that determining your budget will allow you to find out whether you will get a new or used car. This is something that I will share with my father because he is actually planning to purchase a truck before retiring in October. He wants to make it easy for him to roam around his new farm. Your tips will surely help him in making decisions while buying a truck.

  5. I like how you mentioned that buying a car can be a fantastic experience. With that in mind, it seems like it would be a good idea to find a knowledgeable dealership to work with before you purchase a car. Working with a knowledgeable dealership seems like a good way to purchase a car that meets your needs.

  6. Considering how you’ll use it is a smart idea, as you indicated. Is it intended for regular usage or travel? My husband had his heart set on a Ford Mustang GT500 when he is considering purchasing a vehicle.  I’m glad I found your article since I can pass it along to him to consider when purchasing.  I’ll be sure to tell him about this and look for trustworthy merchants who can assist him in getting one. I appreciate you sharing!

  7. says: Eve Mitchell

    Thanks for mentioning that you need to consider the seating options in your car. I need to get a new car this year because my current car is not super reliable anymore. It would be great to visit a used car salesman this week to look at my options.

  8. says: Exotica

    Fantastic tips for buying the perfect road trip car! Your insights are incredibly helpful and will surely make the car-buying process smoother for anyone planning an adventure on the road. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

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