By Erin Thompson on May 13, 2022 in Life Hacks
Road trips can be many things: spontaneous, exciting, long, jam-packed, explorative, casual, or just plain fun. While we can’t predict the weather, we can help you handpick a vehicle that meets all your road trip qualifications. Jump in below, we’ll go through each one together.
Okay, let’s start with the details. Where are you going? What function do you need your vehicle to perform? Asking yourself these questions with upcoming trips in mind ensures you’ll lock down a ride that really meets your needs.
Will you drive off-road during your adventure? If so, a 4x4 is a smart choice. “4x4” or “4WD” is car lingo for four-wheel drive. Car and Driver explains four-wheel drive as, “a part-time system, meaning the driver must shift into and out of four-wheel drive by turning a knob, pushing a button, or yanking a lever.” So, when you engage the system, the front and rear driveshafts lock together. Doing so ensures the front and rear axles turn at the exact same speed. 4WD is especially helpful in snow, mud, and sand because the engine’s torque is sent to the front and back wheels simultaneously to give you more power. Start your 4x4 search with True Car’s Best Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles for 2022!
Will you be hauling loads of people? Are you a heavy packer? If so, you might need to lock down a minivan or spacious SUV. These styles usually have more storage space throughout the vehicle and come equipped with bigger trunks.
If you’re looking for an all-around quality road trip car, check out U.S. News’ list of 12 great choices!
The key to saving money on road trips: take a vehicle with good gas mileage. We understand you want to spend your money on exciting adventures, delicious foods, and high-quality drinks – not boring ole gas. Gas mileage is increasingly important, especially with the recent price increases. However, there isn’t just one element to look at when determining good gas mileage. According to Car and Driver, you need to consider the type of vehicle, type of fuel, fuel octane, driving conditions, and how you drive.
Don’t stress during your car search, True Car lists the top 20 cars with impressive gas mileage.
Comfort is almost as important as the gas. If you’re sitting in the car for long periods of time, you’ll want to be comfortable. Between the seats, sound system, A/C, and cruise control, your upcoming 10-hour drive will start to feel like a quick trip to the grocery store!
- Seats – Since you have to spend the whole time in the driver’s seat, let’s make sure it’s comfortable. Consumer Reports lists cars with the most comfortable front seats to help narrow your search so you can avoid having to sit in every one of your options! Good elements to look for are multi-way customization (lumbar, seat height, distance from the pedal, etc.), heat and cooling functionality, fabric, and shoulder support.
- Sound System – Half the fun of road trips is jamming along to your favorite songs. So, make sure the stereo has quality sound and AUX or Bluetooth capabilities. If you still need a little oomph for those heavy bass songs, you can install subwoofers after purchase!
- Air Condition/Heat – This is a given. You don’t want to be shivering or sweating for the duration of your trip. If you ever need to re-charge your car’s A/C, Auto Zone vows by their 8-step process.
- Cruise Control – Give your foot a break on those long, open stretches of road. Cruise control can allow your foot a break while still maintaining your current speed. Some newer vehicles even have adaptive cruise control. Adaptive Cruise Control is “a system designed to help road vehicles maintain a safe following distance and stay within the speed limit,” according to Car and Driver.
We always encourage safety, it’s kind of our thing. Check out some easy things to look for when picking out an extra safe vehicle.
- Seatbelts – While this seems like a no brainer, you need to ensure each passenger has a dedicated, functioning seatbelt. How do you test your seat belts for safety? Well, we’re glad you asked. Safety Restore lists 4 essential checks:
- Untwist any twisted seatbelts.
- Inspect the buckle and belt for any signs of damage and make sure it clicks in properly.
- Examine how smoothly and quickly the seatbelt retracts.
- Correctly set the adjusters to just above the passenger’s shoulder.
- Backup Camera – Avoid backing into unfamiliar trashcans, cars, or buildings on vacation with a handy dandy backup camera. This extra level of security and safety is worth the price! If you’re looking for a high-quality backup camera, Digital Camera World has just the list for you.
- Automatic Headlights – There’s not much worse than driving at dusk and not knowing if you should turn on your lights or not. Avoid second-guessing or having to remind yourself to turn on the headlights with automatic headlights. They’ll click on and off depending on how light it is outside.
- Bluetooth/Handsfree – We recommend never using your phone while driving. However, if you must take an important call, using hands-free or voice command means you won’t have to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the steering wheel.
Pro Tip: You can add Bluetooth to an older vehicle. MotorBiscuit tells us how!
Before You Hit the Road
Let’s wrap up with a couple of housekeeping items.
- Get an oil change. Staying up to date on your oil changes is always important. Before you leave for your trip, check your oil and if the level is low, pop into your local auto shop to keep your engine running smoothly.
We’ll walk through how to check your car’s engine oil – it only takes a minute. If you recently drove, let the car cool off and park it on a flat surface before beginning. Then, grab your dipstick and insert it into the oil tube. When you pull it out, there should be a marker indicating the oil is between MIN and MAX. If you’re close to the MIN line or below it, you’ll want to go to the auto shop before setting off.
- Check your tires. Let’s cut to the chase here, you won’t be getting anywhere on bald or flat tires. Bald tires are especially dangerous for muddy or snowy adventures, and flat tires are just straight up dangerous for both you and your ride. So, check the tire pressure (reference the guide on the inside of the driver’s side door) and tire tread (by using the tried and true penny test).
- Do a battery test. No one wants to deal with a dead battery. Did you know there are some auto shops that will test your battery for free? There are! We aren’t making this up. However, if you want to DIY your battery test, all you need is a multimeter.
- Pack an emergency kit. Heading on a summertime road trip? Grab your summertime car emergency kit full of necessities like a rain jacket, roadmap, sunscreen, water, food, a portable phone charger, jumper cables, an old blanket, a spare tire, flashlights, and a hat! You’ll feel prepared for anything.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of prepping with the perfect road trip car, all that’s left to do is purchase your dream ride and hit the open road.
Oh, and before you leave, double-check your car insurance policy!