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  1. Default Most Important Aspects of a Road Tripping Vehicle?

    Hello all, and thank you very much for the time you have already spent in reviewing my first post within this forum! I look forward to checking out every aspect of this website.

    Anyway, I am looking for suggestions of different kinds of cars, things to keep in mind, what have you... about a car for a road trip that is a large project in my mind and the minds of two of my friends.

    We are looking to start a project with a road trip that will run through many summers and vacation times. The first segment of the road trip we are planning to take in summer '09 so we have some time to save up and take care of ourselves on this road trip. So far there are three of us on board for this for sure- we would like a fourth friend of ours, but that is up in the air. It is going to be an online project of documenting our experiences, and we would very like a car that is the car of our road trip, to be recognized by whoever it is following our trip. That is a main point of what we would LIKE.

    What I'm wondering out, considering I am not very educated in the way of cars, is what is the best thing to keep in mind before buying a car for this road trip? We want enough room to travel with our stuff and have us in the car comfortabley. We would LIKE the option of sleeping in the car but we all realize that that is not likely unless we get quite a large car, and that's an aspect about the car that we're willing to shrug off.

    Anyway, I suppose this is a long winded way of asking what sort of things are the most important to keep in mind when looking for a car to be used for road tripping across the US?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default It Gets You from Point A to Point B

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Seriously, anything else is gravy, and if it gets in the way of the RoadTrip vehicle's Prime Directive, then it is useless, or worse: counterproductive. I've had very enjoyable RoadTrips in everything from an AMC Gremlin (A grossly under-rated road car, in my opinion) to a Chevy Suburban (a 4WD tank) and it's not the car I remember most but the places and people that make up being "on the road". What you want above all are two things, a vehicle (I am deliberately NOT saying car) that is mechanically sound and up to the task at hand, and one that is comfortable to be in for long periods of time. If it gets good mileage, that's a plus, but not at the expense of the two main criteria. Like flying cars and road worthy boats, when you try to combine two disparate requirements, you end up compromising both and achieving neither very well. A sleeper car belongs on a train. (That last is clearly a personal opinion.)

    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-06-2008 at 06:11 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Comfortable for you

    I'm in pretty much agreement, other than being mechanically sound and in shape to head out on the road, the only other aspect I'd worry about is what works best for you.

    Generally speaking, when you are choosing a car, a roadtrip will be only one of many uses for the vehicle, so picking the car with only one thing in mind isn't a great practice.

    Case in point, if you bought a huge SUV so 3 people could sleep comfortably, but otherwise its just going to be one single persons car, you'd have way more car that you'd need (I'm also with Buck that sleeping in a car is just not pleasant, and almost counterproductive if you are talking about more than one or two people). Of course the opposite is also true, if you bought a tiny car because that's all you usually need, it probably wouldn't be that comfortable for a long distance trip with a few friends.

    And really, most standard cars fit into this nice multi-tasker mold. A sedan isn't perfect at everything, but its good for most things. A station wagon, minivan, or even a small SUV can do much the same thing if cargo becomes a larger concern.

  4. Default

    Sleeping in the car would be nice, but only nice. We don't actually plan on it unless there's an unexpected hiccup... But what I was curious about was the mechanical aspect. Is there a certain type of engine that is better for the long distance traveling, or a better type of tire or whatever else?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default nope

    There's still no single answer. If there were, you wouldn't see all the different options that are available.

    The best answer is a engine that has been well maintained, and passes the inspection of a mechanic. Otherwise, its purely a matter of personal tastes.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Fun with cars

    I agree with most of what AZBuck and Midwest Michael have said. However, I have enjoyed some roadtrips far more than others just because the vehicle I was in was, in itself, so much more fun to drive. To me the driving experience and how much I enjoy driving that particular vehicle does make a good roadtrip even better.

    That said, most any vehicle will suffice for an emergency pitstop for sleeping a few hours when you have an "unexpected hiccup". I would never sleep all night in my little car but it's just fine for a few hours sleep. Even though my car is a compact, it would sleep 3, maybe 4 if the people in the back aren't big people, for a few hours just fine. No, not for a regular way to spend the night and not for a good night's sleep, but enough to get rested up so we could mosey down the road a few more miles until we found an appropriate place to put up camp or grab a room.

    Engine-style? Well, I'm no big car expert but there are some good choices out there. While I totally agree that any well-maintained engine will get the job done, you might consider a few of these:

    Personally, if it was me, I'd go with a diesel so I could burn bio-fuel. Used VWs with TDI (I think that stands for turbo diesel injection?) are in huge demand right now because they are no longer selling new ones in the US due to pariculant restrictions. If you can find one, grab it, imho. VW is planning on bringing the TDI back to the states in the next year or two, last I heard, after some engine modifications that will meet the new emission standards.

    You might check out the hybrids. However, these vehicles actually excel with more in-town driving as that is when the electric portion kicks in more. You'll notice far less fuel improvement during highway driving. But they still offer some great advantages and I think anybody buying a new car should at least give them a test-drive.

    4-cylinder gas engines are pretty economical. That's what I have but I also have a turbo on mine giving me very quick response times. I can barely tap the gas pedal and be up to 80-90+ just like that. Yet I still get the higher gas mileage of a 4-cylinder. I think this is the best gas engine out there if you are driving a smaller car. If you are looking at something bigger than a compact, I'm not sure if a 4-cylinder turbo would be enough power or not. Test-drive and see.

    As for tires, any reputable tire seller should be able to direct you to the type of tire appropriate for your vehicle. An all-weather radial is probably one of your best choices and I believe they are standard on most new cars so, if you buy new, tires shouldn't be an issue.
    Last edited by PNW Judy; 04-08-2008 at 11:24 AM. Reason: clarification

  7. #7
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Philosophy to consider

    There are a few philosophies and questions to consider:

    Leave no trace; try to find something that will use as little fuel as reasonably possible.

    Can you drive it? - Don't go with something that you cannot handle. Too big is simply too big.

    Does it do what you need it to do? - If it just needs to drive, the options are endless. If it needs to have higher clearance and/or four wheel drive, then the options are narrowed.

    Does it double as a coffin? In other words, are you buying your casket and car on the same contract assuming you get into a wreck. The safer, the better.

    Does it fit? Trying to cram Shaq into a Chevy Aveo is like putting a little person at the helm of a Hummer. Does it fit you, and fit your gear.

    Try not to think too much outside of that beyond is the car aesthetically pleasing to you. If you think it looks like dung on wheels, then you won't be happy. However, if it gets good mileage, is drivable, does just what you need it to, is safe, and fits you, then it's good.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Keithville, LA

    Default Laura's Shopping List

    1) Will a cello fit? That might not be everyone's first thought, but we all carry around equipment for work or play and it's important to make sure that your stuff will fit. And if I can fit a cello, a suitcase, duffel bag and trip munchies into one car and still have room or a cello, violin,viola and three people in there - I'm in hog heaven. Since I've only ever found one car that gets decent gas mileage and can do all of that you'll understand why (I'm embarrased to admit) I threw a tiny fit at the Ford dealership when they stopped making Tauruses for a while.

    2) Do I feel comfortable driving it on the terrain I will be covering? For example - I have an ancient Buick that gets unheard of gas mileage. I love driving it around town as long as I don't have to spend much (hopefully any) time on an interstate or similar road. Why? Because the car is grossly underpowered. I can't even imagine trying to drive it through a large city like Dallas. Instead I take my Taurus with a 6 cylinder engine that will actually move forward when I depress the gas pedal.

    3) Gas mileage. I don't want to fill up my car every 100 miles or be hunting for a gas station every hour on the hour. It's expensive and not good for the earth. I'm not terribly thrilled with the Taurus' city gas mileage, but it out performs the Buick on the interstates.

    4) Do I feel safe in the car? In the Buick - definitely. I have visions of leaving a crumpled heap behind me if someone ever hit that tank. The Taurus would hold up well, but not in a fight against a giant truck. And I have been in a wreck that was a compact Kia Sephia versus a 1983 F150. Let's take a wild guess as to who lost that battle. I "upgraded" to the Taurus after that incident, although that Kia was probably the most fun car I ever drove even if I did have to turn off the air conditioner to cross busy streets.

    5) Can I drive it? I have found that I'm terribly uncomfortable driving larger cars or trucks. It's probably due more to my height and not being able to grasp the size of the vehicle. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who has ever had to dodge the person driving the Ford Expedition that has no clue how large that vehicle is. You don't want to be that person.

    But to echo Brad you also don't want a vehicle that's too small for you. If you're 6 feet tall, a Ford Focus is probably going to feel a might cramped. If you're barely 5 foot 4, then it will probably feel wonderful.

    Just sit down and make a list of the things you want in a car and then find the car that suits your needs.


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