As you start that second pot of coffee and begin researching good commuter vehicles and the best daily driver cars to buy, you’ll no doubt find that your options are far from limited. Heck, there are about 40 new sedan models to choose from — and that doesn’t even include all the fuel-efficient crossovers, SUVs and minivans out there.
Of course, you know that a good commuter car must have excellent gas mileage, but what else should you be looking for when buying a vehicle for driving to and from work? Here are a few helpful tips to ensure you’re picking out a stud, not a dud.
1. Find the Most Comfortable Daily Driver
Let’s say you live in Maricopa and commute to and from Phoenix every day. You know it’s a grind, almost like a second job, even. By the end of the week, you couldn’t care less about your MPG; you just want your backache to go away.
For long commutes over 50 or even 100 miles per day, your comfort basically runs neck-and-neck with fuel economy. Remember, you’re going to be spending hours on the road, so it’s important to buy the most comfortable commuter car you can find.
When you start test driving vehicles near you, be sure to look for firm yet cushioned seats with some sort of lumbar support. Power-adjustable seats with heating and ventilation are always excellent choices, as are seats with adjustable headrests.
A good example of comfortable car seats can be found in the 2022 CR-V. Its unique 4-Way Power Lumbar Support system allows drivers to tailor the seat adjustments to their ideal position. Those with lower back pain can activate the lower lumbar support beam; those suffering from upper back or shoulder pain can position the lumbar support beam to the upper portion of the seat. Here’s a video explaining how CR-V’s available 4-way seats work:
Now that you’ve given your back and booty a reprieve, let’s move to your elbows. Pick a vehicle with a comfortable, perhaps even padded center console that you can rest your elbows on and alleviate stress on your shoulders.
What about the steering wheel? Are there built-in radio and cruise-control buttons? Can it be set in the proper position without impeding visibility? Does it include a natural recession for your thumb or finger, like the steering wheel in the new Honda Accord? (It’s honestly one of the most under-appreciated features of the Accord.)
Don’t forget the suspension. While sporty, firm suspensions may offer better performance and handling, a softer, more supple suspension system could suppress road imperfections better and provide more comfort for your body.
Dual-zone climate control, while certainly nice to have, isn’t always important if you’re commuting solo to and from work. Don’t pay a premium for it if you feel it’s unnecessary! (Of course, if dual-zone climate is included, like it is with the 2021 Accord EX-L, by all means.)
2. How’s the Sound System?
Again, you’re going to be on the road a lot, so don’t settle for a lackluster, tinny audio system. Give yourself a treat by investing in a great commuter car with an equally great sound set-up. It should have at least 8 speakers and a subwoofer that will balance out the bottom octave with the bass level.
While you’re making the upgrade, be sure the vehicle also has the ability to connect to an HD Radio™* service like SiriusXM®*. You’ll have access to hundreds of commercial-free music, sports, and talk radio stations, which should help you pass the time behind the wheel.
A good starting point is the 2022 Honda Civic Touring. It has a quiet cabin and includes an affordable yet excellent Bose Premium Sound System with 12 speakers and a built-in rear subwoofer, standard SiriusXM® and HD Radio™, and Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ integration.
3. Get a Head-Up Display
Not only are head-up displays (HUD) convenient, but they also offer a great deal of passive safety. Instead of taking your eyes off the road, you can see all the important information you need on your windshield, including driving speed, incoming phone calls, and turn-by-turn directions.
4. Don’t Sleep on Adaptive Cruise Control
Minimalists and purists may balk at the idea of technology like adaptive cruise control (ACC), but that’s just because they haven’t tried it. ACC is, in our opinion, one of the coolest and most useful driver-assist features to come out in decades.
Unlike your typical cruise control, ACC helps you maintain both a set speed and following distance behind vehicles in front of you. When traffic slows down, ACC also slows down; if traffic comes to a stop, ACC also comes to a stop. No more shin-splints!
If we had our way, adaptive cruise control would be standard on all the best highway commuter cars. Oh, wait! We forgot that we sorta do! Every new Honda comes with Adaptive Cruise Control (or ACC with Low-Speed Follow) as part of Honda Sensing, including models like the Accord, Accord Hybrid, Civic, 2022 Insight, and new CR-V Hybrid.
5. Look for the Most Reliable Commuter Car
The last thing you want is to wake up on Monday morning and find out your vehicle won’t start. Choosing a newer model probably won’t present such a problem right away; but if you’re buying a used commuter vehicle, you’ll want to do your due diligence and read reviews for dependability ratings.
A place like Consumer Reports offers great annual insights on the best and most reliable auto brands, which includes Honda, if you were wondering.
Always account for maintenance costs and needs when buying a commuter SUV or car — or any vehicle, for that matter. There’s no point in having a daily driver if you can’t drive it most days because it’s tied up at the auto service center. Review some average maintenance and repair costs for popular auto brands here.
6. Buy, Don’t Lease
Although leasing a new car is a great choice for some people, those who regularly require a good car for long commutes won’t do well with the mileage restrictions of a lease. Most vehicle leases restrict you from driving more than 10,000 or 12,000 miles per year, which you’ll certainly exceed if you commute over 100 miles per day.
If that sounds like you, buying or financing your daily driver vehicle is almost always in your best interest.
7. Get Tire/Wheel Protection
You never know what you’ll get into on the road. Potholes, post-accident debris, glass, nails — there are lots of hazardous items that can leave you with a flat tire.
When you purchase your vehicle, be sure to ask about any protection plans for your tires and wheels. For a small up-front or monthly fee, you’ll be guaranteeing yourself a new tire (or a whole new set) in the event of an unpatchable flat.
8. Prioritize Convenience
In many respects, convenience can be as important to your mental health as fuel economy is to your wallet and supportive seats are to your body. Don’t pass up anything that makes your daily commute easier to swallow.
Here are a few car features that you should definitely consider in your daily driver:
- Wireless Phone Charger – Keep your device charged without messy cords and cables.
- Practical Center Console – The center console should be deep and versatile, offering you several storage solutions for a variety of items, large or small.
- Android Auto/Apple CarPlay – Keep your phone in your pocket or on its charging pad with an infotainment system that offers Wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
- Wi-Fi – When traffic grinds to a halt and you’re stuck on the highway, you’ll be happy to have a wireless connection to pass the time.
- Navigation System – The days of pulling directions up on your phone are over! Most new vehicles these days are available with GPS navigation, including the Honda Insight, CR-V and Accord.
- Auto High-Beams – If you drive early in the morning or at night, automatic high-beam headlights can save you the trouble of switching back and forth.
- Trunk Space – You’ll want the extra room when taking longer commutes, so look for above-average cargo volume in your next vehicle.
- Maintenance Reminders – You’ve got enough going on in your life to worry about when to get your oil changed. With something like Honda’s Maintenance Minder or HondaLink app, you’ll be notified when your next service appointment is needed.
- Size – The best car for city driving will likely be more compact, as they’re easier to maneuver through traffic and into tight parking spots.
- Hands-Free Tailgate – If you’re buying a commuter SUV, you may want one that includes a hands-free power liftgate, like the new CR-V.
Like beauty, convenience is oftentimes in the eye of the beholder. What’s convenient to you may not be to another driver, so it’s best to test drive as many new and used commuter cars as possible. Visit any of our Arizona car dealerships to figure out which features are absolute must-haves in your next daily driver.
9. Do You Need AWD?
Although Phoenix drivers probably won’t encounter situations in which they’ll need an all-wheel-drive vehicle, it’s not out of the question entirely. Rainy weather can cause dangerous road conditions that a FWD or RWD vehicle can’t overcome, like skidding. The best AWD commuter car or SUV is a great option if you plan on driving to different parts of the country during your weekends.
10. Safety is Important
If MPG and comfort are #1 and #2, safety is a close #3. After all, you’ve got to contend with potential accidents, sudden stops in traffic, road closures, and the occasional you-know-what driver who rides your bumper or won’t allow you to merge.
The most critical auto safety features for your commuter vehicle will help you stay out of trouble, avoid accidents, and keep you from falling asleep or getting distracted while driving. Try to find a vehicle that offers, at a minimum, some form of lane-keeping assist, collision warning, and blind-zone detection systems.
Honda Sensing includes all the essential passive and active safety systems you’ll require, including standard Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition, and available Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Monitor. Learn more about Honda Sensing by speaking with your Honda dealer.
Commuting to and from work will take a lot of time and accumulate a lot of miles over the years, so it’s best to research the best daily driver vehicles before you sign anything. Whether you want an affordable gas-powered vehicle or choose to pay up for a hybrid car or even a plug-in hybrid EV like the Honda Clarity, you’ll want to ensure it’s up for that challenge.
But the bottom line is simple: Honda has a car or SUV that will keep up with you. Contact any of our Honda dealerships in Arizona to learn more, request a price quote, or ask about our special financing offers.
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ACC with Low-Speed Follow cannot detect all objects ahead and may not detect a given object; accuracy will vary based on weather, speed, and other factors. ACC should not be used in heavy traffic, poor weather, or on winding roads. Driver remains responsible for safely operating vehicle and avoiding collisions.