Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and one of the best places to embark on a road trip. From charming seaside towns to untamed countryside vistas, a quick search online will reveal countless road trip routes and destinations all across the country. But as any seasoned road-tripper knows, knowing where to go is just one half of what makes an epic road trip. The other half? Making sure you've got a suitable ride!
In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to cover 15 best cars for road trips across Canada. We’ll also discuss some of the key factors you should look for in a trip car. If you’re looking for a highly dependable vehicle, a great first car, or a fuel-efficient performer, then read on, because this list is for you!
Choosing The Best Car for Your Canadian Road Trip
Whether you want to take a quick weekend trip to clear your head or you’re hoping to embark on one of the most epic cross country trips of your life, you need to make sure your car is trip-worthy. Anything can happen out on the road, so you need a trip vehicle that can handle, well, anything! Here are the four things to look for in a road trip car:
When you're spending most of your time in the car, you can't skimp on comfort. For the driver, the seat cushions and positioning should be comfortable enough for you to hold your position for long periods of time. Neck support, padding, and armrests also make it more tolerable for passengers to be strapped into their seats for hours.
The car should also be spacious, with ample legroom for everyone to stretch and move even without leaving the car. There should also be enough room and compartments to keep important items within reach, such as sunglasses, hand sanitizer, your phone, and some snacks.
Air conditioning is important too. There are few things more miserable than driving in weather extremes with a busted AC, so make sure the AC is in good condition before you leave.
Finally, cruise control can make a huge difference in the driver's overall comfort. Cruise control can assist you across the open road where there aren't very many cars to think about, and it can help save your right leg from cramping up or going numb!
Depending on your destination, road trips can take days, weeks, or even months. It should come as no surprise that you'll need plenty of cargo space, more so if you're hauling stuff like camping gear and sporting equipment.
If you're doing a day trip or a quick weekend getaway with your partner or a few friends, you might be able to manage with a sedan or a hatchback. If you'll be gone for much longer or you're taking the whole family with you, it's better to go for something bigger like a minivan, an SUV, or even a camper.
Tip: Make sure you have enough cargo space days before your trip. Do a packing trial run at least one week before you head out so you can figure out what you can and can't bring and if you need extra storage solutions like roof or rear racks.
Even with a lot of planning and budgeting, road trips can be expensive. The cost of fuel alone can burn a hole in your pocket, especially if you're driving a gas guzzler.
Vehicle emissions are also bad for humans' and the environment's health. And unfortunately, Canada has a pretty bad rap in terms of fuel economy, ranking number one worldwide in the International Energy Agency's report on fuel consumption and vehicle emissions.
If you want to find out your car's mpg on the highway, there are tons of calculators and lists online. But typically, trucks, SUVs, and other big cars consume more fuel than smaller cars. So if you want to be frugal and minimize your carbon footprint, opt for more fuel-efficient road trip cars like hybrids.
Performance And Versatility
As the second-largest country in the world, Canada's terrain is vast and expansive, with hills, rocky mountains, and even arid desert-like plains. When planning your road trip, you need to take into account the kinds of roads you'll be traveling on. Ask yourself if you'll be driving through mostly flat plains or if you'll traverse zig-zagging mountain roads. Will you be sticking to asphalt or will you veer off the beaten path towards rocky or even snowy trails?
All of these questions matter because they'll dictate the kind of vehicle you need for your trip. You need a car that can handle the kind of terrain you're hoping to tackle. Smaller cars will work for trips that don't involve much off-roading or driving through snow, while SUVs with 4 wheel drive or all-wheel drive can handle almost any type of roads. And if you're expecting a lot of snow, make sure you replace your tires with winter tires.
Now that you know what you should look for in a trip car, let's take a look at 15 of the best road trip cars on the market:
Prius' get a lot of flak for being unstylish, but they make up for it in practicality. With excellent fuel economy – the Eco model boasts up to 58 mpg on the highway – the Prius is often considered the best hybrid car in the world. Gas mileage aside, the Prius is also equipped with a variety of electronic safety features, roomy cargo space, and comfortable seating, making it a great all-rounder road trip car.
This executive sedan is more than just a handsome vehicle. While A6 may seem like more of a city car with interiors fit for a CEO, it's a surprisingly athletic performer with generous cargo space and a top Euro NCAP safety rating. If you’re steering clear of rough roads and you’d like to travel in style, the A6 might be right up your alley.
If fuel economy is not a priority, the Nissan Frontier could be a great option for drivers who need to haul a ton of cargo. The Frontier is a mid-size truck with a powerful engine and a lot of bed space for all sorts of gear. The 2020 model boasts a towing capacity of up to 6,720 lbs and a maximum payload of up to 1,460 lbs.
More spacious than a sedan but more compact than a truck or an SUV, some would say that crossovers are the "Goldilocks" of trip vehicles. But unlike SUVs, which use body-on-frame construction, crossovers use unibody construction, which means they're lighter, less truck-like, and generally more fuel-efficient. The Honda CR-V is one of the most popular crossovers on the market, and it's got all the features that make a great trip vehicle.
A sports car that fits four passengers, the Porsche 911 is a high-performing beast that makes freeway driving thrilling. Though it's not the most spacious or efficient vehicle on this list, it probably offers the most gratifying ride. This car would do best on day trips out of the city or weekenders with your partner.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
Taking the whole family along? This minivan is spacious enough to seat you, the kids, plus grandma and grandpa. It also boasts an impressive rear-seat entertainment system to keep everyone preoccupied during the drive. Unlike most minivans or other larger vehicles, the Pacifica Hybrid is considerably fuel-efficient, with 63 MPGe/33 mpg on 75-mph highway driving.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
With excellent fuel economy (the 2020 version can hit a 47 to 52 mpg), a comfortable interior, and killer looks, this hybrid is a well-rounded sedan that can give the Prius a run for its money. It also boasts some neat technology and safety features that road-trippers will love: such as adaptive cruise control that's perfect for long stretches of the open road.
Compact and fuel-efficient are words that are more commonly applied to sedans and crossovers, but Subaru's Crosstrek ticks off those boxes and then some! The SUV is compact but spacious, with standard roof rails for storage of large items like surfboards. The tech is great too, with cruise control and hill descent control that keeps the handling light and easy even over dirt roads and trails.
There's a reason this movie star car has been featured in iconic films such as the 1971 classic Vanishing Point and Quentin Tarantino's wild homage, Death Proof. It's fast, it's powerful, and it looks good. But, this muscle car is more than just a pretty face! It’s also comfortable and spacious enough to fit the whole family and all your luggage.
Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback
One of the most iconic cars in America, the Mustang is synonymous with power, style, and life on the open road. The 2020 EcoBoost is a modern take on a classic sports car, featuring 310 at 5,500 rpm HP. While not the most fuel-efficient of cars, its looks, speed, and handling make up for it.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Four-wheel drive, multiple drive modes, and a powerful engine make the Grand Cherokee a popular choice among road-trippers. But the high performance and excellent handling aside, the Grand Cherokee is also the pinnacle of comfort with premium interior features.
With a spacious rear (third-row seating? check!) and tons of safety features (adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, blind-spot monitors, the list goes on...) this SUV makes for the perfect family car. It can haul the kids and all their friends to soccer practice, and it’s a perfect companion for camping and out-of-town trips.
Mazda CX-5 Diesel
Smooth steering, handsome exterior, and a fuel-efficient diesel engine – what else could you ask for in a trip vehicle? Though it’s not the most spacious of cars in terms of seating, it's got plenty of trunk space for luggage and more. If that wasn’t reason enough, the CX-5 has an incredibly luxurious interior and it makes for a smooth driving experience.
Driving for hours on end can take a toll on your back and shoulders. Volvo's solution? Massaging seats for the driver and front passenger. Paired with the Pilot Assist suite that includes adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, you could almost forget you were driving. Aside from these luxury features, the Volvo XC90 has plenty of room for luggage and passengers, as well as a Bowers & Wilkins sound system that's tough to beat.
The Tesla 3 is Tesla's smallest electric sedan – but that doesn't mean it can't compete with the big guns on the open road. While you'll need to be in close range of Tesla's supercharger network to make sure you don't run out of juice, you can still hit a considerable distance in a short amount of time. For eco-conscious weekend warriors, this car can satisfy the travel bug minus the guilt.
Are Road Trips Bad for My Car?
The short answer is no.
Generally speaking, road trips shouldn't be detrimental to your car's overall condition. In fact, driving for long stretches with minimal traffic is considered better for your car than the kind of stop-and-go driving you’d do in the city. This is because driving short distances doesn't give your engine enough time to cool, which can lead to overheating and the buildup of harmful deposits. Stop-and-go traffic also wears down your brakes, steering, and clutch.
Should I Rent a Car for a Road Trip?
Whether or not you should rent a car for your road trip depends on several factors. While it's perfectly fine to bring a brand new car on a road trip, you should rent a car if:
- You drive a beater: A beater is an old car with high gas mileage. Since these vehicles are usually old and worn down, they've also got worse fuel economy than more modern cars and require more frequent maintenance. The point of owning a beater is to have a car you can work into the ground. However, if you're on a tight budget and don't want to risk encountering breakdowns on the road, it might be best to rent a car instead.
- You own a city car and want to go off-roading: As mentioned earlier, sedans and hatchbacks might work for shorter road trips across asphalt or concrete but will give you trouble once you take the road less traveled. If you're expecting rough roads and extreme weather, you might be better off renting an SUV or a crossover.
- You don't have time to have your car serviced: Before hitting the highway, it's essential that you prepare your car for the trip. Below, we have a list of all the things you need to get checked out before starting your trip. If you're too busy to get any of that done beforehand, opt for a rental service that can hand you a car that's been regularly serviced instead.
- You want to sell your car soon: While road trips aren't bad for your car's overall condition, they will put more miles on your car. Some buyers take mileage seriously and don't consider cars with a lot of miles on them, so frequently taking your car out on road trips might mess with your chances of selling at a high price.
- You want to try something new: Minivans and "mom cars" are safe, practical, and reliable, but they can also get pretty boring. If you've always wanted to live out your sports car fantasies, taking a rental on a road trip is a practical way to kick things into high gear without having to actually own a sports car. For example, if you’re looking for a trip through roads along the water or beaches, you may consider an SUV or convertible to enjoy the amazing breeze and scenery.
Getting Your Car Ready for a Road Trip
There are few things worse than thinking you've planned the best road trip ever, only to have your trip cut short because of car trouble. While you're bound to experience a breakdown at least once in your life, you can try to make sure it doesn't happen during your trip. Here's a checklist of 6 things you need to get checked out before pulling out of your driveway:
You never want to run low on fluids like oil, brake fluid, coolant, and transmission fluid, as doing so may lead to engine breakdown, overheating, or worse, accidents on the road. Fluids can be checked and replaced at home or at most nearby gas stations.
If your battery goes dead on you in the middle of the road, there isn't much you can do aside from jump-starting your car (which might only take you a few more miles out before giving up) or waiting for help to arrive. If you're stuck out somewhere remote, this problem can take days to remedy. Take your car to a nearby mechanic to have your batteries tested before heading out.
Lots of things can go wrong if you're running on the wrong tire pressure. Underinflated tires could cause you to waste fuel. If only one or two tires are underinflated, it could also cause your car to veer to the side more, putting you at risk of road accidents. Overinflated tires, on the other hand, make for uncomfortable rides. Thankfully, getting tire pressure right is easy. You can find tire pressure guides in the user manual or on a sticker on the inside of the driver's door.
Don't forget to keep a spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench, in your trunk just in case you get a flat. And make sure you know how to change a flat!
Not only is driving with busted lights illegal in most places, it's also really dangerous – especially in bad weather. Before your trip, make sure your headlights, turn signals, and rear lights are all in good working condition. If your headlights seem weaker than usual, they could just be dirty. Take your car to a body shop for a quick polish and your lights will be as good as new.
Even without a road trip on the horizon, it's always a good idea to have your brakes checked out by a mechanic on a regular basis. Some of the deadliest motor vehicle disasters in Canada were caused by brake failure.
6. Kids’ Equipment
Laws regarding booster seats vary from province to province, so it's good to read up on that if you're taking your kids along for the trip. For example, in Alberta, children must remain in rear-facing seats until they're at least two years old or have reached the maximum weight or height limit, but in British Columbia, children only have to stay in these types of seats till they're 12 months old.
Another thing to consider is entertainment. Kids get bored easily, so having ample entertainment options like toys, movies, and games can help make the trip more bearable. Finally, make sure to pack a bag filled with essentials like wet wipes, diapers, juice, and snacks, and always have these items within reach.
Whether you're a weekend warrior or a nomad at heart, you need a car that's comfortable, spacious, powerful, and efficient. Find your dream road trip car on Carpages.ca's new and used car listings. If you're looking for more advice and insight on finding the right car, financing a loan, or even general maintenance, follow our blog for more updates.