Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A blue 2023 Nissan Versa SR is shown parked near a house after visiting a Nissan dealer.

First Time Car Buyer and Need a Reliable Commuter? Read This!

The day has come, and it’s time for you to purchase your first car. Excitement fills the air, although your bank account may be considering the purchase with trepidation. You have probably figured out by now that buying a car isn’t cheap. This is always a downer to anyone shopping for their first car because your dreams of buying a sports car, a heavy-duty truck, or even one of those fancy Teslas you’ve seen driving around the block are unlikely to become a reality. No, no, no––your first vehicle is likely something practical, particularly if you are shopping for a commuter model to take you to and from work.

There are several brands that stand out when it comes to affordable and practical vehicles, and one of your best options is to visit your local Nissan dealer. If it’s your first time visiting a dealership for yourself, you may be a bit nervous because you don’t want to make a rookie mistake. The idea of asking a question that will make them appear misinformed, inexperienced, or flat-out clueless haunts many new drivers when they visit their local dealerships. The best thing to do is to ignore that thought and be as thorough with your purchase as possible. The dealership staff is there to answer your questions, and they see first-time buyers all the time. However, there are some basics you will want to know before you head to the dealership to buy.

An orange 2023 Nissan Kicks is shown driving near a city.

Fuel Efficiency Is a Great Place to Start

If you are buying a car for commuting, fuel efficiency is one of the first things you will want to look into. While you might have dreams of driving a powerful car or truck, the larger the engine, the more fuel it burns. As a first-time buyer, you are likely on a budget, and it is always important to consider the total operating cost of a vehicle, not just the upfront cost. Good fuel economy means spending less at the pump and may help you put a little more money toward your monthly payments instead. If you’re shopping for your first car, there are several efficient options in the Nissan fleet.

The Versa, Sentra, Kicks, and Rogue are the four most efficient models in the 2023 Nissan lineup, giving you a range of vehicles to consider. The Versa is a subcompact sedan powered by a 1.6L engine that gets 35 MPG combined, while the compact Sentra uses a larger 2.0L engine rated for 33 MPG combined. The Kicks is a subcompact SUV powered by the same 1.6L engine as the Sentra. However, its less aerodynamic shape means it gets a lower 33 MPG combined, which shows why many commuters still prefer sedans. Finally, the Rogue is a compact SUV that uses an innovative variable-compression turbocharged 1.6L engine. By using advanced engineering, the Rogue manages to offer over 200 hp while still getting 33 MPG combined.

All four of these models are rated for 33-35 MPG combined, which is quite efficient for any gasoline-powered vehicle. The average car sold in 2022 gets just 25 MPG combined, and many large trucks and SUVs don’t even achieve that. The 2023 Nissan Titan, for instance, gets just 18 MPG combined, while the 2023 Nissan Armada is rated for only 16 MPG combined. Conversely, hybrid models can be even more efficient, although they will cost more money upfront. Nissan doesn’t currently offer any hybrids, but the 2023 Toyota Prius gets an impressive 57 MPG combined.

Another useful detail to consider on top of fuel economy is the size of the gas tank. While range is a concept that is usually only talked about for electric vehicles, it can matter for gasoline cars as well. Range is particularly important if you are planning to use your car for plenty of road trips as well as daily commuting, but having a larger gas tank also means fewer stops to refuel during the week. For instance, the 2023 Nissan Sentra and 2023 Nissan Rogue are both rated for 33 MPG combined. However, the Sentra has a 12.4-gallon gas tank, while the Rogue has a 14.5-gallon tank. That means the Rogue can travel an estimated 478 miles before stopping, while the Sentra will need to refuel after 412 miles.

A black 2023 Nissan Titan Crew Cab Pro-4X is shown driving on a highway.

You Should Consider These Features

Once you’ve found a vehicle with great fuel economy ratings––like the Sentra or Rogue––you should also consider other features that are designed to make long car rides less annoying. Some of the features that are true game changers for commuters are designed to enhance your comfort. If your commute is a half hour each way, that’s five hours a week that you are spending in your car whether you like it or not. That’s why it’s always a smart idea to invest in features that make the interior better, like heated seats, which can change the bitterly cold morning commute in the Winter to a cozier and less annoying drive.

Heated seats are lovely, but a feature that overshadows them is power-adjustable seating. Having power-adjustable seating exceedingly improves your quality of life, and it’s not hard to find a vehicle that offers it. In fact, you can get a 2023 Sentra SV with power seats for just $23,280. You may be thinking, “What’s the point? I’m not adjusting my seat while the car is moving anyways.” That is fair, but the benefit of power-adjustable seating is more than not having to adjust your seat by hand. Manually-adjustable seating is usually restricted to six ways of adjustment, whereas power-adjustable seating can be upwards of 10 ways or more. Returning to the Sentra SV, opting for power seats adds two-way power lumbar, which can go a long way towards making your work commute more comfortable.

The perfect commuter car in the modern day also needs some good safety features, and that’s one place where Nissan has all of your bases covered. Nissan’s safety suite is dubbed Nissan Safety Shield 360, and it provides forward-thinking driver-assist features like Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, and Rear Automatic Braking. All these features combine to create a bountiful safety suite that’s perfect for commuters. Even better, those features all come standard on even the base-model 2023 Nissan Versa S, which starts at only $15,980.

A blue 2023 Nissan Sentra SR is shown driving on a city road.

Change Your Drive to Work Today

Having a bad commute can put a damper on your day. Whether you got into a fender bender, are stuck in traffic in an uncomfortable seat, or for any other reason, the stress of your commute shouldn’t follow you into your daily life. That’s why you must find yourself a commuter car that elevates your time behind the wheel. What’s exciting about commuter-friendly automobiles is the sheer number of them. The Nissan lineup alone is filled with amazing options like the Versa, Sentra, Kicks, and Rogue. Since this is your first time buying an automobile, make sure you take your time when shopping, and remember, asking questions is a natural part of the process. No dealership employee worth their salt will give you a hard time because you don’t know the answer to every question. Good luck out there, and drive safe!