Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

An orange 2018 Ford Mustang is driving on a winding mountain road.

Used Cars and Road Trips

The summer season is here, which means it is the perfect time for a road trip. Hop in the car, and take a long ride to your favorite lake, national forest, or beachside. That said, if you are in need of the perfect road trip vehicle for the summer, you may want to consider buying used. Not only will you get a cheaper deal, but you will get a more extensive selection of models to choose from than you would buying new. But you probably already know all of this; you have probably been searching “used cars near me” for a while, endlessly searching for the perfect road-tripper. And today, we are going to assist in this search by going over the best road tripping vehicles and how to modify them for comfort and convenience in your travels. Let’s get into it!

What Type of Car Should You Buy?

First thing’s first: What kind of vehicle should you purchase? There is a wide variety out there, and there are a number of characteristics to keep in mind when you begin shopping. That said, one of the most influential factors is body styling. Cars come in several different body types, ranging from big, workhorse pickup trucks to compact commuter worthy sedans. So, which body type is the best for summertime road trip adventures?

While a hatchback sedan or a pickup truck may seem appealing at first glance because of the excellent fuel economy, you’ll likely find the most satisfaction from an SUV. SUVs, or sports utility vehicles, are typically on the larger side, providing ample room for passengers and cargo. These vehicles can range from hulking three-row titans to more compact and fuel-efficient five-seater models. Many models will do, depending on what kind of cargo and passenger capacity you need, although we suggest that you consider another factor when buying: gas mileage.

When hitting the road, you will want to be able to ride uninterrupted by a lack of fuel. Not only will stopping for gas extend the timespan of your trip, but it can do an awfully good job at raising the cost of your trip. For that reason, we suggest that you purchase an SUV that manages to blend fuel economy, power, and utility seamlessly like the Honda CR-V or Passport. Some modern models, the CR-V included, even offer a hybrid engine so that you can take advantage of a truly optimal level of gas mileage. If you can find a used hybrid SUV as your road-tripper, that should be your number one choice. Otherwise, just search for something with the space and comfort you need.

A red 2018 Honda CR-V, which is popular among used cars near me, is driving past the ocean.

The Basics of Buying a Used SUV

Now that you know what type of vehicle to search for, let’s look at the process of visiting a dealership. When you visit a used dealership to purchase a car, you will get to follow one of two paths, pre-owned and certified pre-owned. While these two options may seem similar at first, they actually have quite different outcomes. When you purchase certified pre-owned from a dealer, you will get a car that is going to feel and look nearly brand new.

That said, do not let that fresh coat of paint and heavily inspected engine fool you, this car is still used. Certified pre-owned vehicles are models that have returned to the manufacturer to receive a thorough multi-point inspection. These inspections are incredibly comprehensive, covering everything from the engine to the tires, to the interior carpeting. As a result, they roll back into dealerships feeling almost brand new behind the wheel. Certified pre-owned vehicles also come with extended warranties that provide coverage and protection for any number of mechanical issues that may arise.

That said, certified pre-owned vehicles tend to be pricier than your classic pre-owned model. Pre-owned cars, on the other hand, are either sold as-is from a local individual retailer or have been previously inspected by a used car dealership. So, when you purchase pre-owned, there is no real guarantee in terms of quality or state of repair. That said, buying pre-owned comes with the perk of a significantly lower price, and many reputable dealerships provide pre-owned warranties that can be as comprehensive as certified warranties.

So, which option should you go for? In truth, there is no right answer here, as it all depends on your budget and where you decide to purchase from. Although, no matter which path you follow, buying used in general allows you to save money, which can be used for potential modifications.

Features to Keep Your Eye Out For

There are also some specific features you should consider being on the hunt for when shopping for a used road-trip worthy SUV. Many modern vehicles come packed with proactive safety gear that attempts to prevent collisions before they occur. Some of these features include automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Manufacturers such as Honda and Ford manage to pack these features into even their baseline vehicles, and they can come in handy when on a long road trip.

While these features won’t automate your entire driving experience, they can offer greater awareness of the road, and potentially make your trip that much safer. A great infotainment system can also come in handy on long rides, particularly if that system has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. As a result, you can stay connected to your phone, without ever having to take your eyes off the road.

A sales person is handing keys to a man in a silver car.

Modifying to Make the Vehicle Perfect

Now, let’s get into how you can make any vehicle you choose perfect for many summer-trips mean long excursions out into the wilderness to explore the lakes, mountains, forests, and deserts that dot the countryside. As a result, many ideal summer road trip vehicles ought to come equipped with the gear that makes them capable off-roaders. This is where extensive modifications can come in.

One major modification worth considering is an increased ground clearance, provided by a lift kit. By riding higher off of the ground, you can ensure that your road-trip SUV can traverse over potential hazards on the trail. A beefy set of off-road or all-terrain tires can also provide peace of mind, and not just when bounding out into the wilderness. These can provide greater traction when road conditions are less than ideal. Another modification worth considering is a rear-seat entertainment system. This modification is incredibly useful when on long road trips as taking in the sightseeing can only go so far on a multi-day trek, and you may need some time to unwind.

Buying Your Ideal Summer-Ready Road Trip Vehicle

Summertime is the perfect time to explore, and the ideal time to purchase a car that is ready for any and every adventure that you throw its way. There are some things worth considering when shopping for a used car near you, which we have touched base on today; however, determining the ideal fit all comes down to your particular need. And further, if a vehicle does not fit your exact needs, there may actually be ways to modify it so that it does. Now that you have all the information, what are you waiting for? Get road-tripping!