The 5 Best Road Trip Cars for 2022
Planes, trains, and automobiles — there are so many ways to travel.
Air travel can take us places far afield and trains have their luxuries, but nothing beats the charm and control of a classic road trip in the perfect car.
Whether you’re cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway in a sports car, rolling through rugged terrain with a versatile crossover, or hauling a camper cross country behind your truck, there’s a road trip car for every adventure.
With so many options, choosing the right vehicle for your trip is no small feat. In fact, the importance of this step is often overlooked. We want to focus on the most exciting part of choosing our route, but picking the right car can make or break many aspects of your trip.
That’s why today’sAutio article is all about how to choose the best car for your 2022 road trip.
We’re covering everything from practical needs like fuel economy and safety features to comfort concerns like leg-room and heated seats. Wherever you’re from and wherever you plan to go this year, Autio has the perfect guide to choosing the right vehicle for your adventure.
Let’s get started!
What Should I Look For in the Best Road Trip Car?
Before we jump into our top picks in a few of the most popular categories, let's talk about what criteria we’re going to focus on and why they matter for your 2022 road trips.
First up is perhaps the most obvious and practical factor on this list: fuel efficiency. While it would be nice to travel without thinking about our budget, most of us want to keep costs in mind and try to minimize them wherever possible.
Fuel is a crucial area where efficiency matters. Traveling long distances in a vehicle with horrible mileage will massively eat into your trip budget, often more than you might expect when planning.
Particularly in 2022, gas prices have been high and just keep rising. Of course, it’s impossible to know where gas prices may go, but choosing a vehicle with great fuel efficiency (or electric power) is your best weapon against budget-breaking gas consumption.
There are also environmental factors to keep in mind. While there’s nothing wrong with road tripping in a gas vehicle, minimizing your footprint is always a worthy effort.
Bigger isn’t always better, but size is definitely relevant for many factors of your road trip planning.
For one, the number of people (and pets) who can come along with you depends on your vehicle of choice. Sedans are great for gas mileage, but they’re short on options for group travel or bringing along your furry friends.
Cargo space is also important when it comes time to pack. Packing light can be good practice for certain trips. For others, you’re going to have lots of things to bring with you — especially for longer trips and remote locations.
Too much size can be just as much of a problem as too little in some cases. For example, Class A RVs offer lots of luxury and plenty of upsides, but they’re also difficult to maneuver and limited in terms of where they can go and when. If you’re traversing twisting one-lane mountain roads, a huge RV might not be your best bet.
With smaller vehicles, your options really open up. In terms of road trip cars, we’re including everything from sedans to passenger vans. Vehicles with an RV class have their time and place, but you’ll need a whole ‘nother list to go through their pros and cons.
In an ideal world, we could all choose the absolute best of the best vehicle at whatever price we’d like. In the real world, choosing a vehicle that offers tons of value for the cost is essential for most road trippers.
Identifying which road trip vehicles offer the best overall value can help you narrow down your search when it comes to finding a great deal in your area. The options are a bit more open when you choose to rent rather than buy, but there are pros and cons to each, depending on how often you travel.
Our goal today is to help you discern which vehicles can provide what you need when it comes to road-tripping – and nothing meets your needs like getting a great deal for a great quality vehicle.
Many of the criteria involved in choosing the right car for your road trip are determined by vehicle class. The different classes may seem fairly similar on paper, but the differences are huge when the rubber meets the road.
It’s important to think about this as soon as you start planning your road trip. Let’s talk about the best vehicle classes to consider.
Crossovers: The Ultimate Road Trip Vehicle
Crossover vehicles are some of the most popular amongst vehicle classes in 2022, and it's no surprise why. Doing a bit of everything while doing it all exceptionally well, the best crossovers are perhaps the perfect vehicle for the typical American road trip.
While most sedans get great mileage due to their small size and aerodynamics, they lack storage, seating space, and off-road capabilities. Crossovers find a middle ground, combining fuel efficiency with midsize benefits.
The Perfect Size
For those of us who aren't convinced that packing light is a virtue, having room for extra bags and amenities is a lifesaver. Thankfully, cargo space is a strong suit for most crossovers. It’s also a big plus for longer trips or camping where you might need more gear.
Of course, extra seats and plenty of room are a welcome addition for traveling groups, too. Sedans might work well for solo travelers, but crossovers are roomy enough to carry passengers aplenty — and comfortably, too.
In general, larger vehicles are also safer than smaller ones in case of an accident, assuming all other factors are the same.
For the explorers out there, a crossover can also satisfy your off-road itch. Some of the best crossovers are both fuel-efficient and AWD (all-wheel drive) or 4WD (four-wheel drive) capable, which means they can handle the highways and the hills with equal aptitude.
Add in high ground clearance, crossovers are some of the most versatile vehicles for taking your road trip wherever you want it to go, such as hard-to-reach camping spots where you may have to cross shallow creeks, climb awkward hills, and go through rough roads.
Sedans: Solid Options For Solo and Small Group Travel
It’s no secret that sedans are often the sportiest and smoothest drive, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for every road trip.
Enjoying your time behind the wheel can’t make up for shortcomings in some other major areas, but it does enhance the driving experience.
The Best Efficiency
Sedans’ small sizes work in your favor when it comes to efficiency. No vehicle class can beat sedans when it comes to fuel economy, so those looking to max out this aspect of their trip should strongly consider whether they can make a sedan work for them.
The last thing you want is to realize you’re short on space halfway through the packing process. Or, even worse, to realize a few hours into your journey that everyone in the car is extremely uncomfortable and regret not taking that SUV with the extra legroom.
Generally, sedans are great for solo travelers and couples, but traveling with folks in the second-row seats of a sedan is rarely ideal.
Not Great for Off-Roading
Low clearance is the biggest miss here, even for those rare sedans that offer AWD or 4WD. You’re not going to have to worry about gravel roads on the way to the campsite, but anything more than that could pose a real issue in terms of going down rough roads or off-road.
Some of the biggest vehicles outside of RV class vehicles are SUVs. These are very popular as a choice for large groups and families, but they come with a range of pros and cons.
Unfortunately, the size benefits of SUVs come at a cost: efficiency. These vehicles have some of the worst fuel efficiency ratings across any class, topped only by the largest trucks and Diesel vehicles.
Safe and Spacious
Still, the size of SUVs is a big plus for those who need to bring numerous people, pets, and lots of cargo. It also works in your favor in case of an accident, as larger vehicles are generally safer in a collision than smaller vehicles.
Handling Off-Road Travel
For those who want to go off-road, SUVs are typically a solid option. Always check for AWD or 4WD options just to be sure, but high clearance is a nice benefit.
Other Classes: Trucks and Vans
These classes are a bit less common when it comes to recommendations for road trips because there aren’t many things they do that SUVs or crossovers can’t — while SUVs and crossovers remain a bit more versatile in other areas.
Trucks are a superior option if you need to tow an especially large trailer, such as a pull-behind RV. Many SUVs and even some crossovers have solid towing capabilities, but trucks are the best in that area.
Unfortunately, trucks typically have very poor fuel efficiency, and they lack seating space, so groups should be wary.
Vans are the classic family vehicle for a reason. Many are designed specifically with having enough room for families — including young children — in mind. Modern SUVs and Crossovers are also family vehicles, but they don’t always have the same convenience features that can make vans exceptional for parents and family road trips.
Going Electric: The Merits of Electric Cars on Road Trips
Whatever class vehicle you opt for, whether or not to go electric is the big road trip question of 2022.
Electric cars like Tesla are still taking some time to work their way into mainstream American life, and many are skeptical. Admittedly, there are some (very small) convenience bumps to consider if you're thinking about going electric for your next road trip, but there are also some huge pros.
The cost of gas is the most obvious reason to prefer an electric car for your road trips in 2022. We're not just talking about the immediate monetary cost of buying gasoline, but also long-term costs in terms of environmental effects.
Gas prices are high in 2022, but you never really know when they may go up or down. Going electric is likely to be an investment that will save you money, although it does cost time in the form of charging times.
Environmentally, electric cars are an obvious plus compared to vehicles that burn fossil fuels. If you're thinking about going green but worried about logistical concerns, we're here to help alleviate those.
The first thing to be aware of is the limit an electric car puts on your drive time. Thinking of taking a 12-hour drive down the interstate to knock out a hard leg of your journey? With most electric cars, you can average 200 to 350 miles before needing a charge, which equates typically to about 4 to 6 hours of driving.
With this limit, and considering the charge time for most cars which runs around an hour on average, you're going to have to build your plans around the capabilities of your car.
Thankfully, that's not such a bad way of doing things. We typically recommend drivers go no more than 4 to 6 hours a day on extended road trips, so your electric car should keep you right in that ideal range.
Charging Station Availability
Another factor to consider with an electric car is the location of charging stations. If you're planning on taking a trip through remote regions, you may have a much more difficult time finding places to charge your vehicle.
However, charging stations are becoming much more common across the country, and there are already multiple cross-country routes laid out for electric cars to ensure you can go the whole way with charging stations readily available.
Charging station availability shouldn't deter you from choosing an electric car — just be aware that you're likely to need a little extra planning.
The Best Vehicles
The best of the best road trip vehicles out there typically fall into the crossover family, as they tend to hit the sweet spot in all practical and comfort concerns.
However, there are some excellent sedans and vans available that meet different needs depending on the nature of your trip, budget, and personal preferences.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of vehicles that could do the job well, but these are some of our top picks that you should consider for your next trip.
Electric: 2021 Volkswagen ID.4
First up on our list isn’t a car from 2022 at all, but rather the top car from 2021. The Volkswagen ID.4 is an electric crossover that hits the highest marks overall, whether for road trips or everyday use.
That makes this a top choice for those looking for a road trip vehicle to purchase and put into daily use as well.
Starting with fuel efficiency, this is one of the most efficient electric cars out there. Its impressive charging capabilities will definitely have you rethinking any concerns you may have had about road tripping in an electric vehicle.
At an EPA-estimated 249 mile range 97 combined MPGe (the electric vehicle equivalent energy consumption to miles per gallon), you can drive far with no worries of charging through your trip except on the longest legs of a journey.
Speaking of charging, the ID.4 can go from 5 to 80 percent charge in approximately 38 minutes. For those concerned about value as well as efficiency, note that Volkswagen offers three years of unlimited charging at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers when you purchase an ID.4.
That said, renting an ID.4 is a solid choice, too. With 5 seats, plenty of cargo space, and luxury features to keep your whole group comfortable, it’s an ideal vehicle even without the incredible efficiency it offers.
Crossover: 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE
Moving into the most recent year’s releases, we have the Toyota Highlander. Highlanders consistently make the top road trip car lists with good reason. They’re some of the most versatile vehicles out there, and the 2022 version sees it mastered to near perfection.
36 combined MPG on hybrid power is a solid start, especially considering this vehicle's size, as it sports 8 seats across a three-row interior and tons of cargo space.
With the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ systems, you’re also getting extra confidence on the road. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts are just some of the ways the Highlander has your back while you’re behind the wheel.
Multiple hybrid drive modes also increase versatility, including Normal mode, Eco mode (increased efficiency), Sport mode (enhanced acceleration), EV mode (electric only over short distances), and Trail mode (enhanced off-road traction).
With all these practical features, you might worry about the vehicle lacking some of the luxuries you desire if you’re a creature of comfort. The Highlander doesn’t disappoint there either, as it includes many of the best technology integrations, such as Apple Carplay, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry and start, touchscreens, and more.
Sedan: 2022 Honda Accord
Moving onto the sedan class, the Honda Accord stands out as an ideal option for American road trips.
Not only is the accord highly practical, but it’s also affordable. Those looking for value can find it here in great measure.
As always, we look at fuel efficiency first. The Accord is exceptional in this regard, offering 30 city/38 highway MPG in the standard models and 48 city/47 highway in the hybrid.
Driver assistance features are present also but somewhat lacking compared to other modern options. Lane keep assist is a handy feature on highways, but a blind spot alert system goes amiss.
Comfort and convenience abound as with most new vehicles, including keyless entry, Bluetooth, and more. Those seeking absolute luxury might miss heated seats and a sunroof. Still, for all of the practical benefits of the accord, it’s hard to say that’s a big loss.
As a five-seater (most comfortably seating four), this is one of the best options for traveling as a couple. It may not be the flashiest, most romantic, or most picturesque car, but it’s definitely one of the most efficient, value-packed options available.
SUV: 2022 Land Rover Discovery
As the name suggests, Land Rovers are quite handy when it comes to hitting the open road. The latest Discovery entry is an impressive powerhouse on the road. However, like other vehicles in the SUV class, it doesn’t exactly hit it out of the ballpark in terms of fuel efficiency with a 22 MPG highway.
However, SUVs serve a different purpose. The interior is extremely versatile based on the size of your traveling party and your needs. Choose between two, five, or seven seats with a one-, two-, or three-row SUV configuration, losing a bit of cargo space each time you pop up more seats.
With plenty of horsepower and towing capacity, you can always add more storage space or some living space with a pull-behind RV.
The Land Rover is also plenty capable when it comes to going off-road, with AWD and Terrain Response.
Van: 2022 Honda Odyssey
Minivans are the classic family vehicle, but they may have garnered an unfair reputation for being uncool and lackluster. Modern minivans are incredibly practical and often just as slick as SUVs and hybrids. That brings us to our last entry for this list: the 2022 Honda Odyssey.
Some stand-out features that set this apart from similar options in other classes include family-oriented convenience features such as sliding doors, a hands-free trunk, easily reconfigurable seat arrangements, and much more!
Those with kids will also love Honda’s unique CabinWatch and CabinTalk features, which let those in the front seats monitor the back seats and communicate with passengers straight to their headphones.
At 19 city/28 highway MPG, the Odyssey is an excellent overall option for traveling families.
There are lots of other options we didn’t get to, such as the Ford Mustang, Mazda CX-5, Kia Seltos, BMW X3, Chevrolet Suburban, and Subaru Outback. The list goes on, but the new cars mentioned today are some of the top options for a wide array of road trip needs.
Whatever vehicle you choose, make it a journey in lifelong learning by adding Autio to your travel team. With our innovative location-based audio platform, stories for every part of the country are at your fingertips. It’s infotainment at its best!
Stay curious, stay inspired, and stay tuned to our Hear here blog for more.