Choosing The Perfect Road Trip Vehicle

We’ve started debating vehicles.  We need space, speed, reliability, efficiency, comfort … everything.  But we really only have five criteria:

  1. Good gas mileage.  30 would be great.  We’re definitely not buying a car that gets 20.  50 is wishful thinking thanks to criteria #2.
  2. The ability to sleep in it (semi-comfortably).  We need to be able to lay down in it and sleep when we’re too lazy or unable to pitch a tent or stay with a friend.  We’ll be camping in Wal-Mart parking lots some nights, but, we don’t want a minivan.
  3. Fun to drive.  Again, we don’t want a minivan, and we definitely don’t want an RV.  We don’t want a trailer.  We want to cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway and have FUN.
  4. Big enough to hold our stuff.  We’ll have a few weeks of clothing, some food, a pile of electronics, and camping gear.  Everything has to fit and given requirement #2, we’ll need some serious space.  The Prius is out.
  5. Can handle a dirt road or two.  We will be exploring and that will mean plenty of dirt roads and trips off-road.  The vehicle needs to stay together through the rough stuff.

My first thought was a Subaru Outback — 4-wheel drive, hatchback with space for sleeping and stuff, fun enough to drive — maybe perfect.  29 MPG is pretty good, and I have fond memorizes of bombing around Belize in a Subaru with my father when I was 16.  But it may be a little short on space.  We’ll have a fair amount of stuff and it could be a little small.

The Ford Escape Hybrid was thought number two.  34 MPG in the city is insane.  It has just about enough space to sleep us and we could be creative with packing everything in.  The truck-ness could be a blessing with off-road explorations, but the hybrid-ness could screw us if we breakdown in the backwoods.  It may not work.  But there’s something about having a truck.  It seems like a truck trip.  Which led us to choice number three.

Lisa suggested the Xterra from Nissan.  She confessed to always liking it … and I’ve always liked it too.  But 20 MPG?  No way.

garbage can
Creative Commons License photo credit: bradleygee

And then we started talking diesels.  The Volkswagen Jetta TDI gets 42 MPG on the highway!  The hatchback might be just big enough for us to fit, but it would be seriously tight.  However, it’d be hands-down the most fun to drive on paved roads … which would also make it the WORST to drive on anything covered in dirt.

We need to get inside of some more cars to figure this out.  Can we sleep in the Escape?  Will the Outback hold everything?  Does the Jetta have any chance making the cut?  We’ll see.