‘Tis the Season! The Best Cars for Your Summer Road Trip

Are you ready to hit the beach? From comfy seating to superior fuel efficiency and safety features, here are the best cars to take on a road trip.

Best Cars For Road Trips
Me doing what I enjoy most - heading on another adventure on the road. Photo: Kim S.

Successful Summer Travel is Better in the Right Car

With the sun shining brighter and temperatures rising, it’s that time of year again. Road trip season is upon us, promising freedom, adventure, and endless possibilities. For me, road trips hold a special place in my heart, rooted in memories of my late father, a cross-country truck driver, who would take my sisters and me on his work trips in his 16-wheeler, opening our eyes to new states and cities beyond our Brooklyn neighborhood.

Now, with my own family, my husband and I continue this tradition, exploring beyond our comforts and diving into new experiences, whether it’s a spontaneous trip to the East End or a planned adventure like our drive to the Hudson Valley in the Lincoln Nautilus. Road trips are not just about the destination but the journey itself, offering moments of joy, discovery, and connection.

Related: Our 9 Favorite Travel Bags – From Away Luggage, Rimowa, and More – for Your Next Road Trip

The Trunk Space In The Kia Niro Isn'T Huge, But It Was More Than Enough For All Our Luggage.
Cargo space is key when road-tripping. Photo: Liv Leigh

What Makes a Car Road Trip Ready?

Venturing to places like the Montauk Lighthouse or savoring a cheesesteak from Ishkabibbles in Philadelphia or a Vieux Carre from Dauphine’s in D.C., I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t for road trips, whether short jaunts or lengthy journeys with or without kids. It’s clear that not all cars and SUVs are created equal for road trips.

While models like the Subaru Outback, Toyota RAV4, or Ford Mach-E are ideal for couples, larger vehicles such as the Honda Pilot or Chevrolet Tahoe are better suited for road-tripping families. Opting for the wrong car for a road trip, especially one that’s a gas guzzler, could mean sacrificing funds that could otherwise be spent on enjoyable experiences.

  • Reliable Performance: A dependable car or SUV is crucial for long-distance travel, ensuring smooth operation and peace of mind on the road.
  • Ample Cargo Space: With plenty of cargo room, travelers can pack essential gear, luggage, and supplies for extended journeys without the car feeling cramped or cluttered.
  • Comfortable Seating: Comfort is paramount during long hours of driving, so opt for a car with supportive seats, ample legroom, and an ergonomic design to keep passengers content and relaxed. Depending on the climate you may want seats that are either heated or ventilated or both.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Fuel-efficient cars help stretch your travel budget by minimizing stops for refueling and maximizing mileage, allowing you to cover more ground on your adventure.
  • Advanced Safety Features: Safety should never be overlooked on road trips. Look for cars equipped with advanced safety features such as lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking to help keep you and your passengers safe on the road.

Related: Be Safe On the Road This Summer: 9 Tips for Road Trip Safety

Here Are the Best Road-Trip Ready Cars and SUVs

Best Cars For A Road Trip
The Subaru Outback Wilderness in its natural habitat. Photo: Terri Marshall Credit: Terri Marshall

1. Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback is renowned for its rugged reliability and versatility, making it an ideal choice for adventurous road trips. With standard all-wheel drive, generous ground clearance, and a spacious interior, it’s well-equipped to handle off-road excursions and varied terrain. The Outback’s comfortable seating, smooth ride, and advanced safety features ensure a pleasant journey for all passengers. Plus, it offers up to 75.7 cubic feet of cargo space, a standard 11.6-inch touchscreen multimedia system, and features like adaptive cruise control and lane centering assist.

Best Cars For Road Trips
The Honda CR-V Hybrid AWD Sport Touring is a sporty-looking compact SUV that is fuel-efficient. Photo: Kim S.

2. Honda CR-V

I test-drove the Honda CR-V, and my mother-in-law owns one. It’s a popular compact SUV because of its fuel efficiency, price, and practicality. It perfectly balances comfort, practicality, and fuel efficiency, making it an excellent companion for long-distance travel.

Its spacious cabin offers ample room for passengers and cargo. I was shocked at how spacious it was compared to my Acura RDX. Its smooth ride and responsive handling provide a pleasant driving experience. With advanced technology features and impressive reliability, the CR-V is a top choice for road trippers of all ages. The CR-V boasts up to 75.8 cubic feet of cargo space, optional leather-trimmed seating, and features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Honda Sensing safety suite.

Best Road Trip Cars
You can take a comfortable road trip in the Toyota RAV4. Photo: Erica Mueller Credit: Erica Mueller

3. Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is a favorite thanks to its proven reliability, spacious interior, and capable performance. Whether navigating city streets or venturing off the beaten path, the RAV4 delivers a comfortable and confident ride. It helps that it looks nice, too! Its fuel-efficient engine, user-friendly multimedia system, and advanced safety features make it an ideal choice for families and adventurers alike. The RAV4 offers up to 69.8 cubic feet of cargo space, optional heated and ventilated front seats, and features like Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 and a panoramic glass roof as an optional extra.

Best Cars For Road Trips
The frunk or front trunk in the Mustang Mach-E can hold a few things. Photo: Scotty Reiss

4. Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Ford Mustang Mach-E combines the iconic styling and performance of the Mustang with the efficiency and practicality of an electric vehicle. With its long-range battery options, spacious cabin, and advanced technology features, the Mach-E is well-suited for extended road trips. Its sleek design, comfortable seating, and rapid charging capabilities ensure a seamless and enjoyable journey, while its zero-emissions operation minimizes environmental impact. The Mach-E offers up to 59.7 cubic feet of cargo space, a B&O sound system, and features like Ford Co-Pilot360 driver-assist technology and FordPass mobile app connectivity.

2025 Chevrolet Tahoe025 Chevrolet Tahoe. Photo: Scotty Reiss Credit: Scotty Reiss
'Tis the Season! The Best Cars for Your Summer Road Trip 18

5. Chevrolet Tahoe

The Chevrolet Tahoe offers a comfortable pod; there are second-row captain’s chairs, screens for those passengers, USB ports at every seat, and plenty of leg and headroom for everyone. With features like a sporty red color, RST badging, and red sport brakes, the Tahoe exudes style and performance. Its spacious interior, advanced multimedia system, and plethora of creature comforts make it an excellent choice for long road trips. Plus, with a towing capacity of up to 7,900 lbs., you can bring along all your gear with ease.

The 2024 Vw Atlas
The 2024 VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

6. Volkswagen Atlas

My best friend owns an Atlas and has three young boys. As a family of five, she and her husband love this SUV for its roominess and versatility. They’ve even said it’s roomier than their Honda Pilot. The Volkswagen Atlas offers one of the most configurable center and 3rd rows in any SUV, providing ample room to stretch out or install rear-facing child car seats. Its comfortable seating, spacious interior, and user-friendly features make it an ideal choice for families on the go. With up to 55 cubic feet of cargo space with the 3rd row down, there’s plenty of room for all your gear and more.

Best Cars For A Road Trip
The Kia Telluride is an awesome car for road trips. Photo: Jason Bell

7. Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride boasts a posh-looking cabin, comfy seats, and excellent ride quality, making it perfect for long road trips. With features like a dual sunroof, high beam assist, and a 10-speaker sound system, the Telluride offers luxury and convenience in one package. It’s as efficient as it is comfortable too, with all-wheel drive and up to 28 mpg on road trips.

The View From The Drivers Seat In The 2025 Ford Explorer
The view from the driver’s seat in the 2025 Ford Explorer. Photo: Scotty Reiss

8. Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer offers a host of features for road trip enthusiasts, including heated power front seats, a 13” multimedia touchscreen, and Ford CoPilot 360 driver-assist technology. Its flexible seating for 6 or 7 passengers and ample cargo space makes it perfect for families on the go. Plus, with available Blue Cruise hands-free driving, you can relax and enjoy the journey with confidence.

Best Road Trip Cars
The Hyundai Palisade has a luxurious amount of space. Photo: Scotty Reiss

9. Hyundai Palisade

The Hyundai Palisade offers luxurious features like heated and ventilated seats, a Hyundai BlueLink app for remote vehicle management, and a digital rearview camera for added convenience. Thanks to its comfortable ride and powerful engine, the Palisade is perfect for long road trips, and it has a Wi-Fi hotspot, USB-C ports, and a 12.3” display screen so you can stay connected wherever you go.

Best Road Trip Cars
The Subaru Forester is built for road-tripping adventures, Photo: Tanya Gadzik

10. Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester prioritizes safety with standard features like Advanced EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, making it an excellent choice for families. Its spacious interior and comfortable seating will be appreciated by your passengers, while its fuel-efficient engine maximizes mileage on long road trips.

Best Cars For Road Trips
The battle of the Toyota Highlanders. Both are good choices. Photo: Kim S.

11. Toyota Highlander

I test-drove a Highlander a few years back and really loved the look and feel of it, especially the fuel efficiency of the hybrid (35 MPG), which is amazing for an SUV of its size. The Toyota Highlander offers flexible seating for 7 or 8, making it perfect for families and long road trips. With features like all-wheel drive and wireless Apple Car Play,, the Highlander delivers impressive performance and fuel efficiency. A spacious interior and comfortable seating make it a terrific car for creating lasting memories on the road.

Best Cars For Road Trips
The 2024 Nissan Rogue has a new face up front. Photo: Nissan Credit: Nissan

12. Nissan Rogue

The Nissan Rogue is a popular compact SUV in my area, especially with commuters and small families. Why? Because it combines affordability with advanced safety features. With a fuel-efficient engine and ample cargo space, the Rogue is perfect for long journeys. You can drive with confidence with features like Nissan’s Safety Shield 360, knowing you and your passengers are protected.

2023 Honda Passport Trail Sport023 Honda Passport TrailSport. Photo: Erica Mueller Credit: Erica Mueller
'Tis the Season! The Best Cars for Your Summer Road Trip 19

13. Honda Passport

The Honda Passport is equipped for adventure with a V6 engine and standard all-wheel drive. Its off-road capabilities and spacious interior make it perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and families alike. There are advanced safety features and technology, so the Passport makes it comfortable and secure for you every time you hit the road.

Best Road Trip Cars
Couples road trip for a quick lunch date in the Hudson Valley. Photo: Kim Smith

The Priorities Include the Memories

For me, road trips embody more than just transportation; they’re about the laughter, unexpected detours, and cherished memories created along the way.

Whether it’s recalling the time my daughter and I got lost on a back road en route to a Hamptons movie screening thanks to glitchy GPS, or eagerly planning our next escapade, road trips hold a cherished spot in my heart.

So, pack your bags, buckle up, and let the adventure begin.

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Kim Smith is a 30-something-year-old wife and do-it-all mom of two beautiful daughters; her rainbow babies. As if working... More about Kim S.