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The 10 Best Road Trip Cars To Take You Through 2022

David Collins11-minute read
April 18, 2022

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The road trip is as culturally ingrained into American life as pizza and baseball. In fact, there is even a movie genre known as “buddy road trip,” in which characters get in and out of trouble multiple times as they cruise through the American landscape in a car or truck. Perhaps the first image that comes to mind when considering road trip cars is a wood-paneled family station wagon. But not all road trips involve a large family, and not all road trips even have a destination — sometimes hitting the road in a cool car with a friend is the whole point.

What Matters Most For Road Trip Cars

Not all road trips are alike. Some are for a family vacation, but others can be for a romantic weekend in the country, a day at the beach, setting up camp in the deep wilderness, or pulling an RV to a national park. We’ll look at cars that best meet the needs of a variety of road trips. Where applicable we’ll note a vehicle’s cargo space, towing capacity, fuel efficiency, or any other feature that contributes to a good trip. We even discuss a car from the growing fleet of all-electric powered vehicles available today.

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1. 2019 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen

Front and side view of a dark blue Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen.

Best for: Smaller Road Trip Car

MPG: Up to 29 city | 37 highway

Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive optional

Americans have a strange aversion to small wagons, seemingly preferring an SUV — any SUV — to any of the few true wagons that still exist out there. Wagons are extremely popular in Europe, however, so it was a no-brainer for Volkswagen to stretch its deservedly popular mainstay Golf into a wagon that features an ample 30.4 cubic feet of cargo space (66.5 cubic feet with the seats folded down).

Alas, because there were not enough takers for this excellent and versatile car, VW stopped making it after the 2019 model year, so there should be some good deals on the used market if you can find one. The 1.4-liter turbo engine gets 147 hp as well as tremendous highway mileage for a long trip. The beefed-up Sportwagen Alltrack has a more powerful 1.8-liter turbo and fortified suspension that will perform better off-road if your travels take you there, but expect to get about 10 fewer miles per gallon on the highway.

Browse used 2019 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagens in the Rocket AutoSM Inventory today.

2. 2012 Ford F-150 Lariat Super Crew

White Ford F-150 parked in a parking lot.

Source: art_zzz - stock.adobe.com

Best for: Full-Size Pickup Road Trip vehicle

MPG: 15 city | 21 highway

Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

If you want a full-size pickup for your next road trip, you might as well go with the best. The Ford F-150 has been the top-selling vehicle of any kind in America for more than four decades. With the Super Crew cab (the biggest cab available), you’ll have plenty of room for any combination of people, dogs, bags, and gear. Of course, the truck’s bed can also carry lots of things, including bikes. Cover the bed with a tonneau cover or cap and you can lock up whatever you’re hauling.

With literally decades to continue to advance and refine this tremendously versatile truck, pretty much any trim level in any model year is going to have its distinctions and advantages. The Lariat trim, with its 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine and 400 lb-ft of torque, can tow a boat or RV with its 8,500 pounds of towing capacity. It also has a 4WD option. In general, the Lariat has a nice combination of luxury upgrades and performance options without getting into the more costly features of the higher F-150 packages. The 2012 has consistently rated well over the years, and in today’s used truck market, there will be more available among the top five F-150 model years as ranked by WVDOT Automotive (the others were built in the 1990s).

Browse used 2012 Ford F-150s in the Rocket Auto inventory today.

3. 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Front and side view of a 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Best for: Hybrid Road Trip SUV

MPG: 31 city | 34 highway

Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive

As we approach the spring/summer road trip season in 2022, gasoline prices are spiking to near-record rates across the United States — and they don’t appear to be coming down anytime soon. For consumers looking for a road-tested, versatile vehicle with plenty of room for cargo that also reduces pain at the pump, a 2016 Toyota RAV4 with the hybrid engine option could be the perfect trip for a summer road excursion.

Widely recognized as the first-ever compact SUV, and consistently one of the best-selling vehicles in what has become a huge segment in the marketplace, the Toyota RAV4 introduced a hybrid engine option in 2016. This was an ingenious system that was only available on the XLE and Limited trim levels. It featured an electric motor-assisted 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powering the front wheels, and a supplementary electric motor for the rear wheels when required. Not quite an all-wheel-drive drivetrain, but acting very much like one, it was called AWDi. The 33 combined mpg of this hybrid was eight miles per gallon better than the same RAV4 AWD with a conventional engine, plus it has all of the other qualities that makes the RAV4 consistently one of the top-selling vehicles of any class in America.

Browse used 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrids in the Rocket Auto inventory today.

4. 2019 Kia Sedona

Front and side view of a blue-gray Kia Sedona.

Best for: Minivan Road Trip Vehicle

MPG: 18 city | 24 highway

Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive

If the word “minivan” conjures images of  three rows of seats strewn with fast-food wrappers, plastic toys, and embedded crushed corn flakes, it’s because that is what many of them look like after a long road trip. A box on wheels with automatic sliding side doors may not be the sexiest vehicle in the world, but for families facing a long journey in the car, especially those with very young children, the minivan is the height of practicality and function. With loads of space for kids, pets, bags and whatever else ends up back there — as well as easy in-and-out through wide, floor-to-roofline doors for all of the above — the minivan was never about luxury and always about getting there.

Korean automaker Kia was late to the minivan game, and its 2015 debut of the Sedona was a little rough, especially compared to established minivans from Chrysler, Honda and Toyota. But by 2019 Kia had figured some things out, especially getting better at fuel economy. The engine and transmission are also highly competitive. All Sedona trims are powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine (276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque) that sends power to the front wheels through a new-for-2019 eight-speed automatic transmission.

But what Kia does best with this van is value — the interior finishes and features are catching up with Honda and Toyota, but at a far more competitive cost. It’s possible to find a low-mileage Sedona for significantly less than the same model year Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna.

Browse used 2019 Kia Sedonas in the Rocket Auto inventory today.

5. 2016 Ford Expedition

Front and side view of a dark red Ford Expedition.

Best for: Towing Road Trip SUV

MPG: 16 city | 22 highway

Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

Some road trips are so ambitious that everything you need can’t fit into one vehicle. When a trailer is needed, you want a vehicle that is capable of pulling the weight of whatever it is you’re bringing along — jet skis, snowmobiles, a pop-up camper, etc. Most SUVs, even small and midsize vehicles, have some towing capacity even if it’s just for hauling a jet ski or small boat. But for hauling a large RV or maneuvering a very big boat in and out of a steep boat ramp, you will want a vehicle with large towing capacity. A search for a quality used SUV comfortably around $40,000 or less produced a particular standout — the 2016 Ford Expedition.

Among large SUVs, this model year of Expedition topped its class for towing capacity at 9,200 pounds, enough to pull a large RV filled with all the gear needed for a long vacation. The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engine delivers 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, plenty to pull a big boat out of the water. The EL (Extra-Large) Expedition has an expanded 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats, more than any vehicle in this class.

Search the Rocket Auto Inventory to find the right 2016 Ford Expedition for your needs.

6. 2014 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

Front and side view of a saturated blue Cadillac CTS-V Wagon.

Best for: Performance Sedan Road Trip Car

MPG: 12 city | 18 highway

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive

This is not your grandfather’s station wagon. The 2014 CTS-V was basically a luxury muscle car, with tremendous horsepower and superb handling. When Cadillac announced it was making a wagon version of this dynamo, it almost seemed like a practical joke. Wagons were almost less cool than minivans, and certainly could not be married to such a classy blend of form and function as the CTS-V.

But for families that want a little added excitement on their trip to see Aunt Bea in Omaha, the CTS-V Wagon will pin the kids to the back seat with g-forces alone. This rear-wheel-drive sedan is powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine that produces 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque. This produces an incredible 0 – 60 mph time of 4.7 seconds and also very poor fuel economy. This car is so outside-the-box for anything the Big Three was doing in the mid-2010s that a six-speed manual shift transmission is actually standard equipment, but a six-speed automatic is a no-cost option. All CTS-Vs feature GM’s Magnetic Ride Control suspension for superb ride and handling that can be adjusted to Tour or Sport mode depending on conditions or what thrills the driver is seeking.

Search the Rocket Auto Inventory to find the right 2014 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon for your needs.

7. Tesla Model 3

Front and side view of a bright red Tesla Model 3.

Best for: Electric Road Trip Car

MPG: N/A

Drivetrain: All-wheel drive

The thought of being able to drive cross-country without ever having to refuel at the pump — especially with today’s skyrocketing gas prices — has mostly only existed as a futuristic fantasy. Even as electric cars have become a reality and are becoming more and more visible on American roads, two things have held electric vehicles (EVs) back as a viable road trip car: battery range and availability of charging stations. No company has done more to remedy both problems than U.S.-based Tesla Motors.

Finding a good long-range Tesla in the used market is a bit testy simply because the cars with the best range are the newer models, as battery technology continues to improve each year. Every Tesla Model 3 should be vetted for actual range numbers, but as of early 2021 the Long Range Version Model 3 was capable of travelling 353 miles on a single charge. If you plot your trip to make sure you stay within Tesla’s extensive and ever-growing Supercharger Network (where your Model 3 can get a 175-mile charge in 15 minutes), you can make it to most parts of America gas-free. Add in an impressive array of luxury and safety features and the Model 3 wants to say that the future is here.

Search the Rocket Auto Inventory to find the right Tesla Model 3 for your needs.

8. 2015 Cadillac Escalade

Front and side view of a gray Cadillac Escalade.

Best for: Four-Wheel-Drive Road Trip SUV

MPG: 15 city | 21 highway

Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade was a complete re-design of the popular large SUV, and while competitors in its class were inching down in size, the Escalade doubled down on big and bold — even offering the extended wheelbase ESV package. The 6.2-liter V8 engine brings plenty of power and acceleration while boasting 8,500 lbs of towing capacity, plenty for hauling a large RV or boat. What further set the 2015 Escalade apart was its body-on-frame construction and optional four-wheel drive drivetrain, both of which will come in handy if your road trip ends up leading you off the road. Body-on-frame is a true truck chassis that performs better on rocky or uneven trails, with better articulation and ground clearance. And four-wheel drive brings more torque to bear when needed than a standard all-wheel drive SUV can generate.

The 2015 model year also saw a makeover in luxury finishes that puts Escalade in good standing with competitors in this class. There are leather and wood finishes throughout and an optional second-row bench seat accommodates more passengers. Already ample cargo space gets even bigger when second- and third-row seats fold flat with the push of a button. The 2015 Escalade was a luxury yacht of the highway that sold for more than $90,000 in premium packages.

Begin your search for a used 2015 Cadillac Escalade in the Rocket Auto Inventory today.

9. Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series (1990-97)

White Toyota Land Cruiser driving down a snow covered street.

Source: DarthArt - istockphoto.com

Best for: Overlanding Road Trip

MPG: 12.9 AVG

Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

Overlanding, for those who have actually heard of it, means different things to everyone who does it. But the basic idea of overlanding is to get into a vehicle and venture far off the road, sometimes hundreds of miles, to experience the natural world in remote places that can’t be reached by hiking. A good overland vehicle, then, is first highly capable off-road, preferably with four-wheel drive. Second, it should be able to accommodate one or two people sleeping inside the vehicle in case of very bad weather. And third, it should be highly customizable, able to be equipped with camping and cooking equipment and to store food, water, and other necessities for trips that sometimes can last weeks or even months and years.

A great vehicle to begin your foray into overlanding culture would be any model year of the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser 80 series. The Land Cruiser dates back to a 1950s military vehicle, and the ’90s models carried that spartan soldier’s mentality with enough of the modern automotive technology we expect today. It’s also a no-fuss, low-luxury truck that puts all of its energy into Toyota’s legendary durability and quality. There are thousands of great Land Cruiser rigs purpose-built for overlanding, as well as lots more available on an active used vehicle market. Since the Land Cruiser is being discontinued for the U.S. market, desirability for this legendary vehicle will only increase in the years ahead.

Begin your search for a used Toyota Land Cruiser in the Rocket Auto Inventory today.

10. 2002 Porsche Boxster S

Front view of a white Porsche Boxster parked on mossy cobblestone.

Source: AM-C - istockphoto.com

Best For: Weekend Getaway Roadster Road Trip

MPG: 22.1 AVG

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive

A tiny, two-seater roadster might not immediately come to mind when thinking of a great car for a road trip, but for certain trips absolutely nothing could be better. Suppose you want to drive solo over a mountain switchback road, some Bob Seger on the stereo, just to clear your head; or you’re a couple making a 2-hour day trip to the state fair; or you’re heading to wine country for the weekend — the Porsche Boxster S is so much fun to drive that you might just turn around and head back, whatever your destination. A country road trip also gets you out from under big city traffic as well as the eyes of John Law — where you can really open up a car’s engine and feel the speed.

The Boxster S is the more powerful version of the Boxster, a car Porsche built from 1996 to 2005. This car is believed by some to have saved Porsche — it was an instant success for a company that had been struggling. By 2002 the car had been refined quite well from earlier models. Later versions of the Boxster S received a 3.2 liter flat-six engine that gets 250 horsepower and 7200 RPM with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. Remember, this is a tiny car, so that much power can propel the Boxster S to speeds exceeding 160 mph. As a mid-engine car, the Boxster S has excellent balance and handling while turning, and extra space means there is room for trunks in both front and rear that can easily accommodate a couple of bags for the weekend. Oh, and it’s a convertible, too.

Begin your search for a used Porsche Boxster S in the Rocket Auto Inventory today.

The Bottom Line: There’s a Perfect Car For Any Road Trip

Americans love their cars because they have a sense of adventure, first and foremost, but also because they love freedom. As opposed to a train or an airplane, which run on a schedule, a car gives us the opportunity to leave whenever we want, to go wherever we want, and stay as long as we want. Whether it’s a weekend day trip or a 2-month journey on ancient trails across the Southwest, there is a vehicle or likely multiple vehicles that are perfect for the journey.

Car buying, reimagined.

Rocket AutoSM allows you to compare thousands of vehicles from multiple dealers.

Car buying, reimagined.

Rocket AutoSM allows you to compare thousands of vehicles from multiple dealers.

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David Collins

David Collins is a staff writer for Rocket Auto with experience in publishing as well as communications, public relations, and web content creation for automotive manufacturing. He has a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan.