Most Americans (86 percent) rely on their vehicle to get them to and from work every day. Californians rank 10th in the country for having the longest commute times, taking an average of 26.9 minutes to travel to work, recently released census data show. Locally, gas prices are still above $4 per gallon since February, so selecting the right vehicle can make a commute more enjoyable and lower expenses.
For motorists in the market for a new car AAA Car Buying experts have selected vehicles that go the distance with comfort and performance. “Many Americans are spending several hours every week in their vehicle commuting,” says Dave Cavano, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Car Buying Service. “Having a vehicle that is reliable, fuel-efficient and comfortable can really make a difference in your day-to-day routine.”
AAA’s top vehicle picks are selected by AAA Auto Buying experts who test drive and evaluate hundreds of vehicles each year. Fuel efficiency, comfort and overall performance helped create this list of top vehicles for commuters.
Chevrolet Volt: This four-passenger, plug-in electric vehicle, sidesteps range anxiety with a gasoline engine on board to run a generator. The newest versions of the Volt allow a driver to force operation of the gasoline engine, ideal for a commute that starts on a highway, where gasoline power is more efficient, and ends in a city, where battery power is more cost effective. The car is exceptionally quiet, handles well and boasts great acceleration but rear seat room is tight if you plan to carpool. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Chevrolet Volt five-door hatchback is $38,871, 2.8 percent less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP*).
Toyota Prius or Prius V: These gasoline-electric hybrids set the standard for fuel efficiency in a gasoline-powered vehicle. The Prius seats five in reasonable comfort and is exceptionally efficient for urban commutes where regenerative braking and the ability to turn the gasoline engine off while the car is stopped enhances fuel efficiency. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the Average Paid price of the 2013 Toyota Prius door hatchback is $24,066, 3.7 percent less than the MSRP, and the Prius V five door wagon is $26,350, four percent less than MSRP*.
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI: The SportWagen is a wagon style model that uses a diesel engine to deliver smooth acceleration with strong fuel economy. Handling is also precise and predictable. With the option of manual or automatic transmission, these cars are fun to drive, making the longer commutes seem less daunting. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the Average Paid price of the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen four-door manual hatchback TDI is $23,894, 9.2 percent less than the MSRP*.
Audi A4: Beautifully finished and very comfortable in front, the A4 can make light work of any commute. Front-wheel drive is standard, but the option for Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system is available. The ride is firm but compliant and the handling is tops. The body structure feels exceptionally solid, even when facing rough urban pavement. Driving pleasure earns a very high grade, although the rear seat room earns a much lower score. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Audi A4 four-door Sedan CVT FrontTrak 2.0T is $31,697, 5.1 percent less than the MSRP*.
Buick LaCrosse: A steady ride, comfortable seating, responsive handling and an excellent V-6-based drivetrain make this car an ideal choice for commuting in a carpool. Performance is excellent. For buyers seeking the room and comfort of the LaCrosse with more fuel efficiency, a four-cylinder eAssist drivetrain is offered. Consider it a mild hybrid. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Buick LaCrosse four-door sedan base is $30,727, 5.6 percent less than the MSRP*.
Ford Fusion: Ford’s entry in the affordably-priced family sedan arena has been completely redesigned for 2013. The new model features a sleek exterior, an upgraded interior and new drivetrains. The Fusion is now offered with three engines, a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two optional turbocharged four cylinder engines, either 1.6- or 2.0-liters. The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 240 horsepower, matching the output of many V-6s. This Fusion could easily have passed for a luxury car not too many years ago. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is an option. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Ford Fusion four door S is $20,038, 10.9 percent less than the MSRP*.
Hyundai Genesis: This V-6-powered sedan is refined, powerful and roomy. The V-6 engine turns in an exemplary performance and the new 8-speed automatic transmission raises the performance level to the point that the optional V-8 is unnecessary. While handling is predictable, the ride does fall a little short of full luxury sedan status. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Hyundai Genesis four door sedan V6 3.8 liter is $33,358, 4.9 percent less than the MSRP*.
Nissan Altima: The redesigned 2013 Altima continues to be a top choice for commuting. It is comfortable for all passengers, performs well and offers several unique safety features, including clever use of the backup camera to provide lane departure and blind spot warnings in some models. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Nissan Altima four door 2.5 liter is $21,706, 3.7 percent less than the MSRP*.
Ford Flex: This boxy crossover is hard to beat when looking for room in a vehicle. Buyers will find ample space for passengers or purchases. The ride is quiet and well controlled. The engines are V-6s, with the EcoBoost motor turning in a particularly good performance. Though costly, this EcoBoost engine not only outperforms the base V-6, in AAA testing it also delivered slightly better fuel economy. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Ford Flex SE is $26,803, 15.7 percent less than the MSRP*.
Toyota Highlander: In the crossover category, this vehicle features a comfortable ride and roomy interior. More impressive are its highway cruising manners and despite its size, ease of maneuvering in traffic. And while this vehicle’s size takes a minor toll in handling through sharp bends in the road, add a reputation for dependability and long life and you have a top choice for commuters needing size and passenger capacity. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Toyota Highlander four-door front wheel drive four cylinder is $27,978, 6.3 percent less than the MSRP*.
Honda Odyssey: This roomy minivan is offered in a wide range of models, though even basic versions are well equipped and comfortable. Its size suggests that it is best suited to a less crowded commute venue, but even in an urban setting, the Odyssey is easy to drive. Front and second row seating comfort is quite good. The third row folds easily to from a flat load floor with ample space for a wide range of items. The AAA Car Buying Service reports that the average paid price of the 2013 Honda Odyssey LX is $27,801, 5.8 percent less than the MSRP*.
*The average paid price is a proprietary mathematical calculation based on actual recent anonymized transaction information in your regional area, and includes destination and delivery charges after incentives that are subject to change, but does not include tax, title, licensing, documentation or processing fees, other state and governmental charges and/or fees, or any other charges or fees allowed by law. Your actual savings may vary based on multiple factors including the vehicle you select, region, dealer, and applicable manufacturer incentives. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is determined by the manufacturer, and may not reflect the price at which vehicles are generally sold in the dealer¹s trade area as not all vehicles are sold at MSRP. Each dealer sets its own pricing. Your actual purchase price is negotiated between you and the dealer.