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Article summary:

  • Comfort is crucial when choosing a commuter car, including supportive seats, ergonomic pedal and steering wheel placement, and convenient controls.
  • Evaluate the car’s tech and infotainment features, such as smartphone connectivity, driver-assist systems, and parking sensors, to make your daily commute easier and safer.
  • Consider the car’s fuel economy, with options like hybrid and plug-in hybrid models for maximizing mileage and minimizing fill-ups during your commute.

The average American spends over 330 hours per year commuting to work. That’s equivalent to nearly two weeks out of the year sitting in your car in traffic. Given that thought, it’s important to pick the right commuter car when shopping, but you can’t just pick one willy-nilly. Instead, it’s important to pay attention to these three crucial factors.

The commuter car you choose should be comfortable

Inside the 2023 Kia Sportage
A 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro | Kia

It should go without saying that any commuter car that you choose should be comfortable enough for a long drive. That comfort goes beyond having supportive seats, though. A car’s comfort extends to whether the pedals are within easy reach and the steering wheel can be adjusted telescopically.

Here are a few other comfort parameters to check for:

  • Does the seat support your back enough for a long drive?
  • Can your feet reach the pedals?
  • Can you adjust the headrest to a comfortable level and angle?
  • Can you reach the controls on the center console and driver’s door?
  • Are the cupholders in a convenient location, and are they big enough to hold a large drink or water bottle?
  • Is the car quiet on the freeway, or can you detect a lot of road and wind noise?

These parameters may seem trivial, but they are important for commuting. If you sit in your car long enough, you’re more likely to realize what you need over time, as opposed to what you don’t need. So, pay attention to the little things.

A car’s infotainment and tech features are important

The 12.3-inch infotainment system in the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime
2023 Toyota Prius Prime | Toyota

After deciding whether a car is comfortable for the daily drive, it’s important to check its tech and infotainment features. Gone are the days when AM/FM radios and sunroofs were luxury items. Nowadays, smartphone connectivity and driver-assist systems are the norm.

Here are some features to consider:

  • Satellite Radio
  • Smartphone connectivity (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto)
  • CD player (If you still need that)
  • Infotainment system – Is it a touchscreen or is it controlled via a touchpad?
  • Driver-assist features – Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and a forward collision warning are handy when driving.
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Backup camera
  • Blind-spot indicators

Although the car can’t drive for you, there are many modern systems in place that can make your drive easier and safer. Checking for these tech features can help you decide whether it’s the right commuter car for you or not based on your commuting needs.

A car’s fuel economy is key for commuting

Arizona gas, fuel pump nozzle, gas pump
Gas pump | Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

The last main factor to consider is the car’s fuel economy. Most cars made in the last five years are able to achieve over 30 mpg on average, but not every car is created equally. As such, you can check out to see the fuel efficiency ratings for the car you’re interested in.

Do you need a car that gets over 40 mpg? If so, you may want to look into a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla to fit your needs. But if you need more miles between fill-ups, a hybrid car like a Toyota Prius could work better.

For even more miles between the pump, we recommend checking out a plug-in hybrid, which can travel on electric power. Once the plug-in hybrid car’s electric range is used up, it switches to a regular hybrid powertrain, which can typically get over 35 mpg on average.

We tested the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime with great success, as we could drive up to 40 miles on an electric charge. When the range was depleted, the car said we were still averaging over 50 mpg.

Buying a commuter car goes beyond its price

When shopping for a commuter car, it’s important to pay attention to these crucial factors. Its initial price is important for your monthly budget (if you plan on financing it). Still, its overall comfort is important for your daily life, especially since you’ll likely spend weeks commuting in it.