3 Best Road Trip Cars from the 90s

Road trips can be fun, but having the right car can make or break the experience. Something reliable, that has some acceleration and decent storage space are all required criteria when considering what car to bring. Road trip cars should also be cheap. This road trip car will see lots of dirt, various weather patterns, and rocky terrain, so its looks shouldn’t necessarily be the car’s focal point. For a road trip, consider something already rugged, and something that no one would shed tears over if it got a little ruffled.

1994-1997 Toyota Previa

Toyota Previa outside next to the road
Toyota Previa | Getty Images

The Toyota Previa is a prime example of a proper road trip car. It’s a minivan, yes, but it’s also rear-wheel-drive and has a manual transmission. The 1994-1997 model years were ideal. The Previa was suffering in the United States against more powerful minivans, so Toyota fitted the Previa’s 2.4-liter inline-four with a supercharger. This gave it 158 horsepower. 

The car also had all-wheel-drive with its supercharger and a mid-mounted engine. The Previa has plenty of storage space, with enough seating for seven people. Removing the rear seat rows yields enough space for a sportbike, as long as the windscreen comes off first. The Previa is as close to a sports minivan as one is ever going to get.

1996-1999 Mercury Sable GS Wagon

The progression of parent-owned kid-carriers in the 1990s started with the station wagon, before it was replaced by the minivan, and then the SUV. However, station wagons still hold merit. The Mercury Sable from 1996-99 had a 3.0-liter V6 that made 200 horsepower, which made it the most powerful Sable to date. It’s also part of what makes the Sable a perfect road trip wagon.

It only had an automatic transmission but had no problem with acceleration. Though it was front-wheel-drive, the Sable could handle well-enough, even carving through narrow mountain roads. Plush leather provided comfortable seating, and the trunk floor opened to two back-facing seats. 

J80 Toyota Land Cruiser

The Toyota Land Cruiser is possibly one of the most iconic SUVs to ever be released, but it’s had a tumultuous history. It started as a rugged off-road car that could take a severe beating but offered little in the way of amenities. Now it’s mutated into an expensive luxury SUV, but to be fair the Land Cruiser produces a lot of horsepower. It’s still a great road trip car.

The J80 (1990-1997) fits the bill for cheap, rugged, comfortable off-road performance, but lands in the middle of the Cruiser’s transition into the luxury SUV class. The J80 got large brakes, a new six-cylinder engine, a full-time AWD system, and anti-lock brakes. It also had an option for locking differentials, and it received an independent coil-spring suspension.

Road trips are fun experiences but only with the right car. Be it a station wagon, SUV, or even a sports car, comfort and reliability are paramount. The 1990s was chock-full of interesting cars to choose from, as during those ten years passenger cars evolved from wagons to minivans, to SUVs. Luckily some of the best examples of all three existed within that time, which makes them cheap and proven.

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