When looking at commuter cars, you may be unsure of which is best for you. Here’s our suggestions to help you figure it out.

If you drive to work, you already know that commuting is stressful. Whether it’s your wallet, your safety, or your mental health, the vehicle you choose for that daily voyage can make or break the experience, maybe even more than other bozo drivers and surprise lane closures can. So it’s important to take account of your individual needs and priorities and do your research on commuter cars to find a ride that might actually make that commute, dare I say, enjoyable? You can start here with these suggestions targeted to fit different concerns.

Miles per Gallon

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we? If it’s a route you’re driving every day, it’s probably where you rack up the most miles overall, so let’s assume that good fuel economy is a base concern. If avoiding the pumps is all you care about, invest in a hybrid or electric vehicle. If the commute is short, stick to electric options, which could get you all the way there without a single drop of gas. If it’s a bit longer, check out the hybrid selection.

Highway vs City

If the initial cost of electric and hybrids puts you off, there are plenty of gas-fueled options that will get you there without punishing your checking account. For commutes with long stretches of highway, look for cars that excel on the open road, such as the Dodge Dart Aero. For city folk, check out the cars designed to maximize fuel efficiency despite frequent braking and idling, as seen in the Nissan Versa.

Safety

If safety is at the top of your list—and it should be— explore newer models, with features like autopilot, lane detection and brake assist, cruise control, rear view cameras and sensors, good visibility, navigation systems, and standard all-wheel drive. Technology is slowly moving us toward a time when the car will do most of the work for you. Take advantage of it if you can.

Location

Not everyone commutes to the same place every day, and some people need to take their work with them. For anyone lugging tools and materials around on the regular, a hatchback or pickup will be your best friend. For heavier loads, try a medium or heavy-duty truck. Chevrolet offers several crew cab models with varying bed sizes that are ideal if your commuter car doubles as family transport. If you have a lighter, more compactable load but still care about miles per gallon, a hatchback like the Hyundai Accent is the way to go.

Weather

Living in an area with harsh winters requires a drivetrain that’s up to the task. Even on highways in major cities, roads can become dangerous under snow and ice, and you’ll want to have a reliable vehicle that’s up to the task. Stick with options providing 4-wheel drive—such as a Ford Escape—to stay on the roads when the weather gets nasty.

Finding the right option among many commuter cars can make a huge difference in your day and all around mental health. By focusing on your particular needs, you can easily narrow down options to find something suitable, special, and sanity-supporting.

Blair Lampe

About the AuthorBlair Lampe

Blair Lampe is a New York-based freelance writer and mechanic.  She travels frequently and on a budget, which she documents on her website TheGreyBeyond.