The overwhelming majority of Americans commute to work in a private automobile. According to "Commuting in the United States: 2009," the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent study on the subject, over 105 million of us drive to work alone each work day, representing 76.1 percent of the total workforce. The mean journey to work takes 25.1 minutes. That's a lot of time behind the wheel for a lot of people. With so many drivers spending so much time commuting, the choice of car is vital.
So, we have compiled a list of the Best Cars for Commuters for 2013. We honed our selection from the Consumer Reports list of Recommended Cars. To be recommended, cars must perform well in the Consumer Union's "more than 50 tests, have average or better predicted reliability; and perform adequately if included in a government or insurance industry crash test." Cars are rated on a scale of 1 – 100. Higher scores are best. Next, we examined gas mileage, as reported on the official source for fuel economy, www.fueleconomy.gov. For a commuter, better fuel economy equates to money in the pocket. Then we considered fuel capacity and range. Great efficiency without adequate range means more stops to refuel (or recharge) and lost time. We did not factor in purchase price into our selection, though the Best Cars for Commuters turned out to be modestly priced, with starting prices ranging from $20,400 to $46,310.
Not every commute is the same, either. We've identified five different commuting categories, and have selected two cars for each category. The commuting categories are Short Commute, Long Commute, Carpool, Winter Commute and Summer Commute.
A Short Commute is 10 minutes or less, and is probably in an urban setting. A small car will have the advantage here, as it will be more maneuverable in traffic, and easier to park. Aaron Gold, About.com's Guide to Cars, advised that "if you mostly commute solo or with one other person, avoid big vehicles like SUVs and minivans — you're wasting a lot of fuel hauling around all that steel and empty space. Best to commute in something smaller and save the big car for family trips."
A Long Commute demands fuel efficiency, comfort and reliability, along with the latest communications and telematics technology. The smallest cars aren't well suited to longer commutes at freeway speeds, but a compact car can represent the best balance between comfort and economy. Brandy Schaffels, Senior Editor at TrueCar.com, says that commuters "traveling longer distances may be focused on saving money with a car that gets better mileage or, considering the amount of time they spend in their cars, they might prefer to sacrifice some miles per gallon for more comfort."