A car is a tool for a commuter, as much as a saw is a tool for a carpenter. It makes sense to get the best tool for the job. When it comes to a saw, you’d consider sharpness, efficiency, reliability, cost and ergonomics. When it comes to a commuter car, you’d be wise to consider price, comfort, reliability and fuel economy.
At this moment, gas prices are falling. The average price at the pump has dipped below $2.00 per gallon in some parts of the country. The mountain range graph of retail fuel prices in the United States over the last decade featured a steep incline from $1.03 per gallon on December 17, 2001to a peak of $4.10 per gallon on July16, 2008, then fell off a cliff to bottom out at $1.59 per gallon on December 29, 2008, according to data gathered by GasBuddy.com, a provider of retail fuel pricing information and data.
Patrick DeHaan, a Senior Petroleum Analyst at GasBuddy.com, noted that “consumers are already buying vehicles with lower fuel economy.” He stated that average fuel efficiency for new cars bought in December 2014 was 25.1 mpg, down from 25.8 mpg in August 2014. A similar phenomenon occurred during the last price decline, though the recession muted car buying in general. The GasBuddy Fuel Price Outlook 2015 predicts that the national average will be $2.642 per gallon over 2015, with a peak average of $3.00 and a low average of $2.36 per gallon during the year. “2015 should present a much more temperate gasoline price background than 2012, 2013 and 2014,” according to the report. Still, consumers should avoid complacency. “Avoid making a long-term commitment to a gas-guzzler,” advises DeHaan. “Consider the long-term volatility of unpredictable gas prices.”
To help you avoid complacency, we have put together a list of The Best Cars For Commuters 2015. Our selection is drawn from the Consumer Reports list of Recommended Cars. To be recommended, cars must deliver high scores 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, with higher scores being best. Next, we examined gas mileage, as reported on the official source for fuel economy, fueleconomy.gov. Better fuel economy equates to bigger savings for commuters. 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. The base price range of vehicles this year was from $21,345 all the way to $89,650, with drivetrains ranging from conventional gasoline to hybrid gasoline/electric to pure electric.
We’ve selected two vehicles per commute for five different commuting needs: Short Commute; Long Commute; Summer Commute; Winter Commute; and Carpool.
“Really scrutinize the details before you buy a car,” advises Kelley Blue Book’s Muzio. “Seat comfort, pressure points, blind spots, audio and climate control usability, etc. With the relentless repetition of commuting little annoyances become big annoyances, transforming that hard, poorly-positioned armrest from minor pain to major league curse.”