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The 15 Best Cars to Rent for a Road Trip

Even if you have your own car, it can be smart to rent a different ride for your adventures on the open road. Just make sure to choose wisely.

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Brothers squishing each other in the car
Chris Stein/Getty Images

Rent or drive your own car

Road trips are a great way to see the country while on vacation, but hitting the asphalt can be rough on your ride, even if it’s one of the best cars for the long haul. And the extra wear and tear on your car is just one of the reasons you might want to rent a car instead of driving your own. For example, if you lease your car, you might be worried about mileage limits. If you’re taking a long trip, you might want more legroom or trunk space. Or, of course, you might not have a car at all but still want to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—or even just a weekend. Whatever your reasons, renting a car for a road trip can be a smart choice, as long as you choose your rental wisely. Check out our handy guide to find the best road trip car for you. Need some travel inspiration?

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Best for the environment: Chevy Bolt EV

One of the silver linings of quarantine is that we’ve given our skies a chance to breathe and truly showcase their picturesque beauty. Keep doing your part for the environment—and chase the best night-sky views while you’re at it—in Chevy’s new, fully electric Bolt EV. It earns a spot on our list of the best road trip cars because it boasts a remarkable EPA-estimated 259 miles of range on a full charge, meaning that “you can go a day—or even a few days—without needing to charge,” according to Chevrolet. Plus, you’ll have plenty of room to pack your camping gear or a large or odd-sized item, since the rear seats fold down.

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Best for stargazing inside your car: Toyota Highlander Platinum Hybrid

Sit back, relax, and take in the view (when you’re not driving, of course). The massive sunroof/moonroof in the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum alone makes it one of the best road trip SUVs to rent because every passenger will get an epic view of the night sky. Whether you’re trekking to the middle of Joshua Tree National Park to stargaze during a SoCal getaway or simply sitting in your own driveway with your family, listening to a stellar playlist on Toyota’s pitch-perfect JBL speakers, this luxurious full-size SUV will idle quietly and bring the stars into view.

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chevy silverado
via chevrolet.com

Best for lots of cargo: Chevy Silverado

Maybe your family car isn’t capable of making a college move-in drive in a single trip. Enter the 2020 Chevy Silverado. This is one of the best SUVs for a road trip because it has plenty of cargo space and exceptional towing capabilities. Plus, the spacious cab provides ample room for hauling futons, mini-fridges, totes full of chunky sweatshirts, record players and crates of vinyl, and the other essentials of college life. This rental is also great if you’re simply heading on vacation and your family doesn’t understand the concept of packing light.

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Best for off-road adventures: Jeep Wrangler

You don’t ever have to go mudding with your Jeep Wrangler, but if that driving activity is on your vacation itinerary, there isn’t a more capable ride. And this Jeep isn’t your ordinary suburban model. As MotorBiscuit notes, “The four-door Wrangler can go topless and doorless, allowing your entire family to connect with nature…The soft top retracts with a single touch of a button, making it as easy as a convertible. Also, you can take your family over rocks, through the snow, and forge through streams. You won’t be stopped in this SUV that can go anywhere.” Plus, when you rent a teal or purple Jeep Wrangler, your Instagram photos of your road trip are going to make everyone back home even more jealous.

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Best for feeling the wind in your hair: Ford Mustang GT Convertible

Why should you choose this modern classic for your warm-weather road trip? Kelley Blue Book says it best: “There’s nothing better than wind-in-your-hair motoring, and this iconic American pony car is the perfect mount for a road trip.” It’s easy to picture yourself cruising down California State Route 1 or making your way from Miami to Key West with the top down, sunglasses on, and engine revved in a rented Ford Mustang. That said, trading cargo space for style and performance means finding clever ways to pack lighter when you travel.

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Best for a big family: Toyota Sienna

Don’t give in to temptation and rent an RV for a cross-country road trip—navigating cities is too tricky in those massive home-on-wheels vehicles. Instead, let your family luxuriate in the spacious cabin of a Toyota Sienna. This minivan, which has a third-row option, has oodles of passenger space to easily fit a family of six; plus, it boasts a dual-view entertainment center to keep the kids entertained. Of course, safety is a priority, too, and the Sienna comes fully equipped with Toyota’s Safety Sense features, as well as all-wheel drive, making it ideal even in less-than-ideal weather. As you and your crew make your way from Yosemite to New York City, Seattle to Acadia, you can easily go from the natural beauty of America to its energetic metropolises. FYI, these 18 things are lifesavers when traveling with kids.

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Best for an old-school family road trip: Subaru Outback

Remember when you’d pile into your family station wagon each summer to head to Disney or to Grandma’s house? The 2020 Subaru Outback is as close as you can get today to having that kind of experience. While the station wagon has gone the way of disco music, this half-SUV, half–station wagon brings back that ’70s and ’80s vibe. All that’s missing is the wood paneling on the sides! Of course, it’s a lot more modern than your old family truckster. As Kelly Blue Book notes, it has “the ground clearance needed for credible off-road capability and comes standard with all-wheel drive as well as Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety and driver assists,” making your family road trip safe and fun.

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toyota corolla
via toyota.com

Best for budget travelers: Toyota Corolla

The Corolla isn’t going to turn heads on the highway or generate a bevy of likes on Instagram, but this Toyota gets the job done and goes easy on your wallet. Previous models have been lauded by the likes of Edmunds as being reliable and having great fuel economy, and auto experts from Car and Driver and U.S. News & World Report say that the redesigned 2020 version delivers an even better driving experience. One note: You’ll have more legroom in the front seats than in the back ones with this model. Overall, when you’re looking for the best car to rent for a budget road trip, the Corolla checks every box.

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Best for off-roading and city-driving in style: Land Rover Range Rover

If you love the idea of off-roading but don’t really want to rough it with your ride, the Range Rover is the way to go. According to Edmunds, “It’s just at home bouncing along a muddy and rocky trail as it is cruising Rodeo Drive.” It boasts good legroom, a supercharged engine, and lots of bells and whistles, and MotorTrend also highlights its safety features, including forward collision warning and, in some cars, blind-spot monitoring and more. It may just be the best SUV to rent for a road trip, since it can let you live the high life for a little while—without paying for it over the long haul. If you love the Range Rover, you might also be into these 27 luxury camping adventures that will make you an outdoor person.

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Best for a solo road trip: 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Sometimes you’ve just gotta get away by yourself. The 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best car to rent for the road trip version of a selfie—alone, smiling wide, and in front of something absolutely beautiful. CNET calls this car “a supercar” and says that “this little Japanese roadster delivers more driving enjoyment than some exotic cars that cost 10 times more.” Its smooth driving and acceleration make for a great ride, not to mention a stylish one. And, in general, TopSpeed says that “the MX-5’s reputation as a quick and easy to play sports car makes it a fantastic rental option if you’re looking to get away for a weekend with or without someone riding shotgun.” For around $100 per day, this rental can be all yours! If you’ve never traveled alone, by the way, you may want to start.

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Best for towing a camper or trailer: Ford F-150

If you’re looking for the kind of road trip that doesn’t involve hotel rooms or tents pitched on the hard, unforgiving ground, consider hauling a travel trailer behind your vehicle. Depending on the type of car you own, this might not be possible, which is where a rental car like the Ford F-150 will come in really handy. According to U.S. News & World Report, the 2020 model “has impressive towing and hauling capacities. When properly equipped, it can tow up to 13,200 pounds and has a maximum payload of 3,270 pounds.” It also has a 3.3-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

But the ability to easily tow your studio apartment on wheels is only one piece of the road trip puzzle. The F-150 also boasts a best-in-class cabin for maximum passenger space and enough cargo room to carry all your clothes and road trip accessories, so the rides between your destinations are going to be smooth, spacious, and comfortable. Best of all, renting a beefy F-150 should only set you back around $80 to $100 a day.

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Best for fuel efficiency: Toyota Prius L Eco

U.S. News & World Report calls the Toyota Prius L Eco’s gas mileage “nearly unmatched” and “crazy good…even by hybrid car standards.” How’s that for a ringing endorsement? And it won’t just save you a fortune at the pump. It also has spacious seats and is no slouch in the safety department, earning five out of five stars in overall safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Another benefit of renting a Toyota Prius for your next road trip is its hatchback design, which offers exceptional flexibility. Translation: You’ll be able to stuff anything from a tent to your suitcases back there during a long-distance road trip. If camping will be a part of your vacation, check out our list of the best campsites in every state.

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Best luxury option for fuel efficiency: Tesla

Renting a Tesla not only means driving one of the most stylish and sought-after cars today—it also means not paying a penny for gas during your road trip. However, keep one thing in mind: “Finding a destination charger at (or near) your hotel is key,” says John Greathouse, who put his Tesla to the test on a 1,670-mile road trip and then wrote about the experience for Forbes. He adds that while he loves his Tesla, when he takes it on a road trip, “we must invest time upfront to plan the location of our meal stops and supercharger locations.” Of course, there’s another benefit to renting a Tesla: By forgoing gas, you’re also reducing your carbon footprint with this emission-free choice, so you can truly relax on your vacation.

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Kia Telluride
via kia.com

Best minivan that isn’t a minivan: Kia Telluride

By now, we’re hoping that most people have moved beyond the “it’s lame to drive a minivan” mindset. And if you haven’t, you will after you rent a Kia Telluride, one of the best road trip cars with the space of a minivan but the elegant style of a Range Rover. It’s perfect for your next cross-country or long-weekend road trip. This rental car is for the road tripper who wants affordable style, has a unique sense of self, needs loads of cargo space and passenger space, and wants decent gas mileage. U.S. News & World Report adds that the Kia Telluride “received an above-average predicted reliability score and was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).” This best road trip SUV can also tow up to 5,000 pounds, so if you’ve got a boat or small trailer, you’re in luck! Before you head out, make sure you have everything you need by cross-referencing what you have with our road trip essentials checklist.

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Best for traveling with your dog: Subaru Crosstrek

Don’t leave your best friend behind! According to iDriveSafely.com, the Subaru Crosstrek is the best road trip SUV for dog owners who want to bring their pups with them on their journeys. Why? It’s “super safe, gets great gas mileage and has a wide hatchback that makes it easy to fit your dog in the back.” While we’re on the topic, do dogs need seat belts? We found out!

Next, learn how to calculate the gas cost for a trip and how to save gas to stay within your road trip budget.

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award–winning photographer, avid traveler and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment and more for Reader's Digest. He is the proud dad of teen daughters.