Road trip update: What would you drive across the country?


I am not allowed to show you any pictures of our 2007 Honda Accord.

But imagine, if you will, what a high-mileage vehicle that regularly shuttles three high-energy kids between school, music lessons and play dates looks like, and you’ll have a good idea.

If Mater from the Pixar film Cars comes to mind … well, you’re not that far off.

Our car has been loved to death. There are candy wrappers and empty water bottles strewn across the back seat, and I can’t remember the last time it was washed. Right now, it looks like it survived a riot in London. It’s embarrassing. Which is why Kari won’t let me show you the car.

But that’s not what really concerns me.

We’ll be lucky if it makes it up to Canada next week. Our October itinerary in Florida — sure. Texas and New Mexico? I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to scale a mountain road in a blizzard with this set of wheels.

Question is, what are we going to do about it? We’ve had some very informal discussions with car manufacturers who are watching this project with interest. It would be nice to have a car company sponsor our trip, of course. But they’d give us what they want us to drive. And that doesn’t really answer the question of what we should drive.

What would you take on a cross-country trip?

Here are the candidates, as I see it.

The RV.
Ahh, think of all the room! In one of these road-yachts, we wouldn’t have to worry about finding accommodations every night. We’d just pull out our beds and — voila! — we’re good to go. But wait! The gas bills would kill us. And it wouldn’t eliminate the need for a smaller car to get us around once we’re at our destination. Still, I wouldn’t mind it.

The minivan
You can’t sleep in one of these, but the fuel bills are more manageable. On the downside, it’s a minivan, which every parent I know drives. A minvan symbolizes conformity, which is the last thing we want to be. But still, if we found the right minivan, we might feel differently.

The SUV.
We’re not really SUV types, either. But you never know.

The hatchback.
After our third child was born, we seriously considered buying a hatchback. But alas, on a writer’s salary, even that kind of upgrade wasn’t possible. I’ve traveled across America in a station wagon with my family (I have four siblings) and although it was crowded, it worked. It would be more fuel-efficient than a minivan or RV, but still give us enough horses to get over the mountain.

The sedan.
This is our default choice: Keeping the Accord and hoping for the best. And also, making sure our AAA dues are paid, which, I can assure you, they will be. I have to say, I love driving a sedan. You feel the road. You make frequent stops and get a chance to see the country. You’re not wasting precious fossil fuel. Downside? (Other than our trusty Honda breaking down?) Not enough room, insufficient power, and mild claustrophobia.

So these are the decisions we’re faced with. What would you drive across the country? Are there any particular car manufacturers we should talk to about a sponsorship, or should we just stick with what we have?

Full disclosure: I’ve driven a Honda since 1992, and before that, a Ford. Loved them both. My switch to Honda was made largely for price reasons, and not because I disliked my Ford. I’ve had the privilege of renting a lot of other cars in the meantime, and the two standouts are a Jaguar I rented from Hertz a few years ago (oh, that was fun!) and a Ford Explorer, which was a pleasure to drive but guzzled gas like there was no tomorrow.

Most of all, we don’t want to get lost in the crowd on this trip. We’re looking for something unique, not generic. On a road trip, a car is the sixth member of the family, so this decision is almost like adopting a new baby.

(Photo: Nick K/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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