It happens to nearly every car enthusiast. Your regular vehicle that you told yourself you were going to “leave stock” has turned into a project car and it no longer makes sense to drive it on a regular basis. What are you going to do? Reversing all of the mods that made your car less practical is no fun. So for many of us, the answer is to simply buy another car. But this one we’ll leave alone… yeah, right.
This is where daily drivers come into play. Some of us might have different ideas of what is considered the perfect daily driver but there are a few characteristics we can all agree on.
When choosing a daily driver, there are a few important features to look out for: reliability, comfort, fuel efficiency, and safety are things you’ll want in a vehicle you’ll be driving every day. It needs to be just as suitable for a long commute as it is a traffic jam.
The meaning of the term “Daily Driver”
You’ve probably heard it used many times but what does the term daily driver actually mean? Well, quite literally, it’s simply a car that you drive every day. But there’s more to it than just that. The title of “Daily Driver” can be given to 2 different types of vehicles:
- The sole car or truck that you own and drive every day, whether it’s modified or not
- A 2nd vehicle that you purposely bought for practicality
Some people will brag that their highly modified car is still their “daily”. Being able to balance performance and styling with enough practicality to use every day is definitely an accomplishment. Daily driving a classic car would fall in the same category. In some cases, this says more about how stubborn or tough the owner is and not how liveable the car actually is on a regular basis.
For other people, (and I’d assume most hardcore car enthusiasts) a daily driver ends up being an additional vehicle. Depending on where they are in life or what their daily routine is like, the type of car they choose will differ.
It could be a brand new luxury sedan with all the bells and whistles. It might be their wife’s minivan. Or it could be a 20-year-old Honda Civic that just won’t quit. Daily drivers are certainly open to interpretation.
So what should you look for when choosing a daily driver for yourself?
What makes a good daily driver?
Whether you’re purchasing a car specifically to drive daily or trying to decide if your project car is still suitable for daily use, there are a few main characteristics to consider.
Reliability and Low cost of maintenance
An important aspect of a daily driver is its reliability. A car that constantly needs repairs or breaks down will quickly become a source of stress, and no one wants that. So make sure to conduct research before investing in any vehicle – read reviews, talk to family and friends who own similar vehicles, and test drive the vehicle.
Low-maintenance cars are cheaper in the long run, so this is another factor worth considering. A vehicle that doesn’t require much attention at all is always best. If that isn’t a realistic option, make sure that the vehicle you choose is at least cheap to maintain and repair.
Unlike luxury cars, repair and maintenance parts for a daily driver should be easily available, and they should not cost a fortune.
Besides reliability, comfort and convenience are also major factors when choosing a daily driver. The car should be spacious enough for all passengers and their belongings; having storage space is always a plus.
The car should also be comfortable to drive – make sure you fit properly and it doesn’t feel cramped inside. Features like heated seats or a sunroof can make longer trips more enjoyable so choose a model that has the options you appreciate.
A daily driver should always make its user feel comfortable, either through design or aesthetics. So, look for a vehicle with well-cushioned seats and plenty of legroom, as well as amenities such as air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity options, and auxiliary audio ports that will help you travel more easily.
When test driving a car, pay very close attention to any minor annoyances or quirks that bother you. They might not seem like a big deal and they can easily be masked by the excitement of a new car. But keep in mind that you’ll likely be driving this car every day. The new car smell will wear off – the annoying gear selector or stereo volume knob won’t!
If you live in a climate that sees snow in the wintertime, your daily driver is going to need to be able to handle it. A vehicle with All Wheel Drive, high ground clearance, and a good set of winter tires is going to perform great in those conditions.
If you live in the hot desert, however, some of those features are only going to hurt you in fuel economy. Your daily driver should suit the weather you drive in on a daily basis.
Another important factor is fuel efficiency. If you drive in city traffic, look for a vehicle with a good fuel economy rating. Driving a vehicle that’s bad on gas every day can affect your monthly finances in a big way. The MPG rating isn’t the only thing to consider here either – take note of whether or not your car requires premium gas. Again, that can add up very quickly when you’re driving often.
Safety is always a big concern when you’re spending this much time in a vehicle. Unfortunately, the more often you drive, the higher your chance is of being in an accident. Choosing a vehicle with good crash test ratings will decrease your chances of injury should the worst-case scenario happen.
The car you choose must also have enough space for all passengers. A coupe with a tiny back seat is not going to be helpful if you plan to have more than 1 person ride along with you.
If you have to transport large items or haul cargo regularly, choose a model with a spacious trunk. Your daily driver should come in handy for road trips requiring tons of cargo space. So take a realistic look at your lifestyle and what you’ll be using this vehicle for.
You might have found a car with the perfect combination of usability, reliability, fuel economy, and comfort but if the price of insurance is sky-high, all of those advantages can be wasted.
It’s no surprise that certain cars cost a lot more to insure, like sports cars or expensive luxury vehicles. Sometimes a vehicle will surprise you though, so make sure to get a quote from your local insurance broker before you decide on a daily driver.
Price vs potential for damage
This might be something you haven’t thought about – driving your car daily in traffic is likely to cause damage to it. I’m not talking about major damage like you’d get from an accident, but small things that might bother you.
Stone chips are inevitable. Door dings at the grocery store are likely. A cracked windshield can be caused by long highway drives every day. Your paint is going to get scratched. Your driver’s seat might get ripped.
Simply put: daily drivers get used and abused. So you might want to question whether you want to spend a bunch of money on a car that is going to be exposed to everyday life. This is also something to consider if you’re thinking of driving your project car or hot rod every day. This lifestyle will take its toll on your car and the likelihood of damage is high.
As you can see, there are a few factors to seriously consider when choosing a daily driver. This is certainly not a one size fits all situation – everyone is different and will require a different vehicle to suit their lifestyle.
If you’re constantly looking for adventure and live in a region that sees a lot of snow and ice, you might want a 4×4 truck or SUV. Conversely, an electric car might make perfect sense if you live downtown in a busy city.
Take some time to really think about what’s important to you and test a few different vehicles out. Be open-minded at first – you might be surprised at what you decide is the best daily driver for you!