Best Used Car for Doing Highway Kilometres

Just smashed my Commodore and unfortunately have to buy a replacement in this market.

I’m looking for something reliable, economical and cheap to maintain. I’m not fussed on any specific make or model as it will be a second car used only for racking up kms, up and down the highway (140km round trip) to work 7 days a week (shared between my wife and I)

I got paid out 12k for the Commodore, no specific budget for the replacement. I’m willing to spend whatever it takes to get best long term value for money.

All advice welcome!


  • +7 votes

    Get a toyota or honda. Tough as nails, cheap to service, plentiful parts as they are common. You'd save money getting a manual if you can drive it. Camry, Corolla, Accord, Civic.

  • +6 votes

    Do you want a highway cruiser? Camry or Aurion
    You want to save a bit more on fuel any jap or korean small hatch or sedan ( Stay away from GM Holden Korean though)

    • +2 votes

      Use to have an old aurion, it was great

      • +2 votes

        And will average very similar fuel use to a 4cyl Camry as it's not getting pushed as hard


    Keep an eye out for turbo diesel variants of different models because your use case suits them nicely. They need to get out on highway drives regularly. The benefit is that they are more fuel efficient than regular petrol models.

    I got an old Hyundai i30 diesel, it's pretty nice to get around in. Solid, reliable cars, there's heaps around for a reason. Fuel consumption is much better than the petrol models.
    Feels completely normal to drive, except when you stop with the windows down and hear the engine idling like a truck.
    You may want something bigger, but I find it plenty

  • -3 votes

    I have to say I've owned numerous cars over the last 20 years from a 4banger $100 Daihatsu to turbo cars, V8s, brand new cars, from ford holden Camry magna Hyundai's Skylines Subarus you name it, but right now I managed to find a real nice cruise car best of all worlds. I'm not claiming to be any kind of mechanic or race car driver just a man whose driven numerous cars all over AUSTRALIA cities, country, highways.

    So my current car, is really best of both worlds for daily driving, cruising, fuel economy, power, style and serviceable.

    My car is only 2008 model but for your money you could get a new model or even the VRX Sports model.

    Mine is Mitsubishi Lancer 2008 model, 2.0L, 5 speed manual, it comes with many safety features, cruise control, traction control, automatic wipers and headlights, many airbags front rear side. It has trip computer, decent stereo. Very cheap to service, cheap to buy parts.

    I do around 500kms a week sometimes 500ks in 1 day depending on where I need to go. On the open road sitting on 110k cruise control I've got down to 7L/100kms and 800km it says on the trip computer as max distance if I sat on that 7L/100km even around town it may get to 9L but obviously that depends on how hard you use the throttle.

    For a mid size car only 2L engine it is actually quite fun and quick your will be surprised. The seats are very comfy and padded and there's plenty of room for 5people even a decent size boot.

    I've driven many Holden's but the last was a VY and it used so much fuel and wasn't the best handling but this Lancer holds the road very well I've even pushed it a few times on the open road and it sits in a straight line, of course the manual is fun and you can really let the revs go if you want to.

    My Lancer is pretty standard with nice wheels and sports exhaust, if I was made of money I would buy a Lancer Evo which is like the top of the range with all the bells and whistles and turbo AWD etc but right now for a reliable daily this is pretty good I've done already 7000kms in 6 months mate and all I've had to do was change the oil literally…. That's all.

    I like to use some 98 fuel every so often when I'm going a long open road.

    You could find the exact same car as mine from as low as $5000 but up to 10k depending on the year and KMs etc

    Mint is 2008 but the same model goes to 2012 then a newer model I think is 2013 but that may be out of your budget.

    Good luck on whatever you decide but personally Holden just aren't economical anymore.

    • +6 votes

      I would beg to differ on one point. I had a V8 Commdore and I put something like something like 60,000 on it before I had to get something more 'family friendly'.

      It would easily do 7lt/100km on the highway. It would just cruise at idle in 6th.

      Now around town of course you could expect 11-17-20lt/100 if you're gassing it.

      I've driven the current lancer in auto and its… a typical mitsubishi crapper that feels 15y.o brand new…. because that's what it is.

      Holden isnt economical any more because they're…. dead?

      If you're truly after an open road car I wouldnt use any 4cyl economy car to be honest.

      I'd take something at least v6 with 6 spd auto.

      To me there would be nothing more brain deadening than driving any non performance car on the hwy tbh.

        • +1 vote

          Some people don’t get it. If all you want is a cheap reliable car, then lancer is the epitome of that. Of course you can get better tech, more comfort, more modern, perhaps better fuel economy but why would you run an expensive car into the ground doing thousands of extra kms just to commute. Save the $ for something else IMO.


            @Euphemistic: A Lancer absolutely does not meet the OP's needs.

            • +1 vote

              @Burnertoasty: Why not. Cheap, reliable, second car seem to be the only requirements.

              Just because it isn’t new or Euro doesn’t mean it won’t do the job.

        • +1 vote

          And I'm telling you if you think a Lancer is a good car, you clearly know nothing about cars, and should refrain from giving car advice.


            @Burnertoasty: OP hasn’t said they want a good car.


              @Euphemistic: OP said he wants a car for highway driving. A budget 2.0 buzz box is not that car.


                @Burnertoasty: We are allowed to disagree, everyone’s standards are different. Nothing wrong with the budget 1.8l ‘buzz box’ I had last century. It was perfectly acceptable on the highway.

                • +1 vote

                  @Euphemistic: Your level of acceptable is obviously terribly low.


                    @Burnertoasty: I’m not that unusual. I spend my money elsewhere as I recognise a car isn’t a status symbol, it’s a method of transport. A few wheels, an engine, a seat or 3 and air conditioning and you don’t need more than that. Even AC is optional if you like it hot.

                    What are you wearing tonight?


    Your question is too broad. No real budget, no size requirements, no preferences. I kinda understand why, but it does make it hard to answer.

    That said, I’d pick a popular mid sized hatchback, Mazda 3, corolla, i30 etc for around $10k. Consider diesel, but know servicing is more critical and will cost a bit more. Manual might be a bit cheaper to buy, and isn’t bad for highway, just sucks in heavy traffic. Don’t bother getting low kms you will rack them up too fast. Dont really need a higher spec model with extra bells and whistles and more expensive low profile tyres. Don’t spend too much, it’ll be worth nothing in a very short time.

    Only real reason not to pick a mid sized hatch is if you want more space for luggage, kids, pets etc or want other lifestyle features like AWD, 7 seats, ute etc.


      my assumption would be a similar type to a commode

      you dont need an suv for that and i personally would not like to be cooped up in an swb fwd buzz box for 140km a day…. nor would i want something that sat in too high a gear at hwy speed

      i'd want something smooth riding, relatively lwb, something with a smooth powerful engine that had enough gears… with a decent sound system.

      i'd prefer something not an SUV but i'm sure there are great hwy suvs out there, just not for $12k

      i have done something like 300 to 600km in a day (yeah I'm crazy but they were paying me) and most cars i think would be quite torturous but hey, most people seem to love torture given their car choices

      i have acutally used my current xtrail for newcastle to syd runs and i find 2.5 fours with a cvt to be quite… annoying… but many people would think this is fine


        cooped up in an swb fwd buzz box for 140km a day

        Mid sized hatchbacks rent that much smaller than a full sized sedan but I get your point. It depends how big OP is. I’m reasonably tall and didn’t have any trouble doing a 1hr commute in a mid size. Was a lot more peasant than the soft top Suzuki Sierra I traded in for it!

        It depends on what sort of highway a bit too. Straight freeway vs windy country highway. A larger car will be less bouncy on a rough country highway when you won’t notice it as much in a larger car.

        I also did around 60000km a year in a number of company Falcon wagons. Very comfortable cruiser.


          When I was commuting from Syd to Newcastle (!!!) I was working with a guy who swore by a Hundai i30 hatch w/ 1.6 diesel and the manual.

          He said it effortlessly ate the miles.


            @tonyjzx: I know people who have highway commuted in a Getz. Cheap as chips, but probably not as comfortable.


    Toyota Aurion. Silky smooth 200kw V6 motor which is very economical for highway cruising. Super reliable too.


    looking for something reliable, economical and cheap to maintain. I’m not fussed on any specific make or model as it will be a second car used only for racking up kms, up and down the highway (140km round trip) to work 7 days a week (shared between my wife and I) that's what he said he's not looking for anything special that's why I said about my car it is the perfect daily car.


    Doing that sort of mileage, I'd spring for a Camry hybrid.
    Should be able to find something at that $12k mark but if you can bump the budget a bit, you should be able to get a much wider range.


      Hybrid isn’t as effective on the highway. It needs slowing/braking to generate electricity to power it for acceleration. It’s most effective in stop start traffic.


        While I don't disagree with you, they are still very fuel efficient on the freeway/highway.
        I had a 2020 one as a loan car for a couple of months at the start of the year, only really drove it 20kms each way to work and back on the freeway (opposite way to peak hour traffic) and it averaged in the 4L/100km range.


          That’s hardly a thorough test.

          • +1 vote

            @Euphemistic: The advertised urban usage for newer Camry hybrids is 4.2L/100km, they get nearly 1200kms from a 50L tank. For a full sized car, that is excellent and I'd say a pretty big factor for someone doing over 35,000kms/year like OP….better fuel economy than a little buzz box 4 cylinder hatchback that is screaming along at 3500rpm because they're not geared for the highway.


              @whitelie: Two reviews I found said it was closer to 5.7l/100 on their test. Can’t find anything concrete in hybrid drivetrain efficiency on the highway except a 10yo 900km test vs Falcon and commodore where the camry went up to high 6 compared to mid 5 around town. Then you need to factor in premium fuel.

              The hybrid remains as is best suited to city driving, and isn’t anywhere near as improved over non hybrid on the highway. A non hybrid will still be quite efficient on the highway.

              As for little buzz boxes at 3500rpm, the Camry is a 4cyl as well so won’t rev much slower than a corolla.

              • +1 vote

                @Euphemistic: Did this test recently, drove a hybrid Camry from Perth to Dwellingup (1.5hr drive, 100/110kph, some windy hills roads in the last 30mins). Average fuel was under 5L/100km (about 4.8/4.9).

                I took note because of all the time this argument comes up.

                The electric motor probably accounted for bugger all, but in the meantime the petrol engine wasn't working too hard at highway kms with the cvt.

                So yeah, there ya go. There's a good reason why hybrids average fuel economy doesn't differ much from the Urban and Extra Urban figures.


                  @spackbace: Thanks for the real world experience. How does the non hybrid compare?

                  • +1 vote

                    @Euphemistic: That I can't tell ya. I can tell you they're shit around town and will get in the 9s!

                    For best of both worlds it would be the hybrid hands down.


                      @spackbace: 9/100 is good for around town for a 1,500kg car

                      i barely get that out of an xtrail

                      BUT… does it matter. At roughly 1.33 for petrol right now whether its 10 or 11 or 12… eh…

                      i'd rather drive a car I enjoy that uses a bit more than a pile of crap that saves petrol


                        @tonyjzx: Hybrid is more responsive off the line, and is generally a better drive than the standard 2.5L


                        @tonyjzx: The SL Hybrid is over 1600kg and gets in the high 4's, low 5's so pretty much half of what the Xtrail does.
                        I enjoyed driving the Hybrid Camry more than a 2018 Xtrail. Surprisingly good.


                  @spackbace: It's the engine!

                  Camry hybrid run different engine that use Atkinson cycle. Atkinson cycle engine is way more efficient than normal (Otto) cycle but have lousy low end torque. The electric motor on hybrid help a lot to make up for the lousy low end torque.

                  Atkinson engine also operates cooler so it does not need much air to cool it down, making it possible to design more aerodynamic frontend with less holes. You'll find that drag coefficient in hybrid camry is better than non hybrid because of this. At highway speed, around 50% engine energy is used to fight wind resistance, so improvemen in aerodynamic have massive impact in fuel saving.

                  CVT helps when speed/load varied, but doesn't do much in constant highway speed. No other petrol CVT cars have good urban efficiency like the hybrids.

                  I feel like Toyota try to hide this because they scared ppl won't try the hybrid because it has "lousy" engine. But, what I see happening is that more ppl stay away from the hybrid because they think hybrid is less efficient for highway trip.


    You travel 70km one way to work?!


      Lots of people travel an hour or more to get to work if you do that in the country, you’ll cover a lot of kms