Highway Driving vs City Driving: Which Is Better For A Car?

Motorists on a highway

Which type of driving is better for your car?

Have you ever asked yourself which is better for your car: highway driving or city driving? When it comes to purchasing a used car, this is an important question to consider since one type is less taxing on a vehicle than the other, which can actually damage it more over time. The answer might surprise you!

Is Highway Driving Better For A Car Than City Driving?

Sometimes referred to as motorway driving or highway mileage vs town mileage, there are many differences in how the two types affect a vehicle. With that in mind, is highway driving bad for your car? It is a common question since it would be easy to assume highway driving is worse with travelling further and faster.

The truth is, highway driving actually takes less toll on a car. That is why many car dealers and private sellers often advertise a vehicle as having ‘only driven highway miles’. Accumulating highway miles is better for a car than travelling the same amount of distance in the city. While it may seem a little strange, it becomes clear when you break it down and understand more about city driving.

City Driving: Wear and Tear, Fuel Economy and CO2 Emissions

When driving around town and busy city centres, you are joined by many more cars on the road with other commuters which leads to heavy, slow-moving traffic. You also have to contend with bikes, buses, taxis, and other commercial vehicles which don’t feature as much as with highway driving.

The increased traffic in city driving results in more wear and tear with stop-start driving, pedestrian crossings, speed bumps and the likelihood of potholes. In terms of fuel economy, city driving often consumes more than highway driving despite the fact that driving slowly can increase fuel economy but continuous braking and accelerating from a standstill negatively impact fuel efficiency.

While not a major consideration in South Africa yet, cities across the world are increasingly looking to cut down on CO2 emissions by implementing low-emission compliance zones. This means non-compliant vehicles that don’t meet the CO2 standards are subject to pay a surcharge penalty for driving in these areas. The exceptions are electric cars, hybrid cars and some diesel vehicles with smaller engines.

Which Cars Are Best For City Driving?

Although most cars are suited to highway driving, there are a few that truly excel at city driving. The best cars for city driving are small, city cars and superminis or hatchbacks. Since they are smaller and more nimble, you can more easily navigate busy streets and fit into more parking spaces. With smaller engines, they are also more fuel-efficient when compared to SUVs, bakkies and sedans. Here are some of the best city driving cars; new or secondhand.

Why Is Highway Driving Better For Your Car?

Long highway roads mean you drive at a consistent speed without frequent gear changes with the exception of occasional lane closures or road works. For the most part, highway driving allows for swift travelling at a steady pace unless you also get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Since highway driving occurs at high speeds, the roads are typically kept in top condition to ensure maximum safety. That translates into smoother roads without potholes and compared to city driving, you don’t have any traffic lights, speed bumps, pedestrian crossings or sharp corners.

Is Highway Driving More Fuel Efficient?

Highways are without a doubt the most fuel-efficient roads since driving at consistent speed results in better fuel economy. It is also less taxing on your car with lower wear and tear compared to city driving as you won’t be accelerating from a standstill or brake frequently for traffic lights, pedestrians or cyclists.

The best part is that you can stay in top gear and activate cruise control when driving on a highway. For the best highway fuel efficiency, we recommend driving at a consistent speed of around 90-100 km/h. Another benefit of driving at a consistent speed on the highway is lower CO2 emissions, especially when travelling between 90 and 105 km/h.

Which Cars Are Best For Highway Driving?

The best cars for highway driving provide good fuel efficiency, high comfort levels while driving and that includes a quiet cabin. An important question, however, is which type of car is better for highway driving? Should you opt for diesel, petrol, hybrid or electric?

Diesel vs Petrol Cars

Diesel cars often have higher upfront costs and more expensive fuel but they typically last longer than petrol cars. Despite older diesels emitting higher levels of dangerous nitrogen oxides, newer models are much cleaner and meet all the emission standards.

When it comes to highway driving, diesel cars offer the best fuel economy and range per litre, especially for long journeys while petrol cars use a lot more fuel, meaning long-distance driving can be more expensive. Bigger cars also benefit from diesel engines as they are great for towing with higher torque levels.

On the other hand, petrol cars are cheaper to buy and insure than diesel, hybrid, and electric vehicles. They also use the most common type of fuel which means there is a wider selection of used cars. Petrol cars are often quieter and offer a more refined driving experience on the highway than diesels and many are also cheaper to repair.

Hybrid Cars vs Electric Vehicles

Many people believe that hybrid cars provide the best of both worlds. Not only do they offer low-running costs in city driving but hybrid cars are exceedingly comfortable for highway driving. They are also the most fuel-efficient whether driving on the highway or busy city centre. Hybrid cars can also be cheaper to run and more eco-friendly than diesel and petrol derivatives but they are generally much more expensive.

The same goes for electric vehicles (EVs) as they have certainly come a long way in recent years but the price puts them out of reach for many; not to mention the lack of infrastructure in South Africa and the issue around the range. They are undoubtedly getting better with advanced battery technologies for a longer range and improved performance.

With global warming a real issue, more car manufacturers are getting involved in building all-electric vehicles which means they could become more affordable over time. Electric vehicles are the future as they offer very low-running costs, quiet ride, and unmatched acceleration. Better yet, they are environmentally friendly by producing zero exhaust emissions.

Top 10 Cars For Highway Driving

While there are many great cars for highway driving, when looking at running costs, comfort and reliability, here are our top 10 (in no particular order):

Is Less Mileage On A Car Better?

Used car buyers focus heavily on mileage but lower is not always better! At the same time, high mileage doesn’t mean a car is bad either so how do you decide?

As we mentioned earlier. the type of mileage impacts the vehicle whether it was mostly used for highway driving or within busy urban areas. There are also other factors to consider including the vehicle’s age versus mileage, the service history and overall vehicle care.

Low-mileage used cars may be more attractive but they will often also cost more and you still need to make sure the previous owner took good care of them. Remember, cars are at their best when being driven regularly with a good combination of short distance and longer journeys.

Should I Buy A High-Mileage Car?

The low starting price of high-mileage used cars can be very tempting but higher mileage speeds up a car’s depreciation. It can also lead to more general wear and tear too with the concerns around unscheduled repairs. While some may argue that the lower price still saves you in the long run, there are no guarantees.

When buying any used car, it’s best to do so through a trusted dealership like Group1 Cars. By working with us, you have peace of mind knowing we got you covered. Whether you are buying a car for city or highway driving, it goes through stringent pre-sales automotive testing, including mechanical reliability to electrical checks. You’ll also get support from our incredible team of vehicle experts.

Comments are closed.