The Best Car For Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

Thinking about the sign: ‘Welcome to California’ evokes thoughts of sunshine, beaches… and Disneyland. There’s so much to see in the state that it can be difficult to figure out how to see all the highlights in one trip. That’s where The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) comes in. If you’re just visiting, you’re in for the ride of your life. If you’re a California native, why not rent a hot car and get ready to see your home state like you’ve never seen it before.

Starting Your Trip on the Pacific Coast Highway

Running from Washington State all the way to the Mexico border, the Pacific Coast Highway in California is iconic. Every commercial or movie you’ve ever seen with someone riding in a car on a highway that hangs out over the ocean is most likely filmed on the PCH. James Dean, Steve McQueen and every other legend of the big screen has been filmed or photographed driving along it’s beautiful scenery. So let’s plan that big trip…

As we take the drive, we’ll talk about some amazing stop and what type of car to rent.

First stop, Redwood National Park. The world’s largest trees are within easy driving distance from the world’s largest ocean. In fact, old growth forest runs right up to the water. Stop to look at trees that can be over 300 feet tall. That’s the same height at the Statue of Liberty.

Car rental note: Don’t get a soft-top convertible. This might seem like a great idea, but the ocean is fickle. The fog and cold can come in at you at any time. Instead, plan to stop often and enjoy the view without a windshield interrupting you.

Best Car for This Stretch of PCH: The GMC Acadia. Seating seven, this is the perfect vehicle for driving in and around the Redwoods. There’s plenty of room for camping gear or even kayaks if you decide to enjoy the area.

Redwood National Park

Another great stop down the highway is Glass Beach, Fort Bragg. The beach is covered in ‘sea glass’. For decades the area just off the coast was used as the city’s dump. The bottles have broken up and now the beach is covered in sea glass.

It’s like a beach covered in gems.

Car rental note: As you go down the highway further, it starts to get very windy. A car with a low-center of gravity will be nicer. The wind can come in off the ocean and a big car can feel like a sail.

Best Car for This Stretch of PCH: The Ford Mustang – Its low center of gravity and heavy body weight are perfect for riding the highway. As you get to the open stretches, you can accelerate with its massive engine and enjoy riding the highway in a piece of American Heavy Metal.

Our next stop is not far away – Mendocino. The backdrop to the TV show “Murder She Wrote”, the city is a perfect mixture of Victorian houses and quaint cafes. Upscale without being stuck up, Mendocino is the perfect place to stop and grab a quick bite or stay in one of the city’s many B&Bs

Car rental note: It can be impractical to stop at every single amazing sight, so bring a navigator/photographer with you. They can be keeping track of the trip and keep you on course while you drive. PCH isn’t very wide, so being aware of your surroundings (and not constantly checking a map) will be much safer.

Best Car for This Stretch of PCH: Here we might have to break our own rules and get a Tesla Roadster. This all-electric hot rod is convertible so you can enjoy the clean air of the Mendocino area. Be careful! This is also one of the fastest cars ever built and, since there’s no engine noise, you can be flying before you notice it.

San Francisco bridge

Our next stop is in the big city, San Francisco. There is no other city like the Golden City. Everything is here, but what you should look for are the icons, like Fisherman’s Wharf. There are also still plenty of hippy shops and even a trip out of Alcatraz Island will make this great city’s history come to life.

Car rental note: As you get into the city, it might be a good place to look for a smaller, less expensive vehicle. You don’t necessarily want to be responsible for a $75,000 car when a $20,000 car will do.

Best Car for This Stretch of PCH: It might seem corny, but if you really want to enjoy the city, see if you can rent a vintage Volkswagen Beetle. The great weather in California is merciful on cars so there are still thousands and thousands of this iconic car around.

Whatever car you choose, make sure you have the right insurance. Nothing ruins a road trip like an unexpected claim. Check if your rental comes with insurance or whether you should upgrade your current policy. Compare rates for free with and see if you can save some cash to spend on your big trip.

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