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1998 ford ranger - an okay truck for snowy hilly commute?

I need to buy a car or truck to drive to my new job. I drive about 10 miles each way, which is not far, but it is a very hilly and somewhat winding commute. I live in Vermont, so we get a lot of snow.

The job is on a farm, so I really have to be there no matter what the weather is.

My friend has a 1998 Ford Ranger for sale. She has taken good care of it, gotten everything checked and will sell it to me for a fair price (thus eliminating many of the bad parts of buying a used vehicle). I will get some nice snow tires for it and keep weight in the back.

But I wonder if I am still gonna slip and slide all over the road at 4:30 in the morning for 4 months out of the year? This would be a major bummer. I’m a careful driver, but certainly not an all weather pro like some natives. Can anyone comment?

With 4WD, snow tires, and decent weight distribution over the wheels the biggest variable is the driver rather than the vehicle.

Keep in mind that car sales between friends often don’t work out well.

If it’s 4WD and you have four real winter tires, it will be no problem. I’d stay away from a RWD pickup – they are the worst in snow.


If the Ford Ranger is a 2WD truck, meaning RWD then no; not a good choice. If you can live with spinning rear wheels, then put winter tires on all 4 wheels and carry 200 to 300 lbs of sand in back. You won’t get stuck, but you will feel some slipping and spinning of the rear wheels. But you said no spinning and that isn’t in the cards for a RWD pick up truck.

If it a 4WD Ranger then you can make it work, winter tires recommended.

You can do fine in Vermont with just about any FWD car with 4 winter tires on it. There are cheap Ford Escorts, and such that will be fine. Don’t get sucked into a Subaru unless you have deep pockets for repair bills.

You didn’t mention the most important factor: does it have 4WD or Rear-wheel drive. There is a critical difference.

If it is 2wd does it have an antispin differential? I had an 03 with that and as far as pickups go it was a significant improvement.

As other responders have mentioned or implied, if this truck is RWD rather then 4WD, it is probably the worst type of vehicle to take out on slippery winter road surfaces.

RWD pickup trucks have really poor traction, and unless they are aided with a set of 4 winter tires and about 200 lbs of ballast directly over the rear axle, vehicles like that are best left in the driveway when there is even a possibility of snow and/or icing conditions.

On the other hand, if this truck has 4WD, and if you are willing to mount a set of 4 winter tires, then you should have a vehicle that is quite capable of safely navigating winter road surfaces–as long as you drive in a sane manner.

As usual, the Devil is in the details.

I’d avoid a RWD truck here in Vermont unless you want to put chains on once or twice a year. Obviously, I haven’t driven every state and rural road in Vermont, but here in Chittenden County, snow removal is very good. The place would be paralyzed in Winter if it weren’t. It’s actually much easier to get around in Vermont in the Winter than it is to get around major Northeastern cities – even those as far South as Washington, DC. Just slow down, keep moving, use common sense, expect to use a lot of space stopping and don’t be too surprised if you end up in a ditch. Somebody will be along to help you out of it after a while and nobody will laugh at you as long as you don’t do it often. In all likelihood, they’ve been there themselves.

Note: Snow tyres are old technology.  Winter tyres are far better.

I live in Minnesota, and owned a 2000 Ranger (though it was 4WD) I found that in the winter I got great traction when I carried an 800lb cast iron bath tub in the truck bed ? no kidding, it was by accident as I was remodeling my bathroom, but I did keep it in the back throughout the winter months.

I agree with what everyone has said. i may have missed the revelation of whether it’s two or 4 wd. That makes the critical difference. Otherwise, we’re just preaching to the choir as we all agree. What is it ?
expect to use a lot of space stopping and don’t be too surprised if you end up in a ditch. Somebody will be along to help you out of it after a while
this comment gives me pause…frequent “ditching” and depending upon someone coming along.
That tells me 4wd is really worthwhile.

Rangers used to be bad news in snow. They were unstable. The98 is probably better than the 88 but I don’t know how much better. If you have not bought it yet, stay the heck away from it. They aren’t built for handling and the ride is lousy. I would never recommend one and definitely would not recommend that you buy an old one like the 98.

Rangers would go over onto their sides in snow and Bronco 2’s would flip over end to end. You don’t need one.

LSDs are great, but if both wheels are stuck in the snow they don’t do you any good, because all it means is that both wheels are spinning instead of just 1.

If it’s purely rear wheel drive with that light truck bed, it’s really going to suck. Get some chains to go with the snow tires, and a couple hundred pounds of sand or something to go in the bed over the rear axle. Or better yet, drive something else and keep this for a better weather utility vehicle.

The two worst vehicles I ever drove in the winter were an 80s Firebird and a compact pickup.