4 Wheel Transportation

My fiance and I will be married right after he returns from Iraq and right before we get stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. Talk about a body shock! We’ve been told to sell his Chev Aveo, ship my Camry and purchase a used 4 wheel drive. We know NOTHING about a 4 wheel drive, we know NOTHING about what type of vechicle will do well in cold temps. We will only need it about three years. Can you suggest something we should look for. Figure we don’t need an AC but a heater would be nice!! Thank you so much.

Okay, here’s a little 4x4 101:

There’s basically two main systems, part time 4 wheel drive and full-time 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive as its commonly called now. With a part time 4 wheel drive vehicle (which these days are only trucks or truck-based SUVs), when you’re in 4-wheel drive mode the front and rear axles turn at the same speed, which is an advantage in deep snow or mud but makes it so you can’t use it on dry pavement. With all wheel drive, there’s a center differential that allows you to use it on dry pavement which makes it much more useful for driving around town or on the highway during inclement weather. Different manufacturers use different all wheel drive systems, though, and there are big differences in the actual capabilities of them with Subaru being far and away the best of any of the lower-priced brands.

However, for just driving around town, the best thing you can do is get four snow tires for your cars. If you’re only going to be driving around in town, you’ll be fine with a front-wheel drive car with snow tires. It might be nice to have an actual truck-based part-time 4wd vehicle to go adventuring around the Last Frontier, but that’s more of a lifestyle choice.

Any modern car will do okay in the extreme cold as long as you keep a good battery in them, but you can do it and yourself a favor by having a block heater installed. This is a device that plugs into a household electrical outlet and keeps the engine warm so the car warms up faster, which is better for the engine and better for your cold body.

Heated seats would be nice.

If the car will be outside at night near a plug, an engine block heater would be a really good idea. A remote starter could be helpful, although personally I’d be a little uncomfortable using one in extreme cold because I’d want to be sure the car is running properly.

If you buy something with a navigation system, keep in mind that not all of them cover Alaska.

Make sure you carry extra clothing and blankets in the trunk for emergencies. Don’t forget to check if your cellphone provider covers that area well.

If you ship your Camry in winter, keep in mind that your current windshield washer fluid may not be rated for the temperature up there.

Do you think you’ll stay around town on plowed roads or will you be out exploring?

a subaru outback would be the one. it can go almost anywhere in the snow and ice, great gas millage,and is very dependable.it also comes with heated seats and mirrors.

Sounds like you also need some Alaska info. First, you do need AC, Fairbanks gets over 90 in the summer on occasion (and 50 below in the winter). You definitely need to get four mounted snow tires (I used studded tires for my 12 years in Anchorage, but you need to check if they’re still allowed). And a block heater will be needed, for sure. There’s no problem buying vehicles in Fairbanks, but you probably won’t get as good a deal as you might in the ‘lower 48’. As others have said, FWD will do fine for around town (I had a GTI all 12 years, never got stuck). That said, you will want to get an AWD or 4WD vehicle for your other car to allow you to do some exploring during your stay. In 3 years you’ll be able to see lots of Alaska, there aren’t many roads, actually. I’d go with a compact AWD SUV (Forester, CRV, Rav4), or maybe the next size up. Good luck!

one thing to take for a grain of salt is. i am not sure how populated it is up there and what type of cars thrive up there? but find out what are commin 4wd/awd vechiles there are up there so when your car brakes down and i am sure it will, that you do not have the only type of that car for 1000 miles for parts.plus if it is a commin vechile i am sure every one and them some can fix it. so it would realy drop the prices for it to get fixed.

Your soon-to-be husband should also check with any of his friends that are already there for more info.

Thank you to everyone for your excellent advice. You have helped immensly. Next problem is learning how to keep our bodies warm and running. We will think of one and all as we head North to Alaska!!!