Best miles per gallon 4 wheel drive at lowest cost


I live on a farm in Kansas, seven miles off pavement (we’re talkin’ dirt and a few rocks only- our tax dollars at work), with lots of hills, creeks and curves on the way.

I drive a 1994 Buick Roadmaster Woody Station Wagon that runs like a champ and is wonderful in everyway. It is more dependable than my husband. It is also the vehicle I take my produce to farmer’s market in the summer in. I love this car and hope it doesn’t find out I am writing this e-mail.

The challenge I am currently facing is this:

I have been hired to work for the state legislature for the coming session, January through April. In Kansas, as you may know, winter driving is very hazardous. If bad road conditions don’t get you the deer will. In past years when there has been snow in our area, I have had to leave my wagon in town, 7 miles away, and have my husband pick me up and bring me back to the house, sometimes for weeks at a time until the roads clear up.

With that in mind, and knowing I love my current vehicle, but really need something to drive in bad road conditons, this is my question:

What 4 wheel drive vehicle does the best in bad road conditions, gets the best mileage, and costs the least? I would also like to know if there is any place I could rent such a vehicle just through the snowy months then turn it in and go back to driving my Buick, as I have no desire to own and maintain two cars.

Any help would be appreciated. I have bad dreams about my beloved unreplaceable Roadmaster crashed in one of the creeks around our place trying to get out to the highway.


Joyce - the Mole Hill Farmer

Are you looking for used or new?

A set of good (4) winter tires on any car AWD/4WD or FWD/RWD will get you through what you state except in extreme cases.

Otherwise for your 4wd/AWD I would suggest a 2005+ Subaru Outback(high clearance/good mileage/reliable), any year Honda CRV, any year Toyota RAV4, or any Ford Escape.

" What 4 wheel drive vehicle does the best in bad road conditions, gets the best mileage, and costs the least?"

Since you are going on the Government tit, you might as well put in for a State owned vehicle too! Lobby your State Rep (you know the drill) and see if he can get a State owned vehicle assigned to you so you can perform your new winter duties…Failing that, you should get AT LEAST a buck a mile to use your own vehicle…

“Failing that, you should get AT LEAST a buck a mile to use your own vehicle…”

The current GAO/IRS rules only allow $0.485/mile for non-taxed reimbursement for personal vehicles. If they pay you more than that, it will be taxable income.

If you don’t see a lot of Subarus in Kansas it may be that they are not accepted by the residents because thay are foreign cars. I don’t know if this kind of rejection happens in your state but I heard that it happens elsewhere. An extended cab four wheel drive Chevy might be alright but you can’t park the thing because it won’t steer sharply enough. Try one of those Fords that look like an SUV/pickup with the full cab and short bed and see if it will turn well enough in parking lots. The 2002 GMC Sierra is good for 17 MPG on the highway with 4.8 engine and auto trans 4WD (same as Chevy for parking problem).

Good Luck and drive carefully.

Remember that 4WD does not stop faster or stay on the road any better than standard 2WD. What it does do is to increase the chance that you will be able to drive out of the ditch without a tow truck. A good set of winter tyres will reduce the change of you getting into the ditch as well as maybe help you out.

In any case keep a cell phone with you.

Bet you a 6 pack and a case of doughnuts that an AWD/4wd rig stays on the road better than a RWD Buick Roadmaster with an open rear differential.

There are certainly conditions where a 4WD will get you there and a 2WD will not. I keep a 4WD beater around for snow conditions that would be problem for my real (RWD) cars. I certainly would not want to be stuck driving a AWD/4WD/FWD vehicle everyday, but it’s nice to have a 4WD around when you really need one.

Besides the greeny factor, there is a reason why you see so many Subaru’s in Colorado. It’s a solid AWD vehicle that is economical. Oh yeah, it’s assembled in West Lafayette, Indiana. The engine and drive chain come from Japan. Subaru’s don’t do many model year changes as they seem to like to stick with what is proven. There are many Outbacks on the road with 100,000 or more miles on them. I ran into a guy this fall that gave their old Subaru wagon to their daughter. She now has over 290,000 miles on it with only regular oil changes.

The little 4 cylinder boxer engine is a pretty sweet and peppy unit. Fuel mileage is about 23 city and 27+ highway. Plus it’s not as tippy as an SUV and easy to maneuver in parking lots. I loved my 2000 F250 diesel 4x4 pickup, but it was a bugger to maneuver on city roads and parking lots. But it sure smokes the Expedition for city fuel mileage… sigh, I miss that truck. Before the winter is out, I may find myself in a Subaru Outback though.

Her problem is not stopping any faster or staying on the road but actually getting the car moving due to poor road conditions just the last 7 miles of her drive home.

4wd/AWD helps your vehicle get moving along and you cannot ever deny that. I drove my performance all-season equipped Subaru WRX around 5 vehicles stopped or squirming trying to climb the steep winding 4"+ deep mountain access road to Jay Peak VT(in midst of snow dump). I agree wholeheartedly though on the point of AWD not stopping or turning much better once moving.

The new Suzuki SX Hatchback comes in all wheel drive (AWD) and is by far the least expesnsive. With a 4 cyl engine it will get twice the mileage as your Buick. In additon, in the summer it can run in 2 wheel drive. See Consumer Reports new car guide for details before visiting the Suzuki dealer. Both Honda nad Toyota used to have very small AWDs, but the RAV4 and CRV have grown rather large.

You can find your answer on Here’s the URL:

4WD vehicles aren’t listed as a category; you’ll have to check the usual list of suspects. The Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute Hybrids will give you the best mileage for a 4WD/AWD vehicle. The Toyota Highlander is not far behind. The Jeep Compass and Patriot (4-cyl) have the best mileage among the nonhybrid models. You can use on line resources to determine how much they cost (,,