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Car for Buffalo Snow

Hear is the short of it. I am moving to Buffalo, NY. Will my 2009 Pontiac Vibe (2.4 l engine)hack the snow? It will be used for mostly highway driving with some suburban and city driving. I read the general discussion from 2009 where it seemed to indicate Vibes do OK as long as they have snow tires. But from what I hear, Buffalo is a special place when it comes to snow. Does anyone have any experience with Vibes in areas with lake effect snow like the Buffalo - Niagara Falls area has? How do they do? Will snow tires make the car work? Or am I going to need AWD?

The secret is to not drive when the snow is bad. The other secret is to drive slowly when conditions are bad. You don’t need any particular vehicle.

Four winter tires are 95% of driving on snow. AWD will accelerate faster, but will not stop or turn faster. I’ve driven in Colorado snow 34+ years. My RWD BMW with four real winter tires does better than an Audi Quattro with four all (read three) season tires.

Where are you moving from? Do you drive the Vibe in snow where you currently live? If so, you should have pretty good idea of how it handles snow.

If you’ve never driven in snow before you have more to worry about than your vehicle of choice.

A vibe with FOUR winter tires should be fine most of the time, assuming you know how to drive in the snow.

Here’s one tip; when the snow is too deep, or you don’t feel comfortable, don’t drive. You can’t crash or get stuck if you’re not on the road.

Many people think they need AWD or 4WD just because they live in snow country. Neither of those systems guarantees anything. You can get stuck even with AWD or 4WD. The difference is, when you get stuck in one of those, you’re REALLY stuck.

AWD or 4WD often gives drivers a false sense of security because the vehicle will get up to speed more easily than a 2WD vehicle. But all vehicles have the same problems turning and stopping, regardless of drive train configuration. That’s why you see so many 4WDs with their front ends smashed in. The can go faster in the snow than it’s safe to go, and they do not have the necessary stopping ability. People usually learn this the hard way.

Keep the Vibe, get winter tires, and PRACTICE (in a safe place away from traffic) driving in snow. You’ll be fine.

I do not advise abandoning your Vibe just because you’re moving. You WILL, however, need four winter tires.

Snow in Buffalo area varies greatly as lake affect snow is wind direction sensitive. Winter tires will be fine. They have lots of snow plowing equipment and road crews know how to plow and handle the snow. A bigger challenge will be digging out your driveway and side walks. Lots of folks have snow throwers to do that job.

The Vibe will do fine with a good set of winter tires and good technique, however I also suggest that you keep a “blizzard kit” in the truck with a change of clothing and some toiletries. I’ve been caught in a lake-effect blizzrd in Buffalo and the only truely safe thing to do (if you’re any distance from home) is pull into the nearest hotel.

Buffalo is flat. The biggest hills you will climb ate the interstate ramps. 2WD will be no problem. After you move there, see how many people drive AWD or 4WD vehicles. There is no need to change now.

I’ve driven in Colorado snow 34+ years. My RWD BMW with four real winter tires does better than an Audi Quattro with four all (read three) season tires.

Unless you live in the mountains…Colorado sees about 1/10 the snow Buffalo does.

That’s a LOT easier said then done. Problem with this area of the country is lake effect snow…that is unpredictable and can leave 12" of snow in a 5 mile area. And the surrounding areas are clear and sunny.

You need a vehicle that’s equipped for a lot of snow.

And decent fwd vehicle with snow tires will do fine. But definitely get snow tires. All-season are fine for NH, but NOT for this area of the country. The lake effect snow is too unpredictable…and can leave a 5-mile patch of 12". It may be sunny where you are…and sunny where you’re driving to (15 miles away)…l.but there’s a 2 mile stretch of road between you and where you’re heading this is in blizzard white-out conditions. Now around February there’s very little Lake Effect snow in the Buffalo area because by now Lake Erie is frozen over. The Syracuse and Oswego area get’s their lake effect snow from Lake Ontario which DOESN’T freeze, so their lake effect snow continues into April.

The only thing I’d add is that I’d think about getting ice gripping studs on your snow tires too. They can help you on icy patches, particularly when you’re starting from a full stop (like pulling out of a parking space).

From firsthand experience, I agree with everybody who says tires make the difference - moreso than the vehicle. I drive a jeep. It has 4 wheel drive. I was caught in a blizzard on a busy highway - was going 25 mph with all weather tires. I went into a skid and couldn’t recover it - luckily I escaped unscathed.

The first thing I did after getting home was buy four studded snow tires.

It’s all about the tires.

If you live in Buffalo, and you do not drive when the snow is bad, you will be stuck at home 7 months of each year. Actually I exaggerate a little, but you get the point.

If you have the type of job where you have to be on the road during a blizzard (like a doctor, nurse, or pizza delivery driver), you will want something with all wheel drive and a lot of ground clearance. Otherwise, if you can stay off the road during a blizzard, your car will be fine with a good set of four winter tires.

Generally, they do a pretty good job of plowing the roads in Buffalo. Sometimes they take time to get to some of the back streets, but most of the major roads get plowed pretty quickly after a storm.

I grew up in Buffalo, and some of my friends still live there. Some are crazy and drive on so-called all season tires. No matter how many times they bang up their cars, I can’t convince them to get winter tires.

In case you are interested, I took this photo of my house during the Blizzard of 1984.

And Flagstaff Arizona gets more annual snow than Buffalo.

Buffalo takes their snow removal seriously. So, even if there is lots of snow, my relatives there do fine with fwd cars both with and without snow tires. But, if you want the security of venturing out just before or during a storm, nothing beats awd with ground clearance and snow tires. So, it depends upon you pocketbook, your driving habits and the level security you’re willing to live with. I’m with “jt” on this and recommend you wait till you live there a while.

What part of Colorado and NOT IN THE MOUNTAINS is confusing.

Yea flagstaff sees more snow then Buffalo…it’s ALSO at 7000’… AND NOT IN COLORADO. But even still it only sees slightly more snow then Buffalo…but less then Syracuse…and far less then towns like Pulaski or Barns Corner.

Completely agree. The biggest hills are usually the ramps. I’ve lived in Rochester all my life and we get similar snow amounts as Buffalo ( We have a FWD Matrix and a Focus both with all season tires and we do fine. Just drive slowly (or not at all), and make sure your tires have good tread. Better yet, get winter tires.

Driving technique is more important than equipment. I can’t emphasize enough how many AWD/RWD vehicles I see sliding around because they’re going too fast. Drive slowly and safely.

I’ve been caught in a lake-effect blizzrd in Buffalo and the only truely safe thing to do (if you’re any distance from home) is pull into the nearest hotel.

Great advice if you’re just driving through…however if you live there…well that’s not so easy. I’ve seen years where they’ll get 20-30 of those lake effect blizzards a year. And they all of a sudden show up and BAM…your right in the middle of it. Extremely difficult to predict. All they can predict is that conditions are right for lake effect snow…which is about 75% of the winter.

My vote is that good winter tires should be fine except in the worst conditions. It’s easier to have them on an extra set of wheels, probably just basic steel ones in your case. You can buy a tire and wheel package ready to put on from Tire Rack if you feel like buying online. Even if you don’t buy from them, use their web site to check out the reviews of the tires you’re considering.

Firestone Blizzaks on the front…My Vibe and Corolla before it performed like mountain goats in the snow…Ohio, Lake erie area.

Do you mean Bridgestone Blizzaks, or do you mean Firestone Winterforce tires?
In any event, winter tires should be mounted in sets of four.
If you mount them on just the front drive wheels, you will experience problems with rear traction, meaning that you are more likely to spin-out on a curve.

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Yes, Bridgestone…heck, when I started using Blizzacks they were still going by the Firestone name! I’m aware of the mounting all four with snowies but never had an issue on the Vibe. Attributed that to the traction control system and always had good all season tires on the rear.