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Car Recommendations for Living on a Dirt Road and MN Winters

What cars can you recommend for living on a dirt road and Minnesota winters? In our current van, the doors won’t work with the dirt & dust build-up. We opted for manual doors to avoid any malfunctions! My husband has to get under the van every few months to power wash the wheel wells or chisel out the dirt to stop the car from shaking. The “check engine” light comes on from shaking when it’s time to remove the dirt. In the winter, the snow melts and refreezes in the sliding doors and the kids have to exit the front at drop-off. I don’t appreciate the trail of dirt and snow through the van. We don’t need either all wheel drive or 4 wheel drive. We currently own at 2005 Toyota Sienna van which I guarantee they did not test out in Minnesota. We have a family of four with two adults and two children.

You might need to clean your next vehicle just as you do the van. But raising the ground clearance might reduce the number of times you have to do it. This would mean looking at SUVs. The Toyota 4Runner has a ground clearance of 9 inches; aver 2 inches more than the Sienna. Most SUVs have only an inch or so more ground clearance and I would not consider those. You might also consider pick=up trucks with a crew cab. They will all have ground clearance similar to the 4Runner.

I think you should look at the crossover vehicles as well as small SUV’s. With only two children, anything with 4 doors will work. It looks like the need for ground clearance would rule out small 4 door sedans and wagons.

If you don’t have anything against all wheel drive, and the dirt road is not allowed to get large ruts in it, a Subaru might work for you.

A crew-cab pick-up TRUCK…Consider using it to move to Arizona or New Mexico…

Honda Element, simple design and easy to clean.

Thanks for the input! I think the higher clearance will help and skipping the sliding doors is a must. I was hoping to get better gas milege therefore not inclined to the 4Runner. Not many options out there but that’s the price of living in the country. Neither Arizona nor New Mexico are in our near future.

But Arizona and New Mexico have the same problems here in the four corners area and Navajo reservation. Unpaved for so much of its vast expanse that in many winters roads become so un-passable from the thaw making mud that National Guard has been called to drop supplies.

Our answer has always been the full size pickups.
They’re as good as it can get to the point mentioned above.

most vehicles that have the ground clearance you need won’t get great mileage. So, you’re stuck with low and great or high and average

We have lived for years on a dirt road in snow country for years with few ill affects on our vehicles. It all depends upon the “quality” of the road surface. If you have lots of mud and dirt accumulating under the wheel wells, your road needs as much attention as you cars. You should not be having to clean your wheel wells. A surface with a higher rock content and better quality (cleaner) gravel will actually result in a smoother surface.

Frequent grading to maintain a crown is most beneficial. Form a road association if the road includes three or more owners and share the burden. We have and our residents drive anything from trucks to a Prius. Driving slowly works wonders and is actually an incentive for proper warm up. Keep filters clean and wear a little dirt on your car as a badge of pride. The cars are fine, the road needs work and your cars are taking the brunt of it.

I save the money in cars by having a tractor and grading the road myself when needed. My cars appreciate it. A cheap way out if possible, is to go to higher profile tires. It’s not always possible on all vehicles but a little increase does wonders.