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Cheap 4wd or AWD for student driver

I need to find an expensive, used 4WD or AWD vehicle for my daughter who goes to school in Bozeman, MT. It snows a lot there! Any suggestions for under $10,000? Gas mileage, repair record is important

A 4WD pickup truck will probably be the least expensive vehicle you can buy and meet your requirements. A 2005/2006 Ford Ranger XL (regular cab) with auto transmission and a few options will still be less than $10,000 from a dealer. You might fond a 2007 from a private party for less than $10,000. A cover or cap is inexpensive and will make the bed secure.

A Subaru if you can find a decent one. They are popular in Montana but used ones tend to be over-priced…A FWD car with a set of winter tires should be all she needs at far less expense…

Just get her a nice car (Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc.) and four real winter tires. AWD/4WD is not necessary for winter driving. I’ve been winter driving all my life – 5 years in New England, 35 in Colorado and 5 in Moscow without 4WD. Never got stuck once.

I’d also recommend a fwd intermediate car with 4 winter tires. Cheap awd is not a good combination.

Consumer Reports recommends a used Suzuki SX 4, a small compact awd car if you are bent on getting one. According to them, it’s the least expensive’ reliable, awd car. It’s not the cat’s meow in mileage but it’s cute and functional. But…

Our kids did real well with Corollas and 4 studded snow tires and never missed 4 wd. This is in Maine when it used to snow a lot before global warming…just kidding. Unless you live on a dirt road with perpetual ice, any compact with snow tires should do. Compacts do better in deep snow with the shorter wheel base and narrower tires and can more easily be “retrieved” when stuck.

I would never recomend a 4 wd pick up for a novice driver. You can’t run them on dry roads in 4 wd and if in 2 wd and they suddenly hit snow or ice, I have seen too many teenage drivers get into accidents with them spinning out of control. Everyone is now weaned on fwd and has little experience with rwd breaking loose.

I am sorry no additional suggestions, but was surprised to see nowadays $10K is “cheap” when it comes to cars.

I would go with dagosa’s suggestion of the Suzuki SX4. The SX4 is a great car, we looked at buying it. One of the main reason’s we went with a Subaru is that there was more leg room in the back seat and had a larger luggage capacity.

I always did really well, in the snow, in my old '92 Nissan Sentra SE-R. It had a limited slip differential (lsd) in the transmission that made all the difference in the world for accelerating in snow. And, it got better gas mileage than any 4x4 truck could get. Bonus! And, you can easily pick up a mint SE-R for under $4,000.
Got ice? Well, you need studded tires in that case. A front wheel drive Sentra on studded tires is easy to drive in bad weather. I used to drive right by all those “4x4” trucks that were stuck in ditches.
So, the key is finding a vehicle with lsd. It’s even possible these days to install an lsd inside of some popular Honda Civic transmissions. Do a google search and you will find out who makes them. I mention the Civic because your daughter may want something cute. Your cost (cute car plus added lsd) under $5,000.

Or buy a newer car with fewer miles because Honda and Toyota command higher prices on the used market.
A 2007 base Civic sedan manual will be under 10k, depending on miles while an 08 base Mazda 3 sedan manual can be had for a couple grand less(09 goes above 10k) and most trim models of an 08 Focus can be had for under 10k.

spend the rest on advanced driving school lessons on how to control the car in winter time

Ah, to drive-that is good advice and a dose of common sense(dont drive when its too bad out,had many occasions where I was tooling merrily along and had to stop when some driver had lost their nerve and lacked the necessary skills to proceed.(that was in my 2wd drive days doesnt snow that much around here now,beware of the black ice though) any rate something that wont high center in the snow as readily,studded narrow,tall snow tires ,as a last resort chains,steady motion and defensive driving and recognizing ones limitations.I would actually recommend a Crown Vic with a LSD differential(highway mileage isnt that bad)-Kevin

thanks everyone for all of the great suggestions. I meant to say “inexpensive” and it looks like everyone figured that one out! A good set of winter tires makes sense. I am certainly open to more suggestions.

Civic or Corolla with 4 quality winter tires can you get so many places.

My Dad always used to tell us if the weather was bad enough that you needed 4wd to get around we didn’t need to go anywhere! :wink:

I agree, FWD car with winter tires would be the way to go! Should get her anyplace on campus with no problem.

Totally agree D. Everywhere I’ve lived the roads have been plowed and salted within a couple of hours after it stops snowing. In my observations there are three types of car buyers when it comes to 4WD/AWD- ones who genuinely need it, those that think they need it (whether or not they actually need it/just plain want it) and those that can’t be bothered.

Only time I’ve ever “needed” 4WD/AWD was once when I wanted to go on a beer run and my car was stuck in a parking spot. A shovel was probably all I really needed, but I just decided to walk to my favorite bar which was only a couple blocks away. Every other time I’ve needed 4WD/AWD (for work) I’ve been provided with one (by work).

The thing with AWD or 4WD is that it helps you go but does not help you stop at all or corner any better. Sometimes it provides false security in bad weather. Also with AWD, if one tire gets ruined you have to replace them all. I know its all the rage now for anyone that encounters any kind of bad weather but I agree a FWD with winter tires would make more sense. That’ll help to go, corner, and stop. Problem is you have to change them in the spring so where do you put them?

Presumably gnlface could store the tires? Change them at Thanksgiving and again at spring break? Or depending on the snow season just change them out for the summer? Again I don’t really know what the snow is like up there but at least for me the snow I get a round here makes it hard to justify getting a set of winter tires. I manage with all seasons but I usually swap them out before they wear out mostly due to damage so they tend to have decent tread on them. The whole “replace all four tires” is part of the reason on my most recent purchase I shied away from AWD. Having to spend $600-800 on tires because I got an unrepairable flat is not all that attractive to me.

Although one of the first comments recommended a compact pickup, I as a compact pickup owner would not recommend them at all for a novice driver. I think that they are way too light in the rear and to be honest I think you need to be proficient at vehicle handling to be able to drive one safely in adverse conditions.

I will add my usual comments.

Winter weather creates a number of driving problems.

The one most of us think of and are exposed to first is getting stuck in the snow. We look at 4WD or AWD to take care of that problem. However there is a much more serious problem that many people fail to put first.

Ask yourself this first. Is it more important to be able to get out of your drive way or is it more important to be able to stay on the road and not loose control of your car?

4WD and AWD will help you avoid getting stuck and will help you get to your destination and maybe help you out if you get stuck, but they will not provide much, if any, help in avoiding an accident.

Please put safety first.  

A good set of winter tyres will help you get to your destination and will also be a big help in avoiding an accident.

Goodshepard…I agree that the fear of having to replace all 4 tires because you ruined one is a reason not to buy awd, but it’s totally unfounded. My awd manual says you may replace both on one axle only. If the rest of the tires are close, within 2 to 3/32 inch, continue normal rotation and move on. If there is a significant difference in wear, yes, you should replace all 4 especially if you use a different tread design then original. But, you should do that with ANY CAR for safety.

Ruining one tire and not the others is a case of low profile tires, driving like a mad man or perpetual bad luck. I have had 4wd and awd vehicles for over twenty years. This situation has NEVER occurred. It’s a CYA that tire manufacturers and awd car makers warn you about, but should be standard for ALL cars. It seldom happens.

IMO, you may not consider having an awd car because you don’t have a need. But if you have a need, and struggle with your 2wd in unsafe conditions because you fear the tire craze warning, your in denial…it just doesn’t happen enough to worry about. It’s like damaging one strut and replacing two on the same axle. No more, no less.

What fwd only drivers don’t know, is that awd cars are easier on tires during normal use and it’s possible to get much more wear out of them…thus saving you more in tires over the life of the car. Fwd cars are much harder and those $700 replacement cost occurr much more often, especially if you have a six or eight. Power and fwd don’t mix well without eating up tires. Awd in that higher power situation alone, saves a wealth in tires.

Awd with winter tires is the optimal way to travel in snow and ice compared to any 2wd car. They are outstanding in avoiding hazardous situations and generally handle better then any comparable fwd car, in all conditions.

If your daughter is living on campus, or with in a block or two, she will only need the car to come home on weekends/holidays. She can walk during the week. And if there is a storm that weekend/holiday, do you want her out in it anyway? I join the chorus, front wheel drive compact and good tires.