Do I really need awd?

I’m trying to find a new car and my parents really want it to be awd. We live in rural missouri on a mile long private gravel road with a large valley in the middle of it, so when it snows we’re on our own. Last year we had about 8 inches at once and had i not driven a tahoe at the time i would have never been able to get to work. My neighbor on the same road got stuck in his smaller car (a focus maybe? i’m not sure). Everyone in my family drives a 4wd chevy suv or truck, so they’re really reluctant to let me explore sedan options. I’ve found some awd sedans but my options are really limited.
The thing is, it only snows like 5 times a year where I live, and the blizzard last year was out of the ordinary. I’m in college about an hour and a half away and 90% of my driving is on the highway, not on country backroads. My friend drives a fwd hyundai and she can make it down my drive way in good weather no problem. So do I really need awd? Do you think i’d be okay in a fwd car? Ive seen people talking about winter tires but i have no experience with them. Would that work on a rough gravel road??
I looked at the civic si and it checks all my boxes (fast, affordable, decent on gas, reliable) except being awd… i’m also open to reccomendations of sporty fwd sedans/coupes that do good in winter weather. thanks!

I dunno, up to you. In Minneapolis all they stock is the AWD SUV so that’s what we got but actually I’ve only driven it a few time in snow. Usually just stay home or take my Pontiac FWD. Yes there are a few times AWD would be nice in deep snow but in Missouri? Winter tires would help in snow and ice but will do no good on bare gravel plus if 90% of your travel is on bare roads, you’ll likely wear the winter tires out in one or two seasons so I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle. So if FWD is what you want and fits your needs and desires, I think that’s fine. Just make sure you have good all season tires on it, not high mpg tires. I put Goodyear weather ready tires on and think they are pretty good in bad weather. Yeah there might be a few times you just stay in town.

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Small cars get damaged on rough roads. You need ground clearance. The Rav4 is slightly wider than a Corolla and isn’t much longer so I recommend a vehicle like it with Dunlop Signature II tires or other good quality tires. My 2013 had smooth looking tires and I never needed snow tires. I live in Maine where I had to climb steep hills at 25 MPH speed limits. Never had a problem. If you have to stop while going uphill you will be happy to have AWD. The Rav got 29+ MPG on the highway even with a 110 mile stretch at 75 mph. It did not get 30 MPG but came close.BAD: The speedometer was off by 3 MPH so I had to drive faster to get to my speed.

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I’ve had the same debate myself - do you base a vehicle purchase on 3 days a year? It depends on how bad you HAVE to get out and any other options you have. And Murphy’s Law may kick in and the winter after you buy the sedan, you get snowed in for 3 weeks.

You may have more options than you than you think. It seems a bit a of a shame to buy a car due to one mile of a 60 or 80 mile drive.

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The ground clearance issue will get you stuck faster than FWD will. A sedan or coupe with AWD can’t handle 8 inches of snow… the car will plow it. A FWD SUV, especially with 4 winter tires, will get you through most anything on-road a 4WD truck will.

My 4WD truck will still be moving long after my Audi A4 Quattro AWD is stopped cold.

Unless you can just stay home the few days of heavy snow, forget the sporty sedan plan.


You are one of the few people who might actually need an SUV with AWD. The key factor is getting to work on time and where you live.

I would avoid a truck but get one of the many mid size SUVs with AWD. Consumer Reports has all of the listed. Since you live in a rural area, buy the brand that sells well in your area.

I would avoid any VW product and stick with Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda or Kia.

8" snow - they really need to drive when they get 8" of snow? How long til it melts (normally)? My wife has a fwd vehicle and I have an awd vehicle. If snow gets too bad during the week either my wife will work at home or I’ll drive her to work. But that’s only happened twice in the past 10 years.

If they MUST drive then you need a truck/SUV. I don’t know of any mid-size or small SUV that’ll get you through 8" of unplowed gravel road without knowing a lot about driving in snow. 95% of driving in snow is knowing HOW to drive in snow. 5% is enhanced equipment like AWD or 4wd. If your parents don’t have much experience driving in snow, then getting a AWD or even 4wd for severe snow conditions is an accident waiting to happen.

You really need to think about this.

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Can’t speak to your situation OP, but I lived in a Colorado ski resort town and drove a fwd VW Rabbit, never had any problem. It was paved roads of course. And for the most part they were well plowed. But I did sometimes have to drive up to the ski resort w/8 inches of fresh snow on the road in the morning occasionally. I had a 4WD truck at the time too, but only needed the 4WD feature during the winter to tow people out of winter driving predicaments they got themselves into by driving too fast for the conditions.

Right a lot of the problem is ground clearance so if you can get a FWD with higher ground clearance you will be fine.

Here’s a summer project. Upgrade the one mile driveway. Have a few loads of gravel dumped along the way and rent a dozer or whatever to regrade the drive. It’s actually great fun. No reason to have to restrict the kind of normal car you drive because of a driveway that needs to be regraded. In rural Minnesota, long farm drive ways are common and regrading is a regular event. I remember in high school on a choir tour, a couple of us ended up staying with a family way out in the woods in northern Minnesota. The kid drove at least a mile through a forest road with his rear wheel drive compact Ford-whatever it was back in 1965. Made it in and out just fine dodging the ruts and puddles along the way.


Need and want is always a distinction. I did not need awd, or 4wd living in IL, WI, ND, but I have it now, yes it is sweet, could I do without, sure, would I miss it, sure.

@vipergg i’m considering that. This might sound like a dumb question, but is it reasonable to lift a sedan a couple inches? I looked up the ground clearance of a car I like and it’s only an inch and a half shorter than my equinox, and from what i’ve read online I can afford to do so.

My family has lived on a gravel road for 40yrs and after some trial and error we’ve found the right kind of rock that packs down to make it almost as smooth as asphalt but they usually just need to buy a load of gravel once a year for patch jobs. When it snows someone brings out their tractor to plow the road (it’s shared with 4 other families so the cost gets spit 5 ways) Basically anything gets down the road just fine.

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My dad actually does that every year, his friend has a trucking company and we own a skid loader so we can do it for cheap. Our driveway is in good shape for a gravel road, no big ditches just small pot holes that can easily be avoided.

No, it is expensive and a couple of inches when you could buy a better vehicle for your purpose to start with.


Subaru makes a fantastic AWD system. Forester is a nice option.

In the same household?
Could you just borrow one of those during bad weather?
Then get yourself a car you like for the other 300+ days a year?

@circuitsmith yes exactly. I’d like to try that, since the only time i’d have to drive on our driveway in snow is when i’m home for winter break. It’s just a matter of me convincing my parents at this point. I’m pretty sure a civic si or subaru impreza could handle my driveway in dry weather no problem, and it seems like with winter tires they could do fine on snowy roads.

Keep what you have until out of college and out on your own . Then you might find your needs will have changed plus you will still be in the high rate insurance bracket .

And - voila - there You have the answer.
Good luck and all the best with Your new (to You) civic or impreza.