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ECHO 2000 - Great for Chicago...Wise for Vermont?

I bought a 2000 Echo here in Chicago in 2003, and it’s still my baby, with about 86,000 real miles on the odometer. It has performed extremely reliably all these years, is in great shape, and parks in the tiniest spaces, although it’s mpg was never in line with what others were getting. My Toyota specialist said it was because it was an automatic. It has recently started to need a few replacements for this and that, and I was thinking about whether I should sell it, when it suddenly began getting 5 more mpg, both city and highway (about 29/38 mpg). I think this must have been due to the donut gasket a muffler guy told me I needed (my regular mechanic never had mentioned it was missing). Now I feel like I want to keep the car and enjoy the better mileage for a while. Here’s my quandary…

I’ve been talking about moving to central Vermont for 30 years (I lived there one year way back when), and now that I’m retired, I think I just have to try it out. I’m considering renting a place there for a few months as a trial. I’m wondering, can I reasonably take my Echo there and expect to drive successfully in the snow and ice for a few winter months? I figure it might not be the best long-term car for that location, but until I know I’m going to stay, can I get away with it? Do I have to buy snow tires for my almost 15 year old car in order to do this?

Thank you for any input.

How was it driving in the snow in the Windy City?

You are retired so you can just look out the window when it snows and wait for driving conditions to improve.

My son’s wife has a Yaris, the same as an Echo. She lived in the mountains (Rocky Mountains) as a ski and physical fitness instructor for a number of years. Her Yaris was flawless and with good winter tires she had no problem getting around.

Since winters in Vermont can be very cold, I would upgrade the battery and install a block heater.

Otherwise, your Echo will be fine. My niece, a freelance writer, has the same car as you and finds it a very reliable and faithful machine.

Vermont does a good job at clearing off the snow. If you are retired and you don’t need to go out when the storm rages you might not need winter tires. I’d go to Vermont and then see how it goes.

If you end up living in an area with steep hills you might need winter tires, but they are easy to purchase in Vermont. Your car uses a small sized tire and winter tires really aren’t that expensive.

If you need tires soon consider getting a set of Michelin X-ice tires. They handle fine, are quiet, and are great in snow and ice. With the relatively low miles per year you drive you could just leave the X-Ice tires on the car year round.

“Do I have to buy snow tires for my almost 15 year old car in order to do this?”

You don’t have to, but if you want a HUGE extra margin of safety, you will buy a set of 4 winter tires. The term “snow tire” is now considered to be archaic, and the new-technology winter tires are actually fairly effective on ice, as well as on snow.

How do they provide a huge extra margin of safety?
Because in addition to giving you more traction to get moving, a set of 4 winter tires will allow you to take curves with more traction, and–probably most important of all–to be able to stop in a significantly shorter distance when the roads are slippery.

No matter how well the roads may be cleared of snow, there is always the possibility of ice (including black ice) as a result of the weather conditions. Being able to stop in…perhaps…30 feet less distance can make the difference between a collision and not colliding with something. Obviously, you still have to exercise caution when driving on slippery winter surfaces and you still need to allow for much longer stopping distances, even with winter tires, but they will allow a sane driver to stay much safer.

And, as was already stated, the best bet in winter tires would be one of the various models of Michelin’s X-Ice tires. Some other brands may match their snow traction, but X-Ice tires handle better on dry roads than their competitors, and they have far better tread life.

A good friend who is, let’s say, an adequate driver, had an Echo in Vermont for years and years. Lived on dirt roads, like most Vermonters do, and had to negotiate the usual terrible Vermont winters with time constraints from work. The Echo did very well, including multiple off road adventures in snow, ice and mud. It’s life only ended after a final journey into a ditch, probably while my friend was checking out a woodpecker.

One of the first things that I did when the Air Force stationed me in northern Maine was to purchase a 4WD vehicle. I think I used the 4WD function twice in 5 years. My wife’s FWD Subaru got around better than I did. Take your Echo and see how it performs.

There are no cars as good as the Echo. They say one thing about fuel economy but don’t deliver like your car does. Oh sure, you might find one but you can’t count on it. If you want AWD, my Rav4 gets 18.5 MPG in local driving in my stop and go area. It’s better than my old pickup but nowhere near an Echo.