Getting out of a ditch

Please help with our spousal debate. My husband and I need to purchase a 4WD vehicle as we have just moved to a town known for its snow and wind in the winter. My husband will be driving 40 miles though a mountain pass 3 days/week and my concern is that he may end up in a ditch in the winter. We are considering the Toyota Highlander or Honda CRV. Which car would be better for windy winter weather and maybe needing to get out of the ditch (one of us says the heavier vehicle with a larger engine/power would be better, the other says the lighter vehicle may do just as well because it is not reaching peak horsepower at the RPMs necessary for getting out of a ditch and it gets better gas mileage). Thanks for your help.

Getting stuck in a ditch stems in large part from driving habits. 4WD only helps you to start moving in heavy snow and the like; it does NOT help you stop or turn. As long as you’re driving reasonably slow when conditions are bad, you shouldn’t have any problems.

That said, if I really had to choose one of those two vehicles, I’d go with the Toyota. The CR-V is not something I would ever consider able to get out of a ditch on its own. A Highlander might not either, but it’s a little better. Truthfully, I would never consider either one of these cars for mountain snow driving.

Is a V8 completely out of the question for you two? Removing a vehicle from a ditch under its own power takes some oomph, and I can’t help doubting that the V6 in the Highlander has it. No consideration to a Chevy Tahoe or Toyota Sequoia?

Don’t plan on getting into ditches. The most important item is not power but tires/traction. Purchase 4 dedicated winter tires mounted on steel rims you’ll claw your way out of a ditch. Have your husband carry a tow strap too for those good sumaritans who pull you out.

Lastly whatever you buy get AWD.

The trick is avoiding driving into the ditch. The old joke about 4WD is that it lets you get further off the road before you get stuck. Personally, I have an old beater jeep for snow days and real cars for the rest of the time. The jeep has plenty of dents and big nasty snow tires, but it spends most of it’s time just sitting around annoying the neighbors.

Unfortunately if your husband really goes into a ditch he probably won’t be able to drive out. If you have 2-3 feet or more snow the vehicle will be high centered and you are just out of luck no matter what. No amount of power or weight will save you. To avoid going into the ditch get the best snow tires you can get. Also in my years of snow driving I have come to the conclusion that a longer wheel base helps. A longer wheel base helps to keep the car straight. Imagine skiing on extremely short skis, they would twist under you feet, same principal. (Yes this a kooky theory I have, but I believe it.) Going into the ditch often involves spinning out of control. Also always observe chain requirements. Chains will increase traction ten fold.
Buying an SUV may not be your best option at all. An AWD drive car like a Volvo or Subaru may be a superior choice, and it’ll get slightly better gas mileage.

Carry a snow shovel. They can often help a lot.

Cary a cell phone, have four real snow (not all weather tyres), and drive responsibly. Remember at all times that 4WD will not help keep you on the road, it may help you get back on.

In over 40 years of driving all in 2WD cars in snow country including a number of blizzards only once did I ever get stuck such that I was not able to drive myself out and that was when I backed into a ditch I did not see at night when I was 17 years old. Drive right and avoid the problem.

Maybe an electric winch will get you out of some situations, maybe a hand winch for others. I agree with the collected wisdom, whcih is to avoid the ditch by running four snow tires, or all-season tires and a good set of chains.

In my experience, black ice or other slick conditions leads to ditches, and the chains will help avoid that.

It could be that something with a low range feature might help too… some AWD systems are sort of wimpy.

budd2049, please don’t take this as a big flame or anything, but power is not what one needs to get out of a ditch. Mechanical advantage and traction are what one needs. After all, the classic military Jeep from WWII and Korea got by on a 4 cylinder. The right gearing and good tires and/or chains, maybe a winch, are what I would want. A V8 will just get the wheels spinning faster with more torque than it needs.