Help, I think I need a new car

Okay so it looks like I?m moving to Reno. As in that high desert place that actually has four seasons. I?m born and raised in the bay area so I can drive in fog and rain no worries but really haven?t dealt much with snow. I?ve only owned small cars, currently a Toyota Yaris, which have been great for commuting but with its tiny size and pathetic clearance I?m thinking I may need to change it up. I know pretty much nothing about cars but have had great luck with Toyota?s and Honda?s. It seems like every other car up there is a Subaru or giant SUV/Truck and I don?t even know where to start. 4WD, AWD?pretty much clueless; any help would be much appreciated.

With snow chains, your Yaris may be able to drive in Reno. My uncle drove a Honda Fit in the Sierras once.

You do not need a new car, just new tires. “All” season tires are really “three” season tires. Get four real winter tires and you will do just fine. This is the least expensive first step. Give it a try – if it does not work, then go car shopping.


I don’t live in Reno, but a couple of my friends do. It’s flat, although the mountains are nearby, and the snow there is not that bad. They both own Saturns, and, so far as I know, don’t even bother with snow tires. I imagine the Yaris with winter tires would be fine.


I have always done great in the snow (obviously not in blizzard amounts) with small front wheel drive vehicles. I’ve been through a string of Ford Escorts and with good tires I am convinced that I can go almost anywhere. (Ground clearance is the only issue). A little FWD car is really easy to handle/control in slippery conditions.

Just read up some on driving strategies - some of it is counter-intuitive.

I don’t think there’s enough snow there to justify a new car, unless you plan on driving into the mountains a lot. Get a set of good winter tires, possibly mounted on their own wheels for easy switching, and you’ll probably be fine. Tire Rack’s web site sells packages like this, plus it has lots of tire reviews.

By the way, other than the ground clearance issue, smaller cars usually do pretty well in the snow because they normally have narrow tires.

Average annual snowfall is 2 feet; less than 6 inches average even in the worst winter month. That’s about like Baltimore. You’ll be fine. Unless you call it Reno and live in the mountains nearby.

Thanks so much, this has all happened pretty suddenly and I was just nervous about driving. I know the snow isn’t extreme there, just wanted second opinions. Thanks again

play4lock; I live in a similar climate near the mountains. We have good winter tires on our 2 wheel drive cars (Corolla and Nissan). I would recommend Michelin X-ICE as being head and shoulders above most others. With a separate set of rims, that should set you back about $600 or so, and you will be set for about 6-7 winters. Just make sure to take them off in the spring and put the regular wheels and tires back on.

With the snowfall in Reno (low compared to many other locations) you will soon learn to drive like the locals. I would have the cooling system checked out, though to make sure the “anti-freeze” is up to scratch.

Have a good move!

One more thing: Look around Tahoe and Reno and see what people drive. I’ll bet that there are a lot of cars like your Yaris.

If your worried about it, keep it for a winter or two and see how it does before you go plunging into another car(note).
If you can get away with it, take your Yaris up there before you move when it snows and find an EMPTY parking lot and try driving around the lot with the snow on the ground. Try pulling the hand brake while going a decent speed(~20mph) and learn to correct the car in the slide. This should give you a feel for how it’ll handle in the snow and during emergency situations.

If you don’t have winter washer fluid in your reservoir now, make sure you get some in there before it gets too cold.

“…find an EMPTY parking lot and try driving around the lot with the snow on the ground.”

DONUTS! A friend and I used to do that when we were kids - in an empty parking lot on a weekend. We didn’t hit a light standard even once.

And some rubber-booted winter wiper blades.