Looking for a new-to-me car for a snowy area

My car just met it’s maker this weekend and I have to find a new car, and fast. I am moving to an area that requires a AWD or 4WD. I am looking for something on the smaller side, and as a student something low cost. I don’t plan on putting a lot of miles on it, so used with 60k or so would be fine. I would love some input!

Get any FWD car you want, then put winter tires on it before the snow starts falling. FWD or AWD isn’t necessary and the extra costs to buy one, maintain it, and put gas in it will put a stress on your student budget. Front wheel drive with winter tires make excellent snow cars, just ask the Aspen police dept. In the mid '80’s they used turbo Saab’s very effectively.

Listen to UncleTurbo. Any FWD car with good winter tires is far superior to an AWD car without them.
Curious–Where are you moving that “requires” AWD or 4WD? I used to live in Oswego NY and did fine with a Honda Civic with winter tires.

I used to live in Oswego NY and did fine with a Honda Civic with winter tires.

That is serious winter driving. I grew up and learned how to drive in Pulaski. I agree FWD with good winter tires can be superior to AWD…but and AWD with good winter tires is going to be better.

@Powers376 Where do you live now? You may be overeacting by assuming your new location REQUIRES AWD or FWD. I used to live around the Great Lakes with lots of snow storms and snow tires or winter tires was all we needed with a 2WD vehicle.

I’m moving to Edmonton, Canada. 4WD was suggested to me, but I don’t know much about it.

I have spent some time in Edmonton, and it has a very cold but dry climate. You will see a lot of pickups and SUVs, but that’s because they are fashionable and pull a camper trailer. Many people work in the oil fields, and those generally buy 4WD pickups to get to the well sites.The time I spent there we just had good winter tires on our cars and all went well. The streets are plowed regularly and the snowfall is a lot less than in New England and upstate New York. The very cold weather makes the winter tires perform well, we had Michlin X-ICE. At -40 the snow is not really slippery!

Other, more important tips. If you are moving from Texas, you will likely need a heavy duty battery installed, as well as an engine block heater. Hotels, motels, the airport, and even some restaurants have outside electrical plug-ins for that. Make sure you engine coolant is good for -40F, and drain any summer windshield washer fluid, replacing it with -40F rating.

The best engine oil there is a 0W30 synthetic if you have to park outside without a block heater. A newer car may call for 5W20 or 0W20. Those are readily available. Just avoid any oils starting with 10W–.

No need to buy another car. You US vehicle may require some modification, like installing daytime headlight on. Check with the AAA and their Canadian counterparts what your current vehicle needs. If you are only going for a short time, you can keep your US registration.

According to this wiki article…

Edmonton averages less then 50" of snow/Year…That’s about what we get here in Southern NH. Not only do you not need AWD…you should do just fine with a good fwd vehicle and All-Season tires. Wife has been driving with that combination since she bought her first Accord in 87…2 more fwd vehicles and 700k miles…she’s NEVER EVER been stuck or unable to get to work or pick up the kids or any other reason to be driving in the snow. There have been that 1 day every other year it’s too snowy to go out…but that’s it.

@MIkeInNH. Good point! In Edmonton the first snow arrives the end of October and it may snow till the third week in April. So the snowfall is spread over a longer period. Because of the steady cold, supermarket parking lots are like skating rinks by mid January. Salt does not work very well there. So, Winter tires with their gumshoe grip are ideal for Edmonton winters.

My car needs more maintenance than it is worth right now. So we are still in the market to buy. So as a student on a budget, what kind of good snow car would you recommend? Thanks for all the help, by the way!

@Powe3s367 As mentioned before, ANY decent car will do for Edmonton, I would shop for a basic econobox there, like a Hyundai Accent, Mazda Protege, or Mazda 3. Keep the options to a minimum, but make sure it is prepared for winter. Local cars will all have heavy duty batteries and block heaters and the coolant will be good for -40F. Front wheel drive cars do best.

If you buy the car there, you don’t need to worry about adapting it. If you regularly return to the US, you can keep you state plates and your US car and be a long term visitor or student. That might be less of a hassle.

Whatever you do, make sure the heater and defroster work well.

Unless your job requires you to drive in any weather, you can stay home when the roads are impassible for most cars. If you live near the light rail system, you may not need to drive every day. If you will remain a student in Edmonton, I doubt that you will need to travel in any weather conditions. A good FWD car wil be fine. You might want to buy the car there to save on transfer taxes and other fees. @Docnick lives nearby, well, in a Western sense, and can give you the scoop on taxes and fees in Alberta.

Any FWD (front wheel drive) car will do fine. I do like Michelin X-Ice tires for winter driving. In Edmonton, Canada you could leave them on all year long. Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Chevy HRR, or Chevy Cruz. Lot’s of choices and many are pretty affordable.

If you went to Edmonton tomorrow and looked at the cars on the road, you wouldn’t see that many FWD or AWD cars. Don’t get a more expensive and more complicated car than you need.

4WD is nice especially with a long pickup truck which won’t go uphill without it in any snow if the hills are steep. The long pickup is handy for 45 MPH days on highways in 2WD because they don’t spin out in any kind of hurry. SUV’s not called Suburban like to go out of control at the highway speeds in slush. SUV’s are king in town at 25 MPH because of the weight in the rear.

Like any need for Awd in snowy areas, assuming you will be using snow tires, it usually depends upon three factors. First is hills. If you have lots of hills with snow, Awd is definitely a plus. Second is timing. If you must go in all conditions, even before the plows are out, it helps a lot. Lastly, if you must travel on unpaved roads which ice up under the snow the entire winter due to the frost, it makes a big difference.
Other then those conditions, Awd is unnecessary though always provides an element of security just not found in two wheel drive cars. Minus these three factors, there is probably no where on earth you can’t get by with a two wheel drive car.