Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Moving from DC to Chicago - suggestions for a new car?

We own a 2002 Mercedes C230 that has approximately 85,000 miles on it. So far the car is in good shape and we had planned to keep it so long as we had no significant ($$$) repairs. However, we will be moving from Washington, DC to Chicago later this year and are thinking about getting a new car that may be better able to handle the Chicago winter. (Our current car is rear wheel drive.) We don’t drive that much and will primarily be doing city driving when we relocate. Any suggestions?

New? Used? Price range? Will you be parking on the street or have a driveway/garage?

Ford Fusion or Mazda 6 comes to mind if you want a mid sized sedan. Ford Focus or Mazda 3 for smaller car. Subaru for full time all wheel drive.

Your best bet would be to wait until you move to Chicago to find out if you’re parking on the street or not. Though I imagine living in DC, you’re used to the dings and scratches associated with big city parking/driving.

It all depends on your work location and where you plan to live.

Ideally, you’d be able to take public transit to work (ie, live near an L station and ride it to work), in which case keep what you have - there generally won’t be that many days per year when driving is difficult, and if you can use public transit to get where you really need to go, there’s no need to worry.

And if you can live and work near downtown, get rid of the car altogether.

Chicago does a fine job at snow removal and after many years I think you run more of a risk of getting your car stolen than having problems in the winter. As suggested many times before new wheels with a set of snow tires to change seasonally will be a great help.

Barky dog is right,as my brother pointed out to me a Mercedes is such a fine engineered car with normal maintenence they sort of take care of themselves and a good set of winter and ice tires should get you around fine.The trouble nowadays is these new drive systems and cars are pretty good in bad conditions and people tend to get overconfident,the first snows and bad weather around here would usually result in Surburbans and Suvs down over the bank(people tend to forget about having to stop and making a turn in bad weather)-Kevin

If you must go out in the midst of a snowstorm then you should get 4 winter tires mounted on your current car. If you can stay home until the snow stops, Chicago does a much better job compared to DC in handling snow. They send lots of plows out as soon as snow starts to accumulate and keep plowing until the storm is done. They also spread lots of salt and cinders on the roads.

I’d suggest you see how you do in your 1st winter in Chicago. If you feel you must buy a new car, you can get great deals in Dec. and January in the Chicago area. No need to buy a car before you actually make the move.

Keep the C230. If you really want to be proactive, get winter tires on separate rims and use them during the winter.

I agree with JT and others… Get winter tires and take it easy till you gain winter driving experience. I have seen lesser winter cars in more severe snow area be acceptable in the hands of an experienced, prepared winter driver. Auto prep and driver experience go a long way in modern cars. IMO, you can do wonders too with a little extra weight in the trunk of a rwd car too. There will be some that disagree, but if you have traction control which you may/not have, winter tires and a little weight along with experience, it can be a solid winter car.

Uncle makes a good point about buying later in the winter…but it depends upon preparing the car and gaining experience, some thing you may never have had to do till now in snow country.

Agree with the others…get a set of winter tires, throw some sandbags (and a shovel) in the trunk, and you’ve got a great winter vehicle. No need to sell it.

Btw, after a little checking, BMW s and Honda Accords and Civics are amount the most popular cars in Chicago,. None of which are world famous as great snow cars with their low ground clearance. So your car should be fine but a temptation for car thiefs. I would drive a clunker in a big city if I had to drive…something that matched the surroundings with plenty of dents.

Thanks for the suggestions – winter tires and extra weight in the trunk make a lot of sense.

I think staying in DC makes better sense. Remember last winter? Neither do I; 2010/2011 was so long ago. If you stay here, you might not have a winter. Don’t let a silly thing like a job stand in your way.

The trunk might not be the best place to put the weight. The weight should be over the drive axle, so it might be better to put the weight on the back seat. If not, just shove the weight all the way to the back of the trunk

Be sure to register it in Illinois right away or it willl be towed. That’s an old story which told of police calling tow truck drivers for bribes. Can you tell that I’m not going to Chicago in the near term? The guy who told me that story was older than I am and my information has never been current. Kind of like The Big Book of Inside Information which is great if you are an insider and useless if you need a middle man.

The Mercedes is a good car for your safety, so I would not recommend that you try a different make and model. I lived in Northern Maine and some people wouldn’t buy snow tires. Some of them lived in off base military housing that looked like a skating rink. The ice was six inches thick in some places. I would have wanted a three wheel drive vehicle at least. I just assumed before I lived there that one wheel spinning and one not moving would be inadequate. I had a snow blower that would throw snow five feet for example. That was inadequate.

pleasedodgevan2 wrote:
Be sure to register it in Illinois right away or it willl be towed.

This confuses me. How do they know a car belongs to a new resident instead of someone just visiting for a while?

@lioncar - Chicago (the city itself, not the metro area) has residential parking permits in many areas. You must have a permit for the specific area to park on the street during certain hours in certain areas. So, if, for example, you live in zone 112, you can purchase a permit to park in zone 112 on the street. If you park in zone 113 with a zone 112 sticker, you can get towed.

For guests, they have special guest permits that can be purchased.

However, if you have a resident permit and you put it in a car with out of state plates? Ooh, that’s a prime target for towing, since you have to have state ID showing residency within that zone to purchase the permit. And if you have an Illinois license, you should have Illinois tags… so a city permit on a car with out of state plates is extremely suspicious to the police (and possibly illegal)

Really depends on where you will be living and working - in the city or in the suburbs and if you’re able to take one of the trains that go into the city. The outlying suburbs keep the main roads plowed but they take longer on the secondary roads going to the train parking lots and the lots themselves get snow bound if there is a really bad storm. One winter my 45 min/1 hr commute took me over 3 1/2 hrs to get in.

The traffic stinks mybe worse then DC its always rush hour I check to see if mass transit would work for you

“The traffic stinks mybe worse then DC…”

DC/Baltimore has the worst commuting traffic in the USA - worse than Chicago, Boston, New York, and even Los Angeles. There are traffic jams on I-270, US-50, and I-95 (both north of Baltimore and south of DC) at 5:30AM on most days. The afternoon rush hour starts around 2PM in most areas. It should be called the rush shift in both the morning and afternoon since it lasts up to 6 hours.

To lion9car; The story goes that they don’t care if you are visiting, they just take the bribe and go. This story is dated and may not be true in the first place but it’s the only one I have.