Moving to Colorado-When to buy, what to buy

Hi-I own a 2006 Chevy Impala and it’s only known life in Miami (90k). I’m moving to Colorado soon and assume I’ll need to get a car better suited to snow and mountains (reason I’m moving). So, do I trade in here and drive new car to Colorado (I’ve been told that’s a bad idea)? Or wait til I get there and hope there’s a decent market for a non-4WD vehicle? Also, suggestions on type of car to buy? Thanks!

I think you should wait until you get to Colorado. Then you can better assess the vehicle that will fit your needs. I have made trips to Colorado and, believe it or not, I’ve seen Chevrolet Impalas in Colorado. I’ve seen rear wheel drive cars in Colorado. In fact, I drove up a mountain road that had just been plowed because of the snow in a rear wheel drive Oldsmobile.
There are myths about what conditions are like in other states. My wife recruited graduate students for a university in Indiana. When she talked to students from states in the southern part of the U.S., you would have thought Indiana was in the arctic circle as concerned as the students were about the weather. My wife assured them that we got around by automobile in the winter months and didn’t use a team of dogs pulling a sled.

Wait til you get to Colorado. There are plenty of FWD vehicles there. Not everyone drives 4x4s or AWDs. Depending on where you live in CO and what type of driving you do, FWD with decent snow tires MAY be perfectly adequate.

When you get to your new home in Colorado, get a good set of snow tires mounted on separate rims in the fall, and put them on the car when the snow starts to fly. Drive the car for one winter with snow tires. You may be pleasantly surprised at how well the snow tires work if you get good ones.

You might also want to take a “winter driving” course if you have never driven in snow/ice conditions.

When the first winter is over, decide whether or not you really need 4 wheel drive. If you do, then you can sell the Impala and get something else. But many people simply assume incorrectly that they need 4WD when in fact they do not. I lived in Colorado for several years and drove up to the mountains to ski every winter in a front wheel drive Honda with good tires and never got stuck once.

" When she talked to students from states in the southern part of the U.S., you would have thought Indiana was in the arctic circle as concerned as the students were about the weather."

If you talk to folks who live in Canada, they will tell you that an incredible percentage of US residents think that Canadians live in Igloos. And, the state tourism agency in New Mexico reports that a huge percentage of people ask if a visa is required to enter that “country”.

Unfortunately, the mandatory study of Geography disappeared from the curriculum over 30 years ago in most of the states, and geography electives are not even generally available anymore in the schools. The result is that most kids and young adults cannot locate anything (including their own state) on a map of the US.

I can recall doing college counseling with a student about 15 years ago, and this counseling session was extremely memorable because when I asked him which states (in addition to our own state of NJ) we should look at for recommended colleges, without hesitation he said Texas. I thought that this response was a bit…unusual…but I proceeded to give him a list of colleges in Texas to which he might apply, given his mediocre grades and his extremely low SAT scores. I urged him to go over that list with his parents before even contacting those schools for information, simply because I was skeptical about him really wanting to go as far as Texas for his college education.

A coupe of days later, he appeared again at my office door, holding the list of colleges that I had given him. I asked if he had any further questions about that list, and his response was, “Mr. B–Do you know where Texas is?”. Trying to restrain myself, I calmly replied, “Yes, of course I do. Now, on this map of the US, please show me where YOU thought Texas was located”.
Instantly, he pointed to Pennsylvania.

Yes, this 17 year old student originally thought that Texas was the state located immediately to the West of NJ.

…and people want to know why educators drink…


Another vote for ‘wait till you get to Colorado’.
You’ll quickly see how many residents have cars too.
You’ll soon see how well they plow the streets and hiways.
then decide.

Are you going out and about in snow ? hunting, camping, snow shoeing, snowmobiling ?
Even to go skiing is on plowed roads.

The most you may need is some good winter tires.

I’ve traveled to Colorado quite a few times in the winter months in both FWD and RWD cars with all season tires and never needed anything other than what I was in.

The incident related by VDCdriver about the student ignorant of geography is downright sad. Even if the point is made that geography is not taught in that kid’s school there’s simply no excuse for someone not knowing which hemisphere they live in.

“there’s simply no excuse for someone not knowing which hemisphere they live in.”


Even w/o geography courses in the curriculum, there is still something called intellectual curiosity, and I find that–unfortunately–very few young people have much of that trait nowadays. One of my favorite sayings is “I like to learn at least one new thing every day”, but when I said this in conversations with students over the years, their usual reaction was…“Why?”.

And, I should point out that US History is still alive and relatively well in the curriculum.
When our students study the American colonial period, the American Revolution, and the original 13 states, the history textbooks display maps showing the areas under discussion–which obviously includes Pennsylvania.

When discussing the westward expansion and The Mexican War, there are also maps to help clarify the points made in the text about those events.   To believe that Texas is located where Pennsylvania is actually located meant that, in the previous grades, this student never internalized any of the ancillary geographic information supplied by his history texts. 

On a related note, one year in September, I asked a female student what she had done over the summer, and her reply was, “My parents & I went to England, and to France, and to Italy…and then we went to Europe”. I did not bother to ask her which continent the previously mentioned countries were a part of, simply because I did not need to pull out any more hair from my head.

I am tempted to say that her parents essentially wasted their money if they thought that this tour of Europe would broaden their daughter’s horizons. As I implied earlier, intellectual curiosity is not thriving among the younger set.

Edited to add:
Lest we stray too far from the OP’s question, I agree that she should drive her car to Colorado, and get the lay of the land–both figuratively and literally–before deciding what to buy.

Wait until you get to Colorado. It’s already been said numerous times but it bears repeating.

Agree; move first and, depending on where you are actually going to live (In the city or a mountain cabin), you probably need nothing more than a good set of winter tires and a heavy duty battery. We live near the Rocky Mountians and have never felt the need for an SUV or and AWD vehicle.

Many posters here will be able to prescribe cold weather maintenance practices.

Take your Impala to Colorado and drive on. If you are east of the mountains, it is quite flat and. You won’t have problems. If the weather is bad, odds are you won’t leave home anyway. After you have been there a while, see if you have problems with the roads. Mostly, all you should need is a set of 4 snow tires. If you still think you need a new car, see what most people in your area are driving. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Denver/Boulder area, and anything is fine there.

Unless you have extra money you don’t know what to do with, I don’t see any reason not to just drive your existing car to Colorado. There’s no rock salt on the roads in Fla, so your car should still be in fairly good shape. The only problem you might have (at first anyway) is the engine’s altitude compensation may need to be adjusted or a special high altitude device used to replace the existing one.

You might read Bill Bryson’s Book about his drive in a big loop around America. Part of the trip is in Colorado. He was driving a small rental Chevy and made it even as high as Leadville without incident, well one incident due to the altitude. But it was eventually resolved. Colorado is a big place, so it depends on exactly where you will be driving. There’s the eastern part which is mostly like Kansas, low and flat. Then there’s the western part which is high and not flat, definitely not like Kansas. Years ago I used to live in Steamboat Springs which is the western part and drove a rear wheel drive Ford Galaxy and go around fine in the winter using good snow tires (with metal spikes in them). But I got the best winter results driving a front wheel drive VW Rabbit, the key for best snow driving is you want the engine and drive wheels to be on the same part of the car.

Do FI cars need adjusting for altitude? Surprise to me. Maybe I am missing something.

My 2002 Sienna, which I bought at roughly 30 feet above sea level, spends most of its time between 5400 feet and 7200 feet, and has been driven from Mexico City to Puebla, which means going over 11,000 feet. The only time during its eleven months a year in Mexico it gets lower than 5400 feet is at 3000 feet in Cordoba. I have not heard it so much as hesitate.

When I enter the high speed tollway at 7200 feet to go to Cordoba, I floor it, and it shifts again at around 5500 rpm. Smooth as silk. But, I must admit maybe I am missing something.

My cars are older ones. It used to be the case that you’d sometimes need to have an altitude kit installed on a vehicle sold at sea level in order that it would start and run reliably. Newer cars with the MAP sensor technology know the altitude from the MAP reading, so maybe altitude kits don’t apply any more.

Reason to wait. You may find Impalas in Colorado but I doubt that there is a good selection of AWD vehicles in Florida. I could be as wrong as usual. I like the AWD in the 2013 Rav4. It feels just like driving in summertime. There are snowy hills in my town. Don’t drive too fast.

Wait till you get there. Your Impala may be perfectly acceptable.

I used to live in Colorado and I spent lots of winters in the mountains. My vehicle was RWD and it managed fine with just good snow tires.

While Kansas City’s altitude is about 700 feet, Western Kansas is almost a mile high.

I’d wait. And once there I’d decide what vehicle I’d need for my area.

Then it’s a short trip to Arizona, New Mexico, for a rust free car.


I suspect many Colorado cars are rust free, too. Depends more on salt use than snow. Many parts of the West are sensitive about salting as it contaminates nearby soil and streams. In the East there is more dirt. Out here the mountain areas are often pure rock. Besides, New Mexico has high elevation urban areas, too. Santa Fe is far higher than Denver and gets snow. From the Colorado cities it’s quite a drive to go shopping in one of the surrounding states. In general you just don’t see many rusty vehicles in the West. Less salt, drier climates, whatever. Works to your advantage if you’re buying.

I guess that I meant to say a salt free environment!!!


I’ve been living and driving in Colorado for over 35 years. Most of which, with rear wheel drive BMW’s. Winter driving in Denver and the front range is very different from Steam Boat Springs. You don’t need to buy a new cars when you move, just new tires. And, take a winter driving class.