Prius in the winter



I have recently moved to the northern reaches of Maine ( Fort Kent).I would like to purchase a Prius (environment, fuel).

I am told that the winter lows can reach minus 70 with the wind chill factor. I will also be living 10 miles out of town.

I want to know if a Prius can handle the extreme cold and the snow.

Any previous experience would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,



This is probably not the environment that Toyota had in mind when they designed the car. It would probably be OK about 70% of the time, but it may struggle the rest of the time. Could you afford a second “beater” type 4x4 pickup or SUV to drive in the extreme weather while leaving the Prius in the garage?



It’s actual temperature, not wind chill that counts here. I don’t believe you’ll have any problems with the cold, although you might want snow tires.


Lenjack is correct that the temperature on the thermometer is the important one in a situation like this. Cars, being inanimate objects, do not feel the wind chill effect.

If you get the Prius, or any other type of car, you should be sure that you install 4 winter (NOT “all-season”) tires. Also, it would be a good idea to use synthetic oil in the crankcase of the Prius’ gasoline engine.


You should have no problems related to temperatures. Wind chill only applies to warm moist surfaces like skin, it does not apply to metal. All ma Maine is well within the design norms the Prius was designed for.


I was not concerned with just the ambient temperatures. Like the OP, there is a matter of snowfall in northern Maine. Somewhere along the lines of 78" to 100" annually. This along with winds blowing drifts.
The Prius does not have great traction or ground clearance. So, again, a 4x4 pickup or SUV for a backup vehicle would be good to have on those snow days.

I know they have good snow removal, and I know they make good snow specific tires but the OP states they’ll be living 10 miles out of town in the northern part of Maine. These conditions may not be what the engineers had in mind.



I know many people that live in Fort Kent Maine and there are also many people that own a prius. Knowing how friendly people are in that town just stop and ask a prius owner how to survive in Fort Kent…take it from me…it’s no big deal. Just be prepared for a long dark winter beginning about now…the colors this past weekend were just past peak.


I suspect most people in Ft. Kent drive 4WD pick-ups or Jeep-type vehicles. A heated garage or a block heater will be standard equipment.


If you have’t been in Fort Kent please don’t assume they drive specific vehicles! not everyone has a 4x4 nor can they all afford heated garages… the range of vehicles is typical of most average communities!!!


No one said that there were not Prius’ in Ft. Kent Maine. No one said you couldn’t possibly drive a Prius in Ft. Kent Maine. What was said was there are times when a Prius with it’s rear drive lack of traction and poor ground clearance would struggle in the 78"-100" of annual snowfall. The original poster wanted to know if a Prius could handle this kind of snow. In the mountains and high plains of Colorado and Wyoming the Prius does NOT fair well in the deep snow. These communities in Colorado and Wyoming also have the full range of vehicles, but MOST also have a 4x4 if they live off the beaten path, as the OP hinted they did.

There. I did the whole reply without one explanation point. (!!)


No one said you couldn’t possibly drive a Prius in Ft. Kent Maine. What was said was there are times when a Prius with it’s rear drive lack of traction and poor ground clearance would struggle in the 78"-100" of annual snowfall.

BULL…I grew up in a town with annual snowfall of OVER 250". Cities like Syracuse and Rochester NY average OVER 120". And they have plenty of Prius’s there. They sell a lot of small cars that get around very well. Now places like the Tughill Plateau in Upstate NY where annual snowfall is OVER 300" and has seen OVER 600"…4wd is probably a good idea.


Windchill is absolutely irrelevant to a car starting. The actual outside air temperture counts not the wind derived # freezing human flesh. A prius is a fine choice. Basically it sound like you get below 0 weather eg -20F occasionally with lots of wind.

I would suggest using synthetic oil for the winter as engine cranking is much easier on vehicle and your battery. Also a good set of winter tires over all-season tire rubber not just for better traction in snow/ice/slush but that the tires rubber can handle cold better. Basically winter tire’s rubber is optimized for cold temps while all-season rubber turns very hard at cold temps and loses traction easier on wet/dry pavement.


It just seems like a silly idea to freeze heck out of everything and then expect the engine to start right up and actually work. I don’t know if it works or not, but I shiver when I think about it. Limestone Me. is cold too, and I won’t go back there to live, due to physical handicaps. My brain won’t allow me to either. Just listen to me! Two years ago, I was living in Ca. and saying that I would never move back to the East coast. The co-worker said the same. We’re both in the East now. Augusta barely had a winter last whatever it was and all the ski-doos have wheels now. Go ahead and buy the Prius, you won’t be there long! Seriously, get a Rav-4 because YOUR environment counts too and OUR environment won’t miss one Prius. Also, they’re not pretty. I could eat an Oldsmobile and puke a better looking car than a Prius.


LOL! I’d give you six stars for that last sentence if I could! :slight_smile:


Fort Kent is not cold on average. The temp you state as I said before is wind chill which makes absolutely and utterly no difference to a car engine starting.

The lows/highs average’s of local weather in that vicinity ->

Notice the coldest temperature listed on average is -4F. That means occasionally it gets -20F or lower and may occasionally have some issues possibly however synthetic winter only and waiting for the sun to shine helps. Heck my 2004 WRX wagon started ok with 10W30 (relatively thick) dino oil in -15F weather in northern NH. It did not sound pretty sounding but starting first attempt.

Any car will do.


The Prius will be fine. However, don’t expect great gas mileage. From what I’ve read, the mileage is similar to any other car’s in the winter, due to the cold temperatures (longer warm-up periods), and the heater and defroster running constantly - obviously, the engine needs to run for there to be heat.
But the Prius will certainly work. Personally, I’d get a conventional, similarly sized model and save the cost of the premium on the Prius.


I’ve lived in Maine all my life, and everyone I know up in the county has at least one 4x4 vehicle or at least an AWD car/minivan. That being said…The state does do a good job keeping most of the primary roads clear, but hills and secondary roads are always an issue. A lot will depend on where you live: in town, out in the woods, private or public road, dirt or paved road (dirt roads are a mess in the spring when the frost comes out). You may want to go through one winter first before you make a purchase, assuming you currently have a car that will last through the winter.

I also have a friend who owns a prius, and we take it skiing all the time…it sucks in the snow and does not like the big hills. At least it’s light-weight and easy to push:)


Hey! What’s wrong with how Oldsmobile’s look?! :slight_smile:


You may want to google the following “prius traction control snow” and then read all you can about their problems in slick conditions before you buy.


Check with Toyota to see if they sell an optional snowplow attachment for it.