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The best car for winter driving in Flagstaff, AZ

Our daughter will be attending NAU in Flagstaff in the fall of 2014. The plan is to sell her our 2010 Honda Civic (we recently put new all weather tires on the vehicle). My question is: Is the Civic a good choice for winter driving in Flagstaff?

The Civic will fall somewhere between the Crown Vic and a Subaru in terms of speed at which she will lose control, the Crown Vic being the lowest and the Subie being the highest. Tires will add or subtract from that speed. Just how fast would you like your daughter to be driving when she looses control?

Nothing wrong with a Civic. Driving skills and the traction of the tires are the most important factors. We live in a climate with considerably more winter than Flagstaff. We have a Toyota and a Mazda with WINTER TIRES; those tires have great grip, especially for snow and ice. The tires you have now are “all season” but they are really 3 season tires. They are not dangerous, they just do not have the traction at very low temperatures and icy conditions that the winter tires have.

If you really want to ensure your daughter does well, buy a set of Winter Tires like Michelin X-ICE (about $800 mounted on their own rims) and have her take a winter driving course from the AAA or similar organization. Our whole familiy has done so.

The biggest waste of money would be to buy her a new 4 wheel drive vehicle without winter tires and no winter driving training! Yet, that’s what most people would do. Car salesmen love to play on those fears!

I agree 100% with Docnick.
If the OP wants to give his daughter the greatest assurance of staying safe and accident-free, he will get her a set of 4 Michelin X-Ice tires, mounted on their own dedicated steel wheels.

Yes, $800 for these tires & wheels may seem like a lot of money but…How expensive is an accident that results from losing (only ONE “o”!) control, due to the marginal winter traction of those so-called all-season tires? And, if you can couple that tire purchase with a winter driving course for her, that will make her even safer.

I agree, just get a set of winter tires on wheels, it’ll work fine. She’s used to the Civic, that counts for a lot.

Thank you all for great feedback! It’s much appreciated.

I believe that ANY winter type weather in AZ, Texas, NM, etc. essentially shuts cities down. They are not prepared for snow/ice removal like the more northern states are. A lot of places will be closed down due to the snow, so she might not even have to leave the house if they do.

Flagstaff is way up in the mountains and gets about 100" of snow a year.

@keith gives the most insightful response IMHO.
A Subaru or other Awd car with winter tires definitely gives you the most control. Next, is fwd with winter tires. It’s a decision about expense not about winter driving capability. If you feel that a fwd with winter tires gives you enough security, that’s a good choice. Nothing compares to an Awd with winter tires for all around safety potential. But like all cars, you need to use good judgement.
It’s your decision between “it’s fine” and " outstanding" winter capability.

Start out with the Civic and see what others drive. I’ll bet that thread re a lot of FWD cars and trucks in Flagstaff. She probably won’t have to drive to class anyway if she lives in the dormitory. If she is a freshman, she may not be allowed a car, either.

Living on the side of a mountain and getting 100 inches of snow a year was enough incentive for us to get Awd cars. But, if everything she needs is within walking distance, there may not be a need for anything more then snow tires. If she needs to travel, different story. So, it’s about her requirements , not about the location only.

Most people don’t realize that Flagstaff, AZ gets more annual snowfall than Buffalo, NY. 2WD with four real winter tires will be better than AWD/4WD with “all season” (read: 3 season) tires. AWD with four real winter tires will be best.

There is another consideration as well, now bear in mind that all students are different with different levels of maturity, but a student with a car is under pressure by students without cars to “lets go to the…”. Having a car can have an adverse impact on the time available to study and therefore affect grades. Not saying your daughter will be a failure or a dropout if she has a car, but it will have an impact.

Thanks for the comments - I love the discussion. Our daughter is 30 years old and going for her Master’s at NAU. So at least we have that going for us!

I think she’s proven herself and after all that studying maybe up for a deserved R and R and skiing on weekends. I vote you get her an Outback 3.6R Limited with snow tires !

All this time I thought we were dealing with an 18 year old freshman, oops.

Slaves, er, um, graduate students, live in apartments. I am sure she needs a car now, but still think that she should try the Civic for a year to see how it works. A set of 4 snow tires on new rims will cost a lot less than a new car.

What’s money ? It’s over rated !

Only in an inflationary economy.

Despite some disparaging word here, Consumer Reports is still giving top reliability ratings to Subies, as well as high scores for everything else. CR especially likes the Forester, and I largely agree. It carries four adults in comfort just as well as the bigger Outback, has plenty of cargo space, and costs a lot less. If she wants something more like a car, there is nothing wrong with the Impreza except limited ground clearance. Buying the SV Crosstrek variant helps with that.

If I were buying a small SUV, there are plenty of good choices and few bad ones. The common as peas CR-V is just plain nice, and so are the RAV4 (styling not so nice), the Mazda CX5 (and even older CX7), the current Ford Escape, etc., etc. Like most categories with huge sales the duds get weeded out or fixed. This category and mid-sized sedans are remarkably consistent in theiir goodness.