Help! My Toyota Echo is not the car for the rocky, unpaved, narrow (and scary!) roads where I will be living in the Ozark Mountains of NW Arkansas. I also need to commute once a month to Little Rock so do have to go on pavement at higher speeds as well. Would love to have decent gas mileage but safety and ability to navigate steep, rough roads in all seasons are most important. Hoping to spend about $8,000 on a used model of something!!! many thanks
If the roads ar plowed regularly, your Echo with a good set of winter tires would be fine! I live near the Rocky Mountains, and we see all sizes of cars on the road. The ones in the ditch are usually SUVs! The owners of those seem to have below average driving skills.
If your job requires you to travel on unplowed roads, I would go for a compact SUV, such as a Honda CRV, a Toyota RAV4 or a Subaru Forester. In our ski club we have all these. You also need to put on proper winter tires such as Michilin X-ICE to get the proper traction. A normal car with good winter tires is better than an SUV without them.
Your budget for all this is a little tight, unless you can find an older, low mileage model that has been well maintained.
You don’t say anything about seating. If a pickup is OK, consider a Ford Ranger. You can get it with 2 seats (regular cab) or 2 seats with interior storage (extended cab). Id you want 4WD, it has to be a V6. You could get a well-equipped 2003 for less than $8000 and a less well equipped 2005 regular cab for less than $8000.
There are a couple of jump seats in the extended cab, but it’s really just interior storage.
I like the previous suggestions. We live on a narrow mountainous road, though probably not as long. Ground clearance and prudent speed is important. If there is any snow at all, plowed or not, a FWD with studded snows, is still too much of a compromise on hills for me. FWD leaves you too few options when you meet oncoming traffic on a narrow hilly road in snow. You live there, in an emergency you must be able to go in any weather.
Any snow/mud season=AWD/4 wd. Good gas mileage with AWD/4wd will have to be redefined.
For $8,000; your choices get slim. Best to serve all purpose, IMO I would agree with a 4wd Ford Ranger. Best bang for the buck and you’ll have to compromise everything now and drive slower on interstate. It’s tough to have it all for $8ooo unless you go PU truck.
I would not think snow and icy roads are not a problem down there, Look at what your neighbors are driving, but I think any front wheel drive would get me through, I feel you are in a situation where driving skill is more important than anything.