Winter driving can be dangerous, with thousands of accidents every year being attributed to the elements. The snow is bad because it bogs the car down, but ice is the real threat; you may not even be able to see black ice on the highway, but, if you hit it, you can lose all control over your vehicle. To keep you and your family safe, you need the best possible vehicle for winter driving. With whatever vehicle you choose, make sure that you get a set of winter tires, as this makes the biggest difference of all.
The most traditional setup for a car is a rear-wheel drive configuration. As it turns out, however, these are the very worst for winter driving. As soon as the front end breaks lose on ice or snow, the rear wheels push into the turn, sending the car out of control. A rear-wheel drive vehicle will over-steer if you try to correct and it will fishtail. Most modern cars are at least front-wheel drive vehicles–with power in the front wheels, the car tries to pull itself straight, rather than fishtailing–but many older vehicles and sports cars should be avoided in the winter.
One of the best things you can do, outside of getting winter tires, is to get a four-wheel drive vehicle. As the name implies, this means that all of the wheels are powered, rather than having power to just the front or the back and having the other set of wheels just rolling along next to them. Having power on all four corners means that the car stays in control even when one tire slips. Not only does this give you more control over the vehicle while driving, but it makes it harder to get stuck. With a front-wheel drive car, you can easily get stuck if those front wheels are in the snow, as they are the only ones that move the vehicle, but a four-wheel drive vehicle usually has one set of tires on clear pavement.
A step up from four-wheel drive is a newer system, which is known as all-wheel drive. The basic difference here is that the system is usually always on as long as the car is moving; with four-wheel drive, you have to manually turn it on, which is easy to forget. Since it’s always on, it’s ready to go when you hit a snowy patch in the road. Even when you’re driving in a clear area, your vehicle is ready for a sudden change, giving you confidence and safety.
One of the newest systems out in recent years actually allows you to choose your terrain by turning a dial. If you’re driving in snow, for instance, you choose snow and it locks the four-wheel drive in the on position. This is nice because it’s easier to switch into the right mode than a four-wheel drive vehicle, but you do have the option to turn the system off if you want, and the vehicle monitors the road to see if it needs to automatically switch it back on when conditions get rough–even if you forget.