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posted on November 25, 2020

Are you ready for navigating snowy roads?

Driving in the snow and cold can be dangerous and hard, especially if you aren’t used to it. With white-out conditions, slippery roads, and even black ice, it’s important to know what you’re doing, prepare correctly, and bring the right vehicle when heading out to face Old Man Winter.

Before hitting the roads this winter, get reacquainted with the ABCs of driving in the snow. Know how chains perform differently than snow tires, and remember the value of four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Then peruse some winter-ready vehicles on Turo for your upcoming ski adventures and road trips!

5 tips for safe winter driving

1. Slow down & pay attention

Snowy and icy conditions can make the roads extra slippery, making it harder for you to slow down when you need to. Instead of putting your reaction time and tires to the test, simply leave earlier than usual, drive slowly, and pay extra attention to the speed of drivers around you.

2. Don’t depend on your vehicle too much

Even the biggest 4×4 truck with the best snow tires can get out of control if the person steering it doesn’t drive carefully. It’s easy for tires to break traction if you try to stop quickly on ice, even if your vehicle has sophisticated traction control and ABS systems.

3. Go easy on the pedals

In general, avoid stopping and reaccelerating whenever possible, and instead be content with crawling at consistent speeds in traffic or in parking lots (where most accidents happen). Hitting the gas or brakes too hard will break your traction, and as soon as your tires aren’t gripping the road, you’re out of control.

4. Listen to the weather forecast

The weatherperson isn’t always right, but sometimes he is. If the TV says that road conditions are getting dangerous, consider taking a break and staying home instead. The snow will still be there tomorrow, and your visibility, as well as your safety and peace of mind, might be better suited if you wait it out.

5. Prepare your car properly

Before venturing into the mountains, double check your vehicle’s readiness. Make sure your wipers and tires are in good condition, check your battery’s life, and fill up on antifreeze fluid. Make sure to bring along chains just in case, a scraper, and maybe a winter emergency kit if storms are forecasted.

Chains vs. snow tires

All-weather or all-season tires are not cut out for true winter conditions. Proper winter-rated tires (called snow tires or winter tires) are a wise investment if you find yourself driving on icy, wet, and snowy roads with any regularity — many people find a good set of winter tires trumps four-wheel drive with regular tires, even with chains. If you aren’t sure if your vehicle has winter tires, check for a snowflake or mountain icon on your tires’ sidewalls.  

If you don’t have winter tires, chains are a must in the snow — even with four-wheel drive. Many states and provinces across the US and Canada require you to carry chains during winter or up in the mountains, and it’s the safe thing to do, anyway. Remember to put chains on your vehicle’s driven wheels — that means the front wheels for most passenger cars, or out back if your car is rear-wheel drive. For 4x4s, put them on the front.

Filter your searches for the “Snow tires/chains” feature to find listings offering either winter solution.

All-wheel drive vs. four-wheel drive vs. two-wheel drive

For most folks, AWD and 4WD are essentially the same thing. The distinction lies in the mechanics and power delivery, but either system will be a big help on cold roads. In general, big trucks and SUVs have 4WD systems and AWD is used in passenger cars like Subarus. While you should definitely spring for a 4WD or AWD vehicle if there might be snow on the road, remember that you’ll still need either chains or winter tires to complete your setup.

Two-wheel drive cars equipped with chains can get the job done too, with a little extra care. Most cars today are driven by the front wheels, so put your chains up front and take it easy. Avoid rear-wheel drive sports cars whenever you can.

Vehicles for snowy conditions

From trucks to wagons, and everything in between, there’s a plethora of options to choose from when looking for the best vehicle for the snow. Remember that bigger often doesn’t mean better, and ultimately your tires might have the biggest impact on your safety. When in doubt, stick with a trusted brand with proven 4WD or AWD vehicles.

Subaru

Rustam’s 2018 Subaru Crosstrek (Spokane, WA)

Jeep

Firas’ 2018 Jeep Wrangler (Mansfield, MA)

Toyota

Josh’s 2017 Toyota Tacoma (Olathe, KS)

Land Rover

Obah’s 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (Calgary, AB)

Ford

Joel’s 2015 Ford Escape (Reno, NV)

Steven is an avid car guy and content maker at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.