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All Wheel Drive Does Not Make You Safer

1950s_catEvery year right around this time, millions of consumers are tricked into a massive financial and lifestyle mistake as the natural incompatibility of snowy roads and safe driving take them by surprise.

“I know Mr. Money Mustache insists that I drive only efficient cars, but that’s because he lives in the dreamy semi-desert of Colorado where it never snows. Where I live, the roads are ice-packed for the entire winter, and you’re doomed if you don’t have All Wheel Drive. Therefore, I will buy a enormous four-wheel drive truck for the safety of my family. Or at least a Subaru.”

This is just plain wrong, and as a recovering gearhead, I need to make a public statement on it.

Just like any other great marketing-fueled deception, automakers have captured both our irrational fear of loss and desire for status, and channeled them into a product line that just happens to be more profitable for them. And it’s shocking how well it has worked, as even some of my most esteemed readers have been writing in to ask for advice on “which AWD vehicles are Mustachian?”

The answer is “Whichever one the Forestry service or the Military issues to you when you show up for duty in an area without roads*”. Because for the rest of us, it’s Hip and Knee Drive for your shoes, Chain Powered Rear Drive for the bike, and Front Wheel Drive for those rare occasions you need to use a car.

The reason I can state so confidently that the AWD hype is pure marketing bullshit is simple physics. Although this was one of my favorite subjects in engineering school, you don’t need a degree to understand it fully and cure your desire for AWD.

Car safety depends at the core on two things: not crashing into anything, and not letting anything crash into you. To accomplish those goals, the ability to steer your car in the direction of your choice is the top factor, with braking coming as a close second. A certain amount of acceleration is important as well, but not nearly as critical as the first two: note the extremely low collision rate of transport trucks and city buses per mile traveled.

Every car, truck, and SUV has four wheels. And every one of them has front-wheel-steering and all-wheel braking. So we’re all on a level playing field so far. The place where the safety in accident-avoidance starts to diverge is:

  •  How firmly the car sticks to the road (more grip means more safety)
  • How effectively the car lets you change direction or speed (cars with a lower center of gravity and stiffer suspension are safer)
  • How the power and braking affect vehicle dynamics (applying power to the rear wheels while cornering tends to break the grip and cause you to fishtail and spin out – this is why rear-drive-only vehicles like sports cars and pickups are terrible in snow, but front-drive works well)
  • Fancy computerized add-ons that compensate for human limits (ABS and Vehicle Traction/Stability Control) can increase safety by modulating power and brakes.

That’s it for the physics. You’ll note that there is not much in there that would allow cranking all four wheels, instead of just the front wheels, to make you any safer And in some cases it will send you into the ditch faster than front-wheel drive.

Note the implication of this: If anyone gets an AWD vehicle “for safety” but uses it with all-season tires, they have performed a Consumer Sucka Fail. A front wheel drive vehicle with snow tires would have more grip.

So When IS AWD useful?

All wheel drive is a performance feature, not a safety feature. With all other things being equal, AWD lets you accelerate more quickly on slippery roads. This is usually a bad thing, because it masks the true slipperiness of the road from you, leading to overconfidence which will put you into the ditch, courtroom, or emergency room. But it is useful if you need to plow through unusually deep snow in conditions that would normally get you stuck (for example a steep snowy driveway, or if you run a snow plow). It’s also useful on extremely steep unpaved roads or in areas with no roads at all – places you are unlikely to need a car.

But Why Does Mr. Money Mustache Hate AWD so Much?

I have nothing against all wheel drive. It’s a cool bit of mechanical engineering that gives a vehicle superpowers. Whenever my son and I make a LEGO Mindstorms or VEX IQ robot, you can bet we’re going to give that sumbitch AWD or even a set of tank treads, because hey, why not?

The thing that pisses me off is that people have started using AWD for no reason on paved roads. Here we are, a society who has spent trillions of dollars building a road network so wide and glassy smooth that you can get almost anywhere in the country in all seasons even if you are driving a 73-foot tractor trailer rig, and we are still wasting money driving off-road vehicles on it.

Make no mistake: In a gas-powered vehicle, AWD requires huge sacrifice in weight and complexity. Hundreds of pounds of steel shafts, gears, lubricating oils and reinforcements are required to get the power from the engine to that extra set of drive wheels. And not only must you pay to carry that dead weight around for the life of the car, you burn even more gas fighting the extra friction of the additional gears every second the car is moving. And then you have to pay to maintain and repair all those extra moving parts. It’s like carrying all your camping gear on your back every time you leave your house. It is also akin to a man attaching a set of 13-pound Decorative Testicles below his real ones, just for show. You would do it if absolutely required for a social event, but not when you actually had to get some work done.

My Subaru Story

Back in the day, even Mr. Money Mustache slipped into the Subaru trap at one point. It was a 2004 Impreza wagon. I bought it for the impressive cargo space, but sold it just a few years later for the abysmal gas mileage. Even with a 4-cylinder engine and a manual transmission and my best attempts at hypermiling, that little machine could suck down gas at 27 MPG on the highway, meaning it consumed as much fuel as my 15-year-old city bus of a construction van does. By comparison, the 2005 Scion xA I replaced it with holds the same number of people, but has averaged about 42 MPG in its life with me. But at least those Subaru years gave me plenty of time to evaluate the effectiveness of all-wheel drive**.

What I found was just what physics would suggest: it’s all in the tires. The car came with reasonable all-season tires, which gave it fast acceleration and average stopping power in blizzards. On the other hand, I would end up Dukes of Hazzarding through slippery intersections because the rear wheels would break their traction more easily than a front-drive car. On the positive side, the car could do outrageous drifting power doughnuts in an empty ski resort parking lot – a longstanding Subaru owner tradition.

Later I upgraded to a set of Pirelli 215/45ZR17 performance tires on fancy wheels (hey, I was just a clueless lad back then), which greatly improved its handling on my area’s usually-dry roads, but turned it into an all-wheel-drive toboggan in the snow.

I vividly remember a moment in my town’s level, well-plowed Lowe’s parking lot, pulling out with a small load of lumber. It was a sunny but crisp day in January, so the snow was melting only slowly. I found myself stuck right in the pedestrian crossing in front of the store, with all four of those big alloy  wheels whirring cheerfully but uselessly as they polished the packed snow and I went nowhere. It took a couple of friendly but sarcastic contractors to push me out by hand. They mocked my vehicle for not being a truck, but the real joke was the tires.

 But why is my Aunt’s Subaru so much better in snow (even braking) than my Prius?

Last year my van pulled a heavy load up a grassy hill covered with 8" of snow.  Front wheel drive is more than enough.

Last year my van pulled a heavy load up a grassy hill covered with 8″ of snow. Front wheel drive is more than enough.

The tires are the biggest thing, but a few other factors than can also affect traction:

A wheel and tire combo with a longer contact patch can grip the snowy road better. Larger diameter, narrower width, taller sidewall profile, softer rubber compound, and lower air pressure all contribute to this. The Subaru comes with larger, softer tires than the Prius.

A heavier vehicle can crush the snow enough to get slightly more grip in certain conditions, but this is tricky since extra weight also means more trouble changing directions. Extra weight also makes you more lethal to everyone else on the road, which would make it a pretty selfish way to try to defend yourself. If you choose to play this game, just be honest and add machine guns instead.

Higher ground clearance allows you to skim over deeper snow without scraping the car’s belly. But this is a smaller deal than you’d think. For example, the Nissan Pathfinder SUV has 6.5 inches of ground clearance, while the Toyota Prius is only an inch lower at 5.5. A road with even 5 inches of snow is insane to drive in any vehicle above about 25 MPH, so you might as well get out your mountain bike or cross country skis.

The Ultimate Solution

The first choice, of course, is to design your life so you don’t need to drive in the snow very often, or very far. I accomplished this partly by moving away from the extremely snowy area of Canada where I grew up. But you get equal effect by doing your house and job shopping with car commute avoidance in mind. A person with your level of skill is definitely entitled to work from home on snow days – your boss will agree.

Oddly enough, once I laid the ground rule of no snow commuting, the freedom from cleaning off cars and driving them in snow has been one the longest lasting bits of happiness I have ever experienced: 15 years of smiles and still going strong. Nowadays, although I argue strongly for snow tires, I don’t own any – because I just don’t bother driving on those rare days it snows in my own area.

Second best: Snow Tires on Dedicated Rims

Blizzak WS-80 - slightly pricey, but your Honda Fit will outperform Jeep Grand Cherokees with them. Highly recommended for extremely snowy areas.

Blizzak WS-80 – slightly pricey, but your Honda Fit will outperform Jeep Grand Cherokees once you outfit it with these. Highly recommended for extremely snowy areas.

This part is really easy.  We now know that SUVs and AWD are not useful for those driving on paved roads. We know that summer tires and even all season tires are death traps compared to snow tires. I’m serious about this: there is a night and day difference in snow grip between all season tires (sometimes referred to by driving professionals as “no-season tires”) and good snow tires, because of the different rubber compounds and tread patterns.

But you don’t want to take your car to a mechanic twice every year and pay to have summer and winter tires swapped. This costs time and money, and damages the tires and rims. Instead, you simply get a second set of rims with snow tires permanently installed.

In the US, you just go to TireRack.com, look at their winter catalog, and pick out a set of wheels and tires that are guaranteed to fit your car. They come via UPS, and you jack up your car and swap them on one at a time, just as easy as putting on the spare. Any dedicated tire shop or Costco is also a good choice (Tire Rack will still help you get an idea what a good price on tires and wheels looks like). And as usual, the auto dealer is to be avoided – they’ll just try to sell you two thousand dollar tires and rim sets, or worse,a brand new model with AWD.

Happy Holidays, and may this set of snow tires be the last you ever need.

 

* If you read all this and insist on disobeying Mr. Money Mustache to your own detriment, the least ridiculous new AWD cars on the market right now are the Subaru Impreza wagon (they have improved it to 33MPG highway) and in the Large SUV category, the Subaru Forester (up to 32 hwy). Another good choice for large off-road camping families with an extreme money surplus is a 2010-ish Honda CR-V. SUVs larger than this have no rational reason to exist at all – just get a van.

** Thanks to my upbringing in Canada and various subsequent snowboarding trips around North America, I’ve also snow tested a few other all-wheelers: the Subaru Legacy/Outback, WRX wagon and Forester, Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner, Audi S4 wagon, Nissan Pathfinder, Ford F-250 pickup, Chevrolet Trailblazer and Traverse, Honda CR-V and Element, and even an Eagle Talon turbo AWD. Diagnosis: It’s all in the tires.

Further reading on cars: Top 10 Cars for Smart People

Car and Driver: Snow Tires Still Beat Four Wheel Drive

Jalopnik: let’s settle the Winter Tires vs AWD debate forever, and Snow Tires: to buy or not to buy

  • Allen December 1, 2014, 8:28 am

    This face punch hurt me MMM.

    Reply
    • Mathieu December 1, 2014, 10:01 am

      Yes. Me too. I tried ducking (see below) but failed…

      I’m guilty of a Dodge Nitro 2009 4×4 that I bought a few months before becoming Mustachian (at a great price of 4,000$ with low mileage at least). I tried to sell it. Even in Montreal, at the lowest price in the wanted adds, nobody wanted it. :(

      For now, I’ve decided to keep it and use it for stealth (free) camping (enough space inside) when I go hiking in the Adirondacks.

      But everytime I drive it, I feel my mustache shrink. I’ll try selling it again later on.

      At least I’ve biked to work all summer. It’s 40-50 min. to and from, from April until mid november (bike paths are closed between Nov. 15 to Apr. 15 but i still might use them here and there). I love it! And this is with a pace-maker for a birth defect! No complainy pants here (almost).

      Reply
      • Allen December 1, 2014, 3:50 pm

        I was right with MMM until the Subaru card came out. I thought we were doing good to have a Subaru instead of a giant 4×4 or SUV.

        Our two vehicles are a Prius and an older Subaru. The prius gets about twice the mileage of the Subaru. We have dedicated winter wheels for both. The Subaru head and shoulders makes driving in the snow “feel safer” than the Prius. I never get stuck, can get up every hill, etc. Yes, they both stop the same.

        Ultimately, we want to get down to just one car, and it would be the Prius. For now though, we have a Subaru and a sore face.

        Reply
        • Eric December 2, 2014, 9:36 am

          Ditto – 2010 Prius and a 2002 Outback. Might be reconsidering the Subaru at some point!

          Reply
        • Nathan December 2, 2014, 10:38 am

          Me too! We are about to purchase a Subaru (we live in very snowy Western NY). I talked my wife out of a minivan since we only have 2 kids (so far). And I really thought a Subaru would be a reasonable Mustachian compromise (with its better gas mileage and lower price). My heart aches with this face punch .

          Reply
          • svosavvy December 3, 2014, 8:26 am

            Fellow western NY’er here. Former plow truck owner. Current 200 foot uphill snowy driveway owner(former mach Z owner woo woo). The next time we get some white stuff seriously go test drive a Honda Fit. They are hilariously awesome in the snow. It kind of reminds of that old Volkswagen beetle commercial about the plow guy who drives his beetle into work. They weigh all of 2400 pounds and most of that weight is over the front tires. I bought a 2013 last year and was literally plowing snow with the front clip. The wheelbase is wicked short so you have to be wary of doing 180’s (remembering your drivers ed advice about how to steer in a skid and pop the clutch err put in neutral for automatics). I have stocker tires no probs. There was one day I couldn’t drive last winter. The roads were closed anyway (seriously no one was out on that one). Being in healthcare I have had to drive on closed roads and have been pulled over by the sheriffs to get chewed out but they let me on my way so I can get to my job. Seriously take the money saved buy a comfy chair and a nice beverage for when the roads are closed.

            Reply
          • Andrew Norris December 4, 2014, 5:55 pm

            heart hurts, but it’s only an emotion. Keep focusing on the good points of having a FWD and this emotion will SOON go down. Focus on the positives of saving money and soon you will feel JOY and more freedom this grants you. Also see it as an exercise in adjusting emotions, an important life skill.

            Reply
        • Beatrix Josephy December 2, 2014, 6:25 pm

          Ditto Allen,

          Love driving my Subaru in the winter but just helped my daughter find a 2005 Toyota Echo – put on some studded tires for her for an early Christmas present along with her first full-up. $40.00 Cdn only for a full tank that seems to be carrying her forever. Living in Northern British Columbia so winter driving is a necessity for at least 5 months. Wouldn’t buy another Subaru but not sure I’ll sell my 2006 either.

          Was happy to follow the link listed above and see the Echo is in Mr. MMM’s top 10 list.

          Reply
      • Guillaume December 2, 2014, 12:06 pm

        Salut Mathieu!

        I hear you! Je connais un gars qui a un Nitro, c’est vraiment un gas guzzler. J’ai une petite Yaris, qui consomme très peu et qui se park facilement. Bonus point, je m’en fout un peu de me faire bumber dans les rues du Plateau. Je prévois m’acheter un Honda Grom dès que le printemps revient.

        Cool de voir un autre Mustachian qui vient de Montréal :)

        Reply
        • Carrie December 3, 2014, 8:35 pm

          That is some franglais cinglé, mon pote.

          Reply
          • Mathieu December 4, 2014, 1:24 pm

            Oh ben tabarnouche! Lol!

            Never thought there would be other Mustachians in Montreal (Moustachus?!?)!

            Reply
            • Marie-Eve December 4, 2014, 5:23 pm

              Pas besoin de voiture à Montréal ! C’est bien trop de trouble de changer de côté de rue en hiver !

              It’s been 3 years now that I am car free and my boyfriend too; we use public transit. Groceries are delivered at home for a minimal 2$ fee in most places and we rent a car when we need it on the weekends (I always drive a car of the year). It’s a big money saving !

              Reply
              • Mathieu December 5, 2014, 10:48 am

                I agree… But I live in the West-Island, the least public transportation/bike friendly/pedestrian friendly part of town. The car is king here and I’m their enemy. :( I can fight the car clowns till -5C but below that, with un-maintained snow covered bike paths on a 40 minute commutes it just becomes too much.

                But there’s always a solution! My wife and I purchased a condo in Griffintown (should be built for next year). An up and coming bike friendly part of the city that will allow her to walk to work and me to take public transit for the 5 years remaining till our retirement. Similar to Marie-Eve, I look forward to using CAR2GO (https://www.car2go.com/en/montreal/).

                It will also be a Psychological relief to be living in a progressive, environmentally friendly neighborhood with, hopefully, like-minded people instead of fighting the car clowns.

                Cost should be the same. But my wife and I will miss the vegetable garden.

    • amelia December 3, 2014, 4:32 pm

      Well, I just got not face punched, but a warm pat on the back by MMM with this article.

      Recently, my 2000 vw golf just went caput at 215,651 miles. Being a totally frugally-minded person and living below the poverty line, had so been hoping for 300,000 out of her but, after putting $$ into her over the past 2 months and then being told “future costs” would be a new catalytic converter ($1000) and a new starter and then researching even on private sale she was only worth $1500, and after having had to be pushed out of intersections twice by nice police officers after it stalled, I rationally decided to “cut the cord.” I’d already lost two days of income due to these “anomalies.” It was costing me not just repairs, but income. No more.

      Had been looking for a few months for a new ride realizing that my hopes of longevity out of the VW might not pan out and there, out of nowhere, during this “crisis” of intermittent and then growing constant unreliability of the VW, appeared a 2010 Honda CRV -LV FWD with 63,000 miles on it.

      Having driven a Honda Civic before and having loved the form, fit and performance, I knew this CRV was “the one,” though did test-drive an AWD Subaru Outback – hated the “road noise” of it.

      I am a former Bostonian and, when driving the Honda Civic back in the early 90’s there, with lots of snow, I know that FWD is PLENTY. So, bought the CRV one week before this article, threw on excellent new tires (and I agree with MMM that the tires are the deal) am, so far, happily commuting to the “city” from my very rural, mountain home through snow. I do have a set of cables if needed but, even in that old, worn-out golf, doing the same commute, those times were few and far between.

      I think the cables are enough with great tires and I do not necessarily agree with MMM that separate snow tires and wheel mounts are needed at all. With good clearance, good driving skills and a knowledge of the road, no reason to invest in them. In my opinion, separately mounted snow tires and wheels are a huge and wasteful expense. Cables are cheap and easy to put on and take off if you actually need them which. And, as MMM points out, given our road infra-structure, are seldom needed.

      With the Golf, having to get under it to put the cables on on the few occasions I had to do so, I swore my head off with the low clearance. With the CRV, it has enough clearance that, should I have to do that, it would be cake. And, hey, if it the weather is that bad, better to stay home and enjoy your family around the wood stove playing games or constructing Lego sets. That is true safety.

      LOVE the new ride. I like the stripped down, base model of the LV as it doesn’t have all of the additional electronic “bells and whistles” that can go wrong and need repairs and extra maintenance costs (like those useless “back-up cameras, hands-free phone, GPS, AWD garbage). This base model, 2010 Honda CRV FWD is plain, simple and easy.

      As a financial adviser/blogger and engineer friend of mine (who “retired” at age 50) pointed out, every car in a model is not alike. He had a Prius, which actually did not get the stated MPG’s stated for it on the sticker.

      Though the “sticker” statement on the CRV-LV I just purchased says 30 MPG highway, I am getting, according to the on-board computer, 42 MPG on the highway. Running up and down mountainous hills where I live the average MPG is 30. Thrilled with this purchase.

      And, I think, my financial/blogger friend, having just purchased a 2012 Subaru Forester AWD for $8,000 more than I paid (and having just driven him and his wife all over highways, gravel, dirt, steep and winding hills to our hiking destination with the CRV’s 30 MPG over such different terrains – I did take the CRV through her paces) just might be, well, a bit jealous . . .

      Great article MMM and I whole-heartedly agree with you that FWD with good tires (minus a few disagreements), is the way to go. So happy to stumble across your article just a week after my own, rational purchase. Thrilled with it.

      Reply
      • Christine December 4, 2014, 8:27 am

        I bet you the Honda Civic will get to 300,000 miles or over as well!

        Reply
      • Woofer2609 December 14, 2014, 4:13 pm

        Winter tires have a softer compound rubber. They are much safer cornering and brake much better in the frost and temperatures below 7 degrees C. Having a second set of tires mounted on rims incurs minimal extra expense because you are extending the life of your all season (or no season) tires, so only really paying for 4 steel (hopefully used) rims, which cost about the same as cable chains. Cable chains, if they come loose, will cost a LOT of money if they wind around a driveshaft, which is not uncommon. I own cable chains, burly old school chains, and now a second set of excellent snow tires on rims. Each has their place, but I’d rather keep driving than mounting chains when it is 10 below and a blizzard out.

        Reply
        • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:07 am

          If saving money is absolutely the highest priority then we all ought to live some place that does not get cold and requires alot of energy to heat our homes…

          I’ll second the chains and snow tires. Sometimes you need them but chains can really ruin a car if they come loose and beat the wheel wells up badly.

          Reply
      • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 10:58 am

        I’m going to disagree with MMM here a little. We bought a CR-V ages ago (1999) and the AWD version was roughly 1-2 mpg worse than the FWD version. Here in the south we battle the mud and the ice more than the snow. Without AWD this little CUV doesn’t get far. The universal joints wore out at 250K miles and I just removed the AWD driveshaft and went 2WD for a year. I ended up putting it back in b/c it was too easy to get stuck in a silly situation.

        Living in the city is apparently very different than living in the country. The cost difference in 2 mpg over the past 16 years really is marginal especially considering that I’ve saved thousands driving the old CR-V rather than trading up every few years. Also saved huge money doing all my own work. Now the old CR-V looks pretty thirsty compared to more recent vehicle which might be getting 10-15 mpg better MPG. Again I’ll argue that it doesn’t matter that much b/c we carpool (50% reduction in miles per year) and we live close to work (less than 10 miles each way). And we save money in two dozen other ways that my less frugal friends think is just dump (like not spending vast amounts of cash or credit on name brand clothes and lots of stuff).

        Lastly: that old VW you let go? The Kelly Blue Book might only value your vehicle at $1500 but if it prevents you from having a car payment – it’s worth that car payment every month. That is to say if I ditched my well aged CR-V and bought a $400 monthly car payment then that old CR-V is worth $4800 per year to continue driving the old girl.

        FWD works well on mostly flat ground or in the city but out here we don’t have snow plows and the state might or might not salt the roads. I prefer to just stay home on messy days but more than once AWD or 4WD has helped us make a drive from work to back home where our kids are anxiously awaiting us. And we haven’t always had an 8 mile commute.

        FWIW this Honda CR-V five speed manual has 282,000 miles on it. Still on the original clutch disc. The repairs have come a little more often but nothing terrible. Less than $250 per year right now. Just ordered a new rubber intake tube (air box to throttle body), a new airbox lid and one missing bolt from an online Honda dealer for about 50% less than the local dealer who sells everything at full MSRP at the parts counter. Those parts amounted to a ~$65 repair plus some shipping.

        This afternoon I’ll be polishing up my 18 year old VW Cabrio. Needs a myriad of little cosmetic improvements which I can accomplish for less than $50. Still a repliable little car with nearly 200K miles on it.

        Reply
        • Joe Average February 9, 2015, 12:22 pm

          Just checked over the weekend online. The new CR-V has a 1 mpg penalty if you order it with AWD.

          Reply
  • Mr. Frugalwoods December 1, 2014, 8:30 am

    Our 1996 Honda Odyssey minivan treks through the Boston winter snow just fine. Front wheel drive, combined with waiting a few hours for the plows to do their job, means we’re just fine. Never been stuck, and never needed the shovel and cat litter I keep in the back.

    We don’t even use snow tires.

    Friends of ours who often go up steep snowy driveways get along just fine with a Prius and snow tires. They swear the snow tires make a world of difference.

    AWD just seems like license to get yourself in trouble. If you need AWD to get you up a hill… what’s going to stop you on the way down?

    Reply
    • Mike December 2, 2014, 11:10 am

      You might be “fine,” but the moment you find yourself in an emergency situation and can’t maneuver, you may not be fine. I’ve run snow tires on/off over many winters. They make a big difference.

      Reply
    • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:04 am

      Just try putting the right tires on the gravel along the pavement. Works well here in the ice. Sometimes the hill is on the way home, and getting home is more important than getting out.

      Reply
  • EarlyRetirementGuy December 1, 2014, 8:31 am

    Here in my largish village we are plagued by moms out on the school run driving around in their huge 4x4s. They believe driving these will make them and their children safer in an accident… without appreciating the fact that because everyone else is driving around in these beasts it just levels the playing field and infact makes it even more dangerous to their children once they’ve disembarked.

    My view: Unless you’re a farmer or living out in the mountains.. you’ve no need for driving around in a mini tank.

    Reply
  • Bob Werner December 1, 2014, 8:31 am

    Thanks for that interesting perspective. Almost no one does this anymore it seems. Yet when I was a child most of the people on my street put snow tires on around December 15. Drove into work today with a little ice on the road and noted 12 cars in the ditch. I find that driving slow in ice and snow is a very good idea but some idiots think that 4 wheel drive cars can drive the speed limit or faster, because “hey, I have 4 Wheel Drive!”

    I do have a AWD personally. Although, I only paid $3000 for it and bought it from a friend in excellent shape. Not gonna spend another $600 on wheels and tires though as I know how to drive. Will definitely consider your idea when it is time to trade cars.

    Reply
    • Anon December 1, 2014, 10:26 am

      Last year my Dad (the best driver I know) got T-Boned on the 401 just east of Toronto (for those not in Ontario, it’s a highway about 16 lanes across). His AWD tires let him safely get to the side of the road even though the air bags went off.

      He used to think that slow and safe driving was good enough. Not anymore. Personally I think those tires may have saved his and my Mom’s life as the accident caused quite the pile up.

      Reply
      • Joel December 1, 2014, 9:09 pm

        Do you mean snow tires? There’s no such thing as an AWD tire; AWD is a type of drivetrain, part of the car itself.

        Reply
    • Brendan December 1, 2014, 10:29 am

      This is it exactly. I don’t have much experience with snow tires versus all-seasons. As MMM suggests there probably is a huge difference.

      The most important thing is SPEED. Why people think that their 4×4 AWD makes them able to do the speed limit in bad weather confuses me. Driving my parents beaters, I didn’t always have snow tires, or power, or in one case good brakes. But in all situations I drove slowly in bad weather, it took twice as long but I’m alive.

      Reply
      • Ellery December 2, 2014, 2:41 pm

        I lived in Burlington, VT for many years and had a little 1993 Ford Escort sedan – that little front wheel drive car did great in the snow. That was just when the SUVs were really starting to appear, and I used to laugh at them fishtailing in front of me thinking that their AWD meant they could drive just as fast and crazily as they usually do when there is no snow. I’d just plod home slowly and hoped they didn’t fishtail right into me….

        Reply
        • Jesse December 27, 2014, 4:48 pm

          I had a ’93 Ford Escort wagon with a manual transmission when I was living in northern Minnesota.

          That was one of the best vehicles I’ve ever driven in the snow.

          Reply
      • Amelia December 3, 2014, 5:24 pm

        Speed is the issue. I see people all the time with 4×4’s on the highway at high rates of speed, not realizing that their 4×4’s are not going to save them from driving off the road. Scary.

        Years ago, I lived in an extremely remote cabin -very narrow, dirt roads that dropped off precipitously into deep canyons to get there. In the beginning, I hiked there. Then, later, I drove them in an $800 Subaru 4×4 sedan. Slowly and cautiously.

        And, then, a friend from Boston came to visit me. She rented a huge 4×4 SUV thing at the airport. She arrived late, well after dark. Knowing she was a “city person,” I offered to take the wheel.

        “Oh, no,” she said, “this is going to be fun . . . I’ll drive.” My heart went into my throat.

        With me in the passenger seat directing her, she proceeded to drive the rented 4×4 SUV up the main, paved road and then off into the treacherous mountain, dirt road in the dark like city folk who watch those commercials on TV and think 4×4’s will just plow through anything . . . whatever comes their way.

        They actually believe the SUV and they will stay upright no matter what they encounter – boulders, deep snow, pin-turns, etc . . . they believe this because of the idiotic commercials and “sense of adventure” outside of their city lives they think they can “do” out in the “outback.” It is a fantasy given to the tv-watching city crowd of ability and competence behind a wheel that is so false.

        Hair-raising on my part with my friend, having lived and traversed, on a daily basis, those roads which are way beyond 99% of the population’s experience.

        Okay, so, as my friend was proceeding valiantly forward without a care in the world with regard to her speed on that treacherous road, a couple of times I tried the gentle approach: “Uh, you know, this reality isn’t those commercials and, uh, perhaps you should slow down and, uh, well, you are driving really close to a serious drop off here and uh, the roadway isn’t entirely secure at this turning point . . . .”

        She just kept smiling and plowing along . . . and, finally, realizing our lives were at stake with her, I just finally told her to STOP IMMEDIATELY, turned to her and said, “So, look, driving this way is not a commercial. You can and will kill us both if you continue this way, okay, so, we are now going to switch places and I am going to drive us the rest of the way.”

        Fortunately, she acquiesced. We switched places and I got us home safely.

        I think it is really important to remember that A LOT of these people either buying or renting 4×4’s (unless one knows them as locals familiar with the local, mountain roads) are city folk who believe the commercials that give the impression that, once behind the wheel of such a vehicle, they are invincible.

        These are the most dangerous people on the road. Not because they are malicious, but because they are completely and totally ignorant. They live in cities and think that AWD or 4×4’s give them “superpowers,” just like the commercials want them to believe. Just like MMM has pointed out that AWD gives the car “superpowers.” It doesn’t. Not at all.

        Really important to drive safely and defensively on the roads given the large population of city drivers who don’t get what they are doing.

        Drive safely and do insist that you take over the wheel if you find yourself subject to one of these ignorant city folk who really do not have a clue what they are doing . . . Insist on it and don’t take “no” for an answer.

        Reply
        • Kenoryn December 4, 2014, 10:35 am

          To be fair, careless and ignorant people don’t just live in cities. Country people love to slam city people for being “citiots” but I know lots of careless and ignorant country people, too, and lots of city people who are excellent, careful drivers. I suspect the correlation is more between driver training, experience and even personality than city/country. And winter city conditions can be even more treacherous than country conditions at times.

          Reply
        • Hugerat December 5, 2014, 12:45 pm

          Since we’re ignorantly criticizing huge swaths of people based on a single anecdote, can you country folk stay the hell out of my city (Boston)? You don’t seem to be able enter the city limits without crashing into something. Or someone. Thanks.

          Reply
        • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:15 am

          You said it. 4WD/AWD just makes a vehicle GO – doesn’t help stop or turn it.

          Coming back from the mtns one year we were suprised by a snow storm. I was amazed at the 4WD drivers who thought their vehicles had the Spider Man ability to stick to the road. We rolled along at ~40 mph in our old CR-V and were passed by a Jeep darting in and out of the traffic at literally 65+ mph. Sure enough a few miles down the road we started seeing pickups and Jeeps crashed in the median or off the shoulder. Their vehicles weren’t capable it was the drivers’ lead feet.

          Reply
  • Carl December 1, 2014, 8:36 am

    Rear wheel drive may cause more fishtailing when you hit the gas in mud or snow, but it also helps get you out of a fishtail situation. The natural instinct when a car loses control is to take one’s foot off the gas. With a front wheel drive car this action acts as a mild brake. Not good in a fishtailing situation…

    Reply
    • GregK December 1, 2014, 2:00 pm

      “Rear wheel drive … helps get you out of a fishtail situation.”

      How? Stepping on the gas with RWD when your rear tires are already spinning just keeps them spinning. How does this help you get out of a fishtail? The only way I’ve consistently gotten out is very minor, anticipatory steering in the direction of the slide.

      When I was learning to drive, my father had me induce slides in large parking lots and steer my way out of them. Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy to correct.

      “With a front wheel drive car this action acts as a mild brake.”

      That’s if you’re driving an automatic, which you shouldn’t be doing anyway :).

      Reply
      • Carl December 2, 2014, 7:14 pm

        For the same reason it gets you in when you step on the gas too much on a slick road: when you take your foot off the gas, the rear wheels do mild braking, making it easier to get out of the fishtail.

        Reply
    • Mike December 2, 2014, 3:49 pm

      With a front wheel drive you can accelerate slightly to pull yourself out of a fishtail. My only experience in snow is driving a Hyundai Accent with chains through a couple blizzards, but front wheel drive when used properly really takes fishtailing out of the equation. I also completely avoid any situations that involve braking and steering at the same time – in slippery conditions it’s not worth the risk to do both. I simply slow down before the curve and then cruise through it without tapping the breaks. Better to go around the curve a bit faster than you wanted to than to hit the brakes and start a slide.

      Reply
      • Carl December 2, 2014, 7:12 pm

        Exactly my point. You have to ACCELERATE to get out. This is not intuitive. With refresher courses in emergency driving skills, this can be turned into a reflex. With rear wheel drive the reflex of pulling the foot off the accelerator puts on in a negative feedback situation.

        Reply
      • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:18 am

        Steep hills though “unload” the front wheels – shift weight off of them. Same if you have alot of weight in the trunk. FWD has limitations. It is worsened by really wide tires as well.

        Reply
  • Aaron Hall December 1, 2014, 8:37 am

    Agree completely. I find it interesting how AWD has been built up to be such a safety feature rather than a performance/task driver feature. When not having AWD becomes perceived as “unsafe” cue the shaming. “Isn’t your family’s safety worth the MPG reduction!” Notwithstanding that one could take an advanced winter driving course and buy a proper set of winter tires and wind up far ahead financially over the lifetime of the car/times compared to the initial upcharge of AWD and the ongoing mpg hit… but alas, it seems 5 star ratings outweighs putting the cell phone down when it comes to collective safety consciousness. Another irksome note is that that in truly cold climates, winter tires are for much more than snow and ice, they are engineered for cold weather performance (using a different rubber compound than ‘all season’ tires for enhanced traction). Heck my neighbouring province mandates winter tires, and most insurance companies up here will give a discount if you have them, I don’t see them offering the same discounts for AWD!

    Reply
    • CTY December 1, 2014, 11:59 am

      My first thoughts when car manufacturers profess safety features –Will I get an insurance discount? No discount means its not a real safety feature. Last time I car shopped (13 years ago) the salesman said the car had safety feature X and was cheaper on insurance–so I checked it out & sure enough the premium was 15% less than the other cars I was looking at–and that’s when I knew it was a safe car.

      Reply
      • LennStar December 2, 2014, 2:40 am

        I like to look what insurance prices are for things like extended warranty. If it is very cheap, the thing is likely to get very old. If its very expensive – best to buy a similar.

        Reply
      • Brian December 3, 2014, 1:35 pm

        Incidentally, this is how you know that home security systems probably aren’t worth the money. The insurance savings are a few dollars every year.

        Reply
        • Nathan December 9, 2014, 6:53 pm

          Brian, the discount on home security systems is slight for a different reason than you think. I work in insurance–by far the majority of homeowner’s claims, property claims in general are NOT from a break-in or compromised security. It’s generally storm damage or a plumbing issue. Next most common would be electrical and fire damage.

          In addition, having a security system is by no means an indicator that someone will use it–all too often people have security systems and don’t engage them. That is taken into account for your discount.

          Reply
  • EMML December 1, 2014, 8:38 am

    Greetings from the land of lake effect snow (West MI)! I’ve never owned an SUV or AWD vehicle, but I have noticed how much difference having good tires makes. Still, I’ve been tempted (slightly) to get something a bit better for the snow. My ’99 Honda Civic’s ground clearance is abysmal, and I have gotten stuck on my mother’s road (since they plow late in the day). Plus, my husband is very tall (6’4″), and barely fits in the thing. Any advice on a sedan that is built for very tall people, but still good on gas/snow?

    Lot’s of good information here–thank you!

    Reply
    • Erin December 1, 2014, 8:59 am

      As a dirt road, farm-living, central Michigander who drives a 2008 Corolla & is also married to a giant (who seems to constantly be threatening to replace my car with something bigger), I eagerly await the responses to your post.

      Reply
      • Jess December 1, 2014, 9:34 am

        rather than a sedan. A ford escape HYBRID is fantastic and great for tall people. I get 45 mpg’s in the summer and 35 in the winter. I’m 6’4″ as well and its a great car that can hold alot. People will say an SUV is antimustacian but show me a car that is comfy for a 6’4″ guy that can get that kinda MPGs. they are hard to find.

        Reply
        • EMML December 1, 2014, 2:05 pm

          That was one of the cars we had considered 6 years ago. (Instead, my dad gave us a great deal on a minivan that he wanted to get rid of.) I don’t think they’re making the hybrids any longer, which is a bummer.

          ETA: He’s not overweight in the slightest. The only issue is leg room.

          Reply
          • Pbo064 April 30, 2015, 11:09 am

            If econbox sedan is tiny for you, just go to mid-size sedan instead of SUV. We had a Subaru Forester, and traded it for an older Camry to reduce costs, increase MPGs. The Camry is more roomy for 6’4″ me than Subaru, even with infant car seat installed. Averages 10 MPG better and costs half as much. Our other car is a Honda Fit which I can also drive, though it’s primarily my wife’s car.

            Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 10:49 am

      If you put slightly larger wheels and tires than stock (respecting the limit of fender clearance, of course), you’ll get more ground clearance on that Civic.

      As for tall guys trying to use that as an excuse to buy bigger cars: while there is a bit of truth to that, many use it as a wussypants excuse. I’m over 6 feet, 185 lbs, and can easily fit in a very small car, then go sit behind myself in the back seat with loads of room. Part of the key is not insisting on lying back like a lounge chair in the front. Another key is selecting a tallish car with smart interior proportions like a Honda or Toyota (sports cars and hardcore offroad vehicles are awful in comparison).

      Also, many tall friends of mine claim their height is their problem, when in fact it is the girth. As an experiment, try putting on three winter coats and some snowpants, then seeing how well you fit into your car with the seat at the regular setting.

      Giving up sugar and breads and taking up a good exercise program (including replacing some of your driving with biking) is a lot cheaper than a lifetime of buying trucks just to compensate!

      Reply
      • LennStar December 1, 2014, 11:51 am

        I drive a Hyundai i10 (name could be another in America).
        It is quite a high car for the smallest category. Got a 3 year old because they get best ratings.

        Of course I dont know if you even can buy them in Gods own Car Clown land ^^

        https://www.ecosia.org/search/images/q/hyundai+i10

        best thing is, if you get a yellow, you can see your car standing in the parklot from whereever you look (in germany that is, not in big car country) – no need to remember where you parked.
        Also yellow is a LOT cooler then blue in the summer.

        Reply
        • Ishmael December 2, 2014, 3:55 am

          The only problem with yellow for a car is that bees and wasps are attracted
          to it like crazy… they think it’s a big flower :)

          Reply
      • Eric Blade December 1, 2014, 11:54 am

        This made me giggle unnecessarily. :D

        Prius driving family in Eastern Michigan. Personally, not in good enough physical shape to use my own power to get places, but working on that daily.

        When I lived in West Michigan, a 190HP 4-cylinder FWD that just so happened to pick up 30+mpg usually (not bad for a 1990 era vehicle) was more than enough to get me through a LOT of winters .. except for the one time that it snowed so much that the bumper plowed up snow in front of it, and eventually the wheels lifted up on top of the snow that was being plowed, which ended up with the front end of the car completely off the ground. Oops! (also, never used winter-specific tires)

        Drive slow. Throw a shovel in your trunk, and maybe some things to aid in traction (sand, salt, towels, whatever you prefer), just in case something -does- happen. And it’s pretty likely at least in West Michigan that if you do end up in a situation (ie, spun off into a ditch after a giant freaking deer materializes in front of you..) you can’t get out of, if you wait 10-15 minutes someone with a giant 4×4, a tow chain, and a case of Bud Light will be by.

        Reply
        • EMML December 1, 2014, 8:20 pm

          Lol–case of Bud Light! Too true, I’m sure! Fortunately, I’ve never ended up in a ditch, despite my lack of AWD or 4×4. I’ve heard that kitty litter works better than sand on ice. I’ve only ever gotten stuck by my parents house, and they have shovels handy.

          I’ve never had more than all weather tires, but have noticed certain brands work excellently on snow. Honestly, winters here have been getting milder and milder until last winter. So far, it looks like this winter will give last year a run for its money. It’s made me rethink winter driving.

          Reply
      • JenniferB December 1, 2014, 12:36 pm

        Ouch. I still love my Subaru, and given the low number of miles I use it for the car is decent value for the money.

        As for tall men choosing big SUV’s, big guys have more than just total height to factor into fitting into cars. My father is 6’4″, but has a long torso. My parents literally car shop based on what cars he doesn’t hit the roof in. For them it’s been Volvo only for the last 20 years. Not cheap, but those Scandinavians know how to fit a tall guy into a car, and they drive the cars into the ground before upgrading.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 5:30 pm

          You can also just swap out the front seat on almost any car to out-torso a Volvo. Good seats are height-adjustable and you can find some great options in an auto parts catalog. It’s held in by 4-6 bolts, a dead simple replacement. A friend of mine is 6’7″ and he learned this trick early, freeing himself from letting the entire purchase be dictated by such a tiny detail.

          Reply
          • Jason January 12, 2015, 9:45 pm

            It isn’t so easy to swap out seats today. You are forgetting that almost all cars sold today have airbags in the seat. You can’t just swap seat back and forth between models because the airbags and wiring are not compatible.

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 5:40 pm

              Airbags in the SEAT!? I can’t imagine myself ever owning such a newfangled car. I’m still amazed that my cars have airbags in the steering wheel and dash.

              There’s always a way to customize things to your liking once you get into the head of whoever designed your car. My favorite modification was to rewire the seat belt beeping system so it can’t tell when you take your seat belt off. Because sometimes you’re just moving the car from the front of the house around to the back to unload some stuff, and you’ll be damned if that annoying piece of shit is going to beep at you for not wearing the seat belt when you see fit to not wear it.

              Fucking nanny machines they’re making for us these days ;-)

              Reply
              • Jason January 16, 2015, 8:07 pm

                Yes, more specifically Torso Side Airbags which were introduced by Volvo in 1994 and became almost standard equipment by the mid 2000’s.

                BTW, the next airbag you can expect to see become standard is the knee airbag.

      • Paularado December 1, 2014, 1:13 pm

        Not all tall is the same. My husband is 6’4″ but his height is all in his torso. He is thin. He truly cannot fit into many cars with that crazy long back; his head hits the roof of the car. However, he did fit in a 1984 accord we had for a while even though the car was pretty small…like a go-cart small. LOL! You really just have to try different vehicles to see what works.

        Reply
        • EMML December 1, 2014, 2:17 pm

          Very true. My husband is on the thinner side. His torso is normal, so headroom isn’t an issue, just legroom.

          Reply
      • Marcia December 1, 2014, 1:49 pm

        Ha this made me laugh! I’ve been trying to lose the 2nd baby weight for awhile (he’s 2.5), and it comes off so SLOWLY at my age (mid 40’s).

        So for NO-vember I decided to give up a few things completely – they were not big parts of my diet (1-2 servings a week each). Among those: sugar, flour/wheat/bread/pasta, alcohol, and fried food (mostly just tortilla chips). Lost 7.2 pounds in 30 days (took 3 months to lose the prior 7 pounds).

        Reply
        • EMML December 1, 2014, 8:30 pm

          That’s awesome–congrats!

          Reply
      • EMML December 1, 2014, 2:01 pm

        I should have explained–he’s a leggy sort of tall. He wears 36″ inseam pants. He puts the seat all the way back, and his knees still come up on either side of the steering wheel. (It truly looks like a clown car that way.)

        Reply
        • Erin December 2, 2014, 1:24 pm

          That’s the kind of tall my husband is. He also wears a 36 inch inseam. He’s 56 and did hard labor (floor covering) for 40 years and counting – started at 14 with his dad – so his back is basically a hot mess. It’s hard not to feel sorry for him cramped up in a car or a plane for that matter when I’ve seen him lay on the floor for 3 days with his back out. I’ll keep trying to convince him, and if all else fails the Escape Hybrid that Jess mentioned sounds like a good option.

          As for the fatness, he’s a bean and his wife needs to drop a few pounds ;) She’s working on it.

          ETA: Had he lived a mustachian lifestyle and not had a very fun divorce midlife, he probably wouldn’t have the issue of still working in floor covering. We are working on that one together.

          Reply
          • EMML December 4, 2014, 12:20 pm

            My husband is only 41, but he has an issue with his hip, so I hate to see him aggravate it further by squeezing into a too-small car (or, like you said, an airplane seat). It’s been bothering him for 2+ years now. Doctors want to do steroid shots, but he wants to try more physical therapy. Would like to manage it so that it doesn’t turn into a need for a hip replacement down the line.

            “As for the fatness, he’s a bean and his wife needs to drop a few pounds ;) She’s working on it.” <– Same here, on both counts!

            Reply
      • Gotim Himel December 1, 2014, 8:17 pm

        In the spirit of being judgmental, which is being displayed here:

        Being just over six feet is not tall. It is a sweet spot. It is the North Americal ideal. Life is pretty (expletive) convenient when you are six feet tall. You can find bikes. You can find cars. You can find clothes. You can even easily find a mate. You accept sunroofs as a neat extra that increases resale value rather than the headroom-sucking, posture-destroying travesties that they are.

        I am 6’8″. In a Civic, my head sticks out the sunroof. There is no Japanese car in which the headrest does not dig right into my shoulder blades. My dream car is an E-Class wagon, and I cannot drive it for that same reason.

        My bike, which does serve as a mode of transportation, is from the Netherlands. It has a 70 cm frame. I was (expletive) expensive. There is not a single North American bike manufacturer that makes a bike that fits me. And it feels awesome to have a bike that fits. Not many things do.

        My suits are custom. My clothes have to be ordered from the States (I live in Canada). Some of the stuff will not ship to Canada, so I am spending three hours on a round trip to the border. I have to pay both U.S. sales tax and Canadian tax.

        In an internet dating profile, no woman will ever choose 5’10- to unlimited. They will always choose 5’10”- 6″4″, maybe 6’5″. I met my wife on a plane where she could not see how tall I was. She later admitted than when she saw me stand for the first time, her thoughts were “holy (effluvium)”, and that it probably would have scared her off.

        Being unapologetically judgmental is part of this blog, and it is not a bad thing. But please do not purport to speak on behalf of tall people. If you get to judge me for my large car, I get to judge you for being within the 95th percentile.

        Signed,
        the 99.999th percentile.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 8:33 pm

          Nice. I’m definitely put in my place. Just trying to challenge some of the Fake Tallsters out there, rather than assert there are no Genuinely Tall People, sir!

          Reply
          • EMML December 4, 2014, 12:23 pm

            I’m not sure how 6’4″ can be considered Fake Tallster. Maybe 6′ nothing ;-)
            6-4 is enough to be at the beginning of PITA height.

            Reply
        • Jim December 2, 2014, 10:12 am

          6’8″ Guy here. I feel your pain Gotim. However, there are cars and bikes that work. I drive a 2005 Pontiac Vibe, with great headroom and after market seat rail extenders which provide plenty of legroom. Beware that the Vibe is undriveable to the point of being being dangerous in the winter without snow tires. Also check out the Kia Rondo, ugly as sin, but very cheap and you will be reasonably comfortable. A Hyundai Genesis or Kia Optima without a sunroof works, as long as you don’t mind ducking to see traffic light changes.

          I found a 69cm Panasonic “Sport LX” on craigslist for $150.00, and the seat post is barely out of the frame for me. The top tube is 62″ long! I recently splurged on a KHS Flite 747 which was on clearance in the late fall and couldn’t be happier. I’ve even heard that Specialized in considering 36″ wheeled mountain bikes for production.

          Stay tall brother.

          Reply
        • James December 2, 2014, 1:03 pm

          I’m 6’7″, 373 pounds. I drive a 2009 Toyota Corolla. You’re right when you say that about a height sweet spot. I can’t find decent clothes to fit, have to special order shoes, and have an extremely long torso. I live in Atlanta- you only need snow tires few times a year here, but good lord when it falls here, it takes everyone 6 hours to drive 10-15 miles. Kids get stuck on busses and everything. Every inch means about one day off.

          Reply
          • TallGirl December 5, 2014, 4:57 pm

            Where were you guys when I was on the market? I’m 6’1″, 36+ inseam and female. “Do my legs fit under the wheel” was a factor in my car shopping.

            Reply
      • lecodecivil December 1, 2014, 10:12 pm

        As Paularado said, not all tall is the same. I’m 6’6″ and carry most of my weight in muscle. And my width problem isn’t around the midsection, it’s my shoulders – I wear a size 52 coat with a 38 waist. And my legs are quite long, so a major difficulty with fitting in a car is getting my knees to fit under the steering wheel, even with tilting wheels. I’ve actually found leaning back the seat to just be the best way to make sure head room isn’t an issue.

        BUT YOU’RE STILL RIGHT! While I of all people understand tall guys wanting to just buy a bigger car, that is definitely just an excuse. I’ve never owned an SUV or a truck, always driven tiny coupes or compact sedans. I drove a 1998 Acura Integra for years and got hilarious looks unfolding myself getting out of the driver’s seat. Even I can fit in the driver’s seat of a 10-year-old Honda Accord (but not newer ones, sadly). I drove a new-ish Hyundai Accent rental recently and had enough leg and head room (especially in the passenger seat), even if it was a little narrow for my shoulders. If I recall it was getting 40+ on the highway. You just have to sit in a bunch of cars and figure out what works for you.

        Edit: Having seen Gotim’s comment above, I’m also in that range of needing custom things made (and believe me I understand the dating woes). But I firmly believe that after decades of being this tall I’ve adjusted to living in a smaller person’s world. Maybe nothing fits perfectly, but it’s not a tremendous hardship. Yes it feels awesome to find the rare thing that fits, but it’s not exactly debilitating when it doesn’t.

        Reply
        • EMML December 4, 2014, 12:35 pm

          A Civic is smaller than an Accord. I wasn’t inquiring about an SUV, but just a fuel efficient car with better legroom than a Civic. My husband is 41 and has a problem with his hip. Plus, we have 2 kids in car/booster seats. Just looking for something just a smidge larger than the 2-door coupe that I bought for myself pre-marriage and kids.

          Reply
      • Carrie December 2, 2014, 11:44 am

        My husband is 6’8″ and happily drives a Toyota Corolla year-round in snowy Montana where our town doesn’t so much plow the streets. I have studded bike tires. A 2005 Subaru Outback sits in the garage for driving up the steep, unpaved road to the ski mountain and down Forest Service roads for winter backcountry expeditions. Works pretty well.

        Reply
        • Jennifer Knoetgen December 6, 2014, 4:19 pm

          Hey! Fellow Montanan here… Also drive a Toyota Corolla studded snows for my unfortunate clown commute. But my coworkers live less than 1 mile from the office and have huge SUVS. Got the Corolla off of Craigslist for just $1500!

          Reply
      • Becky December 2, 2014, 3:21 pm

        My Dad is a big guy (height and girth) and happily drives/fits easily in his Nissan Leaf. The inside of that car is surprisingly roomy…it looks smaller than a Prius (I think) so a lot of folks would never consider buying one. They certainly do double-takes when they see him loading the back with landscaping supplies at Lowes!

        Reply
      • PavelR December 2, 2014, 5:55 pm

        I have to say that I concur on the height issues. I’m a bit under 6′ 4″, and have had a Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Matrix, and a Honda Fit. When it comes to allocation of space for the driver, all cars seem to be more or less the same. The 4Runner was much higher off the ground obviously, but the driver and passenger room was about the same as the Fit and Matrix. I also avoid any car with a sunroof since that trims a few inches of headroom.

        Reply
      • -JR December 3, 2014, 6:37 am

        On the subject of height, my former boss-all 6’10” of him drives a Smart Car. The clowniest thing you’ve never seen is a veritable giant unfolding from that tiny thing. Yet it is claimed to be ultra comfy with ample room when the seat is pushed all the way back. Gotta dig it.

        Reply
        • Kenoryn December 4, 2014, 10:56 am

          I have seen huge guys get out of Smart cars and wondered about that! My tall-ish husband likes our Matrix, which I think is the same as the Vibe body-wise.

          Reply
          • EMML December 4, 2014, 12:37 pm

            That’s funny–I was just talking to my husband last night about maybe looking for a Vibe or Matrix!

            Reply
        • Jason January 12, 2015, 9:54 pm

          Smart cars have an amazing amount of room in them for two people. I test drove one when they first came to the USA when they were doing a road show. Before the test drive the Smart employee made sure the seat was all the way back. I’m 5″9″ and my feet didn’t reach the pedals and I had to adjust the seat forward quite a bit. People assume that because the car is small it is cramped inside but they aren’t.

          Reply
        • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:32 am

          I drove the original Fiat 500 several times when I lived in Italy. Owned Beetles back then too. Both were pretty spacious considering their outside dimensions.

          Imagine four 20-something guys riding in a Fiat 500 (two cylinders, 18 HP). We put six guys in a Fiat Panorama 900T microvan. 900cc engine…

          On the flip side my parents’ 90s Camaro convertible and newer Corvette wastes vasts amounts of space inside with poor ergonomics. Our VW Cabrio has more space than either and it’s smaller.

          Reply
    • raven15 December 1, 2014, 11:14 am

      My pre-mustachian purchase was a 2014 Subaru Forester. I would recommend a used one of those. The inside is huge, you could fit four 6’4″ people inside with no complaints. It’s also got a lower center of gravity than the previous models, 9.5″ of ground clearance (more than a Jeep Cherokee, but note the Forester is not really an off-road vehicle), and I have been actually getting 32 mpg combined driving.

      It’s not the most cost effective vehicle of all time, but is a good compromise between everything.

      Reply
      • Phil December 2, 2014, 6:48 pm

        I’m a fan of the Forester. The wife and I looked at one today. If I can find a good used one I can pay cash for, I’m going to get it.

        Reply
      • Amelia December 3, 2014, 11:19 pm

        Do try a Honda CRV (around 2010 model). WAAAYYY more leg room than the Subaru Forester. My friends just bought a 2012 Subaru Forester and, when they sat in my Honda CRV, they both said that the leg room in my CRV was much greater than the Forester. Plus, they both liked the fact that, in both the front and rear passenger seats, they both sat up higher than in the Forester.

        As the driver/owner, I do enjoy the height of the CRV and the feeling that I am “looking down” on the road, in good command, rather than feeling like I am in a station wagon. After all, isn’t that what an SUV is supposed to do?

        Reply
        • RAVEN15 December 5, 2014, 5:03 pm

          Amelia,
          Note that for better or worse the 2014 Forester is far larger and higher than the 2012 Forester, especially on the inside.

          Reply
      • Joel December 3, 2014, 11:33 pm

        The 2014s are MUCH better as far as MPGs than the 2009 Forester that I had. I was lucky to average 20 with quite a bit of highway driving to see my girlfriend every other weekend. I blame the sucky mileage mostly on the fact that it only had a 4 speed automatic, and highway cruising speeds were well above 3000RPM.

        Reply
      • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:36 am

        CR-Vs, Forresters, RAV4 = not off-roaders but dirt-roaders. They can put up with mud, snow and dirt but not climbing rocks. That said my little CR-V has been off-road a number of times over the years. Have forded creeks that were as deep as the tops of the tires. You have to be aware of where the engine intake is so you don’t give the engine a gulp of water and cause it to hydrolock risking major engine damage.

        A friend came to me years ago with a brand new Jeep Cherokee. He thought it was indestructable. Let’s go ride the trails he said. He pouded that thing down the roads and the trails and then through a huge puddle. Stalled the engine, flooded the interior, etc. Wrecked the engine too. A week later it blew up the engine (threw a rod).

        Reply
    • Trifele December 1, 2014, 12:18 pm

      Hi EMML. Check out a Honda Fit. It has good headroom. My brother is 6’3″ and can drive it comfortably.

      Reply
    • DrFood December 1, 2014, 1:19 pm

      My 2000 VW Golf TDI got excellent mileage (when my commute averaged 60mph I was getting 47-50 mpg on average), fit my 6’4″ husband, was fun to drive and when equipped with snow tires (on dedicated rims, as described above) was able to get me through unplowed roads better than most of the 4WD vehicles out there. I’m a doctor, so missing work is generally not an option. I took unplowed roads many times.

      The key, as already stated, is the tires. Good snow tires can’t be driven in warm weather but are amazing on ice and snow. The Golf has amazing hauling capacity as well. I still remember when I took it to the woodworking store to pick up a table saw. The guys really didn’t think it would fit. . .

      Reply
      • EMML December 1, 2014, 2:14 pm

        Interesting idea. How are the maintenance costs? My neice has a VW, and was complaining about the costs. I’m not sure whether it is in fact pricey to repair, or if she didn’t plan well?

        Reply
        • woodnut December 2, 2014, 9:04 pm

          We are now a 100% VW TDI household, a 2001 Jetta & 2011 Jetta Sportwagen, and are getting rid of our clown car SUV. I love my TDI’s but I have to admit in the maintenance cost department they are not the most economical vehicle. They are still a German car with mostly German parts and replacement parts on European cars just cost more. However, the TDI has a bit of a cult following and if you are ambitious enough there are plenty of detailed how-to’s on the internet on how to fix about anything on these cars. So I partially offset the higher costs by doing a lot of the maintenance myself. I justify it in my mind as I get to drive an entry level Euro sport car but it gets great fuel economy at somewhat reduced maintenance costs because the cult following kind of makes it “open source”. Financially, I’m sure Civics, Corrolas, etc beat my TDI’s in the long run, but the TDI’s definitely come out ahead of anything AWD.

          I run dedicated rims and snow tires and the VW’s get around in snow and ice better than any SUV or truck I owned in the past even when they had snow tires too. The only time they don’t do well is deep snow due to the fairly low ground clearance.

          Reply
          • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:39 am

            The VW dealers cost more. Buy your parts from an online VW dealer and they are quite affordable. Dealer service departments are pretty expensive too. They get you b/c they think you can afford it or don’t know any better.

            Reply
      • Idgy December 1, 2014, 3:19 pm

        Second the VW Golf TDI. We have 2010 wagon version with snow tires on rims. We live in the Toronto area and regularly take it on gravel roads to fav. hiking spots in winter. Handles great in snow if you have the right tires. We have not gotten stuck once in this vehicle even during last year’s ice storm. Fits 6’2″ and 5’1″ drivers just fine. If you watch how much you drive, maintenance is once a year (or less frequent) with synthetic oil. Annual maintenance total is less than other cars we have owned. Bonus: the TDI sips fuel.

        Reply
    • Jay Dub December 2, 2014, 10:33 am

      Also from West Michigan (Allegan County and work in Kalamazoo County), I just sold my 94 Civic which I ran two sets of Firestone Winterforce tires. I now drive a 2005 Civic and I recently put General Altimax Arctics on it after buying them at Tire Rack in South Bend. The winterforces normally got me 50k miles and a friend used the Altimax Arctics and said he got about 80k miles out of his last set. The Altimax Arctics are much quieter than the Winterforce and either of these run a lot less $ than the Blizzaks that MMM referenced. My wife’s Camry also got new AA snow tires. I have my own mounting machine at home and I found a tire shop that balances my wheels/tires very inexpensively after I change them. My next move I will live closer to work, that’s one lesson learned from MMM.

      Having grown up in the snowbelt of NE Ohio I can’t believe that most West Michiganders try getting by with no-season tires. Snow tires are like velcro because of the deep tread, soft rubber, and all the sipes cut into them. My Civics pull away at lights without slipping while the Suburbans, SUVs and 4×4 trucks with no-season tires are sliding around trying to get going…idiots! Ditto with stopping.

      The guys at work rib me about not having an SUV but I make it here before most of them do but they tell me they “have to” have that SUV because of the snow! Go figure. Oh, I am the only one in our group that is completely debt free including the house. SUCKERS!

      Reply
      • The Fake Cheap December 6, 2014, 4:10 pm

        I have to second the General Tire Altimax Atrics. I’ve had the same pair on my Suzuki SX4 for 5 winters now, and it drives like a tank (in a good way) in the snow here in Canada. I have never come close to getting stuck or losing control once with these bad boys.

        Reply
    • EMML December 4, 2014, 12:43 pm

      Thanks for all the suggestions, folks! I feel like I have a really good list of cars to consider now!

      Hey–does anyone have any opinions on Mazdas? I had been eyeing a Mazda 6. I think the fuel economy was supposed to be decent, but not great.

      Reply
  • Steve Adcock December 1, 2014, 8:38 am

    Thankfully, I live in Tucson, AZ where snow isn’t exactly much of an issue. But living in Virginia, I dealt with snow every winter. Regardless of the car that I drove, I always seemed to make it from point A to point B just fine, with or without AWD, and with or without snow tires. I minimized my chances of an accident by keeping off the roads as much as I could, and I used completely defensive driving skills to stay on the road and avoid icy situations.

    Imagine, that…driving skills.

    Reply
    • Pat December 1, 2014, 9:21 am

      Last winter I drove 120 km at night in a snowstorm on a highway with 2″ of snow – yes, bad timing on my part. But with good snow tires the driving was not a problem. Visibility was the issue. I kept my speed down (60 – 70 Km/hour) and was fine, just slow.

      Since I live in an area with lots of snow, I have often had the opportunity to have SUVs pass me, and then later I pass them (they are in the ditch). Weight does not always help, since I have seen buses and semis get stuck on slopes because they did not have proper winter tires.

      Winter rims are a great idea. Less wear and tear on both sets of tires. Also worth mentioning, my garage does the wheel alignment when the summer tires go on, since most damage is done in spring (= pothole season).

      Reply
    • EDSMedS December 1, 2014, 9:52 am

      Skills? That’s not technology, so it must not help.

      Your comment reminds me of the critique of the running shoe industry in “Born to Run.” If you can’t run pain free without shoes, it is MORE dangerous to buy a cushy pair of sneaks with 3″ of foam padding to soften the structural damage with each step. LEARN to run first, then consider tools for performance enhancement.

      If you can’t drive safely with focus, patience, and an understanding of vehicle capabilities and environmental restrictions, it is MORE dangerous to jump up in an SUV/4×4 and zoom away.

      Reply
    • Scott December 1, 2014, 10:46 am

      Northern VA perchance? A few years ago we had a major snowstorm that dumped 24″+ of snow in a short amount of time, very unusual for VA. We’re not equipped to handle anything over 0″, so of course it was a major disaster. My mother was about 8 miles from home when the storm hit, with her brand new 2WD CR-V (I had insisted she not get the 4WD, because the setup Honda uses is crap). In the 8 hours it took her to get home, she passed abandoned cars left and right… but she still made it home just fine. No AWD necessary.

      Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_5%E2%80%936,_2010_North_American_blizzard

      Reply
      • HAYES December 1, 2014, 3:10 pm

        I never thought I would see the day that I would so heavily disagree with my fellow mustachians, not to mention MMM. I certainly understand the point of view that so many of you are relying on, and I just can’t allow myself to sit by and allow so many to slander the name of AWD. As someone who also has had experience driving rear-wheel, front-wheel, 4×4 and AWD. Honestly, I would say flat out that MMM is wrong. I do agree that tires and the amount of skill possessed by the individual can increase the level of safety and efficiency of the driving experience. However, as someone who has actually rebuilt AWD systems and uses them on a frequent basis, I would say that the level of understanding on this blog on this topic is very limited by the majority of mustachians.
        – First of all, I must clarify that not all AWD systems are created equal. The symmetrical AWD system used by Subarus (even the gas-guzzling models) is vastly superior to the AWD system found in most Fords or even Hondas. Also, as far as versatility goes, unless you live in Sunny Southern California AWD trumps all other systems 9 times out of 10.
        -Secondly, I disagree with the notion that all people who own AWD are using it as a crutch of sorts and tend to be far more reckless. This could not be further from the truth. I live in a mountainous city in the heart of Virginia where snow and ice are prevalent 4 months out of the year and black Ice is around for almost 6 months. We have “smooth as glass” roads going all through our wonderful city with just as many hills and slopes as there are people. I can say that 3/4 of the people that live here possess an AWD vehicle all while maintaining a very mustachian lifestyle (that was the second reason I moved here, the first was my wife). It truly is helpful for the times when we have to go to work/school/the store. Limiting ourselves to the few times when everything is plowed is essentially telling all working adults to stop what you’re doing for 6 months because you want to save money. Balderdash I say! AWD essentially adds grip through increasing usable points of contact and torque. PS, I have never been stuck in a vehicle with AWD.
        -Thirdly, I understand that where I live is an exception. But, exceptions are how we define our selves. It is the parts of life that do not fit the norm that further our understanding. I never thought I would see so many haters on this beloved blog.

        As someone who is more than capable of driving in inclement weather without AWD but still chooses to because the increase in safety(aka torque and added points of usable contact), I would say that all of the AWD haters or so-called “skilled drivers” should guard their tongues unless you have ample experience in the matter in order to properly contribute to the topic. Best of luck to all of you naysayers. I know if I see a standard 2 wheel drive vehicle in a ditch on the side of the road, I know its probably one of you and I will be happy to offer you a lift in my AWD dream machine.

        For those who are wondering what I currently drive that merits being considered mustachian, I currently drive a 2014 Subaru Impreza wagon which I bought outright through saving. I actually get closer to 41 mpg on the highway and 35 mpg in the city. I cannot bike because of a recent knee surgery. If anyone would even think of questioning my bad-assity, just let me know. I can email you a powerpoint on the topic :)

        Reply
        • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 11:10 pm

          agreed it’s need for your circumstances which you describe as extreme. But i don’t get it when you say “Also, as far as versatility goes, unless you live in Sunny Southern California AWD trumps all other systems 9 times out of 10.”

          I would say it only trumps it very occasionally, not 9 times out 10.

          Reply
          • Pat December 2, 2014, 6:23 am

            AWD is nice when you live where driving conditions are bad, but if it is a choice between AWD ad winter tires, winter tires win. We drove an AWD car (Subaru) on all season tires into a stone wall – not on purpose, of course, but because we did not have traction at -2C and 2″ of icy slush, even going slow. Got winter tires and that car was awesome in snow and slush.

            Reply
        • Daniel December 2, 2014, 7:39 am

          I am in hilly area in Ohio, and agree completely with Hayes.

          I would rank snow tires above AWD, but snow tires and AWD is the safest combination. I have owned and own FWD and AWD vehicles, among them 2 Foresters, 1 CR-V. The Subaru AWD is hard to beat, and their newest models actually get decent gas mileage. With many modern vehicles the AWD mileage penalty is fairly minor. Finally, snow tires themselves WILL cause a reduction in gas mileage.

          AWD will not transform an idiot into a safe driver. But it will make a safe driver safer.

          Reply
          • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 10:05 am

            I agree that in a very hilly and cold area it will be better to have both. But not so sure it will make it safer, as most people just seem to drive faster. Look At Russia and other cold countries where snow tyres are on all cars, they like nutters!

            Reply
        • Rob December 2, 2014, 12:30 pm

          Not all Subaru systems are created equal. Some of them use viscous coupling and a 50/50 default split, but some of the new ones are FWD biased and get some help from the rear, like Honda’s Realtime system, which maximizes fuel economy. Honda’s VTM-4 system found on the Ridgeline and Pilot is excellent, from what I’ve read, since it has a separate clutch for the rear right and left wheels, so it doesn’t have the downside of a differential.

          I don’t see how it being symmetrical affects anything. That’s just a marketing buzzword. All the shafts could be different lengths and it would still work the same. It’s not the length of the shaft that matters, but the stiffness, flex of the suspension, etc, all of which can be corrected by design.

          Do 1/4 of people where you live stay home 6 months of the year? Probably not. 2WD cars can get around just fine in snow and even icy conditions. I bet a 2WD car with snow tires would do better than AWD in almost every situation.

          If you read the article, you would see that a lot of torque is not necessary for safe driving. You just have to leave more space and not pull out in front of people. Every time I drive in snow I see people trying to pull out in front of me when I’m literally the only car on the road and they could wait 5 seconds for me to pass, or I see people who floor the gas when they start slipping thinking that it will help them go somehow.

          Nt biking is fine, but it would be more badass to drive an early 2000’s Civic with snow tires, invest the difference in something that will most likely appreciate (like index funds) rather than something guaranteed to depreciate (a brand new car).

          I had an 07 Civic with all season tires all of last winter, and the only time I got kind of stuck was once when one tire was on an icy patch. Snow tires would have helped since they have all kinds of cool technology to grip ice and snow, like sipes to wick away water, and silica tread to enhance grip. A fancier car with traction control would have helped by braking the spinning wheel to send some power to the wheel with grip.

          I have a 4WD SUV now, and it has all season tires. It handles basically the same as the Civic, which makes sense because the tires are basically the same. It accelerates a bit better,, of course, but since I plan twice as long (or more) to get where I’m going in the snow, I can take it easy and avoid getting in an accident. Most of the extra time is because of extra traffic and everyone going a speed appropriate for the conditions, not because I’m crawling along while everyone is flying past me.

          Am I a hypocrite for not having snow tires, despite being a big advocate of them? Maybe. For my personal situation, I don’t see a need for them. I rarely commute to work, and I rarely *have to* drive in the snow. When I do drive in the snow (in the SUV OR the Civic), I have enough grip that I don’t need snow tires as long as I leave lots of space and do everything a little more slowly. Around here less than 1/4 of people have snow tires, so people generally drive appropriately in the snow (with some exceptions, mentioned above). That number is based off surveying tires as I walk through parking lots in the winter. It’s easy to spot snow tires if you know what they look like.

          Why do I drive a 4WD SUV, then? Since I drive so little, my driving costs are relatively low. When I do drive, it’s usually with several adult passengers and outdoor gear such as backpacks, bikes, or skis. A few of the roads and trailheads around here are simply too rough to access with a lower clearance vehicle. Most crossovers and small SUVs barely have more ground clearance than a car. The Civic had 6.1 inches of clearance, and a new AWD CR-V has only 6.8! Subarus have more. I don’t need 4WD, but most SUVs around here have it, and I got a good deal on the one I have. I could resell it for a few thousand dollars profit right now, so in a few years it should still be worth what I paid for it.

          The civic could access most of the places I want to go, but having an SUV opens up more options. To me the extra cost is worth the enjoyment.

          Reply
        • Amelia December 3, 2014, 11:40 pm

          Hayes:

          I think you’ve got us all wrong. We are NOT AWD HATERS at all. What we are are frugal folks who recognize that FWD’s are, in 95% of driving conditions, absolutely adequate to the task – without wasting LOTS of money on AWD maintenance costs and repairs.

          Really, I drove throughout the Northeast in MAJOR snow storms safely, with just FWD – NEVER had to use “snow tires,” chains/cables and all such what not for 20 years.

          I think the point, Hayes, is frugality and the recognition that AWD’s really are not necessary in a majority of driving conditions – it’s not a “hatred” thing at all, as you would like to direct the narrative and make drama/trauma. It’s just a simple recognition that, in most cases, the AWD’s really are not necessary – and the extra expense isn’t either.

          So, Hayes, cut the dramatics around “hatred” and just look at the facts. Fine to speak from your own experience of driving, but the “hype” around creating conflict in your post is boring and, well, in my mind, just a juvenile manipulation. Grow up, speak from your own experience and just say that. I think you would make a much better commentator if you did.

          Reply
          • Hayes December 8, 2014, 9:15 am

            Hold on just a second. Now drama was not what I was shooting for at all. Voicing my opinion with flair? That sounds more like it. I apologize that you disagree with my tactics to bring to light an issue, much like MMM might I add. If you did not want to see differing opinions to your own then perhaps you should stay away from such a “juvenile” blog. In light of your comments to a simple discussion, I might add that personal attacks are never seen as a classy move in any debate I’ve been a part of. The only reason I can assume you would feel so blatantly offended is if you felt that some part of my post was true and that I was directly attacking someone in your situation. Allow me to remove all doubt from your mind, I was not attacking anyone. In fact I felt that I was defending myself. So many mustachians had jumped on the bandwagon to simply “put down” AWD in general that I felt we had lost a crucial aspect of taking part in this blog. Questioning the world around us in order to make it better! By simply agreeing to the advice of MMM without questioning his facts would make us no better than lemmings. As many others have pointed out, his arguement in terms of avoiding AWD in order to decrease is no longer a valid reason. Prices, maintenance costs, and MPG have all shifted to allow AWD to be a very affordable and cost-effective tool. By the way, I hope my artistic writing ability (or juvenile manipulation as you put it) has not caused you to lose sight of the intention of my message.

            Now allow me to speak plainly,
            1) I disagree with MMM on his opinions of AWD
            2)It is based on my own experiences and knowledge I’ve acquired
            3)It is my right to disagree with someone else’s OPINION and post about it
            4) Colorful speech and writing have been involved with debates and discussions for years. It allows for those observing to not glaze over and ignore the topics at hand
            5)My OPINION was directed at the overwhelming attitude of many people I saw on this particular MMM post. Not at any specific person
            6)I still maintain that my OPINION is my own and that it other people have commented on this post who have had similar experiences
            7)Drama/trauma will only occur if you have the self-esteem of a child and feel somehow slighted that a fully-functioning adult had an idea that you did not like and possibly hurt your feelings.
            8)I will not apologize or change my method on the topic of posting because, like so many other commentators on this website, it is my choice
            9)My approach will also remain. I do not feel that my “immature” approach to this issue hindered anyone else from commenting on their own experiences or ideas
            10)As human beings, all we have is our experiences. How is it possible for someone to comment on something that is not based their experiences? Is that not the point of this website? Does MMM not post messages fully encompassed by his opinion and experiences which doubles as helpful advice?

            Amelia, you were the only person who personally attempted to cause drama on this entire post by personally addressing your opinions towards a specific person. I would recommend that all “Amelia”s keep their personalized insults and drama to themselves. I fully intend to continue enjoying MMM’s posts and commenting along with all of the other well-adjusted, mustache-toting individuals that I have grown to appreciate.

            To all mustachians, know that I do in fact respect all of your opinions, even you Amelia. I am simply stubborn and will stay true to myself by continuing to believe my own opinions. I do encourage all commentators. Please continue being your awesome selves :)

            Reply
      • Lil December 8, 2014, 12:33 pm

        ah yes! 10 months later we had a beautiful baby girl. She’s my Blizzard baby. ;) All the hospitals were packed between October and December that year. There was also a storm in Dec 09. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_blizzard_of_2009
        Now, it’s fun to see all these October/Fall babies in preschool.

        Reply
  • Lise December 1, 2014, 8:41 am

    Perfect timing on this article for me as I’ve been shopping around to trade in my SUV and am having a hard time getting the AWD syndrome out of my system. I live in the northeast where the winters have been pretty brutal but it’s become the norm to work from home when it snows so I am rarely on the roads before they have been adequately plowed. With my 40 mile a day commute and with hypermiling, I cannot do better than 25MPG (which I think it pretty good for my 6 cylinder).

    Reply
  • Mr Freeze December 1, 2014, 8:42 am

    Totally agree with the sentiment. Not even willing to invest in winter tires here in Kansas, but what frustrates me is how many people I know that “need” 4 wheel drive Trucks/SUV’s to handle the 3 days a year we have with more than 2 inches of snow.

    Reply
  • Danno December 1, 2014, 8:51 am

    Rear wheel drive is fine in the snow.. Today’s rwd cars have a better weight distribution (Closer to 50/50) which makes for better braking, safer handling and also better up hill performance (weight shifts to rear under acceleration and up hill also). Also all 2012 and up models have mandatory ESC and Traction control… Which means fishtailing and spin outs are a thing of the past..(If you drive a newer model) The new tires even all seasons are great also.. ContinentalnPure Contact are great in all weather.. Of course winter tires are best but for most people a solid set of AS tires will work fine. The AWD equivalent of any model carries more weight which means longer braking distances and more resistance to directional changes (turning).. So keep that in mind also. People are dumb tho when it comes to this.. They will want their AWD regardless even when your mid size sedan performs better than their tank in snow because of the tires.

    Reply
    • insourcelife December 1, 2014, 12:32 pm

      Agreed. I had 3 BMW 3 series with rear wheel drive (all used and all from the early 2000’s) and they all handled pretty much the same in the snow as my current front wheel drive Mini Cooper. I run all seasons on all my cars too. Traction control indicator used to light up constantly in the snow but it kept the car going.

      Reply
  • Dan S. December 1, 2014, 8:58 am

    I hate to say it, but our Prius handles worse in snow than anything else with front-wheel drive I’ve ever tried. I suspect that the problem is the weight distribution, with the heavy batteries in the rear of the car over the unpowered wheels. We took your advice and got snow tires (with their own rims) years ago, and of course that really helps. Going up slick hills is still a challenge.

    But this year we got a Subaru (Crosstrek) as a second car, mostly for getting to remote places where the Prius just won’t go. Haven’t gotten any snow tires for the Subaru, at least not yet. Question: Which car should we use around town on snowy days? We live in a hilly neighborhood.

    Reply
    • Nath December 1, 2014, 11:03 pm

      Have to say it, but the Prius (all variants) are one of the worst handling cars in the DRY you could possibly buy.

      There is much more safety, pleasure and fun in owning a well handling car like a Mini Cooper.
      If fuel economy is everything then the Mini”s beat you on that also!

      Reply
      • arob54600 December 2, 2014, 11:47 am

        I have a Honda Insight. That thing handles like a BOSS in the snow. It’s amazing.
        I don’t know if it’s the tires on it, but I can just drive through anything!
        Plus, it’s basically a mini truck. I just hauled a whole basement’s worth of flooring in the hatchback.
        Best car purchase I ever made.

        Reply
      • Dan S. December 3, 2014, 9:37 am

        Well, for me the “pleasure and fun” come from the places I’m going and the people I’m with, not from the car I’m driving. I actually love the Prius and highly recommend it, so long as you don’t try anything too extreme (and use snow tires when you need them).

        Prius fuel economy (EPA combined): 50 mpg
        Cooper fuel economy (better models): 31 mpg
        Prius capacity (“regular” model): 116 cubic feet
        Cooper capacity (biggest models): 103 cubic feet
        And the prices are extremely comparable.

        Reply
    • Jason January 12, 2015, 10:08 pm

      The reason the Prius does so poorly in snow is the overly aggressive traction control system. The system does not want to let the tires spin at all so it cuts power and does so very abruptly. We have two, a 2005 and a 2009 and they are very frustrating to drive in slick conditions.

      To answer your question about which to drive around town: The Prius. As others have said, snow tires always trump AWD. Now if you had snow tires for the Subaru that would be the hands down choice.

      Reply
    • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 11:53 am

      Probably low rolling resistance tires (for MPG) which might be made with a harder tire compound which doesn’t have alot of grip. Just my theory.

      Reply
  • BCBiker December 1, 2014, 8:58 am

    I was just having this argument with my father-in-law for the millionth time this morning. The so-called-necessity of owning an SUV in Colorado is one of the largest (and often funny) truthiism of all time.
    ——— Truthiism/truthyism definition: Something the people accept to be true because it feels like it is despite the overwhelming lack of evidence to support the idea. ———– I ride my road bike (with slicks) everyday in up to 1 foot of snow and I watch people spinning out in their massive trucks and SUVs. I always feel overwhelmed with smugness when I see this. :()

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 10:39 am

      Whoa, THAT takes some skill. I occasionally use my city/road bike on moderate snowy days, but it’s a lot more squirelly than the mountain bike.

      Reply
      • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 10:15 pm

        Have you tried tyres with spikes in? You can REALLy show up the cars with that. They are VERY surprised to see a bike get up very steep roads covered in sheet ice. You can even do a stopy on sheet ice. Look up “ice spiker” tyres.

        Reply
        • Patrick December 2, 2014, 5:31 am

          I bought those Schwalbe Ice Spikers, god damn they cost a fortune and they are overrated compared to regular knobby tires. They are really good for flat resistance, though, they have a HUGE, THICK kevlar shell, probably half an inch, that could stop almost any thing that would give me a flat tire. No matter how much I want to be a badass, I cannot change a flat tire on my bike below freezing, since I need dexterity but my bare hands freeze. So a flat resistant tire is worth it to save me walking 5km, and I’m not complaining too much about my purchase – still cheaper than even one month of car insurance up here in Ontario!

          Studs won’t really grip loose snow better than aggressive rubber tread. Studs can grip very hard snow and ice – stuff that tread can’t dig into. Except they barely work.

          Here’s me riding across a skate path over a frozen lake (low traffic commute shortcut): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_1w2dASQMA

          Notice how slow I’m going – hitting a small bump caused me to wipe out at speeds higher than that, and I can’t use my feet for support because my boots grip less well than the studs and I’d fall on my ass. Still the studs suck – just tapping my front brake instantly locks the front wheel and I would slide to a stop over like 30 feet (harming the skate surface for my fellow citizens, too, which is a dick move). Instead, I’d coast to a stop, letting the friction of the -30C hardened bearing grease slow me down.

          But on my commute I was taking the road up a small hill and I was behind a minivan once that was spinning tires, slowly going up the hill, and I was faster than the minivan, caught up to it even. A good knobby tire will do fine.

          Reply
          • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 10:12 am

            Nice vid! It’s great going places on a bike where most cars cannot go. They seem to be cheaper in the UK, perhaps because we are closer to Germany, or because there is less demand (more likely!). Can currently get the ice spikers (not the pro) for £24 each (with a discount code) from planet x. Not sure if they ship abroad. Well made tyres for sure. Shame the ice spikers don’t come with the reflective strip like their other studded tyres. But can always buy some 3m reflectors for the spokes!

            Reply
          • plam December 3, 2014, 2:01 pm

            Biking in Sudbury. Wow, that sounds more hardcore than biking in Waterloo (ON).

            Like BCBiker, I ride on thin slicks in the winter. Some days are a bit more challenging, but my footwear works decently for support when I need it to avoid wiping out. Unconsolidated snow is the worst.

            Reply
          • Charlie Bader December 12, 2014, 10:41 pm

            My recent experience is that studs on sheer lake ice shave the ice to lift the tire off the surface… Solution- don’t ride on sheer lake ice, and if you do, don’t turn or stop too sharply- Newton’s First Law is your friend. On the other hand, studs work MARVELOUSLY on polished black-ice covered asphalt. They slice right through the ice layer and bite hard into the asphalt surface. Try that without studs and down you go. For snow? No, you don’t need studs at all.

            Reply
        • Charlie Bader December 12, 2014, 10:17 pm

          Charlie here from Alaska. Love the articles and you are 100% right on about AWD. Unlike CO and NY, our snow doesn’t melt for FIVE MONTHS. In AK, having 2 sets of tires makes complete sense. It does all sorts of weird stuff, like turn into “black ice” which lasts all winter. Or when it does finally start to melt, it will refreeze at the base of the berm with a relatively steep slope. For bikes, studded tires are pretty much mandatory if any portion of your commute is on roads. Within the last few years, the number of Fat Tire Bikes in Anchorage alone has blossomed to 10,000. This has freed up a surprisingly large number of 2″x 26″ studded mountain bike tires, typically Nokian Extreme 296’s, on Craigslist. You can get a pair for maybe $40. Much cheaper than a trip to the ER, lost work and physical therapy. Alternately, the right tires on your bike might save your life as you try to avoid some of our crazier drivers. Probably not necessary for 98% of the folks down there in the “lower 48″, but if you want to have one bike to be able commute every single day, you’d best make your first and only bike a fat tire bike and give it some studs. They just came out with studded 4″ tires last year and this year have 5”. Having hit the bricks even with these, I would say that studded bike tires are mandatory. Would like to hear the mustachian analysis of buying a bike which would allow riding 10 extra days per year- the days when we get hit with lots of snow. BTW, we don’t have “snow days”… We had a record snowfall of 21” in 24 hours back in 2005 and our office only had a “late start” policy. Since we are Alaskans, we are expected to be prepared for the weather and come to work. Another option would be to ski to work, which I’ve also done, but the sand on the roads really tears them up. You can get used skis really cheap.

          Reply
  • No December 1, 2014, 9:04 am

    Please stick to what you do best and not this drivel. AWD wil always be safer that rear wheel drive no matter what you put on for tires. I commute 2 hours a day in snow I’ll get some quicker and safer than everyone’s little cars with cheap snow tires

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 10:37 am

      Fuck! You have out-scienced me again with your anecdotal evidence.

      And I do like the idea of getting some, quicker and safer than everyone else.

      With a 2-hour commute, you are obviously a MASTER of life optimization. I hereby retract this entire post and will go back to posting my usual style of article, in which I express no opinions and don’t try to save people any money.

      Reply
      • Imustacheyouaquestion December 1, 2014, 10:56 am

        “You have out-scienced me again with your anecdotal evidence.”

        Thank you for the coffee-spitting laughter this comment induced.

        Reply
      • Josh December 1, 2014, 2:04 pm

        My wife and I just moved to CO from the east cost. (I got a remote job for a software company, we both love CO).

        We sold one car, kept our 2005 corolla. Once I added some Nokian WRG3s instead of the treadless no-season tires, we’ve been able to drive in the super icy storm that came through a few weeks ago with no problem.

        I’ve even out-performed 4wd vehicles with crappy tires. I’ll take my $600 investment on a paid-off car over $10k (PLUS NEW TIRES!!!) every day of the year.

        Reply
      • littlemama December 1, 2014, 2:15 pm

        Hahaha! you’re funny.

        I have a front wheel drive 11 yr old Nissan and it fits my 6’3″ son in the front and or back seat with ease. My sis tried to talk me into getting a minivan or SUV and I laughed. I can put the seats down in the back and haul all kinds of shit from Home Depot in the trunk of a Nissan.

        Never once have I needed studded tires or even snow tires, and I’ve been driving on snowy roads out West since the 80’s. A huge part of driving safe in the snow is the DRIVER.

        Reply
    • Higginst December 1, 2014, 11:07 am

      All those “little cars” with rear wheel drive! What suckers they are for not leading a new F150!!

      Reply
      • Chris December 1, 2014, 11:33 am

        Well I’ll jump in here. We live in Canada, and a recent snowstorm dumped 6+ inches of snow on the roads. The road in front of our house is not plowed all winter. Our family vehicles? A 2005 Ford Focus 4-door hatchback manual transmission (mine) and a Ford F150 with optional 4WD (husband’s, obviously – don’t ask – I’ve tried – am still trying). I get to drive both. Both have snow tires.

        Which is more maneuverable in the snow and ice?

        Ford Focus, hands down. That truck can’t move its own weight on ice (even with snow tires) unless it’s in 4WD. The only advantage the truck has is that it is that you are more likely to be able to drive it out of the ditch should we happen to slide off the road.

        Reply
      • Self-Employed-Swami December 1, 2014, 5:23 pm

        Our family owns two vehicles, and we live in the land of ice and snow AKA Canada. My husband’s car is a 2006 Yaris 4 door hatchback, outfitted with it’s own snow tires, which is front wheel drive. I drive a 2005 Tundra (I do field work, and wind up driving down logging roads/ice roads in the winter, hauling gear and equipment). I also have fancy ice and snow tires (and chains when needed, which thankfully isn’t often at all). Some of the places I work, the Yaris wouldn’t get into, but in the city, the Yaris is the superior choice, because it isn’t rear wheel drive. It corners and handles much better than my rear wheel drive, as well as stops quicker. My husband sometimes has to drive the highways in the Yaris as well, and he has never had an accident with it. I, however, have been in the ditch with the Tundra twice (once upside down), because the rear wheel drive will pendulum the rear end, if it suddenly looses traction. The sliding is slightly better in 4WD than rear wheel mode, but the car is still grippier and better overall.

        How many rear wheel drive compact cars are out there anyway?

        Reply
  • Leslie December 1, 2014, 9:07 am

    Fully agreed. I live in the extremely snowy part of Canada that you chose to abandon. I have a 2005 Matrix with snow tires and I have no complaints. Snow tires make SUCH a huge difference – and it’s not just the stopping in the snow, but the fact that the softer rubber grips better when it’s cold. Almost everyone I know owns an SUV (usually anew one, complete with payments), but I completely agree with you that it is the snow tires that make the difference.

    And rear-wheel drive TOTALLY sucks. Our previous vehicle was a (face-punch-worthy) 2003 Infiniti G35 and it was HORRIBLE in the snow, even with snow tires. Stupid rear wheel drive!

    Reply
    • Charlie Bader December 12, 2014, 10:33 pm

      Rear engine, rear wheel drive (VW Beetle) has better traction and handling on snow than front engine, front wheel drive because as the vehicle accelerates, weight is shifted to the driving wheels. When you stop, weight is shifted forward to be more evenly distributed over all four wheels. When turning, you can modulate to/from neutral throttle to very precisely tighten/loosen your turn radius- as long as you have good tires. Front engine, rear wheel drive? Well that’s just stupid. When specifying “rear wheel drive”, engine placement makes all the difference.

      Reply
      • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 12:15 pm

        I have owned a number of those aircooled rear engined VWs – Beetles and Westfalia campers – and they are good at going in the snow. However, if the back end breaks traction – the rear end will swing around and its a handfull during that manuver. This happens on the snow and it can happen on wet streets. I think the average person will be quite challeneged to recover from an oversteer situation in a rear engine vehicle. I love them but respect their shortcomings. I have a better than 60% success rate at recovering from a slide in one of those cars but thats with alot of practice on parking lots. I also shy away from situations that would cause the rear end to break loose.

        Reply
  • Lyle December 1, 2014, 9:12 am

    You need to relax. I drive an AWD Cadillac Escalade ESV (the extended model) because I like them. It’s roomy and comfortable. I am 6′ 5″ and life is too short to spend it in a miserable little tin box.

    And before you get too excited about all the money I’m wasting please keep in mind that I bought my Escalade when it was 10 years old and had just over 100k miles on it. I only gave $11,000 for it and I get a real kick out of driving a vehicle that originally sold for over $50K.

    It is foolish to simply focus on fuel economy when buying a vehicle because unless you drive an obscenely large number of miles every year it really won’t make much of a difference. The average person only drives about 12k miles a year. If we calculate gas at $3/gallon a vehicle getting 15 mpg will cost you $2400/year in fuel. If you trade that vehicle in for another that gets DOUBLE the mileage, or 30 mpg, it will still cost you $1200/year for fuel. That’s why it takes so long for those high-priced hybrids to pay for themselves and saving $1200 isn’t worth it to me to be stuck driving around in a little shit box.

    The other thing you haven’t mentioned is simple physics. If my family is in a car accident I want mass on my side. If someone is going to lose I want it to be the other guy.

    You are correct that AWD is unnecessary most of the time. So is owning a gun, but it sure is nice to have when you need it.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 10:34 am

      Man, those are some compelling arguments. Why have I been wasting my time encouraging people to save only $1200 per year on gasoline?

      Especially since it’s only money – there are no other consequences to burning gas, right? It’s all your own personal choice and nobody has any business judging it.

      And now that you mention it, I DO feel like a dumbass for driving my own 3000 miles a year in a sporty little manual-transmission Japanese hatchback, when I could have been riding in a Chevrolet Silverado Farm truck that has been lipsticked over with 3 row seating, Boss Hogg bling features and priced at $50,000 with a Cadillac badge. DAMN IT!! I hate when people prove me wrong.

      I think I’ll head over to YOUR early retirement blog to get a better idea about how to run my finances (and perhaps my fitness program as well).

      Reply
      • Higginst December 1, 2014, 11:04 am

        Haha! I actually LOL’d at this one!! The face-punches are flying today MMM a keep it up.

        Reply
      • Scott December 1, 2014, 11:32 am

        Psh, $50k is Suburban money! A base model 4WD Escalade ESV is $79.5k. If you want to spec it out it’ll run $97k.

        Seriously though, if I’m spending $97k on a car, it’d better come with a free house.

        Reply
      • Lyle December 1, 2014, 11:48 am

        I think you misread my post. I didn’t pay $50k (or even $20k). I would NEVER shell out that kind of money for a vehicle. I paid used Honda Civic money for my vehicle–I just have a lot more room.

        I didn’t say that I drive 12,000 miles a year, I said that was the average. If I only drove 3,000 miles per year that works out to $600/year for gas at 15 mpg or $300/year at 30 mpg. Yup, just 300 bucks so you’re kind of making my argument for me.

        I actually enjoy your blog and agree with much of what you say–I just have a different opinion on this particular issue. Sorry if I got you all riled up.

        Reply
        • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 10:29 pm

          Belief system clash detected!! BTW you got me thinking MM (always good).. Is early retirement that important? Correct me if wrong but you seem to hold it up as a thing of great achievement? Surely it’s better for society (and our health) If we keep working at a job we love and contribute to the world doing so – for as long as possible. Ok, we could do charity work and have more choices to contribute in our retirement. But if you can achieve that in your regular paid work – then all the better (and more badass)? Is it not a little soft to have our hopes tied up in a big pot of money to care for ourselves. Better not, to learn to control our emotions and mood – to be happy whatever we have? Now that, surely, would be badass. And totally possible.. Internal work is as important (or more) than external work. A rich man may be able to micro control his environment – no annoyances around him, yes people everywhere. But what if he lost his wealth. He would be a wreck, having come to depend on it. So internal control is where it is at for total badass. Have you published anything in your blog about this I wonder? How to manage moods, to be happy with less, and less control, to be happy despite circumstances. Important stuff, very important.

          Reply
          • Patrick December 2, 2014, 5:45 am

            “Surely it’s better for society (and our health) If we keep working at a job we love and contribute to the world doing so – for as long as possible.”

            Maybe, but it’s also nice to get wealthy, not consume like a moron, and then withdraw from the workforce, freeing up room for other people who may need jobs.

            Reply
            • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 10:16 am

              Maybe but I heard there’s plenty of science saying that keeping busy is better for health. I heard a report that said once people retire they become more unhealthy, inc. the early ones. And surely better if several people contribute to make the world better, not just some. It’s nice to have something saved up, but let’s not put it as too high a priority is what I am saying. The trick is always getting the right balance :)

              Reply
              • Pat December 2, 2014, 8:43 pm

                I’m retired, I’m busy. I’m at least as busy as when I worked. I enjoyed my job a lot, and I am enjoying retirement a lot. I am probably making my part of the world better now than when I was working – most volunteer work these days is done by retirees. The people who are not self-actuated and just sit around all day doing nothing are the ones more likely to go young. Or the ones who die soon into retirement because they were already in bad health when they retired.

                Plus once you are FI a job is usually more enjoyable, because you don’t *have* to be there. Lots of people keep working who could retire, because they are happy doing what they are doing.

          • Britni December 2, 2014, 8:40 am

            Reply
          • EDSMedS December 2, 2014, 6:34 pm

            Andrew,
            This entire blog is about living with less. Explore the archives. Gaining wealth by living below our income (currently <35%) will allow DW and I to remove ourselves from jobs that are soul-sucking to do things we love (that pay horribly or not at all). We are happy now in our "accumulation phase" and will be happy after FIRE. FIRE does not mean the end of productivity (again, explore the archives), instead, it means opportunity. MMM offers juicy tidbits that can reduce thoughtless normalities (read: SUV) that support the repetitive consumptive cycle of 1) manufactured need, 2) purchase, 3) elation, 4) and letdown.

            Reply
            • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 8:27 pm

              I have read a few of his posts over the years. I signed up to his newsletter some time ago as I agreed much material spending was bad. I guess I am one of the first subscribers. I just read now and again when the title strikes me. The retire early thing may not have to be such a rush if find a job you like, so I depart from it there. But I am broadly in line with it. I tend to mix and match and form my OWN philosophies. I very much think for myself. If all of the MM things suits you and others, that is great though. BTW. great documentary to watch is “the men who made us spend” by the BBC. It shows how the population has been manipulated to spend on what they do not need.

              Reply
        • DancingStina December 3, 2014, 3:39 pm

          $300/year doesn’t sound like a lot, but you need to start somewhere: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/01/a-millionaire-is-made-ten-bucks-at-a-time/
          It’s not really about the individual savings, it’s about all the little things adding up. $300/year for 10 years would be about $4300 saved.

          Plus if you drive that car 3,000 miles/year at 15mpg, that’s 4,000 lbs of CO2 you’re putting into the atmosphere and 200 gallons of the Earth’s limited gas supply you’re using. Compare that to driving a car that gets 30 mpg the same amount of miles which would be half the CO2 output and half the gas consumption, EACH YEAR. After 10 years, that 4,000 lbs of CO2 becomes 40,000 that could have been 20,000.

          Reply
      • Lyle December 1, 2014, 1:15 pm

        You’d better watch out. I just might start one–and then I’ll get all the babes!

        Reply
      • Paul December 1, 2014, 5:05 pm

        There is no doubt that MOST people do not need AWD, and this article is excellent at showing what is more important. However, for those who need to drive in the snow, or mud, or in other bad starting traction situations it can mean the difference (or to get back on the road after an accident avoidance maneuver). Lets take a real world example, the 33 MPG Subaru mentioned above, or an alternative at 35 MPG (most modern all wheel drive systems cost about 2 MPG). At 12k a year, my calculation is $364 vs $343 yearly. I’ll gladly pay the $21.00 differential to live far in the country on unpaved roads for a much less-expensive house (Of course, there is another approximately 2k (new) cost of the system itself). MMM is at $286 yearly in this scenario, but probably a lot less as he rides a bike to limit his car mileage. Your mileage will vary…

        Reply
        • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 12:51 pm

          I’m still going to argue in favor of AWD or 4WD depending on YOUR needs/wants. I find that I make use of it many times per year.

          For example: I can not tow anything up my parents’ driveway with a FWD CR-V b/c there isn’t enough traction left for a steep climb on gravel. The trailer unloads the front tires a little and so does the climb. The heavier the cargo, the worse the climb. I doubt anyone’s FWD car would do any better for the same reasons.

          As for snow – if you live far enough up north you can make use of snow tires. Down here in the mid-south I would be installing, uninstalling snow tires constantly b/c our snows are fast and random. Much of the rest of the time it’s (40F) cold and gray outside and/or wet. However today it is 53F. Chains work well enough but then I have to carry them with me all the time. Don’t want to invest in $1K worth of snow tires only to burn them up on a mid-winter warm day highway trip.

          Several times we have been caught by the weather when we were traveling within a 200 mile radius. Once towing our trailer (Brenderup 1205S/topper/extra set of sides making it taller) across the state with my table saw inside. Can’t just abandon it on the side of the road and couldn’t just turn around and miss days of work. The job I had at that time was pretty unforgiving. Another time was on our way home after a weekend in the GSMNP. Same problems. Then there are camping trips – the kind that don’t involve a parking lot but a dirt/mud road plus Brenderup trailer. Or driving out into the woods or across a farm field to gather firewood or work on a tractor.

          AWD is like snow tires or snow chains that are along for the ride all the time. On one hand that means a 1-2 mpg penalty all the time but on the other hand who cares?

          We don’t drive that much nor that far in a year’s time b/c we choose to live near work in a small town and we carpool. Do you?

          We also keep our vehicle for YEARS longer than everyone else (282K miles right now) b/c there is no reason to replace it when all it needs is a repair.

          If anyone wants to argue we’re wasting fuel and money driving around with AWD then I’d question why all of you don’t learn to work on your own cars? That’s a huge money saver. Why do any of you live in places that get so much snow and salt (thus rusting out your cars that much faster) or that is so cold that you spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year on heating bills? Here we have to heat a little and in the summer we can forgo A/C for much of the warm season just b/c our house is in the shade on the west side.

          Its all those trade offs that aperson makes to in order to live their lives the way they want to, and where they want to. So I don’t see any reason to argue too loudly for or against whatever anyone wants to drive as long as they do it safely and considerately for the rest of us.

          And for what it’s worth – I’m not mad at anyone. Just don’t want to see us get so single minded on this topic that all AWD/4WD is bad, all cars are good and adopt a belief that a grocery getter car will always succeed in a blizzard vs an SUV.

          Reply
    • Carter December 1, 2014, 11:50 am

      If you save $1200 a year in future gas costs, is it worth trading your vehicle in and getting something that costs $5000 more upfront plus a much higher insurance premium? I drive a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee which gets horrific gas mileage. The purchase was a massive mistake, but I cannot see the financial gain in trading in what I have now to get something that is $5000 more. The cost recovery is a minimum of 4 years excluding time value of money.

      Further, I am surprised there are not more comments from people who live in rural areas. I live in a relatively rural part of New Hampshire and cringe at the thought of driving through some of our snow with sedan ground clearance and 2WD. I do a fair bit of driving off-road. I would love to try a 2WD sedan, but I am not convinced it could get through many areas where I drive.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 12:45 pm

        You can sell your 2006 Grand Cherokee and find a great 5-door 35MPG hatchback (might as well avoid sedans in case you ever have to carry large items) for right around the same price and model year.

        The key is to avoid the word “trade in”, since that implies a car dealership – avoid those money pits and do all your car business on Craigslist for the win.

        Reply
        • Carter December 1, 2014, 12:50 pm

          Here begins my reluctant search for a hatchback then!

          Reply
          • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 10:37 pm

            I find it funny that others around you will judge according to their belief system, that you are less than them, and would want a car like the one they have. Little do they know.

            Reply
      • Tim December 2, 2014, 10:38 am

        I really dislike my ’03 Jeep Liberty most of the time… It works well for camping trips, and ski trips to haul my gear… Bu the 15 MPG kicks me in the nuts every time…

        Fortunately it sits in the garage A lot… I put gas in it back in October sometime… don’t remember when and I’m not even sure how much is in the tank now.. I might drive it this week or next just cause it has been a little while and want to make sure she still runs…

        I love two wheel and chain power!!! Best commuting option out there!

        Reply
    • B December 1, 2014, 12:23 pm

      $1200 per year * 40 years working until retirement * 7% investment return = $264,000.

      A lot of people retiring now don’t even have $264k. That’s how much of a difference the savings can make if handled properly.

      Reply
      • Carter December 1, 2014, 12:40 pm

        Good point, but I have no intention of keeping the vehicle long-term. I plan on replacing it in the next 2-3 years when I move out of the snowy, rural area where I currently live. An upfront cost of $5,000 today to trade to something with better gas mileage puts a huge dent in $1,200 of gas savings invested at 7% for 2-3 years. The math does not work on an absolute basis and certainly not after considering time value of money. Not to mention that my insurance premium would go up with the purchase of a different vehicle given that my current vehicle is old and valued quite low. The kicker to the other side though is my premonition that my transmission may blow up on me at some point in the near future. That cost would eat up my assumptions.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 12:51 pm

          Now you’re talking, Carter. Jeeps depreciate like a dropped bowling ball, so the sooner you lose it, the further ahead you are.

          Another key trick in getting ahead in the auto world is to change your perspective of new and old.

          My previous work truck, a borrowed 1984 Nissan compact pickup, was pretty old as it turns 30 this year (I returned it to my friend who still loves and cares for it).

          I refer to my current work van, a 1999 Honda, as my “almost brand-new van”

          The 2005 Scion xA is our “Ridiculously fuckin’ brand-new car”, just as your Jeep is even more RFBN.

          Reply
    • Starting my mo December 1, 2014, 5:41 pm

      It is a car, not an arms race.

      Reply
    • Ellery December 3, 2014, 8:44 pm

      I am surprised to see no one called you out on that horrible attitude that also drives the purchase of giant, pedestrian-mowing SUVS: the idea that you are so excited that someone else besides you will die when you crash into them. That is an arms race, and I’m not playing it. I continue to drive as safely as I can while avoiding the bad drivers that plague the oversize vehicle market. And yes, the car maker’s own research backs up the fact that bad drivers are drawn to oversize AWD vehicles as they think it will solve all their bad driving problems. At least that’s a fault; being happy that other people are dying is just sick, sorry.

      Reply
    • Todge December 21, 2014, 6:22 pm

      I’ll sidestep the argument of car use and comment on Lyle’s comment of physics. I roll my eyes when people who clearly know nothing about physics quote physics as a reason for something. I’m not going to teach you, Lyle, but just because you have more ‘mass’ in your car does not mean you’ll be any less injured. The vast majority of injuries from vehicle accidents (unless the car hits you crossing the street) come from secondary collisions – you hitting the steering wheel, something not secured hitting you etc.

      What you may be arguing is crumple zone – this is when vehicles are designed to disintegrate and in doing so absorb impact forces – But you are wrong here as well, as so more ‘mass’ in this case actually works against you as you have more momentum so more of your car needs to destroy itself to absorb the stop.

      Crash testing bears this out as well. In my country, only one 4WD makes the top ten in crash test safety. However, 4 of the worst ten spots are occupied by 4WDs.

      So invoking the impressive word ‘physics’ is only useful if your physics is actually correct – otherwise its the ‘physics’ of a Marvel film

      Reply
  • KRFP December 1, 2014, 9:15 am

    My 2001 Honda Accord had studded snow tires for the winters in Boston and upstate NY. I could go anywhere in those tires (mind you, I drove very slowly because I like to be able to stop when I want to, even in snow). I don’t think they are legal everywhere, but they were seriously awesome, though loud on bare pavement. You get used to the noise though.

    Reply
    • Daniel December 1, 2014, 10:34 am

      And they destroy the non-snowy roads you drive on. They are unfortunately legal here in Oregon, starting 11/1 each year. And the city government can’t find the money to repair the roads so are looking to add an additional street repair fee/tax.

      Reply
      • KRFP December 1, 2014, 3:49 pm

        They certainly do, that was my understanding of why they are not legal everywhere.

        Reply
    • PawPrint December 1, 2014, 4:10 pm

      I have to confess that the only way I’ll drive on snow/ice is with studded tires. I know they chew up roads, but, man, if I have to drive on snow (and I try not to), I know those tires plus my slow driving will keep me safe. When we return to Idaho, I will have to figure out the best snow tire for my front-wheel drive sedan. Living in
      Seattle, we hardly ever use the car because we can walk everywhere or ride the bus, and snow is seldom a factor. Because of my age, I don’t feel safe walking on icy sidewalks, although I bought a pair of yak traks, and I’m hoping that will make walking on snow/ice safer.

      Reply
  • LennStar December 1, 2014, 9:18 am

    As long as there is snow and you have snow tires you dont need to worry (except the snow piles too high).
    The problems start when too many people have driven over the snow and compressed it to ice.

    Had to drive someone to the doctor one winter. No problem, I though. It was icy, but there was snow on the road. snow means grip. You can sefely drive on snow with inner-city speeds. Just be sure to brake earlier then ususal.
    So I started driving and then, at the main road, I had seen one slipping from a bit away. So I was extra extra cautious.
    I was driving not more then 10 km/h but I needed about the same numbers of meter to stop. Was half into the intersection then. 4m braking space from walking pace. Holy ****

    On real ice, even 8 wheels dont help you.

    Oh, and I remember one accasion, I think was the same winter, I had driven to another town, searching for a parking space. Was a bit hilly. The road farther ahead was even more (very) hilly. Ice and hills… So I decided to try it left at the intersection and not streight.
    Good decision. While I very carefully (and a little bit slipping) drove around the corner (same problem with the spot where everyone brakes and turns snow into ice), a car was coming down the hill – backwards and gliding I could hear the motor roaring. I think it was one who had parked there, wanted to start and…
    Uh. Try to go fast around the corner when you know you cant ^^

    We safely avoided each other, he turned at the intersection and drove down. While he turned another car was waiting for him to finish. In other words. That 2nd cars driver had seen the 1st come down the hill backwards.
    now guess what?
    Right. 2nd cars driver had to go up. Probably thought “I have AWD, I can do it!”.
    If I had a fancy phone I would probably have positioned me at the corner and filmed him coming down in case he hit one of the parking cars there (would have saved the insurance a bit of money I think for the driver beeing an Bloody Awesome Stupid).
    To my surprise he did not – barely – hit a parking car and then drove into the street where I had now parked.
    Some people have to feel the pain themselves, they cant learn by example.

    Reply
  • Aldo December 1, 2014, 9:19 am

    I live in NJ and drive a small car with front wheel drive and have never had any problems in the snow. I have co-workers that have all-wheel drive vehicles and have had accidents in the snow because they trusted their vehicles too much.

    Reply
  • Jordan Read December 1, 2014, 9:20 am

    Okay, now I’m morbidly curious as to what kind of social event would require 13 lb decorative testicles…but I will not be googling that. Even an actual sausage fest doesn’t require that…
    http://youtu.be/8x4bTlvJkKM

    Reply
  • Mike December 1, 2014, 9:21 am

    The overconfidence the 4×4 gives people is my biggest issue with it. I grew up on a gravel road in West MI that got icy a few times a year, and it never ceased to amaze me how people would barrel down the road at 45+ MPH on the ice. A mile down the road I would see them in a ditch or wrapped around a tree. Why? BECAUSE 4×4 DOESN’T LET YOU BRAKE ANY FASTER you morons.

    Reply
    • Pat December 1, 2014, 9:49 am

      One more thought – they are not “snow tires” – they are “winter tires”. Yes, the treads are designed for snow and ice, but the real advantage is that the rubber is softer and grips the road better at cold temperatures. Summer/all season tires have the flexibility of a hockey puck in cold weather – and we all know what hockey pucks do on ice. If your winter temperatures are mostly below 7*C (45*F), your car needs winter tires.

      Reply
      • PatrickGSR94 December 1, 2014, 10:04 am

        hmmm nope. It almost never snows in the Memphis TN area, but we regularly have long stretches below 45°F in winter. I keep 205/45-16 Z-rated summer tires on my Acura Integra year-round, never had a problem.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 11:03 am

          I’m with Patrick here – while winter tires would give him slightly more grip, you’ll only notice that marginal difference in extreme situations like a race track, or 60-to-zero-in-two-seconds emergency braking most of us never experience.

          With his Integra GS-R (I almost bought exactly the same car back in 1994), he is already way ahead of 95% of the cars on the road in accident avoidance physics.

          Reply
        • Parick December 2, 2014, 5:54 am

          I don’t think anyone is saying winter tires are necessary for Memphis. More like Minnesota. Rubber turns very stiff at -20F. With even slightly under inflated tires, they’ll freeze up overnight and when you drive you’ll feel the “bump” of the tire depression with every rotation. That’s where softer rubber becomes useful for grip.

          Reply
        • Pat December 2, 2014, 8:50 pm

          I guess it is how far below that you go. Here anything above 32 is considered balmy. It is always a debate about when to put the winter tires on and get them off, what is the snow forecast in the fall, how warm is it going to get in the spring? If I were in conditions where the temperature was swinging between, say, 35 and 55, I would probably just go with all-seasons and make sure I had good tires, nothing getting close to bald.

          Reply
  • Heath December 1, 2014, 9:25 am

    Living in Phoenix AZ, I’ve thankfully never had to worry about this bit of life-engineering. I will certainly keep it in mind if I do happen to move anywhere else in the country :-)

    Also, I loved your word-play today:
    “…overconfidence which will put you into the ditch, courtroom, or emergency room.” -> excellent set of things to avoid, which people don’t usually stuff into the same comma-delimited series :-)
    “If you choose to play this game, just be honest and add machine guns instead.” -> LOL! This is the single best argument I’ve heard against the painfully stupid trend of buying gigantic cars for safety. I’m going to steal this for future arguments.

    Reply
  • Will December 1, 2014, 9:25 am

    The (slightly) frustrating part for me is that tires are deemed unsafe 10 years after production. So if I get a set of new winter tires, even though they are only used 500 miles each winter, they still become useless very quickly. But I can maybe find some used ones from an old clown car on Craigslist. But then again, I very much enjoy just riding my bike to work rather than cleaning the snow off my car. Takes less time as well. :) Even with road tires.

    Reply
    • ZeroGBuff December 1, 2014, 10:08 am

      Does anyone have more information on this ten-year rule? I just found out about it when my mom went to have the donut in her 2002 Accord checked (for free) at Discount Tire. They wouldn’t even look at it when they found out it was original (has never even left the trunk). We then took it to Costco for a second opinion. They said it was fine, learned the age, then said we had to get a new one. Unfortunately, the only place to buy a donut is from a dealership, which means expensive. Anyone else have a better resource? Tirerack doesn’t sell spares.

      MMM, thanks for pointing out the fallacies of AWD. When I was growing up in Colorado, my family had a saying: “Four wheel drive does not mean four wheel stop!” Needless to say, we always had sedans :)

      Reply
      • Scott December 1, 2014, 11:39 am

        Regardless of whether you use the tire or not, newer rubber compounds will break down over time, leading to tiny cracks in the sidewalls. This compromises the structural integrity of the tire, and eventually it can lead to a blowout. This has actually happened to me before, and I can confirm it’s not fun.

        Tires should be replaced after 6 years, whether there’s tread left or not.

        Reply
    • Colby December 1, 2014, 10:29 am

      Towards the end of their life, use them year round. The softer tread will wear quicker in warm weather, but they will perform decently and you can extract more value from them. Used is another great option but I’ve had trouble finding my size for a reasonable value vs new.

      Reply
    • Charlie Bader December 12, 2014, 10:47 pm

      Totally with Will here. Since I started biking to work every day, I do not miss warming up, cleaning off the snow, scraping the windshield/mirrors and shoveling the parking spot. Not to mention the gridlock which occurs from people re-learning to drive on snow. Biking across the street is even safer than walking because bikers are “allowed” to look all crazy with helmet, lights and bright clothing. Try that walking from your parking spot across the street and people look at you like you’re crazy. On a bike, they KNOW you’re crazy!

      Reply
  • must_stash December 1, 2014, 9:28 am

    Hey nobody has mentioned chains. I’m in california and only go up to the mountains occasionally. I have a front wheel drive and I’m assuming putting on chains is as good or better than snow tires. I know you can’t go as fast with chains, but am I right? This seems like the way to go for infrequent snow drivers.

    Reply
    • Christine December 1, 2014, 9:39 am

      I know that chains aren’t allowed in all areas – they damage the roads. In Southern Ontario where I live – if you are caught using chains you’ll be fined $1000. However if you live in Northern Ontario you are permitted chains on your tires from October 1 to April 30.

      Reply
      • anonymouse December 1, 2014, 4:06 pm

        On mountain roads in California, chains are sometimes mandatory during snowy weather. Which I found quite surprising given that nobody ever uses them in the Northeast except in truly extreme emergency conditions.

        Reply
        • Mr. FC December 2, 2014, 12:05 am

          My guess is that we Californians suck ass at driving in the snow…6 inches and they shut down the roads, require chains, etc.

          Reply
          • Juan December 3, 2014, 12:31 pm

            Here in Colorado, we can spot you a mile away ;-)

            Reply
    • Jason January 12, 2015, 10:26 pm

      Yes, chains are better than winter tires. You should not go more than 30 mph with chains and make sure they are tight. Install the chains, reverse about 10 feet, tighten again, go forward about 10 feet and tighten again. If you drive for any length of time stop and check them again. Loose chains break much easier than tight chains and a broken chain will tear up your wheelwell and fender.

      I live in Oregon and many of the passes require chains or winter tires when it snows.

      Reply
  • Rebecca Stapler December 1, 2014, 9:30 am

    Thank you for this. I never understood why the granola elite love their Subaru’s when they get such terrible gas mileage. It’s all in the marketing I guess. I’ll stick to my Prius and, yes, I always save a few personal days to avoid commuting in the snow!

    Reply
    • Frugal Bazooka December 1, 2014, 9:44 am

      “granola elite” – hilarious

      Reply
    • Samala December 1, 2014, 1:03 pm

      Before the more recent marketing tilt on Subaru (love! national parks! dogs!) most people seemed to love them for their rep as being very well made and getting high IIHS safety scores. I worked for a dealership for a few years in high school and we had customers with 15+ year old Subarus still coming in just for maintenance or minor parts. (Downside of the engine design is you need interesting and specific tools to get into some of the spaces to replace parts so it’s a PITA.) My old 2002 Impreza is still being driven with 220k+ on it and nothing more than regular maintenance and new tires its whole life. I bought a 2013 Impreza and usually get 36-38 but I admittedly drive like a granny when I actually drive. They’ve been pitched as an “active lifestyle” accoutrement for a long time now though.

      People make fun of me for owning a Subaru in Florida, but our rainstorms are pretty intense at times and I do take it out of the way for kayaking, hiking, and volunteer work. Maybe I need a face punch though… I’m sure I could get a non-AWD vehicle and save cash, but will it last as long? And what about the recalls of late? The safety marks from IIHS?

      Guess my point is, AWD wasn’t the only feature I considered when I bought a new Subaru.. though one incident in 2006 when I did a 360 spin on an icy overpass sure did come to mind! (I still don’t know how I didn’t wind up in the ditch that day, I think that was a Higher Power and not AWD!)

      Reply
      • tallgirl1204 December 1, 2014, 2:22 pm

        I had a ’79 subaru station wagon ( a little square-back thing) that I bought at 155K for $1200. I gave it to Good Will with 198K on it. It was still safe for city neighborhood driving but due to rust and plastic deterioration I didn’t want to drive it on freeways any more. I had driven it across country twice, had taken it up dirt roads that were barely more than trails, driven in blizzards, and carried all my worldly goods twice a year as I moved for seasonal work. It was a sturdy and dependable beast.

        I replaced it with a gently used ’95 impreza which I took to 135K with NO mechanical issues (replaced brakes once). The was absolutely 100% dependable. We sold it in one day for my asking price when I combined households with my now-husband (who had a newer car than mine and and a beater work truck). I still miss it.

        The ’95 Impreza was reasonably roomy enough for four people over six feet tall (and our skis). I was on occasion one of the six-plus-footers in the rear seat and can vouch for four-seat comfort.

        I guess my point is that for me a Subaru came down to dependability, and reasonable room for tallish people, with the caveat that my cousin who is 6’10” would not have been comfortable.

        Reply
    • barb December 2, 2014, 5:04 pm

      Well one, my Subaru Forrester got great mileage, and two I didn’t get it for the awd. I got it because I’m one of the peoplle who actually does need a small SUV (knees don’t bend properly so its slide in slide out. At the time I purchased in 2006, the top ten cars for reliability, safety and longevity combined werecsubarus and the Toyota rav 4. Theres a good reason the things are hard to find used,IMO.nine years old and going very strong. I expect another nine.

      Reply
    • Charlie Bader December 12, 2014, 11:00 pm

      Gas mileage aside, the little-known reason the Subaru is so popular is that it is a VW Bug in reverse. Much of the principles which MMM described are incorporated in the ‘roo. Low CG due to Horizontally Opposed engine configuration, stiff drivetrain due to the transaxle being bolted to the engine (no separate front differential/driveshaft). Instead of it being a RWD being adapted to 4WD, it’s a FWD adapted to be 4WD. This eliminates a lot of extra moving parts (transfer case, front differential, front driveshaft), mounting brackets, rotational inertia and weight. It is also more compact and lower to the ground as it is unibody instead of body-on-frame. Newer AWD cars are ultimately derived from the 1972 Subaru Leone. Of all the cars I’ve driven on snow, the best by far was a 1984 Leone. 32MPG was the very best it could ever do, though.

      Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka December 1, 2014, 9:40 am

    I have to be honest – my eyes glazed over as I read this week’s blog post. I’m sure it’s interesting to many people in the snow belts, but I made a decision long ago to stay as far away from snow as possible. I grew up on a coast and I continue to live near a coast and I’m guessing it’s saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. That doesn’t even include the other benefits like year round free outdoor recreation and reasonably priced skimpy fashion wear.
    I know there are a large number of people who feel like moving from the snow zones is impractical due to family, job or just habit and don’t care about the savings – they just believe that places in the snow are better places to live. Just to make sure I wasn’t being close minded and missing an opportunity, I moved to New York City in the 80s for 6 months. I did it very cheaply by living with family and living like a college student (oh yeah, I was a college student). There was a lot of cool things about NYC, but mostly I was miserable because of the shitty weather. There was absolutely nothing there that I couldn’t find on a coast somewhere. For me there is something anti-evolutionary about doing things that don’t benefit me on more than a few levels. In other words life is too short for me to spend much time trying to defeat the snow with big tires and extra thermal underwear. I mean where else do you use the word thermal except when referring to underwear in the snow and nuclear weapons? So if you’re a dedicated snowbird have at it and good luck with your giant tires and driving on chains…having said that, just call me Sunny.

    PS – I’d love to read a MMM blog post on the amazing economic golden age we’re currently experiencing: energy costs dropping daily could bottom out at below $50/barrel and push gas prices below $2, US unemployment down (below 6% today), wages up, the stock market exploding at least since August. A lot of gurus talk about what to do with their money when things are NOT doing well, I’m interested in the MM take on what alternative fancy moves one would consider when things are going up up up.

    Reply
    • Christine December 1, 2014, 9:59 am

      Ohhhh wish I lived on the coast.. damn snow tires :(

      Reply
      • frugal bazooka December 1, 2014, 4:59 pm

        My ancestors originally came from the Northeast and it was a tough tradition to break, but I made the sacrifice ; )

        Reply
    • Brett December 1, 2014, 10:48 am

      Reply
      • frugal bazooka December 2, 2014, 12:44 pm

        Thanks Brett. The link is a good read, but I think the boom concept needs updating. My perception of our current boom is that it’s more friendly to frugal types due to the stability or actual drop in commodity prices like food and energy. Investors are doing ok, but I paid more for food 20 years ago than I’m paying today thanks to NAFTA and I actually try not to buy gas this week because I know it will be lower in a week or two. The net affect of this could be a huge wash of consumer money that will power the economy forward for the next 5 years. If basic economics is to be believed there should be a massive increase in new R and D in a lot of invest-able areas. It’s always fun to try and look into the crystal ball.

        Reply
    • Scott December 1, 2014, 11:43 am

      I’m with ya. Can’t stand the cold. After school I’ll be moving to Texas, where I can comfortably bike year round (and not have to pay income taxes, and enjoy low gas prices, and benefit from a booming tech job market, and…).

      Reply
      • frugal bazooka December 1, 2014, 5:02 pm

        Texas seems like a great place to live. I was visiting Austin 3 weeks ago and it was one of the most fun places I’ve ever been. We spent 3 full days riding bikes and canoeing around the Colorado River. Despite the negative hype, Texas people are pretty awesome.

        Reply
        • Nathan December 1, 2014, 5:30 pm

          Negative hype?

          Could it be jealousy?

          Reply
          • Scott December 1, 2014, 7:42 pm

            I think it’s from other Texans who don’t want any more Commiefornians moving there, driving prices up.

            Reply
            • frugal bazooka December 2, 2014, 1:06 pm

              too late – Austin home prices are pretty high, not NYC high, but along the lines of “Beverly Hills adjacent” high – at least closer to the city.

              If they’re leaving California for Texas- they probably aren’t commies right…I mean commies aren’t even commies anymore except maybe in North Korea.

              Reply
              • Scott December 2, 2014, 6:34 pm

                So they say, but from what I’ve seen, it’s still possible to get a perfectly good house for not much money: http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/915-Pyegrave-Pl-Austin-TX-78753/29435094_zpid/

                And I’ve seen $70k foreclosures in less-nice areas.

              • mb December 7, 2014, 12:58 pm

                What do you mean NYC high? Are you referring to SFHs in the outer boroughs? A brownstone on our street on the upper east side just sold for over $30 million. Of course the home doesn’t have parking. Sorry, but no way Austin is as expensive as NY. You have two taxes, state and city, that you don’t have in Texas.

          • frugal bazooka December 2, 2014, 12:56 pm

            Yes, it could be jealousy. But most likely it’s just ignorance. They see a lot of conservative ideas coming out of Texas and they assume everyone from Texas is a far right, gun-totin’ xenophobe. It’s ironic how much the American media screams that we shouldn’t stereotype or judge people and then they stereotype and judge every state, person or idea they disagree with. Texas’ death penalty and gun laws seem to be a particular thorn in the side of much of the US media.

            Reply
      • Patrick December 2, 2014, 6:01 am

        Jesus, bike year round in Texas? Wikipedia says the AVERAGE!! daily high in Austin is over 90F for many days. I can dress in the fanciest wicking clothes and bring two water bottles, still, I feel like dying every time we get a heat wave where it’s above 85F here. Congrats on being a BAMF, I am not that strong.

        I’ll stick to cold – at least I can dress for cold. I can haul ass in 10F weather, dressed in a windbreaker+tshirt and my body produces enough heat for comfort, but not too much that I sweat. My nose gets runny, sure, but it’s better than literally my entire body dripping.

        Reply
        • Scott December 2, 2014, 6:21 am

          I biked for three weeks in various Texan cities this past summer no problem. My body simply handles heat better than it does cold. Under 40 degrees and I’m miserable on a bike; over 100 and I’m fine. (Though the heat hits you like a sack of bricks when you stop moving).

          Also, while Austin is liberally coated with small hills, Houston is perfectly flat, which means less exertion. But then you have to live in Houston.

          Reply
        • Heath December 2, 2014, 10:39 am

          I live in perfectly flat, and incredibly hot, Tempe AZ. It’s true that sweating can be an issue when it’s hot. But when it’s SUPER HOT and SUPER DRY, then the sweat instantly evaporates. I actually show up to work almost perfectly dry in the middle of the summer with highs around 115 and LOWS around 100 :-)

          Reply
        • frugal bazooka December 2, 2014, 1:08 pm

          dripping sweat is my favorite sweat

          Reply
    • B December 1, 2014, 12:28 pm

      You know how I’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years? By not living in some over-priced high cost of living coastal area. You can keep the smug.

      Reply
      • frugal bazooka December 1, 2014, 5:09 pm

        Wow, that’s great news – from your tone it sounds like you’re a very happy person. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, so I’ll try and not exude as much optimism next time…and no worries the smug is absolutely free.

        Reply
  • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 9:45 am

    “How the power and braking affect vehicle dynamics (applying power to the rear wheels while cornering tends to break the grip and cause you to fishtail and spin out – this is why rear-drive-only vehicles like sports cars and pickups are terrible in snow, but front-drive works well)”

    As a recovering petrol head myself, I would add a lack of weight over the drive wheel makes most RWD cars worse in the snow, bad traction. And those that have the weight on the back (rear engine like 911) will oversteer rather than understeer – although that does depend on the skill of the driver – as understeer is easier to correct!

    A test carried out with cones for a motoring programme showed that RWD cars did better for sudden avoidance maneuvers – as the rear end kicked out a little – assisting the turn. I can swear to this myself as I had to avoid on oncoming car quickly once, and the sudden movement I did caused the rear wheels to come out a little and assist the turn.

    On bikes cannot beat schwalbe marathon spike tyres for road and the ice spiker for off road (or EXTREME gradient pot holed ice / snow roads, the spiker handles it all with ease for more drag ).

    Reply
  • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 9:49 am

    A test carried out with cones for a motoring programme showed that RWD cars did better for sudden avoidance maneuvers – as the rear end kicked out a little – assisting the turn. I can swear to this myself as I had to avoid an oncoming car quickly once, and the sudden movement I did caused the rear wheels to come out a little and assist the turn.

    Reply
  • Victor Fox December 1, 2014, 9:49 am

    While I don’t care about AWD, 4WD makes sense, specially when you want a rural retreat, but AWD is not Ok, because it wears faster, spend more gas and tyres. For the traction safety, besides having separate snow/mud tires, It pays to have tyre chains and know how and when to use them. They re cheap and do a really good job.

    Reply
  • Ken L December 1, 2014, 9:49 am

    I recently lived in Alaska for 4 years. The Aleutian Islands, Delta Junction/Fairbanks, Wasilla, and Anchorage. I drive a 1996 Honda Accord front wheel drive with Blizzak studless tires. Drove everywhere no problem. Ok fell in the ditch 2 times, because the road was so white I couldn’t see the side of the road. I was only driving 10 miles and hour, someone with a big truck pulled me out. Then on the highway to Fairbanks it was so foggy I thought a car was braking in front of me, so my car slid but I was ok, just got back on track right away. But I’ve driven in the pitch black backcountry roads, unpaved roads, near blackout conditions, and -40 deg F. Key to surviving? Good driving skills. Go slow! I would be driving 35 mph and some big truck would be passing me at 65mph. They are the ones that get in trouble.
    Word up MMM! Winter driving can happen with anycar, just be safe!

    Reply
  • Kassandra December 1, 2014, 9:49 am

    Having lived in Montreal for 32 years before relocating to NYC, snow tires were a must for me and nowadays it is the law in Quebec. Even now, I still intend to switch to my winter tires that are on their own set of rims as I drive to Montreal every couple of months. As the post stated, for all intensive purposes, AWD is overrated when it comes to snowy terrain.

    Reply
  • KruidigMeisje December 1, 2014, 9:51 am

    In NL here we follow the practise, which has been set into law in DE (Germany): all cars should have snow tires. This works so well, that in DE you are not insured in snowy wheather without snow tires. And any car is then considered safe enough (if equipped with a proper driver obviously). And the Alps are ski territory for most of Europe.
    Possibly DE lawmakers are dumbasses (possibly of course), but insurers are commercially minded people: if normal cars with snow tires would be a real risk, they would have raised a huge cry at this law. Nope. The insurers requested it, I believe…..

    Reply
  • Another Engineer December 1, 2014, 10:01 am

    Winter is serious business here in Alaska and I completely concur (though a jacked-up pickup might be useful in the lane-line and parking lot anarchy that descends with the snow). Snow tires paired with careful driving and planning ahead can get you around safely in snow. Here in Anchorage our roads become tracks of ice for six months a year and we take this advice a step farther and get the studded variety for enhanced stopping capability. We put on our studs (on dedicated steel wheels) after the first snowfall to minimize road damage and prolong stud life, and they make a world of difference. I’ve slid through roundabouts in my, ahem, Subaru in “all-season” tires. However, as a traffic engineer, I strongly object to folks in Portland and other places studs are legal to tearing up the roads all winter to handle an icy day or two.

    We are moving to a van with our next kid and are tempted by AWD Siennas, but will probably go FWD.

    Studs are also immensely useful on bike tires. You can even get studded fat bike tires now, but they cost more than car tires…

    Reply
    • Patrick December 2, 2014, 6:06 am

      Everyone in this thread is saying studded bike tires help. Let me be like MMM against the AWD craze and say SAVE YOUR MONEY.

      I was literally commuting across a frozen lake and still wiped out plenty of times. I also wiped out on iced-over gravel due to overconfidence (leading to excessive speed). I also wiped out on black ice due to bombing down a hill and hitting a corner…again, overconfidence, excessive speed.

      Once the overconfidence wore out, I found I was no better grip-wise than a good knobby tire.

      Due to the way bike tires work, no more than two studs on each tire contact the ground at any one time. Sorry, but four tungsten studs, 1mm long, will not grip anything well enough to control 200lbs of mass at any reasonable speed.

      Reply
      • Erik December 10, 2014, 12:21 pm

        Okay.. As a year-round bike-commuter living in a country with sub-zero temperatures for a couple of months every year.. I can say that studded tires are awesome, the stopping distance alone is well worth it.

        Deflate your tires a bit if only 2 studs touch the ground at any given time.. I use Schwalbe Winter 30mm with a pretty flat design and they work wonders.

        //Sweden

        Reply
  • Trifele December 1, 2014, 10:08 am

    Agree. It is ALL in the tires. I lived for many years in the hilly snow belt of upstate New York. Every November I put four good snow tires (on spare rims) on my manual transmission Honda Civic, and I never once slid off the road . I did, however, stop many times on my travels to help others who had. No exaggeration — 9 times out of 10 it was someone driving a large SUV who didn’t know how to drive in the snow, had no snow tires on, and was relying on the AWD to take care of everything.
    There is no purpose whatsoever for those vehicles.

    Reply
  • Ricky December 1, 2014, 10:15 am

    I would argue more for redesign your life than to never recommend an AWD. But I’d also agree with you that tires, tire pressure, and front wheel drive mean more than AWD.

    But, there really isn’t any denying that an AWD will go more places than a FWD. This isn’t to say that a FWD won’t go places you need it to. Having an even distribution of power across 4 tires instead of two just makes sense.

    I live in NC mountains, and while we can get quite a bit of snow, I still choose to drive a FWD vehicle because they generally keep things pretty clear around here and I choose not to drive when it’s really bad anyway. That said, I can imagine places where it’s more mountainous and snowy that anything but an AWD wouldn’t make practical sense.

    I never really correlated AWD with “safety” anyway. It’s a case by case scenario in which 95% of people could get by without an AWD. You buy based on need to get from point A to B. If moving were simple for everyone (no family ties, stress free, location independent) then moving woild obviously be the best option. It’s just not for some people, for whatever reason.

    Reply
  • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 10:16 am

    Have to credit MM, for if everyone lived like the example he sets, the world would be a much better place. Happier people ands no need poverty. Expensive things are over hyped and most of us are buying into that hype. Even rich playboys, like many dot com billionaires, are often a waste of space, mostly living off the efforts of others, and only helping to fuel that unnecessary love of the expensive. Only area I see myself and MM disagree, is he lacks an open mind for anything spiritual. I still respect him though.

    Reply
    • Scott December 1, 2014, 12:15 pm

      MMM focuses only on those things that contribute to his lifelong happiness and well being. Despite what some people think, embracing spirituality does not lead to a happier life– it just adds more complexity to your life for zero gain. And don’t get me started on religion….

      Reply
      • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 10:42 pm

        http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cant-buy-happiness/201302/why-be-spiritual-five-benefits-spirituality

        Even Richard Dawkins acknowledges that religious people are, on average, likely to be more happy. His answer is that he would rather be right and less happy.

        Reply
        • Anonymous December 1, 2014, 11:16 pm

          Larry Niven’s wireheads were happy too, with continuous direct stimulation of their brain’s pleasure center.

          Reply
          • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 10:20 am

            So are drug addicts. What is needed is a deep meaningful happiness that lasts. Nothing has been found that gives instant pleasure that lasts, the brain always habituates it. If it was the druggies would be using it. What is needed is meaningful lasting happiness, and studies (scientific) have shown being spiritual does just that. As does meaningful relationships and doing work you enjoy. The happiest people combine all of these :) see the link I posted above :)

            Reply
    • Anonymous December 1, 2014, 11:30 pm

      > Only area I see myself and MM disagree, is he lacks an open mind for anything spiritual.

      I don’t know about MMM, but I’ve got a wide-open mind for anything, spiritual or otherwise. Show me a plausible theory and evidence for it and I’m entirely open to evaluating it. Having an open mind (as opposed to a closed one) requires that you listen to evidence and reasoning, rather than irrationally locking in your preferred belief and becoming deaf to any discussion of it. Believing in extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence is not a sign of an open mind; that would be something else entirely. The most polite term for it would be “faith”, and that’s a much more accurate description. Personally, I have an entirely open mind; I don’t, however, subscribe to faith as a technique for dealing with claims of any kind, spiritual or otherwise.

      I respect your comment and your beliefs, and I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of your sentiments. I’d just like to suggest, for your consideration, that an open mind is not the criteria you’re looking for; faith is.

      Reply
      • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 11:52 pm

        Hope is the word. I myself don’t know if there is anything beyond what we see in this strange world that we cannot yet explain. But I hope there is and a try to see if it can be felt, it seems like it can, it is a nice feeling. My rational mind is never sure though. But it’s nice to do and not harmful. My rational mind knows there is little foundation for science to says it knows there is nothing else. As science as it stands has not explained why the laws of physics operate and what operates them, and what creates consciousness, without which there would effectively be nothing. I accept the strangeness and embrace hope. I do not fool myself. I feel good as I am :)

        Reply
      • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 11:58 pm

        My rational mind can see how everything could be just consciousness. It makes the puzzle of existence simpler. Kind of super advanced emergent vivid dream like states, where there is nothing but vivid dreams. That’s as real as it gets, no real “material word” whirring away in the background creating it all! It just is.

        Reply
    • Quez December 2, 2014, 3:52 am

      What do you mean spiritual? He helps millions of us for free, wasting his precious time so he’s more spiritual than many so called religious people (I don’t even know if MMM is religious). I’m an atheist and, although I’m 100% convict that this world would be much better without any kind of religion, I consider myself spiritual and value spirituality.

      Reply
  • Long John December 1, 2014, 10:16 am

    I confirm!
    Mechanical engineer here, 100% gearhead, live ,drive and grew up in Canada. I can confirm that it is ALL IN THE TIRES. At least for the safety aspect. It is just the way the physics work. AWD might help you get out of a stupid Montreal snowbank parking spot, but so would some traction aids, kitty litter or shovel. It has pretty much NO benefits once you get moving. AWD/RWD/FWD, its all in the tires; they determine how much grip you have.

    The only thing I disagree with in this article is that RWD is bad. Its not. Its all in the tires. Especially now with stability control and traction control you don’t even need any skill to avoid dangerous oversteer. The only problem is, of course, then you are driving a 40’000$ BMW. Too bad there are no sensible RWD cars :(
    I’ll have to stick with my Toyota Matrix on michellin X-Ice tires.

    Reply
    • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 10:49 pm

      RWD depends on the driver. Many find it hard to “catch” oversteer, without getting into pendulum swings, but understeer is more natural to correct. Also for traction, FWD cars usually have the weight on the front (engine) – so they do better there than most RWD cars too. RWD is more fun. I have drive my mr2 in the snow with normal tyres and you needed quick reactions to catch it when it went! And you had to catch it just right. My FWD drive cars in the snow were much easier. I enjoyed the challenge of mastering it though. In the dry RWD cars can change direction VERY quickly as the rear end comes out a bit which helps, when turning suddenly to avoid something. That’s what my Mr2 did.

      Reply
      • Long John December 2, 2014, 10:01 am

        In the post I mention modern cars with stability control. These cars will not let you get into pendulum swinging oversteer. However modern RWD cars all tend to be luxury cars which aren’t very mustachian.

        As for the weight placement, what you say is true. However weight is not static. During acceleration, a certain amount of weight is transferred to the rear increasing the tire loading and grip of the rear end. My point though is that both of these phenomenon are nearly negligible compared to the impact of the TIRES. RWD on good tires is better than AWD/FWD on bad tires, of course the opposite is also true FWD is better than RWD and AWD on poor tires as well.

        100% agree on RWD being more fun though. I wish car manufacturers would make an economical, reliable and practical RWD car like the old AE86 Corolla.

        Reply
        • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 10:34 am

          Thanks did not know modern cars can do that! But it would take away the fun that an experienced driver can have. Why they allow it to turned off I guess. I cannot see why we could not have a 2nd hand mx-5 as a SECOND car! Perhaps not 100% hard core mustachian but a lot better than wasting many times more money on cars that would not be any more fun. it’s all about balance. How much money do we want in the bank when we die? Studies show that people regretted not having more nice experiences – and definitely regretted working more hours. Same goes for dieing rich and denying experiences. I WOULD feel guilty if I blew my money on expensive cars, while people starve in the world, as I could have just as much fun in an MX-5. And 2nd cars are not wasteful, all cars only have so much life in them and it’s impossible to be wasteful by driving 2 at once!!! I’m more mustachian than 99% of the population. I don’t think I’m making an excuse i nany way, just exercising balance and choice. Choice and balance as the late Covey (7 habits) said.. I admire those hard core mustachians though. I may even try it some time! I know I could do it. I have gone a few years without a car now, just using my bike. But may go back to car soon for some of the journeys. Just nothing over the top. It all people biked more and limited the price of cars to $20,000 – the world would be a much better place. I dislike waste and I want more people of the world to be happy. And just exercise more wisdom.

          Reply
    • Jason January 12, 2015, 11:02 pm

      I agree. MMM botched the explanation of why FWD cars do better in snow than RWD cars. It has little to do with which wheels are driven and much to do with weight distribution. FWD cars typically have 60-70% of the their weight over the front wheels. This gives them great traction in snow. About the worst vehicle to have in snow is a unloaded RWD truck because they only have about 30-35% of their weight over the rear wheels.

      A tip for people that drive in the snow with trucks. Where I grew up in Michigan lots of people would put sandbags in the bed of the truck to put more weight over the rear wheels and increase traction. That works but is a bit much for parts of the country that don’t get much snow. When I lived in TN I discovered a 55 gallon drum (closed top with a bung) makes a great traction add:

      1. Put the empty drum in the bed of the truck
      2. strap it down good against the front of the bed (laying down across the bed
      3. Fill the drum with water. (The position of the bung won’t allow it to fill completely so there is room for the water to expand as it freezes)
      4. You have added 40-50 gallons of water and 320 to 400 pounds of weight.
      5. When the freeze / storm is over, unscrew the bung and let the water drain out
      6. Remove the empty drum from the bed.

      Much easier than lugging sandbags around and you don’t need to build a box to hold them.

      Reply
  • Even Steven December 1, 2014, 10:16 am

    We have an SUV with rear wheel drive, originally purchased in Florida, we put sand bags in the back and only let the Midwest guy drive rather than the Florida lady, but Winter tires are being talked about this year. Not sure where I would store the old tires though, that and the $700 price tag always slows me down on my decision.

    Reply
    • Dave December 1, 2014, 9:13 pm

      Just a note about how to justify the cost of the winter tires. Remember that you will not be using your current tires during the winter! So, you will be lengthening the life of those tires.

      Reply
  • Nick December 1, 2014, 10:23 am

    I’ve lived in two places where it snowed in winter: Uppsala, Sweden and Missoula, MT. In both towns I didn’t have a car, so I rode my bike everywhere. Riding in the snow is really fun, much better than riding in the rain. Since cyclists tend not to ride in the exact path as cars, the bike wheels will often be riding through untouched snow, which has more grip than the packed down and icy car tracks. You don’t need a fancy bike, although those fat bikes sure look like fun.

    All you who live in the snow should ride your bikes in the snow at least one time this year. Take the kids out for a ride in the neighborhood. Get some groceries. Anything. You’ll have a blast and feel like a badass.

    Reply
    • DrFood December 1, 2014, 3:07 pm

      I had a hip issue when I went to undergrad in Champaign, Illinois that made walking long distances difficult. With my dorm about a mile from my classes, that meant I was on my mountain bike year round. (This was in 1983, not a lot of mountain bikes in Illinois back then.) I would lower the seat so that both feet could touch the ground while sitting, and take off.

      It was hard not to make a “vroom, vroom!” sound, it was so fun!

      Reply
  • Jon December 1, 2014, 10:31 am

    What are your thoughts on buying 2 snow tires instead of 4? Is this also a marketing ploy that we MUST buy 4 snow tires? The argument they make is that during braking, the rear end could slide out

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2014, 10:41 am

      I’d definitely go for 4 tires. All four wheels are important, and one car test I read suggested that the rears are actually even more important than fronts for braking safely in the snow.

      Reply
      • Charlie Bader December 12, 2014, 11:34 pm

        Back in 1978, my dad tried to save money by putting snow tires on only the front of the FWD VW Dasher which my mom drove. I will never forget the SECOND time we spun out on the turn just before Girdwood. There was a slightly raised railroad crossing in the middle of the turn. As the car came down off the hump, the rear wheels became unweighted and around the rear end went. Back then it was a 2 lane highway. Good thing there were no cars coming. We soon got the full set the next day. With slick tires in back, the rear end will pivot around the front under heavy braking. Control trumps everything else.

        Reply
  • Dr. Duncan December 1, 2014, 10:31 am

    Just want to mention that Hankook winter tires are quite good as well, and cheaper then Blizzaks or NokianTyres. Just avoid the studded Cooper cheapos, they’re just regular tires with studs.

    Reply
  • Joe December 1, 2014, 10:33 am

    Well I live in semi rural Southern Oregon. Home of the huge SUV and Giagantor Truck. I bet 50% of the vehicles on the road are Suv’s or big 4×4 pickups-no exaggeration. However, we rarely if ever have snow that sticks. No more than 2 or 3 times a year is probably the average, and even then it’s probably less than 3″. We get some icy mornings, but it never lasts. We are too close to the coast and too far from the big mountains.

    But I used to be a very enthusisastic snowboarder, and would drive up to the ski lodges once or twice a week all winter. And I did it all in my small pickup (non four wheel drive, with all season radials) with tire chains and a little weight in the back like sandbags. Going to the ski lodge is doubly hazardous because not only are the roads snow packed and icy, they are steeply inclined. So spinnouts are a very real deal.

    The tires are the deal, and chains I put on made the vehicle more safe on those roads-by far- than those jacked up Jeeps, SUV’s and AWD’s. My opinion.

    Reply
  • Brian December 1, 2014, 10:59 am

    I believe it when you say it’s all in the tires. I once put snow tires on a 1993 Nissan Altima, FWD car. It was amazing how well it drove in the snow compared to all-season tires. A few years later I inherited a 4WD 1992 Jeep Cherokee from a family member. It had some meaty tires on it, but they were not snow tires. The Nissan with snow tires was by far better in the snow. I did appreciate that you could shift the Jeep in and out of 4WD, which greatly improved gas mileage the 99.9% of the time you didn’t need 4WD.

    Reply
  • Ma$e December 1, 2014, 11:01 am

    I would have to agree with this post whole-heartedly. Back in my days living up in the frozen tundra of Thunder Bay, Ontario (north-east of Duluth, MN), I brought my 2005 Honda Civic up as my daily drive (pre-facepunch). One day in early November I got stuck in a snowy intersection while making a left turn while rocking my southern-boy All-Season tires.

    Did I go buy a Truck or SUV like most of the other locals? No. I went and got a decent pair of winter tires. I drove that car around T-Bay and surrounding area for the next 3 winters with no trouble at all, all because of having the right tires, NOT the right car.

    Like MMM, have grown up in a place with cold, snowy winters (Canada). I’ve driven Land Rovers, Jeeps, Military Trucks of all sorts (Civvie-pattern, MILCOTS, MLVW, G-Wagon, ILTIS in case you were wondering which ones and happen to speak Army) through the snowy Canadian winters and in each case its ALWAYS been the TIRES that that made the difference.

    Reply
  • Willis Montgomery III December 1, 2014, 11:04 am

    Love my Nokian A10 studded bicycle tires. No problem in the snow or ice, all weather commuting….no problem. Heck I’ve ridden across a frozen cranberry bog. One wheel drive!

    Reply
    • John Everett December 1, 2014, 11:52 am

      They make studded bike tires? I had no idea. How do they run on dry pavement?

      Reply
      • Andrew Norris December 1, 2014, 10:59 pm

        They make a noise like rice crispies popping! There is more drag. Get ones with tungsten carbide spikes as they will last as long as the tyre. Ones I recommend are the Marathon spiked for road, and the ice spiker for off road. Can also use the ice spiker for extreme roads – e.g. crazy gradients of sheet ice than NO car could ever get up. It’s great fun! Shame we don’t have more ice in England. Marathon rolls better for road. Ice spikers don’t roll that well but will do anything, stoppies on sheet ice. The only way you know you are on ice is when you get off the bike and fall off. No kidding!

        Reply
        • John Everett December 2, 2014, 8:32 am

          Thanks, Andrew. I’ll give those a look.

          Reply
          • Juan December 3, 2014, 12:53 pm

            We always spiked our own tires. An old worn out knobby is a great tire to spike since you don’t want much rubber in the knobs anyway…they tend to fold over easier. We used pan head sheet metal screws (don’t use the 1/4″ hex heads). With the tire turned inside out, it’s easy to see the dimples from the knob, and drive the screw in with a cordless drill. Then line the inside of the tire with duct tape. They work better if you trim the screw to have it just exposed a bit. Too long and they fold over because of leverage. Also, on most days you only need the front on…just to keep the front from slipping out from underneath you. You can get a box of screws for just over $10.

            Reply
            • Andrew Norris December 5, 2014, 8:28 am

              I’m impressed. I thought about doing that, sounds fun. I opted for some ready built ones as I read they would last longer, tungsten carbide tips. Mines were on offer in the summer at just £12 each and come with reflective strip and kevlar protection. If you don’t do many miles in the ice making your own sounds perfect though. There’s plenty of tutorials out there.

              Reply
  • Josh December 1, 2014, 11:06 am

    I’ve been thinking about this since my wife and I are planning to buy a newer car after the first of the year. I’ve been driving my first vehicle (’97 Explorer Sport), and my wife’s (’05 Taurus), and we’re going to downsize to one efficient car since 99.99% of our driving has been on paved roads. This past February, we were hit with a blizzard that shut our city down for a day and a half (we live in Raleigh, NC, so please don’t make fun of us….or do, whatever.) It hit quickly, and everyone mobbed the roads to get home. There were hundreds of abandoned cars on the road, and my normal 20min, anti-mustachian commute took me 2.5hrs to get home. I thought my saving grace was my 4×4 explorer, and I was worried what I was going to do in a little Fit or the like if this were to happen again. My plan is to get a pair of snow chains and learn how to use them, and it’s permitted by law as long as there is snow on the ground. Seems like reading through the rest of the comments agree, and this will be a wiser investment for me than snow tires, since this really only happens once a year.

    Reply
    • JaneMD December 1, 2014, 12:10 pm

      I was in Virginia for that storm. I drove home and saw a tractor-trailer abandoned in the middle of a city street. My tiny Honda civic made it home just fine by driving very slowly. I’m from Ohio so the snow terroris laughable to me. My parents never owned a 4 Wheel Dr. car.

      Reply
  • Kev December 1, 2014, 11:09 am

    I agree.

    Though I do admit to lusting after the SUV and the Subaru Legacy, I made do with a humble Ford Escort wagon with standard shift. That car with it’s front wheel drive NEVER got stuck in any condition – even the great snowstorm of that dumped 96 inches on Wolf Creek Pass in a 24 hour period. With cables and high quality all weather tires, the escort would just about climb walls in the aftermath of that storm.

    Reply
  • Juli December 1, 2014, 11:12 am

    I grew up in Wisconsin, and I learned how to drive on snow. I now live in Tennessee, and it is painfully obvious that people here do NOT know how to drive on snow. They either go way too fast and then can’t stop, or they drive way too slow and cause everyone else to get frustrated and speed up to try to go around them. Since we so rarely get it, there are very few snowplows around. So when we do get snow, they pretty much just wait for it to melt. And if there is even a possibility of snow in the forecast, school gets cancelled — now that my oldest is in Kindergarten, this could be an issue for the first time. Thankfully a few years ago, the company I work for issued everyone laptops so when the weather gets “bad” we are allowed to work from home.

    Reply
  • Buddy December 1, 2014, 11:13 am

    It seems appropriate here to repeat an old saying popular with off-roaders:
    Four-wheel-drive doesn’t keep you from getting stuck, it just gets you stuck in worse places.

    Reply
  • The Guru December 1, 2014, 11:15 am

    My winter driving story: couple of years ago, I was planning on replacing my ’02 PT Cruiser by spring. I was debating a smaller AWD- Matrix, CRV, etc. In the meantime, I had bought a pair of newer used all-seasons for the front to get me thru the winter. Then came… The Storm. Several people told me afterwards- this is in the Great Lakes Snow Belt; we know a little something about winter driving- “That was the worst snow I’ve ever driven in”, and I agree. I managed to make it home by a roundabout route, but it cemented my decision…NOT to spring for AWD. Not because I made it in spite of old tires, but because EVERY vehicle I saw in ditches the next day, were all/4 wheel drive. Yeah, I understand driving technique is critical as well- just decided if technique is the secret I’d just forgo the AWD.

    So I settled on a Hyundai Elantra Touring-MMM approved,if I’m not mistaken w/ what I consider the trifecta of Safe Winter Driving : automatic transmission*, traction control and good snows (Blizzaks in my case).

    *Before administering a facepunch for the A/T, here’s my observation: I live on a fairly steep hill. If I find myself in the wrong gear, I CANNOT downshift fast enough with a manual to avoid being dead in the water- a pretty scary experience. I’m betting the mileage penalty of AT vs. AWD makes it the lesser of the two evils.

    Reply
    • The Guru December 1, 2014, 7:05 pm

      Correction: Trifecta of Safe Winter Drving=FRONT DRIVE+ traction control+ good snows

      Reply

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