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 more dangerous 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.

According to this Consumer Reports test on snow tires vs. AWD, the tires were by far the most important factor. And only 12% of AWD vehicle owners bothered to put snow tires on their vehicle, meaning 88% of all-wheel-drive vehicle purchases were wasted, because the drivers could have achieved better performance at lower cost in a front-wheeler with snow tires.

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

  • Andrew December 1, 2014, 11:23 am

    I live in South Carolina. What are “snow tires?” ;) If we get half an inch of snow around here, businesses and schools shut down, so I don’t have to drive anywhere anyway.

  • Dan December 1, 2014, 11:23 am

    On your first footnote, you forgot one excellent used option…Suzuki SX-4! I just bought one this year…you can get a 6 speed manual, and I average 30 mpg (can get over 35 on highway with careful driving).

    You can’t get them new, but there seems to be a pretty good supply of 2010+ models out there in good shape.

    • John December 1, 2014, 8:17 pm

      This car came to mind while I was reading! They have an option to switch between FWD and AWD right?

      • Dan December 10, 2014, 11:40 am

        Yep! Not only that but you can switch between normal AWD and locking 4×4 mode. Haven’t had the opportunity to test it out much, but other’s say it will get you out of just about anything.

        But I agree with MMM for the most part…AWD is really only useful when going up snowy / icy hills (which I unfortunately have to do), or for getting you out when you are already stuck (which I unfortunately have done before…)! The rest is in the tires, any my Blizzaks do great.

  • Dollar Disciple Dan December 1, 2014, 11:27 am

    This article highlights and unfortunate reality for my parents. They are about to move to St. Louis and are trading the Prius out for an SUV/Crossover. Still trying to convince them of the futility of such unmustachian rides, and that there are a number of other better choices. Alas, they are set in their ways and I am relegated to damage control in finding them the most economical uneconomical behemoth I can.

  • Ted Hu December 1, 2014, 11:35 am

    I don’t think it’s as black and white.

    For practical purposes, AWD is limited by physics. I never treat it as anything more. Driving too fast, slipping on black ice, AWD will do nothing for you.

    But in rural Seattle, AWD has gotten me out of inclined “holed” driveways and roads overnighted with snow and ice. I had to turn on my SUV’s 50/50 drive distribution to even get out of it. It is also useful for straightening you out after an ice slip as the AWD algorithm does its thing as you straighten out your wheel toward the intended direction.

    So while it is not panacea, it is a useful tool. Ntm Tesla’s Model X coming out with no mileage hit for AWD, for those so inclined to make such an investment.

  • skunkfunk December 1, 2014, 11:35 am

    I have a 1991 K1500, that’s a 4×4 though the front stuff is not engaged unless I get stuck in the mud out on a farm (wife’s family are farmers. Fun stuff actually.) Inherited from my pre-mustachian days, I picked it up for $1500 with 240k miles from one of the aforementioned farmers. It’s pretty bare bones.

    Got maybe 2000 miles this year, most of it before I took up bicycle commuting. Yay or nay, guys? It makes a nice vehicle for the rare snow and ice (partly because no big deal if I ruin it) but do I have to get rid of it or face being kicked out of our implied club here?

  • Margaret December 1, 2014, 11:41 am

    I have always tried to buy a second full set of rims from Kijiji/Craigslist.

    We have also purchased rims from a wrecking yard.

  • rocketpj December 1, 2014, 11:44 am

    I spent most of my 20s as a treeplanting foreman in Northern BC and Alberta. We had 4×4 trucks as a rule, and every year I would watch the rookie foremen pop their trucks into 4×4 at the first sign of mud, then promptly drive them into the ditch at speed on the first corner they came to.

    4×4 is a useful tool in remote and very challenging driving conditions. It’s most useful quality is that it gives you the ability to get OUT of a bad spot. If you are already in 4×4 when you get stuck, you don’t have any options other than digging and pushing – not usually a good outcome on remote roads.

    In all cases it is better to drive in 2WD at the appropriate speed for the conditions. If you happen to have AWD available to you, it is handy if you miscalculate and get stuck. It is useless for maintaining control before that happens, however – 4 spinning wheels will go into the ditch just as fast and easily as 2, and more often because people get a false sense of security.

    And yes, it is all in the tires.

    And also:http://s3.amazonaws.com/theoatmeal-img/comics/seattle_snow/1.png

  • Richard December 1, 2014, 11:46 am

    We get about 50″ of snow a year. A couple of years ago I downsized from an Avalanche to a Subaru (which is fast and gets 30+ on the highway). I have never failed to run Michelin Xice tires on each.

    I’ve noticed a few significant differences:

    * The Subaru will actually slide down icy hills when parked.
    * The truck was hilariously better at dealing with the kinds of snow we get, particularly changing lanes on city streets. The Subaru “tracks” down the snow bars, while the truck ignores them. It gets pretty hairy more often in the car. It’s fun, but I really don’t want fun at an intersection with other cars.
    * The Subaru doesn’t have nearly enough ground clearance for hills, driveways, and plowed snow banks. In some of the conditions we have the car pretty much turns into a paddle boat.

    I chalk much of this up to weight per tire patch area plus ground clearance. Both vehicles have four driving wheels, but I had significantly more control in the truck.

    That, plus the road noise and lack of capacity, is enough to make me consider switching back to a truck. I don’t do a lot of miles, so the difference in fuel economy (23 avg Premium gas vs 14 avg on cheap gas) is negligible.

    It turns out that the easiest way to get a heavy, tall, relatively cheap vehicle in the US is to buy a Silverado.

    Not very mustachian, but the rest of my life is pretty cheap and local, so I’m resigned.

  • John Everett December 1, 2014, 11:46 am

    Excellent post!

    But what about my bike!!?? I enjoy the challenge of crunching through a few inches of snow on my mountain bike. But more often than not I end up with wheels slipping and steering failure as my tires lose hold on the compacted snow.

    How can we avoid our clown car habit to the local grocery store? I love using the trailer for food-runs, but not when I fall down half a dozen times during the trip.

    Is it worth the extra cost to buy a bike with disk brakes and use zip ties around the tires for snow traction? That seems expensive when my dumb old Craigslist bike works just fine the other 350 days per year.

    • John December 1, 2014, 2:22 pm

      nothing like a fixed-gear for the snow!

  • Glenstache December 1, 2014, 11:52 am

    I’ll also throw in a plug for snow donuts, which are also called tire socks or snow socks. Snow donuts are fabric chains that fit over your tires. They are easier to put on than chains or cables, and are compatible with cars that have tight wheel wells, and are much less likely to damage your car. These are a great solution for areas that get a small number of days of snow a year, or if you have limited need for traction (once a year you go to a cabin with a steep, snowy drive, etc).

    Here’s what our local dept of transportation has to say about them:

  • Mark Nelson December 1, 2014, 11:54 am

    Quite beside the point, but I still cannot understand how you get 27 MPG out of the minivan. My wife drives the exact same thing, and we’re lucky to average 21. Granted that’s with all of the seats still in it, and a spare tire, but still…

    • Hugerat December 1, 2014, 1:41 pm

      Colorado is quite flat east of the Rockies with lots of wide, straight roads and not a lot of traffic lights. You’d be surprised how good your mileage can be under those conditions. I was recently able to average 32 MPG in a gigantic rented Chrysler 300M with a 3.5 liter engine in Colorado and Utah.

    • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 1:02 pm

      I got 27 out of a Chrysler T&C this past summer on a 3hr trip (each way). Involved crossing the mtns too. Three adult males inside and we used a/c part of the trip. I was impressed with that van.

  • Patrick Barrett December 1, 2014, 11:57 am

    Another amazing article. What is your opinion on electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf?

  • Mr P December 1, 2014, 12:02 pm

    I live in Duluth MN, One of the coldest places in the US + some serious lake effect snow. Everyone. Drives. Trucks. I had a friend trade in his Toyota Yaris 36k miles for a Chevrolet Avalanche 96k miles! I gave him a fair face punching and made him regret it…. slightly. Ah well….

    Anywho, I can echo this sentiment about snow tires. I drive a 99 Ford Explorer XLT (before you attack, it was F.R.E.E. and hand maintained by my Mechanical engineer grandpa) with four wheel drive and brand new all seasons… it still turns into a bit of a sled when I’m coming down these steep hills during a snow storm. It’s just too heavy and the tires arent designed for the snow.

    YESTERDAY, I drove a Honda Civic with snow tires and gave it a little “pushing” to see how those tires handled vs my SUV with all seasons. Again, night and day difference. Needless to say my next car purchase will be a fuel efficient fwd car with snowtires…. even in one of the harshest, hilliest climates in NA.

    And the SUV? I plan on keeping it for a few years since its PAID off and cheap to insure (don’t drive much so mpg isn’t paramount for now, but I keep this blog in mind all the time)

    Snow tires. Fwd. Driving smart. Patience. Staying in on bad snow storms. That’s all you need….

    Cheers from Duluth….

    Mr P

  • Grant December 1, 2014, 12:04 pm

    I was just discussing this exact topic the other day. When my parents were shopping for a new car recently (don’t even get me started…) they insisted that they *needed* AWD to deal with the snow in Illinois. They live in a completely urban area outside of Chicago. I told them how ridiculous that was, since they lived in snowy Wyoming for nearly 30 years and didn’t have AWD there. Not to mention, my grandfather has lived his entire life in the hills of West Virginia. He lives on a VERY steep hill that is only plowed if he or one of his neighbors plows it. He has always driven a 2WD, manual transmission pickup truck and has never had a problem getting around. Snow tires and a couple of sand bags in the back and he’s good to go.

    So, it really is all in the tires. And, in fact, I would go so far as to say RWD is often preferable to FWD in snowy conditions. As long as the weight distribution of the car is not terribly front-biased, RWD gets around just as well as FWD and is more predictable. Separating the jobs of steering and accelerating really has some big benefits, as long as you have decent traction to begin with (snow tires!).

    • Mr. Tahoe December 1, 2014, 12:12 pm

      “Snow tires and a couple of sand bags in the back and he’s good to go.”

      That is the issue. Most people don’ t have snow tires and sand bags they can just throw on when they get caught in that storm.

      But front wheel drive is really the best, most economical solution. I used to have a front wheel drive subaru and it just tore through the snow. It was perfectly balance and in fact was very difficult to make it screech around turns on dry pavement.

  • Mr Tahoe December 1, 2014, 12:07 pm

    One thing you kind of glanced over, thinner tires in snow (and water) are best as they cut through snow and ice, and increase you weight per square inch; if you see rally cars race in the snow, you will be surprised as to how thing their front tires are). However, does not mean you should go put some super skinny tires on you vehicle as most garages and big box stores will not install anything unless it is the manufacturer’s recommended/stock size.

    One of my hobbies is 4×4 trucks (commute by bicycle, rest assured). In the off road community, everyone always gravitates toward bigger, wider tires. Taller is fine, as it will increase your clearance of snow (though you raise your center of gravity and hence become more tipsy). But keeping the same width is tricky without increasing rim size. So most people go with wide tires. Wider is fine for dry pavement for grip. Wider is fine in mud and sand where you want to be lighter and prevent sinking in. Wider is bad on snow and ice.

    • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 10:50 am

      It may depend on the type of snow and ice. Snow mountain bikes have VERY big tyres. They have special frames to accommodate them. Pressure = force / area. So if there is shallow snow it could help to cut through to the bottom. But if the snow is deep – forget it – big tyres win anytime. I know most mud is shallow and mountain bike mud tyres are often best in thinner sizes to cut through. But they all still have a very aggressive tread though. For ice you don’t need an aggressive tread or width – just plenty of spikes.

  • Saph December 1, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Excellent and timely post. Whenever we have a snow or ice storm, the following day on my 13 mile commute on rural highway there are usually 3 or 4 vehicles that have managed to leave the road and become entrenched in the ditch or center median. As I’m comfortably rolling along in my front wheel drive Impala, I can’t help but notice that probably 90% of the vehicles in the ditch are 4 wheel drive vehicles. It’s amazing how people seem to think that they can just drive zealously in snow and expect the magic of 4 wheel drive to keep their ass on the road.

    In my humble opinion, it’s more about the driver than the vehicle. Give a shitty driver a snow packed road and the best 4×4 vehicle in the world and they’ll still likely end up wiping out.

    • Joe Average February 4, 2015, 1:07 pm

      Watch Russian Dashcam compliations or the evening news about American pileups on the interstate. Saw one recently where the American drove out of white out conditions right into the rear end of a crached semi-truck. They were going WAY too fast for the conditions. Don’t know the outcome of their crash.

      Speed kills…

  • Joe M December 1, 2014, 12:15 pm

    *Anecdotal Evidence Story Incoming*

    Quick background: I bike during the summer and bus during the winter for work so for the most part I’m putting very little miles on my vehicle. For many years I drove a FWD car w/ winter tires and found it to be adequate for most situations. My only qualm was on the busier intersections (especially 2-way stops) where there was large traffic volume and I had limited and brief opportunities to join traffic safely. My primary concern was getting up to speed in time to prevent being schmucked from behind. The number of times where I was actively concerned that I wasn’t going to get through an intersection quickly enough (turning left) or merge quickly enough (turning right) was high enough that it far outweighed any breaking concerns I ever ran into; which, as noted, with winter tires is the same between AWD and FWD.

    A couple years ago we upgraded to a 2001 CR-V and those same intersections were no longer even slight problems. Again, w/ winter tires. The difference was so stark in just the getting up to traffic speed time that I’ve been a pretty strong advocate for the AWD+winter tires argument since. I am not speeding mindlessly with this new-found acceleration, but rather just ensuring that I am not leaving myself reliant on the breaking power of the vehicles around me as often :) Despite living in SK, Canada, a stunningly high 61% of drivers don’t put winter tires on their vehicles here(http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/low-winter-tire-usage-in-sask-man-survey-says-1.2838889). Mind-boggling really.

    That being said I completely concede the mileage (the CR-V is not very good) and maintenance concerns, but anyone who has ever had to deal with satiating their other halves ‘sense-of’safety’ could attest, nothing beats this particular combo on the road.

    • Pat December 2, 2014, 9:02 pm

      Quebec’s winter accident rate went way down when they introduced mandatory winter tires. Ontario hasn’t, but then parts of Ontario don’t get as cold in winter (I know the Niagara peninsula gets cold, but not Ottawa/Montreal/Trois Rivieres cold). But the prairies? My parents grew up there – it is cold. A dry cold , but your tires don’t care.

      “Despite living in SK, Canada, a stunningly high 61% of drivers don’t put winter tires on their vehicles “

  • AO December 1, 2014, 12:33 pm

    Agree about the snow tires. I live in a snowy winter climate with not-always-plowed roads and snow tires are the norm here November-March. I drive a little Honda Civic sedan and it’s an absolute world of difference driving with them on snow. As long as the roads aren’t super deep snow where ground clearance is an issue (and who wants to drive then anyways?), there’s absolutely no problem safely getting around all winter.

  • Ed December 1, 2014, 12:43 pm

    I’d like to echo Dan to say that if one does have a legitimate need (or slightly irrational desire) to pay for AWD, the Suzuki SX4 – already on the Top Ten list – might be worth a second look. It is a reliable, compact “runabout” that can still muster an EPA-rated 30mpg highway and hypermiles in the mid-to-upper 30’s. That’s not ideal for frequent drivers, but given the stigma that Suzuki no longer makes cars in the U.S., you can now fetch one with 100k miles in the very “mustachian” $5k range.

  • Geirby December 1, 2014, 12:44 pm

    “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.”

    It’s more about SUVs than about AWD, but this bit was suspiciously short. I wish everybody would use lighter cars to make driving safer, but until they do the trade off between selfishness and safety is not that clear.

    • Jason January 12, 2015, 11:12 pm

      Weight is only an advantage if one hits another car that is lighter. In almost every other instance more weight is bad.

      A heavier car takes longer to stop
      A heavier car doesn’t change directions as well
      A heavier car has more mass and therefore energy to absorb if you hit a fixed object

      If you want safety you need a car with large crumple zones not a heavy car.

  • Le Barbu December 1, 2014, 12:49 pm

    We also own a Subaru Forester 2010 from our pre-Mustachian life. We bought this one used & rebuild (from a all-season’s tire winter crash!) and we love it. We decided to keep it but use it the least we can (4,000miles/year) which mean using our bikes and 2006 Civic more. The Forester make about 19MPG in real life, very bad if you ask me!

    • Jason December 2, 2014, 1:34 pm

      19MPG seems rather low. We have a forester, 2009 model, and get like 26-27 MPG on average with city and highway. We don’t commute with it but do equal city to highway driving. We get 24 MPG with the roof top box on. You might want to look to see if something is going on with your vehicle.

      • Le Barbu December 4, 2014, 6:30 pm

        I known the reason for low MPG, wifey’s driving it !

        When I do, MPG average 24-27…

        • Stacey December 9, 2014, 7:33 pm

          Must have been a bad model year. Our 2010 Forester has the same lousy 19 mpg…

  • insourcelife December 1, 2014, 1:11 pm

    While I’m perfectly happy with my Mini Cooper 98% of the year, I do miss my Jeep Wrangler on those rare occasions when there is snow on the ground. My 2001 Jeep was lifted 4″ and had 33″ BF Goodrich A/T tires and it was unstoppable in the snow. Engage 4 wheel drive, point and go – that’s it. Obviously it was just as useless on ice as any other car/truck but that’s not what I’m talking about. Every time it would start dumping snow on the ground (very rare around here), my wife and I would go for a drive around our absolutely deserted neighborhoods. Yes, just for fun. There were a couple of times I drove to work only to find out that no one showed up because they couldn’t get there. After this experience, I gotta say, if I lived somewhere where it snows all the time I’d be tempted to get another Wrangler and customize it similarly to my old one. Sure, my Cooper would be decent with winter tires but in terms of getting THROUGH the snow there is just no comparison. Thankfully, I live where I don’t have to make this choice and can get by with a 40 mpg econobox on all season tires just fine. But that Wrangler will always have a special place in my heart, no matter how unmustachian it might be.

  • Dominique December 1, 2014, 1:15 pm

    I ran a 2001 Toyota Camry with snow tires for a really snowy winter a few years ago in Denver. I drove up to the mountains most weekends three hours away and it was awesome. It outperformed many friend’s cars with AWD and I am not a confident snow driver normally. Friends even borrowed my car in the snow because it handled so well! I love snow tires. Now I live in MD and just stay home when it snows…but if I needed to drive I would get snow tires again in a heartbeat.

  • TexasStash December 1, 2014, 1:18 pm

    This is a face punch for me as well, though thankfully I wised up before this post. I bought an AWD SUV a few years back because I was convinced it was a smart decision when travelling into the mountains to go skiing. Less than a year later, I had moved away to a big city with no off-road possibilities at all. And was still stuck with the low fuel economy. At least I learned and bought a used Prius the next time around.

  • SisterX December 1, 2014, 1:21 pm

    With all due respect, you forgot the most important part of driving in snow: not being an asshat. It always amazes me each winter when the first snowfall comes and people blissfully assume that they can drive exactly the same on snowy/icy roads as they can on dry summer roads. IDIOTS!

    I have to admit, we do have AWD, but we fit all of your criteria (drive it occasionally, and when we do drive there are occasions when we drive it on icy non-paved roads–have friends in the hills, and those roads are very common around here), and it’s a small Subaru with decent mileage, used. Still, getting the snow tires on is always what makes the biggest difference. Even so, I’d rather not rely on all the fanciness of car whatnots and tires and instead KNOW HOW TO DRIVE IN THE FREAKING SNOW. Nothing can compensate for that.

    This article was rather timely: winter snow warning today, 6-12 inches of snow expected. I’ll continue not driving to work, and my husband will continue biking to his classes. If the babysitter can’t make it (she lives on a steep, unpaved road) I’ll just have a lovely and unexpected vacation day. :)

    • STA December 3, 2014, 6:13 pm

      I live in the Northeast and was thinking about snow tires. But I only drive 3000 miles a year and don’t want to store two sets of wheels. Can I leave snow tires on all year long? Is there any danger to that? I know they will wear out faster but at 3k a year, I don’t know if that matters.

      • theBigsmoke December 4, 2014, 10:17 am

        With regards to the snow tires, they do wear faster but i find they offer reasonably similar handling to all season tires. The only downfall is they will be louder at high speeds in comparison to all seasons.

        When i purchased my current vehicle in march of this year, it came with one spare wheel installed and two flat tires(but the price of the vehicle was excellent!). I purchased a set of 4 new snow tires which were severely discount due to the retailer placing them on clearance at the end of the winter season($50/tire). I have been driving on these tires since March and have conservatively driven 25,000 kms(i know, excessive) on them through the year, including a round trip from Ontario to Nova Scotia. Currently they have approx. 70% tread remaining and i estimate it will be safe to drive on these until late summer/fall of next year.

        The argument that can be made is that the soft tire compounds may cause vehicle stopping distance in the summer on the hot road surface to actually be longer , and road handling worse due to lack of positive steering feel. I have never found this to be the case

        At 300o miles/year, you have to question how much winter driving is actually being done? You may find if your driving is reduced in the winter months, the expense of winter tires may not be necessary.

        This is just my findings/opinion/advice on the matter, your literal milage may vary!

  • Luke December 1, 2014, 1:38 pm

    In my neck of the woods, Discount Tire will swap wheel sets and sync TPMS for free – regardless of if you bought the tires there or not. My stealership thought it reasonable to charge over $40 for the service.

  • Michael December 1, 2014, 1:41 pm

    I have General Altimax snow tires pre-mounted on steel wheels for my 2003 Civic. Town Fair Tire where I bought them from swaps them in and out for free. The only difference between my car and some AWD car is that they can go faster off the line in snow. But that’s something you definitely don’t want to do in a storm. And I get better grip than any AWD with all season tires. Believe me, I live in Maine. I have the perfect Mustachian car: cheap to run and bought it 3 years ago with only 55,000 miles. And still haven’t gotten over 1ooK yet.

  • Hunniebun December 1, 2014, 1:46 pm

    As always these words you speak are true. In my far north Canadian city, the public insurance racketeers have opted for a new program providing low interest loans on snow tires for any make or model, not for AWD or 4-wheel drive vehicles. Intense study has shown that it the tires that make the all the difference for safety no matter what you are driving. That combined with good ol’ defensive driving, proper installation and use of car seats and seat belts should have you driving worry free…well except for that proverbial ‘other guy’.

  • Bev December 1, 2014, 1:46 pm

    I love this post so much. I spent 31 years living in Southcentral Alaska (about 20 of those as a driving adult) and I always drove compact 4-cylinder beaters with FWD and studded tires in the winter. I often had a crazy-non-Mustachian commute at that time, so I drove it on the highway at speed and in town on slick-ass intersections and icy hills. In all that time, I never went in the ditch and only got stuck once (high-centered in an unplowed parking lot in the mountains to go sledding).

    My mantra was always ‘it’s all about traction.’ And what you needed for traction is good tires. As a woman in a small car, my opinions were disregarded by many a macho man in a big 4×4 with big loan payments to match.

    Also – how can an SUV/4×4 be ‘necessary’ for winter driving when the SUV didn’t exist 20/30 years ago (so our parents and grandparents clearly managed without them) and 4x4s were not suitable for passenger travel before that time, either? You don’t need to understand physics or engineering skills to think logically.

  • biliruben December 1, 2014, 1:49 pm

    I’m one of them forester owners, as well as owning a 1995 Chevy 4X4 longbed.

    My only excuse is that my driveway gains 50 ft of altitude in 160 ft of distance, and is only semi-paved. If it’s wet, I need to drove the truck into 4WD to get out.

    Of course, that leads to admitting my poor choice of housing.

    The only redeeming feature is that the house is right above a bike path that keeps me from putting more than 3K on the truck annually. But I definitely have trouble justifying the Forester.

  • Jorge December 1, 2014, 1:50 pm

    I agree, here in Sweden we have two set of tires, summer and winter( studded), in two sets of rims, and swap them before and after the snow season, it works great. I live in the countryside and drive through gravel roads daily and most people drive regular cars.

  • bajvail December 1, 2014, 1:53 pm

    I live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and on a few occasions I am required to traverse a mountain pass or two in a vehicle. I drive a 2000 front wheel drive small sedan with Nokian all season tires (better than most dedicated snow tires) as I don’t have room to store a second set of tires in my humble abode. During a recent round of snowstorms (2.5 ft in 2+ days) I traversed said mountain passes and all roads and parking lots with nary a problem. At work the next day, I was regaled with the horror stories of my co-works not being able to get out of their driveways, ending up in ditches, and sliding through stop signs in their SUVs, AWDs and 4WD gas guzzlers. So yes, MMM, I agree that it is the tires :-) After all, the only thing contacting the road is your tires. If they suck, it doesn’t matter WHAT you drive them with.

  • Marcia December 1, 2014, 1:55 pm

    This is very interesting. I grew up in a snowy area (rural NW PA). I don’t remember people having trucks/ SUVs despite regular commutes of 10-30 miles (each way) in snowy conditions. We had snow tires, and chains sometimes.

    Even as recently as 10 years ago, we visited family on the East Coast in the winter. I was struck by how few trucks/ SUVs were in the parking lots in my spouse’s hometown (upstate NY) compared to California.

    And yet – trucks are well represented in my siblings. My two closest have at least 2 trucks each (or SUVs), because “bad winter roads”. I don’t see how “roads” have changed in the last 30 years (they haven’t). Now, my family is a hunting-family, and a hauling-family. So the trucks get used, but I’d think that with my siblings and my step-dad that they’d only really need one truck (none of them, for example, go camping with a pop-up or camper or 5th wheel).

    We never had a truck growing up and at one point, remarkably, had two Fiats as our only cars (and one was a 2-seater, this a family with 4 kids still at home!)

  • Jonathon Barton December 1, 2014, 2:55 pm

    I am a Blizzak Convert.
    At the 2005 Denver Grand Prix (held on a temporary circuit that encircled the Pepsi Center) Bridgestone held a demonstration inside the Pespi Center. People could line up and take the demonstration cars for a spin…
    Two identical Toyota RAV-4’s. One on the OEM tires, one on Bridgestone Blizzaks.

    On the Denver Avalanche Ice Hockey Rink.

    When I said “take them for a spin”, I wasn’t kidding.

    The OEM tires did as well as you’d think they would on an ice hockey rink. Terrible wheelspin when you stepped on the gas, sliding through corners, skidding to a stop. You weren’t so much DRIVING as you were VECTORING and HOPING…
    The RAV4 with the Blizzaks?
    Drove on the ice like it was one of the CART championship racecars on race tires outside in the July heat.
    NO wheelspin. NO sliding. NO slipping to a stop. NO ABS engagement.

  • Mikael December 1, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Very good article – unfortunately I’m covered by the *.

    Currently have my 4-motion Passat here in Europe with a diesel engine with about 40mpg – not a real AWD as it has the Haldex system and probably >95% FWD but I find it an acceptable compromise. I have the AWD those 2-3 times a year I might actually need it (not living in a flat landscape and even studded snow tires are not always enough) . What’s your opinion on this – worst of both worlds or best of both worlds? It probably has more service costs in the long run but with nearly acceptable milage.

  • Nicolas December 1, 2014, 3:01 pm

    What’s biking in snow like? I don’t think I’ve ever done it, and there’s no snow to try around here.

  • Michelle December 1, 2014, 3:08 pm

    Well, I’ve blown this one so bad, I can’t even begin to comment on it. But hey! I know what not to do in the future. So stepping aside from owning 4×4 trucks, I’ll move on to snow issues. Hubby and my goal is to retire in North Idaho where I am originally from. We were telling some friends about it and they gasped, “Do you have ANY idea how much it snows there????” Yes, indeedy, I do. But if I am retired, I do not need to haul ass around town in snow as I will be mustaschian enough to plan for snow days by stocking up the cupboards and having entertaining things to do in our own home. And although we plan on looking for acreage, we also plan to look for property on school bus routes, because guess what gets plowed first?? ;) Side benefit: when I’ve been checking real estate listings, some of them actually throw in the tractor w/plow! All right! Now I just need to learn how to drive a tractor.

  • NWErica December 1, 2014, 3:17 pm

    I can’t say enough about the Blizzak tires. I live in the Pacific NW and, yes, waste money on skiing on a regular basis here. I have been using Blizzak’s for many years now and I can’t say enough good things. I do drive a Subaru (paid off completely..and will run it into the ground) not necessarily for the AWD but because it also allows me to sleep in it when I camp and haul all my ski’s, camping gear, etc…easily. I can’t complain about the heated wipers either because now I don’t have to drive with one hand and scrape the windshield out the window with the other to see the road when it’s stormy.

    Blizzak tires aren’t cheap, however, if you keep your eyes peeled sometimes you can get a good deal. I hate shopping and will never ever go out on Black Friday, but two years ago my local Firestone gave me a hell of a good deal. If you arrived before 8am they gave a $150 Black Friday discount. Currently, Costco is running a pretty good deal as well. I think they’re about the cheapest place for new tires that I’ve found in my area. Anyone else found a good price on the Blizzaks?

    The tires basically make a snowmobile out of my vehicle. While I don’t do much city driving I do a lot of mountain driving and it has saved my tush more than once. Coupled with safe speed, adequate following distance, and some street smarts the mountains have never been a problem with the tires on. I do agree, however, that front wheel drive is just great too! Previously had an old CIVIC we occasionally chained up to get around and it was great also.

    Plus, if using snow tires for part of the year, you’ll get more time out of your daily non winter drivers. No big deal to have an extra set on rims waiting for the snow to fall.

    Thanks for validating my tire choice….I’ll take a slap to the face for the “Subie”.


  • Cheap Mom December 1, 2014, 3:20 pm

    I live in snowy Ottawa and drive a 2 wheel drive sedan with no-seasons (I recognize the opportunity to improve safety there). I don’t bother driving in really bad weather and if I do, I keep my speed low enough to keep control of the car. My husband commutes by bus, so it’s not too big of an issue.

    From my experience with winter driving, the most important thing for me is the anti-lock brakes. I was taught to brake hard and steady when I start losing control and never picked up the pump the brakes yourself method (how could this be better?).

    When it’s icy and a stop sign is coming up, I may not stop faster, but I’ll be able to steer my car around the guy in front of me if I have to. I had a car without ABS once and vowed never again.

  • Jeff December 1, 2014, 3:41 pm

    I think VDC systems are worth a mention. These calculate which direction the car should be going in from a steering angle sensor and if you start to skid, they can apply any of the individual brakes to get the car back on track. No fuel consumption penalty.

    They are sold on most new cars in Europe, so I suppose the US is similar.

    Of course I’m running a 16 year old car without this feature, but it’s one to get if you drive on snow a lot and need to replace the car.

  • Starting my mo December 1, 2014, 3:42 pm

    Living in Australia we don’t have the same weather issues as the Northern Americas. But some how we still manage to get the large 4wd cars driving around in the cities. I understand the argument, but I think the logic of having mass on your side is not good for society. Its transport, not an arms race.
    I live inner city Melbourne and have two cars for myself and my partner. a Volvo V50 (given to me by my aunty) that is mainly unused, and a work Ford ute (paid for by my employer including fuel) which I require for work. Even these cars seem ridiculous for inner city transport.
    We (Aussies) are also quite used to travelling great distances daily due to the geographical profile of our country, further adding to the stupidity of 4wds. A few years back there was a guy selling buckets of mud so that people could splash it on their urban tractor to make it look like they went 4wd-ing, when in reality the car drove from the house to the shops and school. The vanity of some people in the material arms race it quite humorous when you have the clarity that comes with a growing moustache.

  • Kitty December 1, 2014, 3:45 pm

    Slightly off topic – but I thought I’d ask this group. It’s not snow and mud that are the problem for us, its the rock gravel roads. I’m on my second Oldsmobile Bravada (now over 200,000 miles) and I refuse to give it up. Every other car we have tried over the last 30 years needs lots and lots of work done underneath. The gravel just beats the hell out of the under carriage. I don’t remember off hand all the parts that get destroyed, but I’m sure some of you know what I am talking about. In a truck or 4×4 SUV type vehicle, the underneath is made differently and I replace rotors, brakes, shocks, etc. occasionally – not continuously! We even use 10 ply tires out here for gods sakes. It’s ridiculous what we incur in expense for getting back and forth the last two miles to the highway. Bad choice of house – but we’re 3 years from having it paid off and love it otherwise. Bravada’s haven’t been produced since 2008 or so? What do I do when this one finally lays down?

    • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 2:02 pm

      I looked this up. Question has been asked before. It seems it does little to no damage to the underneath what what people reported. Someone did say it would be a problem with lowered cars though. I guess many sports cars are low.


      Main thing they say is to get mud flaps and to slow down for oncoming cars (not a problem for your private driveway perhaps).

    • Andrew Norris December 2, 2014, 2:05 pm

      I think it may be more the rocks than the gravel. 4wd drive cars have higher suspension. If the wheel hits a dip it could bash the under carriage onto a rock. I believe you can get most 2wd cars modified for not a great cost to run higher. Or purchase one that is higher (they may exist do some googling). I personally doubt it is because 4wd cars have stronger underneaths. You just need more ground clearance. Hope this helps.

      • Kitty December 3, 2014, 2:56 pm

        Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll do some more research. Slowing down is a good solution. Difficult to add minutes to the commute time on a consistent basis but we’ve never been faithful about doing it. Cracked and chipped windshields are an accepted inconvenience. It’s about the bashing, yes, as you say, but also about layers of dust, chalk and sharp chips building up in every moving crevice under there. My vehicle is always easy to pick out in a parking lot – it looks like I just drove in from a tour of the Australian outback.

  • Mrs. WW December 1, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Thank you for the confirmation! I have always driven a smaller car, not being sucked into the AWD dramatization since I have always been able to handle snowy conditions. As more and more people fall for the trap of “I must have it!!” there are more and more slipping around on the roads with their inflated sense of safety and their very real ability to crush and smash us smaller cars.

    It also occurs to me that those who complain about the snowy weather and those who insist on the AWD are those that drive the least in the bad weather. They have the shortest commutes on the best plowed roads. Back before we fully learned the true mustachian lifestyle, we lived at least a half hour from work on roads that were often never fully cleared after the first snow of the year until the spring thaw. We also always showed up to work, no matter the weather, often to find that those coworkers who lived closest called in because of the weather! And yep, they were the AWD people.

    Now we’ve shortened to a 20 minute commute– by bike.

  • Brandon December 1, 2014, 4:07 pm

    Just another example of an area where I have been mustachian for a long time without even knowing it. It started back in college when I had a little Celica. That thing was horrible on snow with all seasons, but I was going to a commuter college so I had to get there or fail. I got a set of blizzaks and have never looked back. I had to go get my dad once when he got his 4WD truck stuck in the snow. Small car after small car I kept going to the blizzaks (except one time when a tire dealer conned me into putting on some Firestone Winterforce suddable tires, those things sucked relatively speaking).

    Now I have an 07 Fit with WS60’s and I quite enjoy the obvious irritation that it causes with the douchebags in 4WD trucks around here when I out accelerate them in the snow and ice. It is in fact just about the only time that I try to accelerate fast in that car. Two of my favorite stories are:

    Once when I was behind a big diesel 4WD who could not get going on a highway. He was pitifully spinning all four wheels and sliding sideways but barely moving. So of course I casually pass him and get up to speed (which about 45 MPH was about the fastest safe speed for me with my blizzaks). About five minutes later what do I see in my rearview? Douchy McDouche and his big 4WD truck flying up to pass me going at least 60 MPH. I really wished to see him in the ditch that day, but it didn’t happen that day. I took comfort in the fact that it was bound to happen sometime.

    My other favorite example was a time that Douchy’s cousin (I assume) was tailgating me around town in his 4WD truck. Roads were pretty icy and I knew exactly how fast I could take the turn coming up. So I took it right to the limit. Douchy took the bait and tailgated me right around the corner. I easily made it and WHAM into the curb HARD he went. I was in tears I was laughing so hard.

    The saddest part of those situations? I bet neither one of them learned anything other than “Damn, I need to buy a BIGGER truck!”

  • PJO December 1, 2014, 4:09 pm

    This mentality of ‘must have AWD or die’ is very prevalent in Lake Tahoe. After all, it IS Lake Tahoe, and it snows like crazy there. However, in reality there are only about 10 days a year where driving a 4WD truck or an AWD Outback is even convenient (‘necessary’ is just too much of a stretch). The other 355 days of the year you’re stuck paying 4WD/AWD gas prices. In the extremely unlikely event my little FWD sedan with snow tires couldn’t hack the snow, I could just put chains/cables on the tires and drive through anything. Even in an extreme place like Lake Tahoe, AWD is overrated. How much more so in the rest of the country?

  • Ed December 1, 2014, 5:25 pm

    To reinforce the point about snow biking – it is much more doable than most people think. Consider that here in New York City you can get food delivered by bicycle every day, year-round, in rain, ice, or 2 feet of snow. Most of the food delivery guys have little more than a cheap mountain bike with wide, knobby tires, and that is more than adequate if you are diligent and motivated. Not to mention – it is really fun! I have had great thrills biking over city bridges in deep snow and blizzard conditions thinking to myself – people pay thousands of dollars to enjoy this kind of fun in the snow on skis and snowboards, but it can be a free and exhilarating part of your routine weekday commute if you are up for it. Just remember to wear a helmet and be cautious in traffic.

  • Anthony December 1, 2014, 5:27 pm

    I’ve gotten my last couple sets of all-season tires “siped,” which is where they slice across the tread to increase the number of edges. It has greatly increased the traction in all conditions. They also claim it extends the life of the tire. My anecdotal evidence supports this. Most shops will do it for $10 per tire.

    My FWD Mini Cooper handles snow and ice like a champ.

  • Ed December 1, 2014, 6:08 pm

    I’ll echo what Dan said – for those who have a legitimate need (or irrational urge) for AWD, the Suzuki SX4 may warrant a second look. It is a very reliable and surprisingly roomy compact runabout with driver-selectable AWD, and the manual transmission models from most years can muster an EPA-rated 30mpg highway and hypermile in the mid-to-high 30’s. That may not be ideal fuel economy, but with the stigma of Suzuki no longer making vehicles in the U.S., you can find one with 100k miles in the very “mustachian” price range of <$5k.

  • Josh Skaja December 1, 2014, 6:22 pm

    Just chiming in with an update on one of those newer Subarus:

    We have a 2012 Impreza sedan. Real-world MPG over the life of the car is about 31. Most people would probably see better mileage––we live in a major city and there’s a hundred pounds of PA system that lives in the trunk.

    (And before y’all get on my case about hauling the extra weight––the car’s only job is to take me to gigs. City life = rarely need a car.)

    Mileage aside, it’s the best-designed car I’ve ever owned or even ridden in. Holds an astonishing amount of gear in the trunk alone (which means my stuff can live securely in the car and doesn’t need to be carried inside my house each night). Zero recalls despite being the first model year. Relentlessly reliable. One of the few cars still being made where a manual transmission isn’t reserved for completely stripped-down economy or ridiculous gas-guzzling sportiness.

    All that said, had my gear fit into an ’05 Civic or Accord (or if a Fit didn’t put my belongings on display), those would’ve easily been smarter choices.

  • Ellen December 1, 2014, 6:35 pm

    I know I am a curmudgeon but I wish people would take 2% of the cost of these gigantic all wheel drive vehicles and invest in driving lessons.


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