Author Topic: Clown Car Recommendations  (Read 1951 times)

Emily Bee

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Clown Car Recommendations
« on: November 27, 2017, 08:51:56 PM »
Hi everyone,

I can already feel everyone winding up for facepunches but hear me out!

I live and work in a small hamlet on the Arctic ocean. I carpool to work and thus haven't needed a car (I live a 20 minute walk from work because the rent costs half as much and with temperatures regularly -40 with windchill, white out blizzards, literal ice roads and the occasional wandering polar bear, walking and/or biking is not something I am open to).

Anyway, my S.O has gotten a job in Yellowknife and so he'll be moving there in February and I'll join him in the summer once my current job winds down. Everyone here has a truck since they tell me they're the most reliable vehicle for handling the snow and ice and all the fun stuff that comes with Northern living.

Yellowknife is a metropolis compared to where I am now, with paved roads and (I assume) regular plowing and buses(!!). But my S.O will need a vehicle for work. Since the snow and temperatures can be just as extreme we're thinking about going with the common advice of a truck.

Finally the part where y'all come in!

My S.O and I know nothing about cars and even less about trucks....sooooooo

1) Can anyone with northern living experience weigh in on the truck vs. car debate?
2) Can anyone recommend the least clownish, most reliable and gas efficient model and year of truck?
3) We can afford to buy a new truck outright, but being frugal, we'd prefer to get a used truck. We plan on being up north for between 5-8 years so what do you think would end up being cheaper, a new truck we sell at the end or a used truck that may need repairs along the way?
4)Anything obvious I'm missing?

Thank you so much for your help and if facepunches are needed I welcome them!

nereo

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2017, 06:35:26 AM »

Yellowknife is a metropolis compared to where I am now, with paved roads and (I assume) regular plowing and buses(!!). But my S.O will need a vehicle for work. Since the snow and temperatures can be just as extreme we're thinking about going with the common advice of a truck.

1) Can anyone with northern living experience weigh in on the truck vs. car debate?
2) Can anyone recommend the least clownish, most reliable and gas efficient model and year of truck?
3) We can afford to buy a new truck outright, but being frugal, we'd prefer to get a used truck. We plan on being up north for between 5-8 years so what do you think would end up being cheaper, a new truck we sell at the end or a used truck that may need repairs along the way?
4)Anything obvious I'm missing?


Greetings.  Compared with Yellowknife we live in the relatively tropical region of Quebec, but we still get 2-3 meters of snow each year and temperatures routinely drop below -20ºC (sometimes much colder).
Yes, Yellowknife has paved roads, and looks for all intensive purposes as a proper small city anywhere else in Canada.

1) Trucks are absolutely NOT necessesary or even optimal in this environment. There's a certain machismo driving truck sales just about everywhere, but the reality doesn't live up to the advertisments of manly-looking trucks driving ramming through snowdrifts in a blizzard and weaving through broken down cars.  (certain) Pickups can actually be among the worst vehicles as they tend to be very light in the back and rear-wheel drive - part of the reason why people will drive around with several hundred pounds of sand in their truck beds.

2) One thing you might want to avoid is cars with a very low ground clearance, which can create problems in deep snow. Otherwise, what matters most is having snow tires.  Can't stress that enough (and I believe its' required in Yellowknife anyway).  Subarus and most of those cross-over type vehicles do just fine.  The CR-4 and RAV-4 are decent if you really want a small SUV.  But don't dismiss a small car just because it's small.  We drive a Civic all winter, my lab-mate drives a Matrix (and commutes 20 miles each day), and there's plenty of other small cars all over the place.

3) New is always a bad financial decision (depreciation!), but being where you are check for rust on older vehicles. The ideal thing (and perhaps not possible in your situation) is to find a used car which has lived in a more temperate climate like Vancouver and ship it or drive it to Yellowknife.  It would solve any rust issues and you could do a mini road trip with the savings (potentially thousands) paying for the whole thing. 
Failing that, don't be afraid to buy a used car with the explicit intention of replacing the car after 3-4 years (assuming you're buying a car that's old enough).  Even if you spend $2k/year on repairs you'll be better off financially with an older vehicle vs. a new ~$25k vehicle.

4) I'll just reiterate i) Snow tires and ii) rust.  You need snow tires and be aware of rust issues when considering older vehicles (as well as how it will impact the resale value of a new vehicle after 5-7 years).  Also, you'll almost certainly want a block heater for your engine - most modern cars sold in Canada either have them or are set up to have them installed easily.  Check.

Hope that helps.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2017, 07:08:01 AM by nereo »

Linea_Norway

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2017, 06:57:53 AM »
In very cold temperatures diesel can stop working. I would recommend a petrol car (you probably call it gas).

I drive a Subaru Outback Diesel myself, our third Subaru and that car works fine in Norwegian winters down to -25C. But under -20C starting becomes very difficult if we don't have a electricity outlet available. We use a motor warmer at home, which is supposed to significantly improve motor life time, compared to not using it. We also use a coupé-warmer to make the car acceptably warm to drive in for humans.
We use spike free winter tires (only in winter time) and they work fine on snow and bare road. If the road is covered by polished ice, it is pretty hopeless and we need to drive extremely slowly. Often the road will be strewn with grid, which improves driving a lot. But we have noticed that locals how live in areas with roads that are often icy prefer to use spike tires. A 4-wheel drive will help a lot getting started in loose snow and driving up hills in the winter. But it will not help against sliding and does not brake better than a 2 wheel drive.

What you typically want is a car that is reliable. The most sensitive choice is not to buy a brand new car. New cars lose value very fast. Maybe a not so new car that still has a some of the 5 or 7 year factory guarantee on it would be a good choice? A older car might need repairs more often which can be inconvenient if you need the car daily. I heard on a podcast that 150K kms/approx 100K miles is a bit of a turning point for a car needing a lot of expensive repairs. Just where our car is today...

Other good 4-wheel drive systems with reasonable price are Suzuki and Skoda Octavia. If you drive many short stretches, you could look at a hybrid car, like the Mitsubishi Outlander Hybrid. My neighbour has one and says it is a good car. I think it has a high fuel consumption on driving long stretches, so you must look at the total use and how you are going to use it. But being able to drive the short stretches on electric might be very nice.

If you don't have access to an electricity outlet at your work to start your motor in -40, you might want to consider having a built-in motor warmer. I know this is available for diesel and very expensive. I think Skoda has a similar solution, using the battery, a solution I would be a bit sceptic of. But think about the matter.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2017, 12:39:10 AM by Linda_Norway »

Emily Bee

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2017, 08:02:30 PM »
Thank you so much for your help! We've got some time before we need to purchase so I'll keep my eyes peeled for good cars in the BC area!

canyonrider

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2017, 10:29:38 AM »
I'll throw in my $0.02 as someone who grew up in Canada and Minnesota, and has since lived in Alaska (albeit the warmer part) as well as one of Colorado's coldest high altitude towns:

Agree with previous suggestions to buy used, and definitely have good snow tires and a block heater. Those items are non-negotiable.

Beyond that, I think you need to consider how you will use the vehicle. Will this just be tooling around Yellowknife to commute and run errands? Or do you plan to get out of town and take it to some more remote areas on a regular basis? This could help you determine small car vs. truck/SUV (i.e., do you need high clearance, true 4WD with hi/lo, or the utility of a truck bed?).

In partial defense of trucks, IME a lot of people in remote, harsh-weather areas prefer trucks not because of their performance driving on snow, but because trucks typically offer other benefits suitable to the area. For example, high clearance and real 4WD may be necessary to access certain homes, ranches, and recreation areas, and the DIY mentality (which is often a necessity in areas like this) frequently puts truck beds to use hauling building materials, firewood, livestock feed, deer/elk, etc.

If I was in your shoes, I would be first deciding whether your driving needs would make a truck or SUV more useful on a regular basis than a compact car, and then go from there to pick a used Toyota model suitable to your needs and budget. There is a reason Toyotas consistently rank among the best in reliability, and command the best resale value of nearly any brand. For specific recommendations: Toyota Corolla with a manual transmission, or look at a 4Runner or Tacoma if you truly need a truck/SUV. Yes, a truck/SUV may be a clown car by MMM standards, but in your particular geographical circumstances such a vehicle might be a good choice.

GuitarStv

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2017, 11:02:46 AM »
If you don't have access to an electricity outlet at your work to start your motor in -40, you might want to consider having a built-in motor warmer.

Anti-freeze will freeze solid at around -40, which is why block heaters are standard equipment on personal vehicles in Northern Canada.  Parking lots should have electrical outlets to plug your car in (at least, this was certainly the case when I lived in Northern Ontario).

KMMK

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2017, 10:14:00 PM »
I lived in Yellowknife for almost a year. It's absolutely true that you don't need a truck. And in certain areas, like downtown, you have the usual parking annoyances if you have a big vehicle.
Roads are mostly paved, plowed fairly well, and there is a bus service, though of course pretty minimal compared to major cities.

Depending on where SO is working, and where you live, you can also get away with walking/biking year round. If you live near downtown you can basically walk to anything. The Walmart is further away, but there is great cab service (and reasonably priced because you are never going very far). Presumably Uber? And at least 1 car rental place, so you could rent on occasion if you have to.

It depends on what you want to do as well. I found that several of the recreation type places weren't on good bus routes (and the buses run quite limited hours). And you want to be active in the winter, so a car is good for that.

My husband drove a Dodge Dart when we lived there. If you buy in YK it's basically Ford or Dodge. I'm sure you can buy cheaper in the south, and a much greater variety.

There are some hills so winter tires are important; we got stuck a few times on hills. And I agree about not having really low ground clearance. My Civic wasn't good in Winnipeg, as I kept getting stuck in deep snow.

That's my experience. I'm happy to answer any other questions as they come up.

Also for community info, kijiji wasn't used much. Check out: https://www.facebook.com/groups/110958625607438/  and http://www.yktrader.com/

hankscorpio84

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2017, 02:31:07 AM »
Great suggestions so far.   I have lived in AK my whole life and can honestly say that when it comes to just getting around, I would take a fwd car with good studded tires over a 4wd truck any day.  The snow has to be suuuuuper deep/wet to need 4wd just to get around.  I would opt for a heavier car if there is a choice.  I had a 90 Honda Accord that destroyed all road conditions.  It still got 30+ mpg highway.  When the Honda died I drove a 99 Saturn SW2 with the plastic body panels.  Car was super light, got 35 mpg, but even with good tires was a lot less convincing in the snow.  Given the choice, I would take the Honda because it blasted through snow burms and had much better traction. 

Just to play devils advocate, a newish full sized truck (20XX-up) is an incredible machine ***if you truly need a truck***.   Hear me out.  This advice is not for everyone, but if you actually encounter frequent needs to tow trailers or carry large, bulky, heavy objects, a half ton truck is not a terrible idea.  Don't take my word, look at the numbers.  Most v6 equipped toyotas (especially 4wd), and even some AWD 4 cylinder car/suvs are only marginally better than American half ton trucks in terms of fuel economy and cost of ownership.  Seriously, crunch the numbers.  An automatic transmission AWD Subaru forester with faulty head gaskets that gets 21 mpg is not much better than a v6 pickup with a manual that seats 4 and gets 17 mpg.  I have had great luck with chevy trucks, they can be found cheap, are fuel efficient and straight forward to repair if something does go wrong.

One thing to consider is how important it is to be one time/at work for you and your spouse.  If you can live with calling in late due to weather once in a while, get the car.  If you are doctors who are the only people in town on call, get the truck.  In small towns the people with big trucks will love to justify their clown car habit by doing you a favor and picking you up if you cant get out of your driveway.  Seriously, they will love it. 




wpgdude

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2017, 12:25:40 PM »
Here is my 0.02.  Having lived in Winnipeg along with some small skiing towns in BC I'll agree that with great winter tires you shouldn't need a truck. 

I also agree that buying used is so the way to go, but....  How dependent will you be on the car.  If it breaks down can you wait a few days or longer for it to get repaired?  There appears to only be two auto dealers in yellowknife, a Ford and Dodge dealerships, so if you buy a subaru or honda or toyota how hard will it be to get parts and servicing?

The other thing that you didn't mention is how are you going to use the vehicle in your spare time?  Will you be going hiking / biking / camping outside of yellowknife?  While you be hauling lots of gear and such?

My personal recommendation would be to get a matrix or vibe awd (my wife has one and its a beast in winter with snow tires. ) or a RAV4. If you are going to be dependent on the car and can't afford to wait for parts, find a used Ford. 

I also highly recommend buying the car in lower mainland BC / Vancouver area and turning it into a roadtrip driving up North.

On a side note, its all about the tires.  I drove a miata for a few winters before we had a kid and it was great.  There was maybe one or two days a winter where I'd wait for the plows to come, otherwise I was good to go.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2017, 12:27:47 PM by wpgdude »

Emily Bee

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2017, 03:15:32 PM »
Thank you once again to everyone who has commented! I'm feeling more confident that a solid second hand car will serve us well so long as it's decked out for winter life.

As for our use of the car nothing too exciting - getting us both to work and then on weekends heading out for adventures in parks or visiting other communities. We don't plan to haul or build anything or drive too far into the bush so I think a truck would be overkill for us.

Again thank you for all your help and I'll let you folks know what we end up going with and how it fares. :)

smoghat

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Re: Clown Car Recommendations
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2017, 10:04:59 PM »
Never lived that far north but buy Nokian Hallapelleta tires, studded if possible. We had them on our rear wheel drive 240 Volvo in the 90s and watched in comfort as 4 x 4s skidded off the road in upstate NY snowstorms and I have studless now on both our cars. They are simply the best and wear well too.