Author Topic: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?  (Read 7595 times)

EmJay7

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All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« on: August 18, 2013, 05:43:57 AM »
My husband and I have a 2001 Subaru Outback that we may replace this winter. We're just starting to think about what we might get for a replacement and have a few ideas (including several on this list: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/19/top-10-cars-for-smart-people/). We want something reliable, a hatchback, and hopefully something that is more fuel efficient.

But do we look with cars with all-wheel drive or not? We live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in a place that gets 200-300 inches of snow a year. My daily commute is about 35 miles round trip (admittedly not very mustachian). The roads I take to work are relatively flat for the area. And if I leave a little bit later for work (which my schedule will allow), I can wait for the plow to clear all (except 1 mile) of the roads in the morning before I leave, but our driveway and the roads in town get slushed up, so some clearance is needed. We also always buy really good winter tires.  In the summer, I don't drive on any woods roads that aren't passable with a 2-wheel drive.

I'm leaning towards a 2WD, but am not sure when AWD is best.  Or perhaps this is where an on/off 4WD is a a reasonable compromise? I'd love your thoughts!


daverobev

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2013, 07:31:06 AM »
2WD is fine. Our Civic does pretty well in the snow, honestly.

moostachio

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2013, 08:00:36 AM »
I would consider a 2WD, on the relatively few times you need 4wd, you will pay for it in gas mileage every day.  We lived in northern IL all we had was 2wd, now live in a mountainous area but with less snow and still have 2wd.  In the mountainous area, if the roads are really bad I have a set of tire chains I put on my front wheel drive vehicle, it goes very easily through snow, even on good size hills.  Of course 4wd with chains on all 4 wheels is better, but very, very seldom would such measures be needed.  A co-worker has a large 2wd diesel truck that was helpless in the mountains, he bought chains and now can go up nearly any mountain in the area and feels confident.  You just cannot drive faster than 35 mph.

If your situation means you have say >10% , of your winter time driving needing 4wd, might be worth it, otherwise I would stay with 2wd, and in extreme cases put some chains on, it takes 5 minutes and a good set on Amazon is $70.

The other thing about 4WD contrary to the behavior many people demonstrate who have it, they cannot STOP any faster than 2wd. 

EmJay7

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2013, 01:08:00 PM »
Thanks! We can't actually use tire chains in this state, and I can't imagine ever needing them given our terrain (hilly, but not mountainous) and where I drive my car.

I'm leaning towards 2WD-- lots of people here have them, so it's not like it's impossible. We're not buying until at least January (when we'll have the money saved up), so I guess we'll just have to test drive cars on snowy winter days!

BlueMR2

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2013, 01:39:45 PM »
2wd is probably sufficient, except for a few rare circumstances.

That said, I'm familiar with the conditions in the UP and *highly* recommend that you get a good set of Winter tyres (Bridgestone Blizzaks or Nokian Hakka's) for that season.  The money you save in gas and extra AWD maintenance will eventually cover the cost of a set of steelies and Winter tyres.

smedleyb

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2013, 10:05:13 PM »
2wd is probably sufficient, except for a few rare circumstances.

That said, I'm familiar with the conditions in the UP and *highly* recommend that you get a good set of Winter tyres (Bridgestone Blizzaks or Nokian Hakka's) for that season.  The money you save in gas and extra AWD maintenance will eventually cover the cost of a set of steelies and Winter tyres.

I'll easily take FWD with Blizzaks over AWD and all-seasons every day of the week.  It's not even close from a  winter handling/safety perspective.

unpolloloco

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2013, 08:08:17 AM »
AWD really just helps you to not get stuck in situations like these - starting from a dead stop.  Braking will be the same either way.  If you have to deal with unplowed hills or unplowed corners, AWD could help (but winter tires would probably help just as much).  So...there are situations where you might want/need an AWD, but it's probably unnecessary for most people.

No matter what you do, don't get a RWD!

randymarsh

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2013, 10:00:34 AM »
I was surprised how well my Civic (FWD) handled the snow last winter. I have a 20 mile commute to school. It's about 50/50 country roads/highway. This was with tires that I believe were original and had 40,000 miles on them. I used to drive a Ford Explorer and honestly I'm not sure it was any better in the snow. Only ever used 4WD a couple times a year and mostly just because it was there and as a precaution.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2013, 11:14:53 AM »
You could look a CR-V. They are AWD and fairly good on MPG's. Living up north, I for sure would have an AWD or 4WD as a mode of transport. (My survival instinct kicking in here).

MountainFlower

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2013, 11:29:11 AM »
Why do you need to replace a 2001 Subaru Outback?  Seems like a car like that should have a lot of life in it.  I drive a 2002 Acura MDX with 160K miles and I figure I've got another 5 years at least.  I also have a 35 mile commute (with 4000 ft elevation change)

I live in the mountains in Colorado and prefer AWD, but we've had other FWD vehicles with studded snow tires that did surprisingly well in the snow even on steep sections (A camry and an accord). 

Again, we drive some seriously anti-mustachian miles in our house and we've had a Pathfinder that we sold at 260K, a Camry that we sold at 220K, A Jeep GRand Cherokee that we sold at 220K, and a Ford truck at 235K and still going, barely (farm truck now).  Is there some reason why a 2001 Subaru needs to be replaced?

daverobev

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2013, 01:32:46 PM »
AWD really just helps you to not get stuck in situations like these - starting from a dead stop.  Braking will be the same either way.  If you have to deal with unplowed hills or unplowed corners, AWD could help (but winter tires would probably help just as much).  So...there are situations where you might want/need an AWD, but it's probably unnecessary for most people.

No matter what you do, don't get a RWD!

I think the anti-RWD bias is somewhat overstated. Lots of 2wd trucks about, and they are about the worst. I have a Crown Vic and it's ok. I get it - lighter at the back because that's where the engine isn't. But still.

Don't drive like a numpty, win!

(I'm not saying DO buy a RWD either, just that... it's ok if you do!)

livetogive

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2013, 02:21:29 PM »
I think the anti-RWD bias is somewhat overstated.

I respectfully disagree, but that is only based on anecdotal experience.  I've seen many RWD cars (with chains!) flying down I80 sideways and generally posing a danger to themselves and others on the road.  In even remotely wet snow the front wheels turn but the car just keeps going forward. 

OP - I struggle with the same dilemma but came to the decision to keep my AWD car for now, but only because more than 50% of the actual driving I do is mountain transit and it helps me avoid mandatory chain use.

FWD should be fine.  There are also quick release "chain" type options that click and unclick to the rim very easily via aftermarket lug nuts.  They are expensive but no where near the price of AWD.  I wouldn't trust them on big hills but they seem to be perfect for your nieghborhood and parking lot driving purposes.

Also, you'd be surprised how little clearance difference you get with an SUV vs a simple hatchback.  I have a volvo S60 which doesn't have a ton of clearance, but i've never encountered something a CRV or Jeep could get through that I coulnd't.  Either we both made it or we both got stuck.

Forcus

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2013, 02:48:05 PM »
Pretty much everyone has covered it but my thought is don't wait to buy til winter. I'd think that the best time to buy a car for snow is when it's icky hot out.

daverobev

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2013, 03:06:41 PM »
I think the anti-RWD bias is somewhat overstated.

I respectfully disagree, but that is only based on anecdotal experience.  I've seen many RWD cars (with chains!) flying down I80 sideways and generally posing a danger to themselves and others on the road.  In even remotely wet snow the front wheels turn but the car just keeps going forward.

Eh? That has nothing to do with RWD or FWD unless I'm missing something.

m8547

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2013, 06:03:22 PM »
Most true 4wd systems should not be used on dry pavement. That's because they have a transfer case which locks the front and rear axles together when engaged. When you try to turn, the axles need to rotate at slightly different rates. With the center locked, the drivetrain will either bind up and have extra friction (lower MPG), or the tires will have to slip a bit, or both. You can use 4wd when the roads are covered in snow, but in mixed conditions where there are dry patches and snowy patches, it might not be the best idea.

All wheel drive doesn't have that problem, and it's engaged all the time. It's fine to use in all conditions. The only time when you might need 4wd instead of AWD is getting out of a deep snow bank or something like that. Also keep in mind that not all AWD systems are the same. Some work continuously, like Subaru's, and some work some of the time, like Honda's. Most or all of them are good enough for winter driving, especially considering 2wd is enough too.

A 4wd vehicle in 2wd mode won't get significantly better mileage. There's a tiny bit less friction and nothing to bind up, but you still have the extra weight of the 4wd parts, and you are still driving a big SUV or truck. You can find AWD on smaller, more economical vehicles.

One exception is the 4wd system on some older Toyota trucks. The 2003-2009 4runner, for example, has a center differential that's used in 4wd mode, so you can use it all the time like AWD if you want. The traction control system manages sending torque to the appropriate wheels as necessary. If you need more traction, you can lock the center differential and you have essentially a traditional 4wd system. If you need even more traction for extreme off-road driving you can get a locking rear differential too.

There are hidden costs to AWD and 4WD. For example you always need to have matched tires, so if one is severely damaged you will need to replace all four. And there are more parts to break and more things that could go wrong.

If you do get a 2wd car, it might be a good idea to get one that has a traction control system or limited slip differential that can control wheel spin. That way if you are stuck with one wheel on a slippery patch, there is some chance of some torque going to the other wheel to get you moving. Otherwise you have, like my car, what I like to refer to as one wheel drive!

EmJay7

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2013, 01:05:56 PM »
Whoa-- it's time for an update!!

Quote
Again, we drive some seriously anti-mustachian miles in our house and we've had a Pathfinder that we sold at 260K, a Camry that we sold at 220K, A Jeep GRand Cherokee that we sold at 220K, and a Ford truck at 235K and still going, barely (farm truck now).  Is there some reason why a 2001 Subaru needs to be replaced?

We currently have a hair under 200k miles on the Subaru, and it generally runs pretty well. We've had the enginge rebuilt twice, though, on account of blown head gaskets (a known issue with late 90s-early 00s Subies-- my '98 also blew its engine out and was driven another 100k after that). In August, the suspension seemed to be going out on us, and we weren't sure that it would be worth it to repair (and we didn't want to wait until winter to car shop for winter-friendly cars).

Luckily, the vehicle was fine. 85% of the problem was that the summer tires were bald as hell, and the other 15% is just an acceptable level of play in an older vehicle. Woo-hoo! This means that we don't have to replace the car yet.

The current plan: Test drive circa 2010 Toyota Priuses and other cars in the winter to get a feel for them. Run the Subaru until late summer/early fall (~210k?). Buy a new used car then (my preference = 2WD) and get fabulous winter tires and a set of steel wheels.

Thoughts?

FrontRanger

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Re: All- or four-wheel drive for my new (used) car?
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2013, 10:15:38 AM »
We have a rwd old mercedes wagon and we transition out to blizzak tires in the winter. It drives better in the midwest snow than my newer awd subaru. Unless stuck in deep snow, I think it is all about the tires.