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AWD Vs FWD Living Through Snowy Winters?
Old 03-01-2017, 08:58 PM   #1
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AWD Vs FWD Living Through Snowy Winters?

As a Southern California native transplanted to Florida, I have no idea what driving in the snow in winter is like. I've been through plowed snow as a passenger, I've lived through some nasty snow storms in the comfort of a relative's house.

I know as much about snow as Jon Snow knows about anything.

We're moving to Tennessee close to the mountains next year and was wondering whether the hype of AWD is real or not. Or whether there are instances where AWD may really be worth the additional cost of ownership.

Consumer Reports seems to to think snow tires matter more than anything, and I don't discount getting snow tires when driving through snow, but their playing for an afternoon in the snow isn't living with the stuff.

So, any advice would be so greatly appreciated before I go and buy something appropriate to the new environs.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:04 PM   #2
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If you're living in an area where you can expect the roads to be plowed in a reasonable time and don't have a job that is considered essential no matter what the weather, I'd pass on snow tires. I like AWD for the just in case situations, but you can probably get by without it.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:08 PM   #3
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Snow tires? I would get and use them if lived someplace where it snows a lot (e.g Buffalo) and/or I'm far enough off the regular big roads that it might be a long time before the plows get there. But I live in a suburb in southern OH (for ref: we get more than twice as much snow as Knoxville) and I don't know anyone who changes into a dedicated set of snow tires in the winter. Most people find a set of good all-season tires to be adequate, I shop for a set that CR rates as good in snow. The biggest danger anywhere it snows is icy roads, and only chains or studded tires will make a significant difference on icy surfaces--and chains/studded tires just aren't allowed on many roads/circumstances anyway in most parts of the US.

We have an "AWD" Honda CRV, and I'm glad we sprung for the AWD. Like some other AWD vehicles, the AWD only kicks in when there is tire slippage and when the speeds are low (20 MPH?). That does cover the vast majority of circumstances we might need the extra set of paws pulling the car, and it has been occasionally useful (going up a slick driveway, etc). There's not much of a gas mileage penalty for AWDs that operate like this, maybe 1 MPG.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:17 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by RetiredGypsy View Post
As a Southern California native transplanted to Florida, I have no idea what driving in the snow in winter is like. I've been through plowed snow as a passenger, I've lived through some nasty snow storms in the comfort of a relative's house.

I know as much about snow as Jon Snow knows about anything.

We're moving to Tennessee close to the mountains next year and was wondering whether the hype of AWD is real or not. Or whether there are instances where AWD may really be worth the additional cost of ownership.

Consumer Reports seems to to think snow tires matter more than anything, and I don't discount getting snow tires when driving through snow, but their playing for an afternoon in the snow isn't living with the stuff.

So, any advice would be so greatly appreciated before I go and buy something appropriate to the new environs.
Is AWD worth it?
Depends, I couldn't have lived where I did for 30 years without it.

What do you want to do? Drive anytime or when the weather is nice for a while? Who plows? Who clears any driveway? Who comes to pick up the bodies?

For us, even paying for owning 2 four wheel drive vehicles the answer is yes.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:30 PM   #5
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Instead of AWD, you're much better off spending the money on set of good winter tires / rims (put them on their own rims for easy swapping twice a year)

AWD just helps you get moving, as all vehicles have 4 wheel breaking, but it doesn't matter if your tires don't grip.
Most AWD systems put very little actual power to the rear wheels.

If you're moving somewhere fairly remote without regular snow clearing, then ground clearance is going to become a factor as well.
The ruts that get built into hard packed snow / ice can make it a tough go with a small car.

My vote for importance is: snow tires, ground clearance, 4x4, and lastly, AWD.

Also remember, snow tires grip better in the cold, but they are not magic. All tires slide pretty nicely on a fresh wet sheet of ice, even studded.

One last note:
-There are some advantages to getting narrow winter tires. The argument is they "plow" less, and dig into the snow / slush better (and smaller tires are cheaper!).

-I'm from Canada

Edit to add - Winter tires are designed to perform better at all temps below 7 deg. C (45 F), even on wet asphalt without snow / ice.

https://www.thestar.com/autos/2014/1...ter_tires.html
Quote:
"Britain’s Auto Express magazine, in cooperation with Continental tires, tested a set of winter tires stopping on wet pavement at 7 degrees C against summer tires. Full emergency ABS braking from 50 mph produced stops of 35.5 metres for the winter tire-equipped car and 42.5 metres for the summer-tire car.

The distance difference becomes even more frightening when you realize that at the point where the winter-tire car had stopped, the summer-tire car was still going 32 km/h."
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AWD Vs FWD Living Through Snowy Winters?
Old 03-01-2017, 09:32 PM   #6
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AWD Vs FWD Living Through Snowy Winters?

I live in Syracuse NY. Snowiest city of a decent size in the country and have never had AWD, haven't had snow tires in years - though DD did get a set for her Scion Tc as those low profile tire are not good in the white stuff.
Like Samclem said, check CR and Tire Rack for tires that perform well in snow. Good all season tires and front wheel drive get me through anything but ice.
That said, if I was looking at a new car that usually has AWD (CRV, RAV4, etc.) I'd spring for it as it does keep you going down the road straight while accelerating. Remember 4 wheel or AWD does not help braking.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:34 PM   #7
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In Tennessee, the more likely bad driving day will be an ice storm. If you're caught driving in that, it won't matter what you have, it will be a bad day. Most of the time, you can get by without AWD. However, you'll have to decide if a couple times a year is worth the extra cost. I live in Michigan. Thanks to global warming, we did not have much snow this year. I have AWD and one day, I did get caught in the snow and getting up a ramp with some packed snow (almost ice) was tough for the FWD cars. A few could barely get up and a couple were spinning out. Keeping a slow and steady pace, the AWD did perform well and I got up the incline. Personally, I think it's worth it. I also think an AWD car handles better generally speaking.

Note too that AWD vehicles get a little worse gas mileage than their FWD counter part. Maybe not true in all cases, but in the few I've looked at, that was the case.

In the end, it's up to you, but if the cost isn't beyond your budget, I'd recommend it.
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Old 03-01-2017, 10:32 PM   #8
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Yep.
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Old 03-01-2017, 11:39 PM   #9
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I've never had AWD, and have done just fine in very snowy areas, including Canada.

In TN you will get ice storms and most folks will stay home if possible, cars both 2 and 4 wheel drive will be sliding all over.

One time about 8 years ago driving along a freezing rain coated freeway with my 2 WD car, I kept getting passed by AWD SUV's and many of them promptly slide off the freeway at the curve as they slid straight into the ditch.

The AWD tends to make folks thing they can go faster but that just makes the slide more exciting.
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Old 03-02-2017, 05:51 AM   #10
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As a Tennessee native, I can tell you we're lucky to get one or two snows per year, and they just last a couple of days.

I've had front wheel drive vehicles up to the bumper in snow and still didn't get stuck. If you were moving to Chicago or Minnesota, I'd tell you to get AWD.

But for Tennessee's climate, front wheel drive with regular OEM tires is sufficient.
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Old 03-02-2017, 05:51 AM   #11
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My wife's fwd sedan with winter tires (Bridgestone Blizzaks) is far better in snow and ice than my new awd SUV with all seasons.
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Old 03-02-2017, 05:51 AM   #12
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I live in Wisconsin and don't have an AWD/4WD vehicle. If you're concerned about winter driving, I recommend a dedicated set of winter tires and wheels.
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:14 AM   #13
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#1 factor is to stay home when the roads are bad. If you're retired, that's usually easy to do, but there will be times where you'll get caught, or roads are bad for an extended time and you have to get out and deal with some bad patches.


Next most important is good tires. I tried to stretch one more season a few years out of my all season tires and got caught, and slid into a ditch. No injury but I totaled my 7 year old SUV. AWD wasn't enough to help. Snow tires would've been even better but good all season tires would probably have been enough.


The main thing to know about AWD is that it does nothing for braking. It'll help you get going and can help you keep going in a straight line but it won't help you stop, so you still have to drive cautiously and leave plenty of distance.


You said you will be near the mountains, if you think you'll be in the mountains in the snow I think AWD is worthwhile. A bit more money in return for safety seems worth it to me. I live in the mountains and will always have AWD. 2WDs too often just can't get up some of the hills when the roads are covered.
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:18 AM   #14
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For Tennessee, I'd skip the snow tires. They have other drawbacks including fast wear and poorer stopping on wet roads. There is also the hassle of buying extra rims and swapping the wheels every year. AWD will cost you about 1 MPG, but it can be very handy, even on wet roads when you need sudden acceleration to pull into traffic for example.
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Old 03-02-2017, 06:26 AM   #15
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I live in an area that get a lot of snow and roads for most part of the winter vary from ice to snow pack and everything in between. I have good all season tires on every vehicle I ever owned. A 4x4 is a must here for me but not a necessity. Yesterday for an example we had snow packed very slick hwy. so I needed 4x4 to travel the safest way I could. I'm also in the high country a lot and would never be without 4x4 vehicle. AWD I never had one here it would be an over kill because you don't need it during most of the year.
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Old 03-02-2017, 07:10 AM   #16
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I've lived in snowy, mountainous areas and I have to say that all-season tires on a normal transmission are just fine 99% of the time. It's that unusual situation where you have to drive in it no matter what that makes me keep buying the AWD transmission. There have been several occasions where I have been incredibly glad I had it.
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Old 03-02-2017, 07:10 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by naggz View Post
Instead of AWD, you're much better off spending the money on set of good winter tires / rims (put them on their own rims for easy swapping twice a year)

AWD just helps you get moving, as all vehicles have 4 wheel breaking, but it doesn't matter if your tires don't grip.
Most AWD systems put very little actual power to the rear wheels.

If you're moving somewhere fairly remote without regular snow clearing, then ground clearance is going to become a factor as well.
The ruts that get built into hard packed snow / ice can make it a tough go with a small car.

My vote for importance is: snow tires, ground clearance, 4x4, and lastly, AWD.

Also remember, snow tires grip better in the cold, but they are not magic. All tires slide pretty nicely on a fresh wet sheet of ice, even studded.

One last note:
-There are some advantages to getting narrow winter tires. The argument is they "plow" less, and dig into the snow / slush better (and smaller tires are cheaper!).

-I'm from Canada

Edit to add - Winter tires are designed to perform better at all temps below 7 deg. C (45 F), even on wet asphalt without snow / ice.

https://www.thestar.com/autos/2014/1...ter_tires.html
Yep.
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Old 03-02-2017, 07:16 AM   #18
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There's no way we can draw the line for you, depends on your vehicle and how flexible your schedule is when confronted with snow or ice.

How you drive on snow/ice is as much a factor as how your car is equipped, so you and especially your fellow drivers are just as much a factor in your safety. In general, you have to anticipate more - you drive slower (especially around curves), maintain greater distances between cars, brake much sooner, accelerate more slowly and keep windows clear for visibility on snow/ice. It's not rocket surgery, though there are still overconfident drivers who should know better even up north. Further south, they just have less experience.

As you know:
  • Front wheel drive is better than rear wheel,
  • all wheel drive is better than front wheel drive, though not all AWD/4WD systems are equal, and
  • snow tires are significantly better than other tires.
Fortunately it doesn't snow in TN as often as northern states. And from first hand experience, I can tell you more TN drivers are more likely to stay home when there is snow or ice (and there won't be any milk, bread or water in grocery stores ) than northern counterparts.

Unfortunately TN road crews may not be as experienced at clearing snow/ice and treating roads and they won't have as much equipment/experience as northern states - so it will take longer to clear. And most TN drivers will be less experienced driving on snow/ice and fewer of their cars will be well equipped for snow so they'll present more of a hazard to other drivers than most northern drivers.

You won't be confronted with snow as often in TN, but when it does, the roads will be less safe than a city further north. Not a criticism of southern states at all, just geographic reality.
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Old 03-02-2017, 07:30 AM   #19
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There's no way we can draw the line for you, depends on your vehicle and how flexible your schedule is when confronted with snow or ice.

How you drive on snow/ice is as much a factor as how your car is equipped, so you and especially your fellow drivers are just as much a factor in your safety. In general, you have to anticipate more - you drive slower (especially around curves), maintain greater distances between cars, brake much sooner, accelerate more slowly and keep windows clear for visibility on snow/ice. It's not rocket surgery, though there are still overconfident drivers who should know better even up north. Further south, they just have less experience.

As you know:
  • Front wheel drive is better than rear wheel,
  • all wheel drive is better than front wheel drive, though not all AWD/4WD systems are equal, and
  • snow tires are significantly better than other tires.
Fortunately it doesn't snow in TN as often as northern states. And from first hand experience, I can tell you more TN drivers are more likely to stay home when there is snow or ice (and there won't be any milk, bread or water in grocery stores ) than northern counterparts.

Unfortunately TN road crews may not be as experienced at clearing snow/ice and treating roads and they won't have as much equipment/experience as northern states - so it will take longer to clear. And most TN drivers will be less experienced driving on snow/ice and fewer of their cars will be well equipped for snow so they'll present more of a hazard to other drivers than most northern drivers.

You won't be confronted with snow as often in TN, but when it does, the roads will be less safe than a city further north. Not a criticism of southern states at all, just geographic reality.
Excellent!
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Old 03-02-2017, 07:42 AM   #20
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Yep.
I could go throgh that with my lifted forester and studded tires easily.

OP: Yes, get a subaru, lift it and put blizzaks or something similar on it

Ground clearance matters a lot too
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