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Published January 11, 2024

Safely navigating winter: The best used cars for snow & rain

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Toyota Tacoma

As the seasons change and snow, ice, and rain begin to fall, there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got a dependable vehicle to get you where you need to go.

In this comprehensive guide, we’re going on a journey to uncover the best used cars for winter. Our lists have been meticulously curated to provide you with in-depth insights about the best winter vehicles to ensure your safety and satisfaction.

Whether you’re in pursuit of the ultimate SUV, the ideal weather-taming truck, or a sedan that’s surprisingly adept in any element, EchoPark has your back with the best winter cars on the market.

We’ll also be taking a close look at the differences between AWD and 4WD, must-have safety features for inclement weather driving, and we’ll also touch on the importance of ground clearance and tire compatibility.

As we make our way through a winter wonderland of worthy vehicles, you’ll cultivate the know-how you need to make an informed choice when buying your next vehicle.

Driving during the winter months doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor. With the right set of wheels, you can stick to the icy roads with confidence. Read on to find out more!

AWD vs 4WD: which is best for snow and ice?

When it comes to conquering winter roads, the choice between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) will have a significant impact on your driving experience. Understanding the differences between these powertrains is crucial if you want to purchase a vehicle that excels in winter road conditions.

The ins and outs of AWD

• Constant vigilance – AWD systems engage all four wheels simultaneously, which provides continuous power to each wheel to enhance traction and reduce slippage.

• On-the-Fly adaptability – AWD adjusts power distribution between front and rear wheels automatically, offering seamless transitions based on the current condition of the road.

• Ideal for slippery surfaces – AWD was designed for snowy, icy and wet conditions as it provides enhanced stability during acceleration and maintains traction while turning or decelerating.

4WD explained

• Selectable power: Unlike AWD, four-wheel drive systems typically allow drivers to manually engage or disengage the system. This is especially advantageous when tackling more rugged terrains.

• Dedicated off-road prowess: 4WD shines in extreme, off-road conditions, making it a preferred choice for those who crave adventures beyond the street.

• Enhanced torque: In 4WD, torque is pretty evenly distributed between the front and rear axles, amplifying grip and traction on slippery surfaces.

So which reigns supreme?

Most car and truck experts will tell you that AWD is generally the go-to for most winter driving scenarios. Its constant engagement ensures a consistent level of traction, especially when accelerating on slick surfaces.

And while 4WD is the preferred choice for off-road environments, its manual engagement feature may not be as seamless for everyday winter commuting. Still, 4WD is an excellent choice for those anticipating both snow-covered roads and off-roading adventures.

In the end, the choice between AWD and 4WD depends on your specific winter driving requirements. For most urban and suburban winter commuting, AWD’s ease of operation may be your best option. However, if your winter adventures involve off-road escapades, the selectable power of 4WD might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Regardless of your choice, both powertrains offer a winter-ready solution, ensuring you can confidently navigate the snowy, icy, and wet landscapes with ease.

Beyond powertrains: Overall safety

As winter weather transforms the landscape into a picturesque wonderland, it also introduces a set of challenges that demand more safety on the road. Beyond the critical considerations of AWD and 4WD powertrains, certain safety features are vital in ensuring a safer winter driving experience.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

ESC acts as a digitized guardian—one that constantly monitors the stability of your vehicle. If a loss of traction is detected during slippery conditions, ESC will trigger and intervene by selectively applying brakes to specific wheels to help the driver maintain control.

Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

ABS prevents wheel lock-up during hard braking events, allowing you to maintain steering control. This feature is invaluable when navigating icy or snow-covered roads, as it helps vehicles come to a stop with less skidding.

Traction Control System (TCS)

TCS prevents wheel spin during acceleration by modulating engine power or applying brakes to individual wheels. This feature is helpful when starting from a standstill on icy surfaces, as it provides enhanced vehicle stability.

Heated mirrors and windshield wipers

Snow and ice buildup can obscure mirrors and blindspots which can pose a serious danger while driving. Heated mirrors and windshield wipers contribute to improved visibility. By preventing frost or ice build-up, these features provide drivers with a clear line of sight, reducing the risk of collisions due to obscured vision.

Winter tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS)

Bitterly cold temperatures can cause drastic tire pressure fluctuations. A TPMS will alert you when tire pressure is too low, helping you maintain optimal traction and stability.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

ADAS features like lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking add an extra layer of protection. These systems can mitigate the severity of collisions and provide added peace of mind by enhancing the overall safety of your vehicle.

Crash test ratings

Before committing to a winter-ready vehicle, check its crash test ratings. Independent assessments provide critical insights into a vehicle’s structural integrity and safety performance.

Investing in a car equipped with these comprehensive safety features ensures that you’re not just prepared for winter—you’re equipped to embrace it with confidence. As the snow falls and the roads become ever more treacherous, these technological features will provide added safety and peace of mind on your winter journeys.

Ground clearance: Rising above the snow

This often-overlooked feature—ground clearance—represents the distance between the lowest point of a vehicle’s chassis and the ground or road surface. The significance of ground clearance becomes more pronounced as winter blankets the roads with water, snow and ice. Vehicles with a lower ground clearance will have a more difficult time navigating the conditions.

When winter unleashes its icy embrace, a vehicle with ample ground clearance can rise above the challenge of navigating snow-clad streets. Higher ground clearance prevents the undercarriage from becoming ensnared in the snow.

Beyond mere practicality, elevated ground clearance also serves as a healthy preventative measure, curbing the accumulation of snow in the vehicle’s underbelly. This not only maintains better balance but also averts the additional weight of packed snow, contributing to more stability and safety in winter driving.

The unpredictable nature of winter demands that vehicles can handle uneven surfaces, potholes, standing water and concealed ice. Here, increased ground clearance again shines, facilitating a smooth ride over bumps and obstacles. Furthermore, it safeguards critical components like the exhaust system, transmission, and suspension from potential damage caused by contact with snowbanks, large ice chunks, or hidden debris beneath the snow.

For those daring to venture off beaten paths into snow-covered trails, optimal ground clearance is not preferential–it’s a necessity. Higher ground clearance allows for greater mobility, reducing the risk of getting stuck in deep snow or navigating uneven terrain.

As winter descends, ground clearance emerges as the unsung hero of your vehicle, ensuring that you can gracefully navigate the challenges the winter season brings. If you’re thinking about the best car for winter, seriously consider the ground clearance of your options.

Rain and snow tire compatibility

Selecting the right tires for the season is yet another crucial aspect of ensuring safety and control on slippery surfaces.

Rain and snow tire compatibility largely hinges on the composition of the tire and the tread design. Winter tires, engineered specifically for colder, snowier conditions, feature a softer rubber compound that retains flexibility in frigid temperatures. This flexibility translates into enhanced traction on wet or snow-covered roads, offering a grip that all-season tires may struggle to provide.

The treat pattern is equally important when navigating winter’s many challenges. Winter tires boast deeper groves and sipes (the tiny slits in the tread), which bite into snow and disperse water more efficiently. This design prevents slush buildup and reduces the risk of hydroplaning on rainy roads.

Investing in the right tires is akin to outfitting your vehicle with the proper footwear for the season. These specialized tires can improve braking performance, steering responsiveness, and overall stability in adverse weather conditions.

So as winter whispers its arrival, equip your vehicle with the proper tires. Your car (and passengers) will thank you for it.

Our top picks for winter driving

Here are EchoPark’s top picks for vehicles that can handle winter driving conditions. A carefully curated selection of vehicles, these automobiles are designed to handle snow-covered roads with confidence.

From all-wheel-drive capabilities to advanced safety features and beyond, our choices ensure a secure, joyful journey through all of winter’s challenges. Explore our winter-ready inventory for a driving experience that’s safe and enjoyable.

The best SUVs for wintry adventures

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V
Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V proves its prowess as an excellent SUV for winter driving with a combination of key features. Models with AWD provide optimal traction and stability, and the CRV’s elevated ground clearance allows drivers to navigate snow-covered roads and uneven terrains with ease.

With advanced safety features like the Honda Sensing suite (which includes collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control), the CR-V adds an extra layer of security while on the road. This SUV effortlessly combines reliability, versatility, and safety, making it a sensible choice for those in search of a dependable, winter-ready vehicle.

Hyundai Kona

Hyundai Kona
Hyundai Kona

The Hyundai Kona stands out as a stellar choice for winter driving, boasting features that ensure a secure and enjoyable driving experience. Equipped with available AWD, the Kona excels in maintaining traction in the snow and ice.

Its compact size and nimble handling make navigating through snow-covered stress a breeze. The Kona’s impressive ground clearance enhances its capabilities on uneven terrains, while features like heated seats and steering wheel contribute to a comfortable winter ride.

With a perfect fusion of style and substance, the Hyundai Kona is a versatile, winter-ready SUV. It’s an appealing option for those seeking a blend of practicality and performance in cold conditions.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

An iconic SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is an exceptional choice of vehicles that can conquer winter landscapes. With its legendary 4x4 capability, this vehicle excels in navigating through snow, ice, and treacherous terrain.

The Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system, available in certain trims, enhances traction, ensuring stability on slick surfaces. The Grand Cherokee’s ground clearance and robust suspension also contribute to its off-road capabilities—this is perhaps the best SUV for snow.

And with advanced safety features and a rugged design, the Jeep Grand Cherokee stands as a reliable SUV, perfectly fusing off-roading capabilities with comfort for those who seek adventure in a stylish ride.

Kia Telluride

Kia Telluride
Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride is a mid-size SUV that handles snow and ice with impressive agility. With an available AWD system, the Telluride ensures optimal traction in even the worst road conditions.

Its spacious and well-insulated interior, equipped with handy safety features, enhances the overall winter driving experience. The Telluride’s generous ground clearance and durable build contribute to its ability to navigate through snow and icy terrain.

With an idyllic blend of safety, versatility, and sportiness, the Kia Telluride emerges as one of the best SUVs to drive during the winter. It offers a reliable, enjoyable driving experience all year round, but provides added comfort and support during the colder months.

Best trucks for snow and ice conditions

Chevrolet Colorado

Chevrolet Colorado
Chevrolet Colorado

The Chevrolet Colorado stands tall as one of the best trucks for winter driving, offering a robust combination of performance and agility. Its available 4WD system ensures enhanced traction on icy and snow-covered roads, providing much-needed stability in inclement conditions.

The Colorado’s sturdy build, combined with features like traction control and electronic stability control, instills confidence in navigating challenging winter terrain.

With a versatile bed for winter gear and a rugged design, the Chevy Colorado emerges as a reliable, winter-capable truck that perfectly balances power, functionality, and safety. For those seeking a safe, dependable ride this snowy season, the Chevy Colorado may be just what you’re looking for.

Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma
Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma has earned a reputation as an outstanding vehicle for winter driving, delivering a formidable blend of durability and reliability. With available 4WD options, the Tacoma excels in traversing snowy, icy roads and challenging terrains while providing optimal traction.

Its durable build, combined with features like a multi-terrain select system and crawl control, ensures stability on slick roads. The Tacoma’s elevated ground clearance and off-road prowess make it adept at navigating winter wonderlands.

With a bold yet refined design, the Toyota Tacoma is perhaps one of the best vehicles for snow on our list, offering a dependable and enjoyable driving experience for those seeking adventure and confidence in their winter journeys.

Dodge Ram 1500

The Dodge Ram 1500 emerges as a worthy contender for winter driving, showcasing immense power and versatility. With available 4WD, the Ram 1500 conquers snowy roads with ease, delivering precise handling and exceptional traction.

Its sturdy chassis and advanced suspension contribute to a smooth ride as you navigate winter landscapes with confidence. The Ram 1500’s innovative features, such as the available snow mode and traction control system, further enhance its winter performance capabilities.

With a spacious interior and several safety features, the Dodge Ram 1500 is a capable, reliable winter truck—one that perfectly balances ruggedness and comfort.

Best sedans for snow

BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series offers an ideal blend of performance and comfort that is great for winter driving. Its renowned xDrive AWD system ensures superior traction on snow-covered roads, providing confidence and stability.

The 3 Series boasts advanced safety features, including electronic stability control and anti-lock braking. With a well-crafted suspension and precise steering, it navigates snowy terrains and difficult weather conditions with impressive agility.

Luxurious interior amenities and BMW’s commitment to quality make the 3 Series a compelling choice for those seeking a winter-ready vehicle that seamlessly combines performance and elegance.

Nissan Altima

Nissan Altima
Nissan Altima

For a sedan, the Nissan Altima emerges as a dependable choice for winter driving. Especially with the AWD powertrain, the Altima excels in maintaining traction on slippery surfaces. Most models also come with a wide range of advanced safety technologies, including automatic emergency braking and intelligent forward collision warning.

The Altima’s well-tuned suspension and responsive handling contribute to a confident ride through snow and ice. Combining fuel efficiency with a comfortable interior, the Nissan Altima is a reliable option for those seeking a winter-ready sedan that delivers both performance and efficiency in colder climates.

Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry
Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry, widely loved for its reliability, also proves to be a capable, winter-ready companion. Equipped with available AWD, the Camry offers enhanced stability on slick, icy roads, providing drivers with more control and agility when driving during the winter months.

Its impressive suite of safety features, including pre-collision systems and adaptive cruise control, adds an extra layer of protection in challenging conditions. The Camry’s well-designed chassis and responsive handling contribute to a smooth and controlled ride through winter landscapes.

With a focus on efficiency and a thoughtfully designed interior, the Toyota Camry stands out as a practical, dependable sedan for buyers in need of winter-ready performance and robust safety features.

The joy of winter car buying

As we wrap up our exploration of winter-ready vehicles, EchoPark invites you to elevate your driving experience with our impressive range of vehicles. From the rugged reliability of the Jeep Grand Cherokee to the adventurous spirit of the Toyota Tacoma–our top picks will help you find a vehicle that can handle everything winter throws at it.

Make your winter journey truly memorable with a vehicle that’s adequately equipped to handle the season’s challenges. Whether it’s all-wheel-drive capability, 4WD capability, or advanced safety features, EchoPark’s winter-ready inventory caters to diverse preferences. Our inventory of vehicles combines quality, affordability, and performance to present you with options that seamlessly blend practicality and excitement.

Ready to experience these winter warriors firsthand? Contact EchoPark today to schedule a test drive. Our knowledgeable team is here to guide you through our extensive inventory, ensuring you find the perfect vehicle tailored to your winter driving needs.

Explore our website or visit one of our many locations to discover the joy of winter driving with EchoPark. Let’s transform your winter commute into a safe and thrilling adventure!

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