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Unlike in big cities, a good powerful 4x4 truck or a full size SUV is useful for many folks around here for hauling and towing. They come with a cost though; they are expensive to buy, use more gas and have a higher maintenance cost. If you use it for work they pay for themselves, but what if you don't tow or haul? What if you just need a safe ride in the winter? Rather than having two vehicles – one for winter and one for summer, you can replace them with one. You have a few options available…
Compact -Crossover SUV
Compact - Crossover  SUV
These vehicles have some features of a car and some features of an SUV. They are small in size compared to a full size SUV, they have a small engine like a car and mainly drive on front wheel, only by engaging the 4x4 mode do the rear wheels kick in. (Full size trucks and SUVs are the opposite, they run on the rear wheels and engage the front when in four wheel drive mode). They get good gas mileage with some getting over 30mpg. This means you can drive it year around, get the gas mileage of a car and have a safe 4 wheel drive vehicle for the winter. They also tend to have a low maintenance cost.

In general, a front wheel drive vehicle has better traction because the drive wheels are right under the heavy engine. Since the weight is right over the drive wheels, they usually to drive straight ahead if they lose traction. In icy or wet conditions, that has greater directional stability, and less chance to fishtail. (For that reason FWD cars can drive better in the winter than two wheel drive trucks or SUVs.)

Even though today's compact SUV category has around 50 vehicles; there are only a half a dozen market leaders.
Most people in the area consider winter conditions before they buy a vehicle. It is almost a requirement to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle if you live in the country. I am sure most of you already have at least one 4x4 vehicle in the family. I always have small SUVs in the lot and last month I bought a few newer models. Newer models have very impressive features available, which make them even better to own. They are usually more expensive than a car of a similar year, but I think in Minnesota winters you won't regret that extra amount.

Compact SUVs come in various designs. All crossover- compact SUVs have a decent towing capacity ranging from 1500lbs to 6000lbs. The Jeep Liberty has one of the highest tow ratings in the category. This means you can still tow a boat, camper or trailer with a small SUV. I remember a few years ago I bought a boat from Kentucky and towed it all the way to Gulf of Mexico and then towed it back to Minnesota during a winter storm with a 1999 Honda CRV. It is very interesting the weather differences across the country. I went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and then came home to a winter storm and counted 207 vehicles in the ditch along the way. But that compact SUV handled the conditions great, even while towing a good sized boat behind it.

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This video I posted in our website a while ago shows how well a Jeep Liberty handles the deep snow conditions. Most other compact SUVs are able to handle deep snow conditions in similar fashion, in that regard they are not very different from a full sized SUV.
Some other advantages of these crossover vehicles are the easy maintenance because the small engines are not tightly packed in the engine bay, they are able to jumpstart with a car if needed, and can even be pulled out with a small vehicle or by hand if it were to get stuck in the snow.

Crossover SUVs are a very good category to consider for your next vehicle.
All wheel drive cars
While most cars are only front wheel drive, there are some cars which are all wheel drive.

The main advantage of AWD is that they have excellent traction both on dry pavement and in poor weather winter conditions. You are less likely to get stuck in the snow with an AWD car. All of the AWD vehicles do an impressive job of balancing handling/driving dynamics with “go anywhere, anytime” bad weather capability.

There are even some vehicles like some of the Subaru models which come with a simple fuse that you can plug in just seconds and then the car will drive in 2 wheel drive mode. Even though Subaru is the most popular name for all wheel drive cars, there are actually about 60 all wheel drive cars available today. There is something for every budget and every taste. Most models are only a little more expensive than their front wheel drive counterparts. I put a list of AWD cars below and tried to put them in order of the prices from low to high (if you are considering the same year and mileage). Please remember that some of the following cars have AWD only certain year ranges and some submodels only.
  • Subaru Impreza
  • Pontiac Vibe
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Subaru Outback
  • Ford Fusion
  • Mercury Milan
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
  • Mercury Sable
  • Ford Taurus
  • Dodge Charger
  • Audi
  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Audi A4
  • Chrysler
  • Volvo S40
  • Volvo S60
  • Lexus IS 250
  • Volvo V50
  • BMW 328
  • Infiniti G37x
  • Lincoln MKZ
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Saab 9-3
  • Volvo XC70
  • Audi TT
  • Acura TL
  • Chrysler 300C
  • Cadillac CTS
  • Volkswagen CC
  • Audi A5
  • Volvo S80
  • BMW 335
  • Acura RL
  • Lexus GS 350
  • Infiniti M35x
  • BMW 528
  • Cadillac STS
  • Audi A6
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • BMW 535
  • Infiniti M45x
  • Lexus LS 460
  • Audi A8
  • Audi S6
  • Nissan GT-R  
There are also some very high end cars which also come in AWD.

I actually have two all wheel drive cars in the lot currently - a 2010 Dodge Charger and a 2007 Lincoln MKZ, feel free to stop in and take one out for a drive and see the difference for yourself. I have sold some BMW all wheel drive cars and the buyers all liked the drive.

The main downsides of the AWD car are the weight and cost. AWD cars can weigh several hundred pounds more than an identical RWD or FWD car. The weight difference affects the car's acceleration — at least, when compared with an otherwise identical RWD or FWD version of the same car. And the added weight means the car will use more fuel — especially if the engine's power has been increased to compensate for the added weight. Another thing to consider is that the initial price is higher and since they have more parts, the maintenance cost is slightly higher than a 2wd car. But when you consider a full sized SUV or truck, they are a better option over those.

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Here is video showing how front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and all wheel drive cars handle on the road. Even though it is an interesting video, they use different makes and models to compare. Keep in mind that with the latest computer controlled models of cars, the handling of those newer models are much better than shown in the video, just thought the visual comparison might help some people in their decision process.

Even though AWD cars are good for winter driving, they are not the best. They can’t replace the 4x4 crossovers, SUVs or trucks. There are a few reasons; the main fact being that their ground clearance is lower. If the snow is deep, you can’t push through it since the front bumper is plastic. Other reasons are that they do not have the power for a higher towing capacity and do not have the larger cargo room.

“My hope is that by giving you this information, you are able to make a better informed decision about which vehicle will be the best for your next auto purchase. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to get personalized advice about which vehicle would best fit your needs. I am always willing to help you find the best vehicle; even if we do not currently have it on the lot I have resources to help you find that perfect vehicle for you. Also, I believe that your input is the most valuable to shape the future of CarMart Net and have created a form below so you can send me your feedback.  Feel free to use the form to submit topics you would like me to consider for future articles."
Thank You,
Megan Bladow
CEO - CarMart Net LLC
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