13 of the Best Cars and SUVs for Snow
Whether you would like to carve through two feet of snow, go off-road, scale a mountain or drive safely on snowy city streets, there is a car for you. We researched and found the best cars to withstand the winter.
Keep in mind, no matter how safe the car is, you as a driver still have to drive safely according to the conditions. A bad driver could get a Russian tank stuck in the snow. These cars can handle wintry conditions better than the average vehicle, but no vehicle can stop on a dime on ice. We organized our 2018 top picks alphabetically within the categories of country, suburban and urban, but you can read more about our methodology below. Then, keep reading for tips on driving in the snow.
The 13 best SUVs & cars for snow
Drivers in rural places may need a ride with high ground clearance for roads less frequently plowed in the winters.
A large, heavy SUV built on a truck chassis with a high ground clearance, the Tahoe can go through or over most snow drifts. The base trim seats seven — the LS trim can seat up to nine — and is a favorite of state troopers. It’s rated 4 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts.
Larger than the Tahoe, the Expedition could ferry up to eight people plus everything but the kitchen sink through a snowstorm. It’s rated 4.5 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.8 out of 5 by KBB experts.
The first Jeep, known as the Willys, was built to handle the conditions of war in Europe. The modern Jeep Wrangler is pretty good at handling snow, whether you’re on a city street or off-road in the mountains. It’s rated 3.3 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds and 4.6 out of 5 by consumers on KBB (as of press time, there was no KBB expert review available.)
An executive suite on wheels that can ford small rivers, the Land Rover Discovery is perfectly at home in wintry elements. But you’ll pay for it — the Discovery starts right around $52,000, almost double the starting price of the Wrangler. Edmunds users rate it 3 out 5; KBB experts rate it 3.6 out of 5.
Subaru vehicles are famous for being able to handle all sorts of wet conditions. The Outback’s performance in the snow does not let that reputation down. The wagon is rated 4.1 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.3 out of five by KBB experts.
Neighborhood drivers need a more nimble vehicle than the mostly larger vehicles we listed for their country cousins but still big enough for kids and groceries.
With top safety awards and a four-cylinder engine that gets 28 mpg, the Honda CR-V is a compact SUV that could get you to the grocery store and back in a foot or so of snow. It is rated 4.4 out 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.8 out of 5 by KBB experts.
The CX-5 can plow through piles of snow and ice on a windy day and keep going straight. The small SUV rated 4.4 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.7 out of five by KBB experts.
A mid-size SUV with top safety ratings, the Atlas has an AWD option and a driving mode option for snowy settings. It’s rated 3.6 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.4 out of 5 by KBB experts.
Don’t tell your boss about your XC60, or they will definitely expect you to come in for work on snow days. The crossover has high safety ratings, plus it’s rated 4.4 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds and 4.4 out of 5 by KBB experts.
Urban dwellers might prefer easier-to-park and generally gas-friendly sedans or small SUVs, including hybrids or electric vehicles.
A beautiful luxury sedan, the Audi A4 has positive reviews from owners who have driven it in snow in states from South Carolina to Alaska. It seats five, earned top safety ratings and is rated 4.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.7 out of five by KBB experts.
The Mazda CX-3 is a subcompact SUV with an AWD option on the Touring and Grand Touring models. It’s rated 4.1 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.3 out of five by KBB experts.
While driving range will decrease in the cold weather, this electric vehicle (EV) has some chops in the snow with AWD and great torque. It’s rated 4.8 out of five by consumers on KBB (as of press time, there is no expert review available from KBB) and 4.1 out of five by consumers on Edmunds. Note that the $67,000 price tag takes into account a federal tax incentive and what you would save in fuel for a gasoline-powered car. You can check out more on how much does a Tesla cost.
This one may surprise you as it’s a lightweight EV, but it can handle snowy city streets and the Star Safety System comes standard and features active traction control (TRAC), which can work small wonders by preventing slipping. It’s rated 4.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds; 4.4 out of 5 by KBB experts.
Potential lenders include a credit union, bank or online lender. Apply to a few in order to compare offers and see which one is best for you before stepping foot onto the car lot. Dealers are often able to raise your APR and make a profit off your loan, not just your car. The best way to avoid this is to go with a preapproved auto loan in hand, so you know what APR you deserve and you can ask the dealer to beat that rate. On LendingTree, you could fill out an online form and receive up to five potential auto loan offers from lenders at once, instead of filling out five different lender applications.
Vehicles on our list had to have an all-wheel drive (AWD) or a 4X4 option. They had to be rated 4 or higher by Edmunds or KBB. They had to perform well in crash test safety ratings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All models are 2018 models as most 2019 model crash tests have either not been performed. They had to be recommended by users as good vehicles for snow. All MSRPs and features are included in the base trim for the vehicles unless otherwise stated. Pricing is accurate as of the date of publishing.
Overall, give yourself more time and more space to stop and maneuver in the snow than you would in normal, dry conditions.
The goal of stopping while driving in the snow is to A, stop, and, B, stop where you want to stop, such as at the stop sign and not in middle of the intersection or at the base of a tree.
- Well before you have to stop, take your foot off the gas to decelerate.
- Press down on the brake pedal slowly and smoothly.
- Do not slam on the brakes.
As the road is wet and slippery, you’ll probably need a longer distance to come to a full and complete stop than you would if the roads were dry. Give yourself that distance by decelerating and pressing on the brake before you normally would.
It will help you to keep traction if you press on the brake pedal slowly and smoothly instead of slamming your foot on it or pumping the brake pedal (pushing it down, letting it up and pushing it down again).
Going up a hill
It’s best if you could get some momentum before you start driving up the hill. If you can, accelerate at the base of the hill before the road inclines and keep that acceleration steady as you go up by giving it more gas accordingly. If you start to slow down as you go up the hill, give it more gas, if it is safe to do so.
If you cannot get momentum before you start up the hill, an old trick is to use both feet. And, no, we don’t mean get out and walk. Keep one foot on the brake pedal and slowly press on the gas pedal with the other foot. You should be able to feel it when the car gets traction and wants to go forward. When this happens, slowly take your foot off the brake pedal while you increasingly press the gas pedal down. Do not slam down both pedals at the same time.
If you have ever driven a manual transmission vehicle, this should come naturally to you as it’s very similar to waiting for the clutch to engage.
Do not make fast turns. If you try to make a 90 degree turn at 50 MPH, you may end up making several 360 degree loops. A wide-angle turn made slowly is a good idea in the snow.
If your vehicle starts to skid in a direction you do not want to go, your first instinct might be to jerk or point the steering wheel in the opposite direction. Instead, point the steering wheel in the direction the vehicle is going in order to align it and regain control before guiding it in the right direction.
If you get stuck in one spot, don’t keep trying to go forward in the same way. First, turn the steering wheel to point your wheels in a slightly different direction to see if you can get any traction by aiming differently. Make sure it’s safe to drive where you’re aiming. Do not aim your car at oncoming traffic or toward a ditch as you may shoot off in that direction if this works.
If it doesn’t work, you could also try backing up. Back up so your wheels aren’t in the same spots that you’ve been spinning in, choose an angle and try again. Fresh snow without any tracks on it may offer better traction than snow that has been repeatedly driven on and smoothed out.
While telling your passenger to “get out and push” may be tempting, avoid that temptation. It is not safe to push a vehicle by hand.