Help me find the best mid-size SUV for snow (Salt Lake City)
September 19, 2016 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a mid-size SUV that handles snow well.

I'm looking for a mid-size SUV versus a large suv to keep to fuel cost down. Estimated daily drive around 50 miles per day. (I'm ok with even a larger SUV if it's as fuel efficient as a mid-size one)

Needs to handle snow well. This will be in Salt Lake City, not Alaska :-)

It would be nice to have the ability to add a hitch to tow a small utility trailer.

I prefer a 2-3 year old one versus a brand new one. Price point is around $15K - $18K (but there is wiggle room)

When I looked at reviews Suburu Foresters and Honda CRVs seems to be leading.

Please give your suggetions on brand/model/trim level.
Thank in advance.
posted by WizKid to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ohh.. I need to add another thing sine this seems to be popular among new cars.
The must not depend on subscriptions. That means The features should not get disabled if I don't pay a monthly subscription.

System should not disable to car if I install an aftermarket / off-brand battery, or tires, blah, blah ...

I understand that satellite radio, helpline (OnStar) will not work without subscriptions and I'm ok with that. I'm mostly referring to manufacturers holding the car hostage and disabling features that do not depend on an outside connectivity.
posted by WizKid at 6:53 AM on September 19, 2016

For starting in snow you basically want a decent AWD system and some ground clearance. For stopping in snow you need to drive safely, basically, more than having the right vehicle. The only other thing that helps is snow tires.

Here in Maine the Forester is extremely popular and people seem to be pleased with them. Their AWD system has traditionally favored symmetry over efficiency which is good for traction although possibly not quite as good for gas mileage. They've made some improvements, though, recently. If it's not too expensive used that's what I would go with. The only negative is that a lot of the in-car tech on the Subarus like infotainment etc seems a bit dated still.

Really though these vehicles have converged in design to the extent where it's actually a bit annoying. I've been driving in the snow in Maine for 15 years and like I said it's more about not being an idiot and less about having the perfect vehicle.
posted by selfnoise at 6:58 AM on September 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a Subaru person and live in a place with both snow and extreme terrain. They really do handle very well in inclement weather and drive much more like a car than an SUV. I've had two Foresters and now have an Outback. There's no subscription services that come standard in them that I'm aware of.

Selfnoise is right though that AWD helps you go but it does not help you stop. That's up to your driving skill and snow tires no matter what car you get. I slid backwards down a hill in my Forester a couple years ago due to the road having turned into an invisible sheet of ice. No amount of AWD could have stopped that.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:02 AM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in Salt Lake City and there is a reason Toyota's and Subaru's are basically the state car. From the mountains to the desert they'll get you where you need to go. My wife drives and Outback and I drive a Tundra. Keep in mind that because these vehicles are in such high demand, used ones often sell for above market in Utah. You might be better off shopping for one out of state. My last truck was a Tacoma. I bought it for $10k, drove it for 10 years, and sold it for $6k without even placing an ad.
posted by trbrts at 7:59 AM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

@trbrts: So in SLC getting a 2-3 years old car for the KBB good value will be difficult, right? Are we talking about very good value or close to excellence in terms of pricing?

For example what do you think about something like this?
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium with 5700 miles for $17,500
posted by WizKid at 8:33 AM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chevy Equinox, 4cyl with AWD meets all your criteria exactly, including towing and price-point.

Seconding that getting going makes AWD useful, but stopping is all about the driver, not the vehicle, and frankly, starting is about the driver, too. Living in MN, I can often get going better with just a FWD car in the snow that than people around me in their SUVs. (I have tons of dashcam footage to prove it, too.)
posted by TinWhistle at 8:41 AM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

And that article you posted is click-bait. For example, of course your in-car WiFi will stop if you stop paying your provider once the trial runs out. Same for things like XM radio, etc. If you want those types of features, of course you have to keep paying for them, but they are all non-essential to owning and operating a vehicle. No vehicle will stop operating because you don't want to pay for a monthly subscription.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:44 AM on September 19, 2016

Friggin' love my Forester.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2016

Some nav systems require paid updates for maps after a few years too.

But there's no subscription service that would be essential for running your car.

Likewise other than exotics, no car is going to refuse to run if you use non-OEM aftermarket brakes or batteries.
posted by spitbull at 10:30 AM on September 19, 2016

In May I bought a brand new 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. It is a basic SUV with 4WD. I looked at many other small SUVs both new and used. I typically do not by new vehicles but I could not beat the deal. Here are my observations:

5yr/60,00 bumper to bumper & 10/yr 100,000 Powertrain (The dealership also threw in a 3rd party lifetime powertrain warranty that kicks in after the MFGR warranty expires but given the stipulations I doubt I'd ever be able to collect on it)

Under $20,000

80 month 0%

It is a nice looking vehicle with nice wheels all of the other cheap SUVS had ugly steel wheels.

No nav and no backup camera but a decent stereo system with bluetooth & USB connectivity

Cloth seats (not my first choice) I thought they were a little uncomfortable at first but after a few weeks I find them to be very comfortable.

Not sure what winter driving will be like but any time I've engaged the 4wd its gotten me where I need to go in light 4x4 conditions (definitely not an off road vehicle)

I am getting about 25 mpg with mostly highway driving (daily 90 mile round trip commute).

For me all that is missing is a backup camera and leather. It's been a good commuter car so far. I went from a Jeep Liberty to this and am pretty happy with the fuel savings. It's an inexpensive but not a cheap vehicle. I feel like they cut corners in just the right places to get the price down. The financing special was what really sealed the deal for me. Most special financing takes away all of the other incentives this special financing did not.
posted by jmsta at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2016

The RAV4 4WD is pretty decent as long as you get a 2009 or newer so that you can disable traction control easily when it is preventing you from starting to move, as they sometimes do. My SO had an '08 which was fantastic in the snow aside from that one issue. (It did not have a TC button, so it was a mild pain in the ass on rare occasion to get it moving from a stop in unpacked deep snow, but it wasn't a problem with TC off) Well, that and the relatively low ground clearance making it impossible to clear 24" high plow berms, but that is an issue with anything short of a Jeep. It also has downhill assist, which is very very handy on steep grades in icy conditions, which I've seen a lot more of than plain snow.

Unlike the CR-V it has a locking center diff, so it can be forced to drive the rear wheels when necessary. That is incredibly helpful in snow/mud situations. I highly recommend them. They are great cars.

That said, if you aren't going to be out and about before the plows/other traffic has packed things down a bit, 4WD doesn't do all that much for you really. Even if you are, a FWD Accord can handle 6-8" of snow just fine, and will be excellent with a couple of snow tires on the front. Really, any FWD or 4WD will be fine in the snow with snow tires, as long as it isn't so deep that you are plowing with your front end.
posted by wierdo at 1:48 PM on September 19, 2016

I did this last year. Subaru outback and forester. Rav4. Hyundai Sana Fe. CRV ( horrible blind spots in the new model). Toyota Matrix. Dodge Caliber (do not buy acccording to several sources). Chevy Equinox. There's a few more but that's the majority of the resale market.
posted by fshgrl at 7:07 PM on September 19, 2016

The price for a 2014 Forester with that low of mileage seemed too good to be true. And, it is, the Title is rebuilt. It is not a "clean" title vehicle so who knows what it has been through.

For comparison, I recently bought a 2012 Outback base trim with 60K miles for $15,500 and I think that was fair. Subarus and SUVs do retain their value in UT and CO.

lastly, as mentioned numerous times above = snow tires. If you truly end up driving in the snow a lot ( more than just around the metro area) but frequent trips into the mountains, you'll want snow tires. You might want them Anya's for the safety and piece of mind.
posted by fieldtrip at 10:43 PM on September 19, 2016

@wizkid - it says that it's got a branded title on that listing, so, it's been in a collision or a flood or something. I would be extremely hesitant to buy a car with a rebuilt title. Obviously, that's why it's pretty cheap. I'd have a reputable mechanic look over the car extensively and I'm sure my mechanic would talk me out of buying it.
posted by trbrts at 6:28 AM on September 20, 2016

Ahh... branded title. I just noticed it. I'm always used to the words salvage or rebuilt, I didn't realize they came up with another name :-)
posted by WizKid at 7:25 AM on September 20, 2016

If you get an AWD car, get a stick shift. Stopping with AWD works as good as starting... if you use engine braking. Automatics kill a good portion of the functionality, even if you drive around with it set to "low" or "2", just due to lack of control and resistance.

I can't say enough good things about foresters(besides the meh to ok gas mileage), but a lot of people jump straight to "awd" and don't think that one through.
posted by emptythought at 12:11 PM on September 20, 2016

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