Safe and Affordable: The Best Cars and SUVs For Snow

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Last updated Jan 16, 2024

Winter is here, and it’s time to prepare for safe driving in the snow and ice. For those who are not in the market for a massive all-wheel drive truck, finding a car or crossover SUV that’s safe in the snow can be confusing. We’re here to simplify your Car Search with this list of the best vehicles for winter driving, at the lowest prices in 2024.

The Best Sedans For Snow (Under $30,000)

Subaru Legacy

awd sedans under $30,000

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $24,895

Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway

Ground clearance: 5.9 inches

Reliability Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: This is the go-to all-wheel drive sedan for under $30,000. The Legacy has grown from a low-volume, small sedan to the larger, more popular sedan it is today. With excellent fuel economy, decent clearance for a sedan, and Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive, all shoppers in the market for a car with AWD should consider the Legacy.

See Legacy listings with local market data.

Mazda3 Sedan

best winter cars, best cars for snow

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $29,060

Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway

Ground clearance:  5.5 inches

Reliability Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: The Mazda3 sedan offers something that’s increasingly rare: standard all-wheel drive on a sedan for under $30,000. From the 2.5 S Carbon Edition trim level and up, all-wheel drive is included, providing drivers with greatly improved traction in the snow.

Keep in mind that this is a sedan, and more capable AWD crossovers are available for a similar price point. More on that below.

See Mazda3 sedan listings with local market data.

Kia K5

best cars for winter driving

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $28,490

Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway

Ground clearance: 5.3 inches

Reliability Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: The Kia’s of today hardly resemble the Kia’s of yesterday. On top of great looks, the K5 sedan has optional all-wheel drive starting at under $30,000. According to Consumer Reports, the Kia K5 has excellent reliability ratings too. Equipped with winter tires, the K5 would be quite capable in the snow.

See k5 listings with local market data.

A Pricier But More Capable AWD Sedan: The Tesla Model 3

best EVs for winter driving

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $45,990

Range: 333 miles

Ground clearance: 5.5 inches

Reliability Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: ICE-powered cars are no competition for electric all-wheel drive. Reaction times and traction control capabilities are noticeably quicker in an AWD EV. 

Despite slim ground clearance, the considerably more expensive Tesla Model 3 is an unbeatable value. For those who can claim the $7,500 federal EV tax credit and drive enough to realize fuel savings, the Model 3 starts to look like more of a bargain. 

Configure your Model 3 at Tesla.com, or see used Tesla listings with fair price data.

The Best Crossovers and SUVs For Snow (Under $40,000)

Subaru Forester

best SUV for snow driving - Subaru Forester

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $27,095

Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway

Ground clearance: 8.7 inches

Reliability Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: The Forester is all about compromises. If you could use 75 cubic feet of cargo volume but would like the fuel savings of a smaller SUV, the Forester is the way to go. Nothing beats it for under $30,000. Plus, Subaru is broadly known for largely avoiding dealer markups, making it easier to get the Subaru you want at a fair price, despite notoriously low inventory.

Why not the Crosstrek? You simply get more for your money with the Forester. Most will appreciate more cargo volume, and more room for passengers with the Forester.

See Forester listings with local market data.

Subaru Ascent

best SUV for snow - Subaru Ascent

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $34,195

Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway

Ground clearance: 8.7 inches

Reliability Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: The Ascent is perfect for those who need a larger SUV with standard all-wheel drive. The 2024 Ascent has three rows of flexible seating for 8 passengers, something that other models on this list can’t match.

Ground clearance is excellent, meaning that you’ll have no trouble pushing through snow (with proper tires, of course). Fuel economy is less than desired, but that’s what you get with a large SUV. Perhaps the electric Hyundai IONIQ 7 and Kia EV9 will soon change that. 

Browse Ascent listings with local market data.

Mazda CX-50

Best SUV for winter driving - Mazda

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $30,300

Fuel Economy: 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway

Ground clearance: 8.3 – 8.6 inches

Reliability Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 3/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: The CX-50 features standard all-wheel drive and 8.3 to 8.6 inches of ground clearance, making this a great choice for budget-conscious buyers who don’t want a Subaru. Mazda reliability ratings are rising as the brand continues to transition towards a more premium reputation. 

There’s a CX-50 for everyone. Mazda’s lineup offers a range of well-equipped trims, from the base 2.5 S Select for just $30,300 to the premium-natured 2.5 Turbo Premium starting at $41,300.

Browse CX-50 listings with local market data.

Honda CR-V

Honda CRV winter driving

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $31,000

Fuel Economy:  27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway

Ground clearance: 8.2 inches

Reliability Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: It’s #2 in America in terms of SUV sales, but the CR-V is a clear winner for SUVs under $40,000. With all-wheel drive, the CR-V LX starts at a base price of $31,000.

The CR-V AWD is ideal for those who value fuel efficiency, and are okay with an all-wheel drive powertrain that is only active when it’s needed.

Honda’s all-wheel drive system works differently than traditional all-wheel drive. Real Time AWD can automatically send power to the rear wheels as needed for better traction. The rest of the time, the CR-V is front-wheel drive. Real Time AWD enhances stability by redistributing torque between the front and rear wheels when turning.

The Best Hybrid SUV For Snow

Toyota Highlander Hybrid (AWD)

Best hybrid SUV for winter driving

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $43,615

Fuel Economy: 35 miles per gallon combined

Ground clearance: 8.0 inches

Reliability Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 4/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: There’s a lot to love about the Highlander Hybrid AWD: eight inches of ground clearance, 35 miles per gallon, and all-wheel drive on top of excellent reliability at a reasonable price. 

Smaller hybrid SUVs like the Hyundai Tucson or Honda CR-V are excellent for winter when equipped with AWD, but serious winter drivers know that ground clearance matters in a snowstorm. 

The only downside is limited inventory. See our latest Toyota inventory update for this month’s numbers. 

Browse Highlander Hybrid listings with local market data. 

The Best EV For Snow (Under $50,000)

Tesla Model Y

Tesla Model Y in snow

Base Price (with all-wheel drive): $48,490

Range: 330 miles (expect 10-20% less range in the winter)

Ground Clearance: 6.6 inches

Reliability Rating: 2/5 according to Consumer Reports

Satisfaction Rating: 5/5 according to Consumer Reports

Why It’s Great For Winter: Owning an electric vehicle is full of perks, but winter driving is not one of them. How so? EVs lose driving range in cold weather. It’s a matter of battery chemistry. On top of that, charging speeds can be slower in extreme cold without battery preconditioning capabilities. 

Tesla, being the EV originators that they are, took these challenges into consideration as they built their brand. The Model Y has access to the largest and most reliable EV charging network in North America, the Tesla Supercharger network. That’s a huge help when the driving range on the highway in winter weather can drop below 250 miles on a full charge. 

Better yet, Tesla models have battery preconditioning built into route planning. This means that when you navigate to a charging station, the car will automatically warm the battery to the ideal temperature for faster charging. Battery preconditioning is an essential for EV ownership in cold climates.

When it comes to all-wheel drive, electric vehicles, including but not limited to the Model Y, have a big advantage over ICE vehicles: near-instantaneous reaction times. Everything is computer-based in an EV. Torque and traction control features are adjusted to maintain control far quicker than is possible in a traditional gas-powered vehicle. So range and charging can be tough in the winter, but EV traction is superior. 

Tires Matter Most

Do I need winter tires?

Sliding on mere flurries in your all-wheel drive vehicle? Before you blame the car, check your tires. Too many drivers forget the importance of winter-ready tires before venturing out in the snow.. Unlike their summer counterparts, winter tires are specially designed with a different rubber compound that stays pliable in colder temperatures. This flexibility provides better grip on icy surfaces and shorter braking distances. The tread patterns on winter tires are also tailored to dig into snow and slush, channeling it away from the tire’s contact patch and enhancing traction.

Simply put, having winter tires is like equipping your vehicle with the right gear to conquer winter’s toughest terrain. All-wheel drive alone will NOT be enough to stay safe. Be sure you have tires that are suitable for winter before the first snowflakes fly. 

Looking for help with your next vehicle purchase? The CarEdge Team is changing car buying for the better. From DIY options that equip you with powerful market insights to the best car buying Concierge service out there, we’re bringing pre-negotiated car deals to the masses. 

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