Snow + two door car = DEATH!!!!

January 10, 2011 · 47 comments

Spending time in Seattle over the winter break, was a subtle reminder that Girl Ninja and I could be in need of a new car sooner than we anticipated. We were up north for 10 days, one of which it snowed.

We borrowed Girl Ninja’s mom’s car to visit a friend for coffee that morning.¬†Fortunately, we were driving a large 4WD SUV and had no problems navigating the snowy roads. Unfortunately, non 4WD vehicles struggled. Our destination was uphill, and at just about every stoplight, there were at least two or three sedans/coupes stalled out. No matter how hard the drivers tried, they just couldn’t negotiate the slippery roads.

Quite a few drivers simply gave up. They left their cars on the side of the road (or some even in the road), knowing that it was better to leave their cars parked, then cause an accident. Who would have thought just a few inches of snow would devastate the flow of traffic?

I drive a Toyota scion tC. It’s a two door coupe that, in my opinion, screams sexiness. The latest KBB appraisal of my car, showed it was worth about $10,000. Girl Ninja rides dirty in a Toyota Corolla S. KBB shows her cars value at about $8,000. My car has 36K miles on it, hers about 80K. Since they are Toyotas, they should both have quite a bit of life left in them.

Now that we are definitely facing a move (to either Seattle or anywhere else in the country), we have to face the fact that the time to replace one of our vehicles with something that a) can handle snowy weather, b) have enough space to hold future baby ninja’s and their baby equipment, and c) that IS NOT a minivan (I served my time driving a minivan in college, swore I was never going back) could be quickly approaching.

I was originally planning to delay purchasing an SUV until we had a kid, but we’d obviously need a 4WD vehicle if we move somewhere it snows. I’m a planner. Thus, I’ve spent the better part of the last week browsing Craigslist so I can get a better idea of what a nice, used, SUV will cost us. Initial research shows we should be able to get something that would meet our needs for between $10,000 and $15,000 (obviously depending on year, model, and miles).

Finding a car should be relatively easy. The confusing part for me is deciding which car we will sell before buying the SUV. Do we sell my car since we will get more $$$ for it and it only has two doors (obviously not as baby/stroller friendly). Or do we sell Girl Ninja’s car because it has more miles and will likely die sooner than sooner than mine?

This my friends, is where I ask for your help. If you were in our situation which car would you sell? Do you keep the one that will drive longer, or the car that has four doors? Am I the only one actively planning for our next vehicle purchase that could be 1, 3, or 10 years away?

p.s. Some of you will probably tell me to put chains on our cars. Not a fan of the chain game, so it’s not really an option :)

p.p.s. Watch the video below to see what happend when it snowed in Seattle this year. It’s quite sad and funny all at the same time (wait for the end, a community transit bus even starts sliding!)…

{ 47 comments }

1 Jake Stichler

Love how a couple of them just hold the brakes on the way down and make no effort to correct themselves, especially that white car that spun it down. Wheels stayed straight and locked. Not gonna help.

Anyway, I’d sell the Corolla – girl ninja should be driving the youngins around, not you. And, as evidenced above, 4WD isn’t going to do you a damn bit of good if all four wheels are sliding. It’s more important to know how to drive in the stuff properly in the first place. My scooter has one wheel drive and handles the snow just fine.

2 Tom

I agree. These people need to learn that there is more to a car than just gas and breaks. I drive a Mustang, so I have to watch out for the back wheels on rainy days. The key is to turn into the skid so you don’t get all horizontal.

3 Kuechenfee

Some good snow tires can do the trick too. We had a really bad winter with tons of snow over the last 2 months and I drive a small car equipped with snow tires (Fiat Panda).
I’d say, wait out until you know where you end up. If it’s someplace just snowy and not as hilly as Seattle I would delay the SUV buy.

4 StackingCash

I would keep the tC. It seems like it would be strictly your commuter car. The SUV should replace the corolla because it would make a better family vehicle.

5 Mo D.

I’d sell Girl Ninja’s Corolla, but I’d also wait until you know where you’ll be stationed; it’d make more sense to buy an SUV that is right for the type of climate you’ll be moving to… no sense on buying a 4WD if you end up in, say, Texas.

Our car (1999 Chrysler Cirrus) is on it’s last tires; we were hoping to squeeze another couple of years out of it, but 2 mechanics bills totalling shy of $2000 between Dec. 31 and Jan. 4 have us seeing the light… we don’t want to put any more money into it since we know we’ll get nothing for it. Our commutes are really small (approx. 4kms for either job, one way), but we’d like to get something a little more “sturdy”. We get some pretty rotten winters in Southern Ontario (though this winter’s been pretty tame); we’re starting to look now so we have a better idea of what we want when the time comes to ditch the Cirrus.

6 ss4bc

I’ve driven my Ford Focus in lots of snow and it handles just fine. I suspect a lot of user error in your assessment. Also, there are many 4WD options that aren’t gas guzzling SUVs and still kid roomy.

7 Carly

I deal with far more snow than Seattle and do just fine in a small hatchback about the size of the scion. The key is winter tires, not AWD or 4WD!

8 heather

totally agree on this – i live on the other side of the border (near vancouver) and have a small hatchback (astra) with good quality winter tires – we have chains in the back for skiing etc (just in case) but haven’t ever needed them. we see a lot of SUVS/small trucks fishtailing on mountain roads and they mainly are 4wd but with all seasons

9 Sam

I would wait to see where you end up, but I would sell the tC. You want both of your vehicles to have four doors when you have kids. And getting car seats and babies in and out of a car with two doors is no fun. You can’t assume that the kids will always be in the SUV. The Corolla is still good on gas mileage and size so you could still have a commuter car, because gas on SUVs is insane!

10 Larry

“I would wait to see where you end up.”

Agreed. You could be in Hawaii for all you know. Much too early to worry about this.

11 Makky's Mom

I don’t know what kind of snow you have in Seatle (wink, wink) but here in Canada where we can have snow on the ground for 4 months of the year, most people do NOT drive 4WD vehicles. In fact, I’ve had my own car since 1984 and have never had a 4WD and have never had an SUV. The key is to switch to snow tires when the weather gets colder. With snow tires you can navigate snow and ice without difficulty, even in a small car!

Your cars are just fine. I wouldn’t even think about selling and replacing until you really need to imminently (IE: you have moved to a snowy place and WANT an SUV, or you discover you are expecting triplets and need room for 3 carseats and a triple stroller in your car!)

12 JBlue

Like most have said, wait to see where you end up first. Girl Ninja isn’t even pregnant yet–is she? Make the most out of what you have and change to snow tires.

13 atishaya

I agree that it’s way too early to think about a new vehicle. Since you really can’t plan yet for where you will end up, you don’t know what condidtions you will need to account for. I imagine that you will pay cash for your next vehicle rather than pay interest on a loan, and your trade-in will help to offset the cost as well, so cost obviously isn’t as much of an issue as finding the right vehicle for your needs. Since you don’t know your needs yet, I would hold off until you know your circumstances. If you end up in NYC or any number of other cities with good public transit, you may find that you don’t even need a second vehicle.

14 canuck

I grew up in Quebec. We had tons of snow and never owned an SUV. We did have snow tires (4 of them) on the car and never had a problem. I get a good set of snows and delay the SUV purchase.

15 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

What’s a tC?

Doesn’t really matter, does it? The girl is gonna get the new toy. It’s inevitable.

16 Melissa

Your cars are fine for snow. It’s all in the tires and your own driving abilities. SUVs and/or trucks may be great for getting out of rough terrain but they’re not magic on snowy or slippery roads. SUVs also don’t do much to help you if you’re sliding down a hill. You still need to get a good running start to get up it no matter what you drive.

For whatever it’s worth I grew up in the greater Erie, PA area, home of ridiculous lake effect snow. I never owned an SUV while living / driving there and manged to never miss a day of school or work. I had a Monte Carlo in high school that was basically a tank in the snow. That thing was easy to control!

If you’re concerned about hauling kids around, a mid-size 4 door sedan or hatchback is a pretty solid choice no matter where you live.

17 Travis

+1 on the skill and tires. They make much more difference than having 4wd.

The only time you need an SUV is if you drive off road in snow or mud, or if the only roads you MUST drive on will get more than 1 foot of snow on them and not be plowed (more than a couple times a year).

Proper snow tires make a very big difference. Also they aren’t any more expensive to buy, and don’t seem to wear out sooner. I’m guessing there is a trade off in slightly lower fuel economy.

I’ve driven around 20,000 miles per year, in tons of snow living in Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Colorado for over 10 years, always in small cars – one of which was a tiny RWD sports car. Never once did I get stuck or not be able to make it somewhere when I wanted/needed to.

As I grew up my mom drove us around in a little Ford Escort for many years. Later in a RWD van. No problems getting stuck ever.

So please reconsider your mindset or at least your use of the word “need”. As others have pointed out, it seems you don’t even live in Seattle and aren’t sure where you’re going to move. I assume your Corolla has 4 doors so putting children inside will work ok.

18 Makky's Mom

I just watched the video and NEVER have I ever, in my 44 years of snowy winter living, seen such a crazy situation. IMO 2 things were causing the problems – most cars probably didn’t have snow tires, and the roads had not been salted. Anyone who has any snow driving experience knows not to drive on an icy road that hasn’t been salted! :P

19 Lysander

I grew up in Minnesota and went to Seattle for grad school and the problem with driving on the in Seattle isn’t the hills or the cars, it have everything to do with the fact that they (the government) are NOT prepared to handle any significant snowfall in terms of removing the snow and treating the driving surface. It is far cheaper to shut the city down for a day or two then it is to purchase and maintain the required equipment to handle the day or two of snowfall and/or icy conditions in the Seattle area when those conditions will only persist for at most a day or two before it warms up and everything melts.

I would add that a lack of experience driving in wintery conditions will also be a contributing factor to the problems that are common in areas that don’t get snow very often.

20 SP

I don’t know the seattle weather, but how often is it snowy on the roads? I wouldn’t get a new car for a handful of days. I’d trust the advice of others and get snow tires, or just stay home when possible. (places that rarely get snow often close schools/work when roads are a little bad).

I’m from a place where there is LOTS of snow (but also plows, salting, etc.) and people drive all sorts of cars, including little small ones like yours. But SUVs are far more prevalent than here in sunny SoCal.

Anyway, when you move somewhere, I’d wait until I lived there a little bit to think about your car decision.

21 Heidi

Ok, I totally understand thinking about what car you might need in the future. I think about what car I will want to get once we have 3 kids because there aren’t enough seats in my mustang for that many people, but I don’t even have 1 kid yet. Hence, I don’t stress about it at the moment, I just acknowledge that I can’t drive a mustang forever.

Also, I completely agree with everyone who says that it has nothing to do with the type of vehicle you have, its about driving skill and snow tires. I grew up near Chicago, another area known for lake effect snow. I have never driven anything but rear wheel drive vehicles (volvo, mercedes, ford mustang), and I have never had problems with snow. But then, I was taught how to drive on snow. Now that I’m out here on the east coast, I laughed all last winter during the blizzard because I could drive in my V8 rear wheel drive mustang and most people around here couldn’t drive in their 4WD SUVs.

Also, I agree with Kevin, let girl ninja pick out her toy and you can drive the tc for commuting.

22 lauren

Sell them both. If you are in a snowy climate, then you both need 4WD/AWD/FWD. This idea that you can have a kid car for mom and a two-seater for dad is unrealistic. There have been more times than I can count where my husband has had to leave work to get one of our kids. Each time, he hasn’t been able to come “switch” to the kid car.

And you certainly don’t need and suv with kids, but it makes it so much easier. On any given day I have 3 car seats, 3 bags, 2 strollers, and many many many other things in our car. I couldn’t imagine driving a compact.

23 Amber, Blonde and Balanced

Ninja – I also roll in a Scion tC!!!! I love that thing. And I think we both know that tC actually stands for “totally cool”. Yeah.

Anyways, I live in Kansas City where it snows a couple times each winter. The Scion does horribly in the snow. My fiance drives a toyota camry which also does horribly in the snow … Hmmm. Anyways, whenever it comes time to buy a new car, we’re definitely getting a 4-wheel drive car. I love those things!!! You can drive ANYWHERE and have no problems at all. The poor Scion just spins it’s wheels, whines, and literally spins around in circles sometimes … not too safe. ha ha.

24 Anon

Just get winter tires.

25 MyMoneyMess

No show tires + don’t know how to drive in the snow = funny video. :)

I’m going to echo what others have already said. 4WD or AWD are not really necessary to navigate in the snow. Snow tires are. Some driving skill is (take foot off the break turn into the skid, for starters). For kids, you’re better off having two 4-door vehicles. It’s just a lot easier on the back. Don’t make any decisions about what you’re going to buy until you know where you’re going to live. Actually what I’d do is sell the 2-door right before you move, then buy a new car in the new city. That actually makes moving a hair easier. Anything that makes moving less a pain in the butt is a good thing IMO.

26 First Gen American

Like the other commenters said. These are wants not needs. I drove a corolla for 10 years in New England without snow tires. They are actually pretty good in the snow. I guess my requirement for family vehicle would be front wheel drive and 4 door. Anything else is gravy. The reality is that if you live in a snowy state, the infrastructure is in place to remove the snow in an efficient and timely manner. It’s when it snows in places like the carolinas that all hell breaks loose because the towns don’t have plows but then the whole city shuts down anyway. Also, when my first kid was born we had a 2 door car and although not ideal, we still managed to get our kid in and out of it every day for 2 years.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a SUV, just don’t kid yourself that you NEED one now or even in a few years. I guess there is a slim chance girl ninja could have triplets but other than that, you can fit 4 people (2 of which are really small) in you in the corolla just fine.

27 Ninja

Keyword was “COULD”. I know we don’t need new cars, but we could need new cars if we either live somewhere extremely cray or have some babies. We definitely don’t NEED a new car, but I think we are in a great financial place, where we can definitely afford one if we decide it’s time for a change.

28 Ninja

Thanks all for the responses in snow tires. That’s good to know, and definitely something to look in to. Ultimately, though, my question wasn’t about snow tires, or even should I buy an SUV, but simply, when it comes time to sell one of our cars, which should we sell? We aren’t planning on buying another car soon, but the corolla and the scoin just wont cut it once we have a kid. So I ask again, which of the two would you get rid of?

29 Lysander

If it were me:

Sell the Toyota scion tC.

You take the Toyota Corolla S for commuting (helps that it will be better able to handle the needs of the child)

Buy Ninja Girl something with either AWD or FWD. (I would look into a midsized cross-over in addition to a full SUV).

Personally, assuming that you plan to live in a urban/suburban area that has significant winter weather I would absolutely get something with AWD as opposed to FWD system that has to be manually engaged.

30 shoppingtosaving

Wow the BF has a scion 2 door TC and I have a corolla S too!!

I would get rid of the 2-door TC. The corolla saves more gas and will still last over 200k miles if taken care of. It’s VERY roomy and has a huge trunk. I have driven my lil bro and sis when they were babies in that car and it’s easy to drive with kids in it. The 2-door, not so much.

31 Kaye

Keep the Corolla. I know it may not be as sexy to you as the tC, but the four doors are priceless with kids. You do NOT want to be manipulating a tiny human in and out of a carseat while dealing with only two doors. And even though it already has 80K miles on it, it can easily make it to 300K if you keep it maintained. It’s a TOYOTA and they last forever. Mine has 216K on it now and shows no sign of dying any time soon (knock on wood!).

Best of luck!

32 Mark

Don’t kid us. You WANT a new car now. If you were talking about getting a new car at a later point and want to know which one to get rid of we couldn’t advise you because your mileage and situation would be totally different by then. So you’re asking for advice on what car to sell later on based on what state they are in now? Right….nice save.

33 kates

Well, consider this:
One of the “big things” with cars made into the 90s (and 00s), was to have them require minimal maintenance up to 100k miles. Corolla is coming up due for some standard maintenance that can (depending on wear & your ability to do some of the work yourself) cost a pretty penny.

Looking at that, I’d say sell the Corolla S before the maintenance becomes necessary (knowing you might want to price it a little lower). Also, Girl Ninja should totally get a new ride because she’s fly.

However, a 2-door will only make a person insane with tiny children. So definitely, definitely, I would ditch the 2-door once the kids are around (even if it’s not the primary child-carrier). Unless you’re super duper over-the-moon, absolutely-in-love with your Scion, it’ll become a variable in decision-making (whose going to pick up half the soccer team? what car should we take to the airport to pick-up our in-laws? what if one car goes into the shop?, etc.)

Short answer: you both get new cars.
But Girl Ninja gets one first if she wants it. :)

34 joe c skrizel

Ninja,

i live in the Denver, CO area and go skiing most weekends in the winter. i drive a mazda 3 hatchback that is front wheel drive. to combat snow and ice roads i recommend some good snow tires, that way you can keep both cars and still safely navigate the roads, the tires i have are blizacks and are amazing its like night and day difference and worth the coin

35 Larry

I would get rid of the one with the higher mileage, which appears to be the Corolla.

36 Crystal @ BFS

I’d sell whichever one you two aren’t the most attached to. If she loves her car at a 4 and you love yours at an 8, then sell the 4…in my realtionship, I really couldn’t care less about what I drive as long as it makes good mileage, so we’d sell mine before we sell hubby’s much-loved Prius.

37 Red

I would sell the tC. My parents had a two door car when we were growing up, and it was a pain in the ass to get us all in it. You can’t just assume that GN will always be the one transporting the young’ns, ya know? She could be gone on a shopping spree (so she took the van to have more room for bags), and you’re stuck taking the kids to tee ball practice or whatever. Plus, you’ll get more money for your vehicle. Just my two cents. My mom had the kid friendly vehicle when I was growing up, but she also had a 80-hour-a-week job. So she wasn’t always around to drive us where we needed to go.

38 TeacHer

I would sell the Corolla. I drive a tC and that baby handles just fine in the snow. I don’t have now tires anymore, but when I did, it was NO PROBLEM.

39 Kams

I live in Northern Ontario, and we have tonnes of snow from October until late April (it’s snowed in June here before). Our Corolla does just fine in the snow. I’d look at snow tires. I know that where I live you are legally allowed studded tires, but it’s not an option everywhere because I think they damage the pavement. If you have a little car and can, studded tires are the way to go. It’s insane the difference in control you have.

40 retirebyforty

You are crazy. Don’t get an SUV just because you might move to a snowy area. You don’t NEED an SUV in Seattle where it snow one day a year.
Get chains or snow tire for the corolla and you’re set.

41 Katelyn

I’m from Canada and we drive with snow tires for 5-6 months of the year. It makes a major difference. They are in the process of making it illegal not to install snow tires. Not just all season tires. I lived away from home just off the great lakes. When it snowed you drove carefully and made sure your vehicle could handle it. Dont be a fool put on snow tires. Plus learn how to actually drive in the snow its totally different.

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42 Will @ HackingTheBank.com

I wouldn’t focus too much on your different mileages. Her’s is definitely more, but if you wanted, you could probably get 200k miles out of her car without having many issues. I haven’t had an issue with my ’99 Ford Escort and it’s still performing nicely at 165k. The 2-door just doesn’t seem practical going forward.

43 Trina

Since your cars are only valued at a $2,000 difference I would sell which ever car you want to since, most likely, GN will be home with the babies and driving the baby vehicle and you will get the ‘old’ car. Then she can have more say on what kind of new car you buy. We sold my car and upgraded to a 7 seater new to us Durango. I love it! Having twins first we knew we wanted something big and this baby can last us up to 5 kids..only 2 more to go:) My husband rarely drives ‘my’ car so it just made sense to us that I have a bit more say in what we bought. I talked him down from an Escalade…I swear, that man is the epitome of a spender.
And, you can fit up to 3 kids in a small 4 door, not the most fun, but doable. We haven’t had a 2 door car since college, but a friend of mine has a 2 door BMW and she has been fine with her daughter/baby gear/car set/etc in it…so you don’t have to sell the scion just because you don’t think baby stuff will fit. Again, it is not ideal, but it is manageable if the other car is in the shop or something.

44 Makky's Mom

Definitely sell the 2-door car when you start having kids. Getting a baby in and out of a carseat in a 2-door (sometimes 4-5 times a day!) is not fun! We had a 2-door Honda Prelude SRV back in 2000 when our first was born and I hated having to take that car with the baby!

45 Jake

I live in the Everett area [about 35 minutes north of Seattle], and I drive a Mazda 3 w/ front wheel drive and snow tires.

I didn’t have any issues this last winter even with the snow. Now granted, I’m not going up or down the crazy seattle hills in the snow, but I was able to drive everywhere I needed to without worrying about it. IMO, the craziest drivers in the last couple years were the ones with 4WD and no ability to handle what the winter threw at them.

However, if I did have the money, I’d get 4WD or AWD, some chains, and snow tires, and you should be able to handle anything that Seattle could throw at you. Personally I’m a fan of Subaru, and you could still go really fast with a WRX and handle whatever the winter brings without any of the risk of rollovers from top heavy SUV’s.

46 Jake

And if asked, I’d get rid of the Corolla…

47 Ash

My opinion: Sell the 2-door.

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