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Old 06-03-2009, 10:20 AM
 
Location: Seattle area
857 posts, read 4,003,392 times
Reputation: 527

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We'll probably need to replace one of our cars in the next year. We're thinking about getting 4 wheel drive. I get a little nervous on the mountain roads -- I'd like to get to more remote places to camp or hike, but a lot are up pretty rough roads.

We go up them in my Honda Accord anyway -- I'm just worried about getting stuck. May not be a good reason to worry; I just haven't DONE a lot of driving off pavement before, so I'm not familiar with it. Don't know what's OK and what's not. And the ride is jarring.

Snowstorm last year had us swearing up and down the next car would have 4-wheel-drive -- our friends with it did fine, but we got soooooooo stuck at the end of the street. But, the snow is a rare thing... I think... so probably not quite a good enough reason to make a car decision?

So, my actual question. If you're wanting to drive in the mountains on the dirt roads in the spring, summer, and fall, does four wheel drive make a big difference?

If it does, would a Subaru cut it? I know people who have Outbacks and like them. But, their clearance is no better than in my Honda. Seems like you could still get stuck -- the 4WD maybe just gives you more opportunities to really get in a jam. Am I off base?

We rented an SUV and I just didn't like driving in it. I was excited about the Escape Hybrid, but it was really uncomfortable. And dealing with carseats at that height was extra tough. With that, the teeny-tiny parking spaces around here, and the dirty looks from other people () I don't think I want an SUV, unless that's the only good way to get around on those roads.

So: Is a plain-old car plenty good enough for the back roads? Is an Outback or Forrester a good choice? Or do you need to move up?

Thanks for any advice!
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Old 06-03-2009, 04:47 PM
 
Location: Mukilteo, WA
17 posts, read 133,726 times
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I own a 2008 Escape, would buy it again. It is nice and roomy, and great on snow.
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Old 06-03-2009, 06:27 PM
509
 
5,272 posts, read 5,790,284 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jenlion View Post
We'll probably need to replace one of our cars in the next year. We're thinking about getting 4 wheel drive. I get a little nervous on the mountain roads -- I'd like to get to more remote places to camp or hike, but a lot are up pretty rough roads.

We go up them in my Honda Accord anyway -- I'm just worried about getting stuck. May not be a good reason to worry; I just haven't DONE a lot of driving off pavement before, so I'm not familiar with it. Don't know what's OK and what's not. And the ride is jarring.
As a professional Forester that owned a Honda Accord I took it everywhere. My favorite place was when I pulled up to a 4wd SUV in the middle of nowhere with the Accord. The SUV driver could not believe it.

You can drive virtually anywhere with a FWD. For winter get real aggressive tires. If ice is an issue get studs.

4wd does make a difference. In ten years I usually need it once. Is it worth paying for 4wd?? Maybe.

All things being equal I would buy an AWD car as one vehicle and a 4WD truck for my other vehicle. But I probably travel more dirt roads than the average driver. I would get a vehicle with at least 8 inches of clearance. That's real important.
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Old 06-03-2009, 07:00 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
16,140 posts, read 52,827,997 times
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IMHO something like the Outback would be very good for what you want to do.

What other cars do you own?

The only downside to Subies is that they are a little thirsty, a little heavy, compared to Honda, Toyota, etc.

Tires make a big difference. On an AWD car you can usually get away with all season tires for snow, *provided* that they have fairly deep tread. A set of dedicated snow tires on their own wheels, if you have a place to store them in the off season, is nice to have.

Driver technique makes a lot of difference too. I personally have a better feel for traction with a stickshift car.
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Old 06-03-2009, 08:53 PM
 
Location: Midwest
7,105 posts, read 9,132,619 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 509 View Post
As a professional Forester that owned a Honda Accord I took it everywhere. My favorite place was when I pulled up to a 4wd SUV in the middle of nowhere with the Accord. The SUV driver could not believe it.

You can drive virtually anywhere with a FWD. For winter get real aggressive tires. If ice is an issue get studs.

4wd does make a difference. In ten years I usually need it once. Is it worth paying for 4wd?? Maybe.

All things being equal I would buy an AWD car as one vehicle and a 4WD truck for my other vehicle. But I probably travel more dirt roads than the average driver. I would get a vehicle with at least 8 inches of clearance. That's real important.
Good points.

Unless ruts, rocks, and big potholes are an issue, it sounds like a FWD does the trick.

I once worked for a guy, and all our work was out on dirt roads. He had a RWD straight 6 three-on-the-tree Ford pickup, it went anywhere and everywhere. It had ground clearance, it also had snows on the back. He would have laughed at me if I'd suggested he needed 4WD or AWD.

Today people are spoiled, and too inclined to panic about non-issues.
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:37 PM
 
Location: Seattle area
857 posts, read 4,003,392 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwatted Wabbit View Post
Today people are spoiled, and too inclined to panic about non-issues.
Well, that's why I'm asking. Haven't done much of this kind of driving, and the last thing I want to do is get stuck on a mountain out of cell range with my 2-year-old. I just don't know what's reasonable. The road we went on last weekend we finally turned around on when facing a rutted road around a biridge -- no room for error and those potholes were really deep. Big rocks, too.

We have and Accord and a Solara and the one kid now. It would be really nice to have one car we could pile into and go into the mountains on those roads confidently. If that's the Accord, great, just got to do it more and get more comfortable with it. No reason to spend extra money if we don't need to.

509, if I understand, you're saying that the clearance is more important than the 4WD? Are there good family cars that have that kind of clearance that are more fuel-efficient and less expensive?

Thanks for the comments so far.
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Old 06-04-2009, 12:49 AM
 
Location: Midwest
7,105 posts, read 9,132,619 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jenlion View Post
Well, that's why I'm asking. Haven't done much of this kind of driving, and the last thing I want to do is get stuck on a mountain out of cell range with my 2-year-old. I just don't know what's reasonable. The road we went on last weekend we finally turned around on when facing a rutted road around a biridge -- no room for error and those potholes were really deep. Big rocks, too.

We have and Accord and a Solara and the one kid now. It would be really nice to have one car we could pile into and go into the mountains on those roads confidently. If that's the Accord, great, just got to do it more and get more comfortable with it. No reason to spend extra money if we don't need to.

509, if I understand, you're saying that the clearance is more important than the 4WD? Are there good family cars that have that kind of clearance that are more fuel-efficient and less expensive?

Thanks for the comments so far.
Jenlion, I didn't mean to disparage the safety issue. Perhaps I didn't take it seriously enough.

If I was going where the terrain is rugged, kids were involved, and I could outrun cell range, the complexion changes. A pickup truck would probably work fine. Lots of folks use them as cars these days, but with benefits. Benefit being they have greater rugged terrain capabilities.

I'd look at cell boosters, and I always have a CB and usually an FRS radio. Good commo is good.

My d-i-l just got a great deal on a 4WD KIA Sedona, it's an old fashioned (read: rugged) full frame SUV with R/4/4-lo ranges for your driving pleasure. They're available for about 17 grand out the door now in our area. A lot of bang for the buck.
And a very comfortable drive, too, it really spoiled me the few days we had the car. It has all the latest safety gadgets.

I'd also carry flares, basic survival stuff like saw, ax, mirror, flint and steel, water jug, blankets, comealong, etc. When I hear stories of families getting stuck in the boonies, I think back to the couple with infant who were stuck for a week, bad end for the husband.
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Old 06-04-2009, 08:33 AM
 
Location: Boardman, OH
602 posts, read 1,929,134 times
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Don't be afraid to check out the Jeep Patriot. I have one and its been excellent and you can pick it up pretty cheap as well.
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Old 06-04-2009, 09:58 AM
 
Location: Del Rio, TN
37,813 posts, read 23,638,846 times
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I spend MANY weekends on the forest service roads here in N Idaho. It all depends on road conditions. There are some better maintained ones you can do fine with your basic car, either FWD or RWD. On the other hand, there are many with severe water breaks, ruts, potholes, downed logs, etc, that are much better tackled with a 4x4 truck/SUV/Jeep or preferrably an ATV. ATVs are a much more enjoyable way travel backcountry roads...though not so much with a 2 year old . The average passanger car doesn't have enough ground clearance to go on alot of our roads, and typical passanger car tires don't have the durability of truck tires, I'd be real leary of cutting pass car tires out in the backcountry. The other issue is that while cars will handle some of the backroads, they aren't designed to the same standards of "toughness" that a truck is. While they might run those roads, I'd guess you are shortening their life considerably.

The filp side is that everything you want in a vehicle for rough off road use (ground clearance, good articulation in the suspension, heavy tires, etc) are all things that make them less than ideal for on-road use.

One other thought for you, have you considered one of the side by side OHVs? (aka UTVs), such as the Yamaha Rino. You can spend a lot of time running around in the back country, get a more comfortable ride in the rough stuff than any car or truck, and have the fun of open vehicle. They also carry a good bit of camping equipment. That way you aren't tearing up your daily driver in the backcountry.

Last edited by Toyman at Jewel Lake; 06-04-2009 at 10:08 AM..
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Old 06-04-2009, 10:26 AM
 
Location: Eastern NC
20,871 posts, read 21,738,687 times
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Clearance is everything in the backcountry. And if you are into exploring backroads then I would get an suv or doublecab truck with 4wd with low range and good ground clearance like a 4Runner or Tacoma Doublecab. The Forester would do good in all but the roughest roads.
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