Vehicle choice for a winter trip

I thought this might be a fun argument… not really “greatest bug out vehicle” more like “Which to Grab.” But it could be extrapolated to a  emergency bug out.

We’re traveling round trip from the Ozarks to the Dakotas next week (mid-America to Northern plains), about 12 hrs each way. We usually just rent something like a 4Runner or Cherokee but that’s out of the question nowadays, over $1k for 4 days.

Weather is potentially light to medium snow, blizzard unlikely but cool, low teens to single digits. Just a couple of suitcases and the dog and normal winter stuff, shovel, tow chains, etc. We’re fairly hardy mid-60s.

Question is, which vehicle?

1999 HD diesel pickup, 4×4, pretty good mud/snow tires + chains, very heavy; 7k dry, fair mileage, big fuel tank, rides like a truck. Manual everything makes it fairly rugged and it’s been reliable to now. Though it has been maintained OK, it is somewhat long in the tooth at  20+ years and 175k miles

Or a 2018 sedan, low miles, electronic traction etc, good mileage. Only 3-4″ ground clearance but new all weather tires and one set cable chains. Not high line but more comfortable and likely more reliable, if more fragile.

Which do you take?


  • Comments (7)

    • 2

      Assuming you aren’t going off roading, I’d take the newer sedan with the better gas mileage.  My wife & I were stationed in Minot North Dakota, traveled all over the area and vacationed in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We did this in a small sedan with no issues.

    • 3

      That’s a tough one. The 4X4 and extra weight of the pickup is nice for the snow but that is an old and high mileage car. With gas prices what they are, the lower reliability of the truck, and scarcity of car parts now, you may be stranded half way for weeks waiting for some weird pump and end up renting a car home anyways. 

      I would go with the sedan. Invest in snow tires, they are leagues better than all weather tires and will give you so much more control and traction in bad weather. You’ll save in fuel and it will be more reliable.

      Stick to the main roads, travel between 10am and 4pm if possible during snowy days to allow for maximum visibility, plows to get out, traffic to carve out paths, and roads to melt. Keep an eye on weather forcasts and don’t risk getting stuck or sliding out to avoid spending $90 on a hotel room for another night.

    • 2

      We sold our one-owner ’85 Ford F250 last spring, so yours is a spring chick.  We could not find a critical part for it…anywhere…and repairs were taking months, sometimes involving grubbing obsolete parts off of wrecks.  And the last repairs – over three months in the waiting – were incompetent.  So we had to let her go.

      But that being said, unless it had 500 pounds in the bed, it was worthless on snow or ice.  It hadn’t been driven in such for many, many years.

      The most recent “alternate choice” was an ’07 Durango that had some of the smart steering stuff, and along with studded snow tires, it was a boss on our occasional treacherous driving conditions.

      Our new truck is pretty amazing.  It has a new set of studded winter tires on it, but I won’t be truly comfortable until we get a bunch of sandbags over the rear axle.  It is very light in the pants.

      I’d take the ’18 sedan

    • 1

      4×4 diesel, you never know how the weather will behave these days.

    • 2

      Thanks all! 

      We’re taking the sedan, for the reasons you all mentioned. I like my big Ford pickup, environmental and energy disaster that it is, for the same reason I like beans in the basement; better to have it and not need it.

      • 1

        Bon Voyage

      • 1

        Safe journey! Let us know how the trip goes and if you learn anything that you would do differently.