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What’s Safer to Drive on Snowy Roads: Crossover or Sedan?

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Tips for picking between a compact SUV and a car for driving on ice

sedan or crossover, which is the better vehicle for driving in the snow?

Sedan or crossover: which is the better vehicle for driving in the snow?

When the snow falls and the roads cover with ice, you want to make sure that you’re safe as you drive. Obviously, all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive deliver that best. However, not everyone wants to drive a hulking SUV year-round in an area that only gets snowfall a couple months out of the year.

So, if you’re buying a new car or renting one for a week on vacation, you’ve probably wondered which is better in snow: a large sedan or a crossover SUV. Let’s consider both options to see which is better.


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Initial Factors to Consider When Driving in Winter

  • Platform: Most people assume that a crossover is basically a miniature SUV, but that’s not always the case. Typically, a crossover is built on the same platform as a sedan, while a full-size SUV shares the same off-road-capable platform as a truck. In this way, cars and crossovers are similarly built.
  • Drive Train: The next factor to consider is the drive train. If you can get a crossover or sedan that can switch between AWD and 2WD, this is probably your best option, but if the vehicle does not come with AWD (and, in some cases, even if it does), it might not be the ideal option.
  • Tires: If the vehicle has proper winter tires instead of all-season tires, that can make a world of difference in maintaining traction on the roads, regardless of if they’re on a crossover or sedan.
  • Ice or Snow? There’s a big difference between driving on snow versus driving on ice. Snow depends heavily on being able to conquer uncleared roads, while ice depends on maintaining control on slick surfaces.

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Advantages of Driving a Crossover in the Snow

The main benefit of driving a crossover above a sedan is ground clearance. As crossovers’ bodies are higher above the road, they’re better at traversing deep snow and are less likely to get snow packed in the wheel wells. Plus, if you slide off the road, a taller vehicle has a better chance of crawling out of a snowdrift.

In the event of a collision with another vehicle, the passengers in the taller vehicle are far safer, as the shorter vehicle can slide under the taller vehicle. While it’s not the biggest vehicle class on the road, crossovers are taller than sedans.

Disadvantages of Driving a Crossover in the Snow

The rules of physics play a big part in what makes a sedan safer to drive in the snow than a crossover. Compact SUVs are heavier, taller (a higher center of gravity), more top-heavy, and have greater momentum (mass and velocity) when in motion; thus, if you lose control behind the wheel of a crossover, it’s harder to regain control. It might even result in a rollover. It’s not uncommon for drivers of crossovers or larger vehicles to be overconfident, overestimating their vehicle’s capabilities and winding up losing control.

If you get a larger sedan, it typically has a more powerful engine than a crossover (which are designed to be more efficient) would.

Ultimately, it depends on the location you’ll be driving in and what you’re most comfortable driving. If you practice careful, safe driving habits in winter, it shouldn’t matter which vehicle you drive.

Sources: Consumer Reports, Airliners.net, Avis Alaska