Driving

The 13 best cars for snow and ice in 2023

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According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 70% of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions, and 24% of weather-related crashes annually are due to snowy, slushy or icy road conditions. Furthermore, snow and ice account for nearly 2,000 car accident fatalities and 135,000 injuries annually.1

The statistics don’t lie — snowy roads are common in America and require great concentration from drivers. Difficult driving conditions stemming from snow and ice aren’t unique to the coldest cities in the U.S.; snow and ice can happen anywhere, and should certainly be a consideration when shopping for a new car

When it comes to finding the best cars for snow, two of the most important car body features are: 

  • Drivetrain, which refers to the power sent to the car’s wheels from the transmission
  • Ground clearance, or the distance from the bottom of the car’s body to the ground

In addition, different car makes and models have different technologies that can better help drivers navigate snowy conditions, as well as comfort features that make driving in the frigid cold more enjoyable. 

In this article, we’ll explore the 13 best cars for snow, the features that make them safe for snow and ice and if snow safety features impact your car insurance

Methodology: To create this list, we weighed factors such as available AWD systems, ground clearance and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety scores. We considered these factors along with the number of safety features available in the vehicle.

1. 2022 Subaru Outback 

 2022 Subaru Outback

Recently named the best small SUV for snow driving by I See Cars, the 2022 Subaru Outback is a safe, reliable vehicle that comes with a number of safety features, making it the number one car for driving in treacherous conditions.2

Equipped with lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam LED headlights and forward collision warnings, this car prepares you for anything that could arise during snow driving — for a relatively affordable price.3

Drivetrain: AWD

Ground clearance: 7.25 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Forward collision emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert system

Price: Starting at $27,145

2. 2022 Subaru Ascent 

 2022 Subaru Ascent

Keeping with AWD Subarus, the 2022 Subaru Ascent is another safe and reliable vehicle built for snow driving. With particularly high ground clearance, the Subaru Ascent also comes equipped with automatic braking and assistive lane centering. 

Beyond these safety features, the Subaru Ascent comes with a camera mirror, which allows you to see everything behind you, even when you’re carrying passengers in your backseat.4

Drivetrain: AWD

Ground clearance: 8.7 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Forward collision emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert system, rear camera mirror, reverse automatic braking  

Price: Starting at $33,470

3. 2022 Volvo XC40

 2022 Volvo XC40

Scoring a 5 out of 5 from the NHTSA for safety, the 2022 Volvo XC40 is also hailed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as a Top Safety Pick+ winner.5

This subcompact SUV deserves its acclaim. Equipped with blind-spot monitoring, AWD, lane assist, a digital driver display and more, the Volvo XC40 is an excellent choice for difficult snow driving.6

Drivetrain: FWD (AWD available)

Ground clearance: 8.3 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning system, collision warning with automatic braking, stability and traction control

Price: Starting at $35,195

4. 2022 Acura RDX

 2022 Acura RDX

With relatively high ground clearance, a number of snow safety features and an AWD option, the Acura RDX is a safe and relatively affordable choice among crossover SUVs for snow driving. 

With all these safety elements, along with heated front seats and automatic climate control, the Acura RDX is a top choice for driving in treacherous snowy conditions.7

Drivetrain: FWD (AWD available) 

Ground clearance: 8.2 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, automatic high beams

Price: Starting at $41,795

5. 2022 Audi A4

 2022 Audi A4

With AWD included in the standard model, the Audi A4 goes above and beyond, offering a sedan made to take on any condition. The A4 features 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and heated side mirrors. 

The Audi A4 also comes equipped with “pre senses®,” which recognize when a collision is coming and shuts all the windows and the sunroof and tightens the front seatbelts.8

Drivetrain: AWD

Ground clearance: 6.5 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Heated side mirrors, automatic climate control, pre sense®, blind-spot monitoring, traffic jam assist 

Price: Starting at $40,870

6. 2022 Hyundai Kona SEL 

 2022 Hyundai Kona SEL

The Hyundai Kona has a powerful AWD option in the SEL trim as well as 17-inch wheels. The vehicle additionally includes blind-spot monitoring and heated side mirrors.

For an extra $1,700, drivers can also purchase a package that features automatic temperature control, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel — so you’re never caught off-guard on frigid mornings. This vehicle is also equipped with remote starting, so you can warm up your vehicle before you hit the road.9

Drivetrain: FWD (AWD available) 

Ground clearance: 6.7 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Blind-spot monitoring, remote starting capability, heated front seats, automatic temperature control 

Price: Starting at $22,595

7. 2022 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

 2022 Mercedes Benz E-Class

Stylish doesn’t mean less safe when it comes to navigating snowy roads, and the 2022 Mercedes-Benz E-Class proves that. With automatic high beams standard throughout all models, the E-Class provides a more stylish and sporty option that doesn’t abandon safety and comfort. 

Mercedes-Benz E-Class drivers are granted a Driver Assistance package that includes, but isn’t limited to, steering assistance, blind-spot monitoring, 360 cameras and more. And for your comfort, the vehicle is self-insulated, so you’ll feel totally removed from the harsh elements outside.10

Drivetrain: RWD (AWD available)  

Ground clearance: 6.1 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, evasive steering assistance and PRE-SAFE® Sound, which sends a high-frequency noise throughout the vehicle in the event of an accident to protect passengers from ear damage 

Price: Starting at $56,000

8. 2022 Hyundai Tucson 

 2022 Hyundai Tucson

Earning acclaim from U.S. News & World Report as the best value compact SUV, the best compact SUV for families and the best new SUV for teens, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson is an excellent choice for braving the snow this winter.11, 12, 13

The vehicle features a SmartSense® package, which contains automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist, a driver attention warning system and more. 14

Drivetrain: FWD (AWD available) 

Ground clearance: 7.1 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 4/5

Key features: Driver attention warning system, automatic high beams, surround view monitor 

Price: Starting at $26,245

9. 2022 Toyota Camry

 2022 Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is one of the top family sedans for taking on harsh conditions. Standard in all models is automatic collision warnings, automatic high beams, LED tail lights and automatic climate control. AWD is additionally included in every four-cylinder model. 

2022 Toyota Camry owners also have the option to purchase the Cold Weather Package, which includes heated steering wheels, heated mirrors, heated front seats and more.15

Drivetrain: AWD

Ground clearance: 5.7 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Cold Weather Package (heated mirrors, front seats and steering wheels), blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, pedestrian detection 

Price: Starting at $26,840

10. 2022 Mazda3

 2022 Mazda3

As far as compact cars go, the Mazda3 is about as reliable as they come if you’re looking for a smaller vehicle that can take on harsh snow. 

Equipped with optional AWD, the Mazda3 punches above its weight class with durable transmission and effective safety features. With a package that includes emergency braking, 16-inch alloy wheels and lane departure warnings, the car is designed to see crashes well before you do.16

Drivetrain: FWD (AWD available) 

Ground clearance: 5.5 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 4/5

Key features: Blind-spot monitoring, emergency braking, lane departure warnings, automatic high beams, driver attention alerts 

Price: Starting at $21,865

11. 2022 BMW 3 Series 

 2022 BMW Series 3

With an AWD system that bests the lineup of luxury sedans, the 2022 BMW 3 Series blends style with safety and is designed to take on tough conditions and prepare drivers for imminent crashes. 

The 2022 BMW 3 Series elevates a few safety features, namely blind-spot monitoring and emergency braking. This vehicle has an optional feature that sends a vibration to your steering wheel when another driver is in your blind spot. The car also has low-speed emergency braking to lessen the impact of crashes in city traffic.17

Drivetrain: RWD (AWD available)

Ground clearance: 5.3 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: City collision mitigation, active blind-spot detection, evasive steering assistance, active lane-keeping

Price: Starting at $42,445

12. 2022 Dodge Charger 

 2022 Dodge Charger

The 2022 Dodge Charger uses its muscle strength to pound its way through snowy conditions. With AWD available through certain grades, the Charger is a fantastic option for a powerful yet compact winter driving vehicle. 

As far as safety and cold weather features go, the Charger has it all: heated mirrors and a heated steering wheel for warmth and safety, as well as rain-sensing windshield wipers. Opt for the AWD option and navigate the snow with ease.18 

Drivetrain: RWD (AWD available) 

Ground clearance: 4.5 inches

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Automatic wipers, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, heated mirrors, heated steering wheels

Price: Starting at $32,945

13. 2022 Nissan Altima 

 2022 Nissan Altima

The main selling point for the 2022 Nissan Altima is that it offers AWD, a relatively rare trait in its class of midsize sedans. 

However, the Altima accomplishes more with its library of safety features, offering steering assistance, emergency braking and more. And with the premium package, you’ll get the luxury of heated seats, steering wheels and mirrors.19

Drivetrain: FWD (AWD available)

Ground clearance: 4.9 inches 

NHTSA safety rating: 5/5

Key features: Lane assistance, emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, pedestrian detection

Price: Starting at $25,995

Important features for snow driving

A deeper understanding of the factors that help a vehicle perform in the snow is critical when deciding what car is perfect for you and your location. Some of the most important elements for snow driving include: 

 important features for snow driving

Drivetrain 

A car’s drivetrain is what delivers power from the car’s transmission to its drive wheels. There are four types of drivetrain:

  • Front-wheel drive (FWD) 
  • Rear-wheel drive (RWD) 
  • All-wheel drive (AWD)
  • Four-wheel drive (4WD) 

When it comes to snow driving, 4WD and AWD are considered the best options, due to their ability to create more traction. AWD means that the car’s transmission is sending power to all four drive wheels. 

4WD also sends power to all four drive wheels, but does so through a transfer case, which is a tool that assists in the transfer of power from the transmission to the drive wheels.20

Is 4WD or AWD better in the snow?

For most drivers, AWD will perform better in the snow, as it adapts to changing road conditions. AWD is designed for driving on roads, while 4WD is made more for off-roading, and is popular in trucks and Jeeps. 

For everyday driving in snowy conditions, AWD is a better bet for smaller vehicles when it comes to getting the best possible traction with the pavement.21

 all wheel drive vs four wheel drive

Tires

The right tires are hugely important for safe winter driving. While 4WD and AWD can help provide the best traction, grip is largely dependent on the tires, meaning you won’t be able to get away with solely having the correct drivetrain. 

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) designates that a tire meets their standards for snow performance with a symbol on the sidewall of the tire that resembles a snowflake inside a mountain. This is an important distinction to look for when shopping for a tire.22

You should also note that cold weather has an effect on tire pressure, so be sure you’re including tire-changing necessities in your winter toolkit

Safety technology 

Certain safety features hold high priority when it comes to snow driving as well. A few must-haves when it comes to driving in the snow include: 

  • Anti-lock brakes: Slides are perhaps the most common cause of car accidents on icy roads. With anti-lock brakes, you can avoid wheels locking up during slides and steer to safety. 
  • Blind-spot monitoring: When driving in heavy snow, it can be difficult to see other drivers in your blind spot. Blind-spot monitoring gives you a warning if another driver is in your blind spot. 
  • Adaptive headlights: Adaptive headlights respond to changing visibility, as heavy snow can oftentimes inhibit your ability to see out your windshield. These are essential if you live in a city known for poor driving conditions
  • Emergency braking: Forward collisions are also common when driving in snow since visibility can be limited. Emergency braking is essential if you’re driving in these conditions. 

Ground clearance 

Ground clearance is the distance between the lowermost part of the vehicle’s body and the ground. 

When it comes to driving in heavy snow, cars with higher ground clearances tend to perform better due to the wider separation between the snowy ground and the underbelly of the car, making it less likely for them to get stuck on large plots of snow. 

Warmth and comfort 

If you live in a place that sees a lot of snow, you’ll certainly want guaranteed warmth in your car through comfort features like: 

  • Heated steering wheels 
  • Heated seats 
  • Heated armrests 
  • Remote starting (to warm up your car prior to getting into it) 

Safety features are undoubtedly the most important elements to look for when shopping for the right car for winter driving, but make sure you’re considering comfort factors, too.

Frequently asked questions

Features like drivetrain and ground clearance may seem technical and overwhelming to those without an intricate knowledge of cars. When it comes to driving in snow, here are drivers’ most frequently asked questions.

Is it better to have an SUV or car in the snow?    

SUVs have a higher ground clearance than cars, which can make them safer than cars when driving in the snow. Since they’re higher off the ground, SUVs also offer better visibility for driving over larger amounts of snow. 

Does AWD get worse gas mileage?  

AWD and 4WD vehicles are generally much heavier than vehicles with standard RWD and FWD systems, which can make for worse fuel economy. According to Autotrader, AWD and 4WD systems can add hundreds of pounds to a car’s curb weight, which makes the engine work significantly harder.23

What cars should not drive in the snow?  

When it comes to determining what cars are the worst for driving in the snow, you should avoid cars with: 

  • Light frames 
  • Rear-wheel drive (RWD) 
  • Low ground clearance 

RWD is the worst drivetrain for snow driving. RWD provides limited traction since the transmission sends power to the car’s rear wheels. 

Is a heavier car better in the snow? 

A common misconception is that added weight can improve traction on snowy and icy roads in all vehicles. While adding weight is beneficial for RWD cars, it won’t be beneficial for AWD vehicles, as an AWD system will automatically send power to the wheels with the best grip.24

How snow safety features impact your insurance

Car insurance companies are generally more concerned with your car having basic safety features rather than advanced technology. As a result, you should be more concerned with choosing the right car for your location, safety and comfort than how your choice may impact your insurance premiums. 

When deciding between cars with different safety features for snow driving, compare car insurance quotes to see how those features affect your rates.

 best cars for snow infographic
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