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A red 2018 Chevy Traverse is shown driving on a snowy road.

10 Features to Look for When Shopping for the Perfect Used Vehicle for Winter Weather

No matter how much you love a winter wonderland, very few people love driving in the snow. Driving in the snow can be hazardous. Not only are you dealing with slippery roads, but visibility could also be low due to heavy snow or hail. Traffic signs and road dividers might be completely covered in powder, making it impossible to know when you’re veering into the wrong lane or about to blow a stop sign. Plus, even with the right tires or a great winter vehicle, that isn’t true for everyone else. So, you might encounter other drivers who are sliding all over the place, posing a significant safety hazard. Skiing, sledding, and making snow angels — those are fun snow activities. Driving? Not so much.

Still, many people live somewhere where driving in the snow is an inevitable part of life. If that’s true for you, and you’re about to visit a used car dealership to find your next vehicle, there are some features to look for. Some models are made for tackling winter weather, while others are not. If you want to avoid collisions or other heart-dropping scary moments, and if you want to be more comfortable when driving in the snow, here are ten winter-ready features to look for in a vehicle.

All-Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive vehicles are a must-have in winter weather. They can send traction to all four wheels to ensure each one is spinning. This can help keep your vehicle moving forward, even if one wheel loses grip. All-wheel drive is perfect for those who live somewhere that gets the real four seasons because it will continue to perform well on dry roads, too.

GPS Navigation

Today, many drivers rely on their smartphone data or vehicle’s built-in Wi-Fi to find their way. While this can work in good weather, winter weather can throw all forms of communication for a loop. Phone towers can stop working. Internet towers can fail. You can easily find yourself on a snowy road, where most of the signs are obscured by powder, with no cell reception or Wi-Fi to find your way.

GPS navigation is an intelligent feature to have if you live somewhere that gets severe winters. Because the navigation will be informed by GPS satellites, you won’t be impacted if your phone service or Wi-Fi connection is weak due to extreme weather. Your GPS navigation should continue to function, helping you find your way in the worst of storms. A used Subaru Outback from more recent generations will have Subaru’s StarLink system, in-vehicle technology that can connect to GPS navigation.

A mechanic at a used car dealership is shown putting a tire on a vehicle.

All-Season Tires

You can always keep extra sets of tires around, like snow tires or performance tires. However, if you’re looking for a vehicle to handle everyday driving on regular but snow-covered roads, find a vehicle with all-season tires. These are the most versatile (as their name promises). They will give you good traction in moderate weather, including snow and rain. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to provide good fuel efficiency in warm weather and solid traction.

Heated Elements

Heated elements can boost both comfort and safety when it snows. On the inside of your vehicle, look for heated seats — both for yourself and your passengers. Many used vehicles have heated seatbacks and cushions to keep one’s legs and back cozy in cold weather. You can also look for a heated steering wheel. This doesn’t just feel nice — it can even keep your hands nimble so you can have a good grip on the steering wheel and be a responsive driver.

It’s also a good idea to find a vehicle with heated exterior mirrors. If you get in your car to find that the mirrors are iced over, you won’t be able to drive away until you’ve removed that ice. Doing so manually is a pain (and can be tricky because you don’t want to crack the mirrors accidentally). Heated mirrors will melt away the ice so you can see objects in those mirrors again.

This is a feature you don’t see as often as the other heated elements on this list, but heated windshield wipers are a terrific feature for winter weather. They can melt away ice on your windshield, which traditional wipers struggle to do.

Weather and Traffic Alerts

Having access to weather and traffic alerts is always nice, but it becomes essential if you drive in severe winter weather. Storm warnings can come out of nowhere, and it’s vital that you get immediate notifications if you need to get off the roads for safety reasons. Snow storms can also impact traffic, as there can be road closures or other weather-related road issues causing congestion.

A feature like Built-in Google, which can give you weather and traffic updates, is excellent for winter weather. You can ask the system to provide weather and traffic reports, helping you make informed, safe decisions about your routes for the day.

All-Weather Floor Liners

Many vehicles offer these as an available feature, and they’re nice to have when you drive in the snow. When passengers get into your vehicle with muddy, slush-covered boots, this can cause a lot of wear and tear to your vehicle’s original floors over time. That can reduce the vehicle’s value when it’s time to sell it.

If you can find a used vehicle with all-weather floor liners installed, you can protect your floors for longer. Some also have similar liners for the cargo area, keeping the trunk area clean when you load it up with snow-covered boots or skis.

A Black Chevy all-weather floor liner is shown.

Road Sign Recognition

In recent years, manufacturers have started using road sign recognition in vehicles. It uses cameras to detect upcoming signs like stop signs, merge-lane signs, construction zone signs, and all of the other signs that inform your driving. The 2021 and newer Toyota Highlander models have road sign assist, as does the 2021 Nissan Rogue.

When winter weather makes it difficult to see, everybody could use extra help seeing these crucial signs.

Rain-Sensing Wipers

Rain-sensing wipers will activate the moment they feel the first drops of precipitation. Some will even automatically adjust their speed depending on how heavy the rainfall is. These don’t just work in the rain, however. They can also turn on when it’s snowing to push powder off the windshield and improve visibility.

It can be helpful and safer to have wipers that automatically turn on and self-adjust. This relieves you, the driver, of constantly adjusting the wipers as the downpour gets heavier or lighter so you can keep both hands on the wheel.

Self-Cleaning Cameras

Rearview cameras are excellent safety features that come on many vehicles today. However, they aren’t very useful when snow or ice has covered up the lens. Getting in your car and turning it on, only to see that the rear camera is completely blocked, is a real nuisance.

Find a vehicle with a self-cleaning rearview camera lens. These send washer fluid — like the same fluid that goes to your windshield — to the rear camera to clean it off.

Remote Start Systems

Heated seats and climate control are nice to have, but you know what’s nicer – owning a vehicle that gets warm before you enter. If you want this, look for a vehicle with a remote start function. These vehicles let you turn on the ignition, either through an app on your phone or your keyfob, before you even get in the car. That means you can start running the heat before you get in so you can slide into a pre-warmed cabin.