Monday, 26 November 2012 6:52 PM
With the forthcoming winter meaning conditions set to become challenging for drivers, it's important to make sure the car you drive can tackle whatever the weather throws at you. If you're worried your present model won't cope in the snow and will struggle if it goes off-road, now is a good time to look at getting a new vehicle. You might find 4x4s prove to be a particularly good choice.
As obvious as it may sound, you should think carefully about whether you really need a 4×4 – particularly if you have never bought one before. If you live in a rural area where you often drive along dirt paths and muddy fields, the high-performance steering such vehicles provide will certainly come in useful, especially in the wintertime.
However, it's worth bearing in mind that the additional off-road capabilities of these vehicles means they tend to have a higher price tag than standard cars. You should also be prepared for an overall increase in running costs, although you could counter this by selecting a diesel model, as these usually offer better economy compared to their petrol variants.
If you think you'll be doing a lot of driving this winter and are particularly concerned about how much you will end up paying at the pumps, you may even want to look into getting a hybrid 4×4. With these featuring both a traditional engine and an electric motor, they can prove to be a much more energy-efficient choice.
When searching for a 4×4, you should also take into account factors such as the type of tyres it comes with – ideally these should be all-terrain models that can cope with challenging winter conditions – and the kind of the transfer box.
This is the part of the car that connects the transmission to the front and rear axles and you ought to search for a low-range model that will enable you to drive over bumpy or difficult terrain at slow speeds.
Once you've decided that you want to buy a 4×4 for the winter, you should not delay in getting one. After all, you don't want to be caught out by a sudden blizzard when behind the wheel of a standard two-wheel drive car. That isn't to say, however, that you should automatically splash out on the first model you see online or in a showroom.
Indeed, doing so could not only mean you end up with a vehicle that turns out to be unsuitable for your particular needs but also waste a significant sum of money in the process. As is the case when buying any car, it's important to take your time and do plenty of research to get the right model at the right price.
Attending a used car auction certainly provides the opportunity for you to do this, with such sales often seeing vehicles go for significantly less than the same models sold at a traditional car dealership.
If you've never driven a 4×4 before, it's also a good idea to go on a specialist short course for these vehicles before you go to an auction. Doing so will help you get used to steering the car in a variety of environments and could provide you with vital information that will enable you to stay safe on the road by the time winter really sets in.