Whether you are moving to Alaska or have already landed, you will need to think about choosing a car that works both in the summer and extreme winters. If you are moving from a warm state and want to bring your own car, you will need to do some repairs before it is ready for the cold Alaskan winters. The make/model will depend on your lifestyle so consider carefully before shipping a car to Alaska. Are you heading out for some adventures in the Alaskan bush every weekend or are you just getting around town in Anchorage? You can have everything from a small car to a full-sized truck in Alaska, but here are some recommendations for making the best choice.
Types of Car for Alaska Living
- Car: Most people do not realize that it is often just as easy to drive a compact, 2-wheel drive car around major cities like Anchorage as it is a bigger 4-wheel drive vehicle. Not all small cars will work though, and you should invest in a vehicle with front wheel drive to help get you out of some sticky situations. Although studded tires are recommended for all types of vehicles, they are especially important if you are driving a 2-wheel drive car. If you live on a hill that frequently ices over, then you will probably have to upgrade to 4-wheel drive. Other than that, small cars can work great in Alaska.
- Station Wagon: Somewhere between a compact car and a gas-guzzling SUV is the iconic wagon. It is big enough to haul your family and gear around without getting stuck in the snow, but it won’t break the bank to fill up the tank; they even drive like a compact car. Two of the most popular vehicles in Alaska are the Subaru Outback and the Subaru Legacy Wagon. If you go for one of the Subaru wagons, just make sure you remember where you parked. Chances are, many other people have made the same car choice!
- SUV: If you live on a hill or plan on doing some more adventurous driving through the Alaskan wilderness, you will probably want to upgrade to a 4-wheel drive SUV. Even with an SUV, you will still need studded tires and all the appropriate equipment to get yourself out of tough situations. Not every SUV is meant for the rugged Alaskan weather and icy roads. Popular SUV options for an Alaskan lifestyle are the Toyota 4Runner, Chevy Tahoe, Jeep Commander, GMC Yukon, and the Chevy Suburban. All of these have good 4-wheel drive options and are still light enough to get you out of the snow when stuck.
- Truck: If you are planning on living in Alaska, you probably are the type of person who could use a truck anyway. Working outdoors, towing, and getting your unfortunately stuck friends out of the snow are common tasks for a truck owner in Alaska. Around 50% of the vehicles in Anchorage are pickup trucks, making it the most likely choice for purchasing a car in the area. You will want to own a 4-wheel drive pickup because the 2-wheel drive counterparts seem to get stuck in the snow more often than front wheel drive trucks. The Ford F150 is an American standard and will get the job done. If you are looking for more towing capacity, just go with the F350 or a Chevy 3500 and you will be able to save all your friends from the deep snow.
Tips for Snow Driving
- Studded Snow Tires: As stated before, it doesn’t matter if you are driving an F350 or a Toyota Corolla- you will need studded snow tires. During the winter, you won’t be able to get around town without them.
- Chains: If you don’t come from a place where it ever snows, you probably have never put chains on before. Chains go around your tires to give them some extreme traction during icy and snow conditions. Always have a full set of chains in your car because there will be times when studded tires just won’t cut it.
- Extra Parts: When you break down while driving around Alaska, you are likely going to be in the middle of nowhere. You can’t just pull over at the nearest mechanic because it may be over 100 miles away. In case of emergency, you should pack parts such as spare bulbs, jumper cables, u-joints, belts, and a spare tire.
- Tools: In order to do small repairs and sometimes heat up your oil to get the car started, you will need special tools usually only required for snow driving. It is a good idea to pack a torch, de-icer, cat litter for melting snow, shovel, ice scraper for the windshield, flash lights, and a car jack and tire iron for changing the tires.
With a change in scenery may come a change in lifestyle. As we have become more and more dependent on our vehicles, choosing the correct one to match your lifestyle is crucial. Remember, when moving to Alaska, make sure you pick a vehicle that will be a blessing, not a burden.