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2 or 4wd?

Sydney, Australia
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2 or 4wd?

Our family will be renting a car in Washington DC early February 2014 & taking 2 weeks to drive to Florida.We have not yet decided on which route to take although we would prefer to travel inland.We thought given the time of year it may be wise to wait & see what the weathers doing. As far as what to rent? This is the dilemma.The room in a minivan such a 7 seater dodge caravan is appealing however if it's snowing I'm sure a 4WD would be safer to drive. As we can't predict the weather I don't know which way to go.No experience driving in snow nor living in such a cold climate, also unfamiliar with area. What would others do? 2 or 4WD???

Chula Vista...
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1. Re: 2 or 4wd?

Hi Jodi H,

Welcome to the Road Trips Forum.

One of the good things about traveling from Washington DC to Florida is that the warm Gulf Stream current that flows along the east coast moderates the weather most of the time.

That's not to say that there won't be snow in Virginia or the Carolinas (if you're in the Appalachian Mountains in the western parts of those states, there would be a greater likelihood of snow), but the chances are relatively small. (Of course with the wacky global climate change, who knows what can happen. As you said, you'll just have to play your route planning by ear according to the forecast.)

Heck, I've been in Savannah, Georgia the last week of February when it was about 20°C and the azaleas were already beginning to bloom.

The one thing that the southeast may experience a little more is freezing rain or ice, and if it's icy, it doesn't matter whether you have a 4WD or a 2WD when it comes to stopping or turning. Both will slide all over the place equally well. In that situation, the best thing to do is stay put and wait until the ice melts and the roads are cleared / salted / treated.

A 2WD vehicle should meet your needs just fine in the Southeast.

Each state's department of transportation will have a road conditions hotline or website where you can check the status of the highways along your route in near real-time.

Finally, when building your itinerary, I'd build some flexibility into it just in case there is a storm and you have to delay for a day. Make sure your lodging reservations can be canceled without penalty, or understand and accept what that penalty might be.

Enjoy your trip and safe travels.


Lewes, United...
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2. Re: 2 or 4wd?


I totally agree with the sage advice offered by Zed. If you've no ice and snow driving experience, having 4WD will only help you marginally. It's much safer to avoid having to drive in those conditions in the first place, so having contingency in the plan to enable you to wait while the road are cleared in the event of a storm should be much moreof a comfort to you.

If you need any other help with planning this trip, such as places to stop, please give us a shout!


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3. Re: 2 or 4wd?

As mentioned, 2W or 4W drive makes little difference when traveling highways. What does matter with 2W is front wheel drive. What is essential IMO is electronic stability control. Do not rent a vehicle without it, although it should be on almost all rental vehicles.


ESC greatly will reduce your risk of skidding or losing control and possibly rolling over, especially a concern with vehicles with a higher center of gravity such as an SUV or minivan. Make certain that you understand the ESC function and that it is turned on at all times.

Understand that your risk of hydroplaning is greatly increased when roads are wet, but especially icy, even with slush. Reduce your speed to at least 55 mph, especially as you will lack experience in gauging exactly how dangerous are the roads. Sure many cars will pass you, but you also likely will see drivers who lost control and went off the road.

In snow and slush, you even can lose control at low speeds, especially at intersections. There's a good chance you won't encounter these conditions.

Understand that even two inches of snow will paralyze regions south of Washington, DC, where drivers lack experience in winter driving and governments lack serious snow cleaning and treatment equipment common in areas with more harsh winters.

Also understand the risks of "black ice," not only when driving in the morning or on shaded highways, but also when walking. Falls on black ice can result in severe injuries.


West Grey, Ontario
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for Toronto
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4. Re: 2 or 4wd?

Hi Jodi;

4 wheel drives, even all wheel drives, will only help you when trying to get unstuck, which is a situation you want to avoid in the first place. Plus, SUVs / 4x4 are heavier than a car. The extra weight causes extra momentum, which makes them harder to stop !

Avoid the extra charges and fuel consumption - go with the mini-van.

Best Regards

Uden, The...
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5. Re: 2 or 4wd?

Front wheel drive and all weather tires are most important.

6. Re: 2 or 4wd?

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