for driving tips.....
CARTALK.COM / Winter Driving Tips
I don't think you need 4-wheel drive. I don't have it. If driving conditions are bad enough to make 4WD a big advantage, you should probably be off the roads anyway.
I'm voting "yes", get a vehicle with all-wheel drive. Many small SUVs will have it, and it makes winter road trips much more pleasant. In really bad weather, yes, you should wait until the storm has passed, but there are also those times when you can drive, and are just more secure with the extra traction. Do note that the Gettysburg trip could be very snowy, and the Pennsylvania hills can be a challenge. I think New Hampshire highways are a breeze in comparison.
I don't see why not. Even if odds are you won't use it I don't think it does that much to gas milage so unless the rental price difference is a big deal you have nothing to lose.
Personally, I don't think you need it. I've lived here for 30 years and have never owned 4WD, well, once, actually, for about a year and a half. But I never really needed it. . If money is no object, then what is the price of peace of mind. But I would agree. If it is snowing, you don't want to be driving. Once it stops snowing, the roads get cleared pretty quickly up here. The thing with 4WD is that you can have false sense of security. Lack of experience is the bigger challenge than the type of vehicle. First snow up here always has increased fender benders among the locals, as they re-acclimate to the snow.
As for Gettysburg, you are in the hills, but also quite close to Philadelphia and Washington DC. The weather tends to be warmer, enough to lower the snow risk. But again, you never know what Mother Nature may dish out on any given winter day in the northeast.
So, IMHO, your choice. Could be a comfort. But not really a necessity. Weigh the cost against your budget.
In a major snow storm a 4 wheel will help, but two hours later, when the roads are cleared any car can drive anywhere in the white mountains. I drive these roads everyday and pass and are passed by all types of cars. I have never used chains. If you are not in a rush, just rent a car, take your time, drive in control and look left and right before entering a road, brake 5 seconds before you would on dry roads, and the best thing I ever heard was "zero traction" is no better with 4 wheel, than 2 wheel." Once you skid from going to fast, you fail either way.
I like the all wheel suggestion as well. It's one of those - can't hurt answers. Is there much going on for New Year in GB? In general, the town closes down in the winter. Not saying you shouldn't visit. Baltimore, which is close by has a great New Year fireworks display at the Inner Harbor and is only an hour from GB. Philly is probably pretty good also (haven't been).
Weather further south is quite variable. anything from clear and sunny to snow to ice (which all wheel or 4 wheel won't help with). A certain amount of play by ear is warranted and not being afraid to get off the road if necessary.
Not to confuse things further -- but as you book your rental, be aware that there is a difference between 4-Wheel Drive and something called On-Demand-All-Wheel-Drive. 4-Wheel Drive generally refers to vehicles which operate with just two wheels providing power until the operator calls for 4-wheel drive, either by pushing a lever, pushing a button, or getting out of the vehicle and making adjustments to the wheel hubs. In general, 4-wheel drive is offered on larger sport utility vehicles and pick-up trucks.
On-demand-all-wheel-drive is a more sophisticated system, generally offered on smaller sport-utility-vehicles and station wagons. It senses, virtually instantaneously, whenever one of the driving wheels loses traction and electronically activates a system to send power to all four wheels until traction is re-gained, and then restores itself to the original two-wheel drive configuration. Enagaging the all-wheel (usually including four wheels) system requires no action by the driver and generally happens so quickly you don't know about it until you suddenly feel additional traction and control..
In general, vehicles with on-demand-all-wheel drive will generally be more available and easier to find (and often less expensive) than four-wheel drive.
For someone who has never driven in snow, on-demand-all-wheel-drive might be a better alternative than four-wheel-drive because it more closely resembles the "feel" of regulat rwo-wheel drive handling.... you might consider it instead of four-wheel-drive if the pricing works for you.
All that said, in general, snow removal crews in northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) have decades of experience clearing snow and ice from our roads in "normal" storms and generally have them very driveable soon after a storm ends.... and in extreme storms, even the natives stay off the road. If you understand that you may need/want to postpone starting a trip for a couple of hours immediately after a sizeable storm, or head out a little earlier than usual to be sure to reach a destination before a storm arrives there, the only real reason you might need an on-demand-all-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle woould be for your own peace of mind.
Thanks so much for the replies. I'm feeling a little nervous about the whole snow thing and definitely won't be driving fast or in a snowstorm! I had previously booked a SUV which I assumed was all-wheel or 4WD drive but it's actually only a 2WD - didn't know such things existed. So I think I'll see if I can get an AWD or 4WD. Looking forward to a white Christmas - hopefully!
Lindy -- most US manufacturers make 2WD models of their SUVs -- they're popular in southern states where you do not get snow. And I think you're wise to get the 4WD... understanding that you have no experience in snow changes the need. And for what it's worth -- the worst drive I have ever had in winter driving was December 23rd across southern Pennsylvania. The dead of winter driving in New Hampshire is much easier!