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Buying a Car: How Should Climate Factor Into Your Decision?

You think about a lot of things when you’re buying a car, such as interest rates, down payments, gas mileage, features and interior room. But should you also think about your climate? We think climate plays a more important role in automotive purchases than people might expect, so we’ll explain exactly why.

Most Important: Drivetrain

One obvious climate-related item to consider when you’re buying a new car is the drivetrain. More specifically, you’ll need to ask yourself whether you need 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. We suspect this is something most drivers already consider — especially if they live in a snowy, northern climate or frequently have to access rough roads — but it’s still worth mentioning.

While 4-wheel drive certainly isn’t necessary in snowy areas or places with especially rough roads, there’s no doubt that it helps. It can keep you heading in the right direction, it can keep you going when the weather gets really difficult and it may be able to keep you from getting stuck when 2-wheel drive just won’t cut it.

Meanwhile, drivers in warm-weather climates should be able to make do just fine with 2-wheel drive. Not only is 4-wheel drive not necessary for most warm-weather drivers, it adds expense to the purchase price and complexity to the vehicle — not to mention that 2-wheel-drive cars almost always get better fuel economy than their 4-wheel-drive counterparts.

Features and Options

The drivetrain isn’t the only aspect of your car that you should consider in terms of climate. There are a few other features that are very much dependent on your climate, and some drivers may be able to save money by avoiding them when they’re not necessary.

As an example, consider heated seats. While this feature is commonly added to most new cars, it simply isn’t necessary in some of the warmer areas of the country such as Florida, Arizona or Texas, where it rarely gets cold enough to use them. Likewise, shoppers up north could probably save some money if they skipped ventilated seats, which have become more and more popular in modern cars. They’re an expensive option — and one you probably don’t need if you’re in New England or the Pacific Northwest.

Another feature where climate may factor into your decision is wheel sizes. While drivers in warm southern states may want larger wheels that look nicer, northern drivers might prefer smaller wheels that make it easier and cheaper to fit snow tires. Other climate-dependent options you may want to think about include leather upholstery — which can become tremendously hot during summers in the warmest parts of the country — and a sunroof.

Our Take

Although it may seem odd to factor in your climate when you’re buying a car, we recommend it. By considering tire sizes, drivetrain and options based on your climate, you may be able to save serious money when buying your next vehicle by avoiding features you just won’t use — or adding items that will offer some serious benefits.

Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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