Rental cars equipped for winter

If you’re off to cold climates this winter and intend to hire a vehicle, you’ll likely want to know what is best suited for your needs.

Snowy and icy conditions can make for hazardous driving, although a host of helpful features can mean some vehicles are better equipped than others.

Here we’ve assessed the key features that you should look out for, as having them can make for a more comfortable, safer and easier driving experience.

The features to look for

It’s important to remember that rental companies will split their vehicles into classes/categories based on their features – so what you request with a rental company may not be the exact vehicle that you receive.

The best rental vehicles have several key features in common, including that they rank highly for reliability, handle well in snow or icy conditions and have scored highly in safety tests.

Comfort features, as well as good heating systems, all-weather or larger tyres, and traction control also enhance winter driving. Opting for a vehicle with an anti-lock braking system will help to prevent the vehicle from sliding.

Four-wheel drives

However, wheel function is by far the most important aspect of car hire in winter, as any car needs to handle well in the conditions it will face.

Hiring a four-wheel drive (or 4x4) vehicle should be the preferred option when driving in heavy snow or muddy conditions and provides the greatest traction and control.

SUVs and larger vehicles often have four-wheel drive, although the feature is increasingly common on some smaller vehicles too.

The downside, and there is one, is that 4x4 vehicles tend to use more fuel, therefore increasing the cost of the hire.

Front-wheel drives

A front-wheel drive is the second-best option for driving in poor road conditions because the engine only powers the front wheels of the vehicle.  In this instance, the weight of the engine is over the wheels thus providing more traction on snow and ice than a rear-wheel drive.

If you are unsure if the vehicle class you are considering is a 4x4 or front-wheel drive, research the makes of car available and seek clarity from the hire company.

Size and baggage space

Winter clothing and ski equipment can require a considerable amount of storage space in a vehicle, especially if a roof rack or box option is not available.

It’s also worth remembering that the smallest vehicle in one specified class might have less space than a vehicle in the class below.

Winter road safety

No matter what rental car you pick, there is no replacement for snow chains, thick winter tyres and careful driving when the roads are covered in ice and snow.

Remember that stopping speeds will increase, that slipping and sliding is more likely and that you should leave a bigger gap between you and the vehicle in front.

Note down any existing marks or scratches and check the tyre treads in all wheels, including the spare if there is one. Also ensure any legal requirements – such as snow chains or other emergency equipment – are in the vehicle.

Insurance cover

You may also want to consider car hire excess insurance to cover the excess you would need to pay should the vehicle become damaged.

Driving in icy or snowy conditions makes the chance of a bump or scratch on your rental vehicle much higher, but you can still protect yourself from an excess fee with the right cover.

Policies are available to cover a range of time frames and can provide added peace of mind for your trip, enabling you to fully enjoy your trip.

Date Created: 10 December 2018