Do I Need Snow Tires?

Last year I created a handy flow chart to help you decide if you should consider winter tires for your car, van, SUV, or truck. Continue reading for a free PDF download! The short answer could be summed up this way: If you’re considering shopping for a four-wheel or AWD vehicle because you hate driving in the winter, what you probably need more than a new car is snow tires for your current car.

Snow (or winter) tires are made of softer rubber compounds that stay stickier and grippier at cold temperatures. They have wider tread patterns designed to grab and bite snow better. If you’re remembering back to Grandpa’s station wagon and the loud hum it always had during the winter, modern winter tire tech has come a long way since the 1970s. Current snow tires are much quieter than the chunky, noisy tires you may remember from years ago. And they’re surprisingly affordable for most cars! Although there’s an initial expense, you’ll be saving winter wear on your all-season tires, so over time, the cost of running winter tires evens out very nicely. The increased feeling of security while driving during the misery months of November through March is well-worth the start-up expense of a full set of winter tires for those who live where the roads can be brutal and dangerous in the snowy months.

Lots of people who think they need all-wheel drive just need better tires on their front-wheel-drive car. But not everyone should bother with winter tires! That’s why I created this handy winter-tire decision tool. If you have any other questions or want help finding a winter tire and wheel package for your car, contact me.

Winter driving can be a drag, but the right tires can increase your confidence on the road.

The “I Only Buy American!” Myth

The automotive industry is a now a global one.

Gone are the days when your American car supported only a horde of American workers spread out across rail lines all terminating in the factories of Michigan and  the upper Midwest and nothing that went into your American car was produced overseas. Parts for your American car are made all over the world and parts of a foreign car can be made all over the US!

Buick sells and builds cars in China and builds some in Germany, too. General Motors, perhaps one the most American of brands in popular culture, has imported Australian-built Holdens from Australia and sold them here as Chevys and Pontiacs. Chevy sells a Korean-built Daewoo Matiz here in the US as a Chevy Spark. Ford used to build the Crown Vic, the iconic cop car that we’re all conditioned to hit the brake pedal for, in Canada. The latest version of the Ford Escape is a Ford-Europe Kuga, with small changes needed for the US market. (Safety regulations are slightly different, as are rules about where brakes lights can be and so on.) 

Acura, Honda, and Toyota all build some of their best American sellers here in the US.

Chrysler is partially owned by Fiat, an Italian company who also owns Maserati and Alfa Romeo, among others. Mercedes builds cars in Alabama for the American market and BMW builds a few of their cars in South Carolina. Volkswagen, part of the Volkswagen-Audi Group, who also owns Lamborghini and Bugatti, builds the American-market version of Jetta in Mexico. (Which is a different Jetta than the Jetta sold in Germany.)

As you can see, while you’re supporting an American car company if you buy an “American” car brand, you’re also very likely supporting overseas workers, both in final assembly (like of the Buick Regal X or the Buick Envision) and in foreign suppliers (even back in the dark 1990s, my Dodge Grand Caravan, built at the St Louis Assembly plant, had a Mitsubishi distributor, because the engines were sourced from Mitsubishi).

And if you feel you must avoid buying that Subaru Outback or that Mercedes C300 because they are not American, well, the over 4600 people employed in central Indiana bolting together Subarus and the 3700 or so employed in Alabama at Mercedes Benz- US International wish you’d reconsider, as do all the Americans building Hondas, Toyotas, and BMWs here in the US!

Certainly, “buying American” will offer the most benefit to your own country’s economy, but rest assured: if a non-American car is the right fit for your family, you’re still making a difference!  (But remember, that all-American Jeep you want? It’s… well, it’s complicated.)

Automakers are global companies, with global reach, and global effect on the world’s economies. At this point, in 2018, you’d be hard pressed to find a car sold in the US which is causing direct harm to the American manufacturing, supplier, or raw materials markets, even if the car itself isn’t “American.” At the very least, you’re supporting a local, very likely family-owned, business! 

To sum up, I encourage you to keep an open mind while you shop for your next car! What was true even a few years ago has probably changed. There are many “automotive maxims” floating around in popular culture that are just plain out of date or wrong. Not all American cars are the best. (The Chrysler 200 made Consumer Reports Worst Cars list.) Or the worst. (The Chevy Impala is a CR top pick!) Not all non-American cars are “hard to work on” and gone are the days when your little Japanese import required metric tools, which your local grease monkey didn’t have. (Nowadays, your American car requires metric tools, too!)

To aid in your shopping (and maybe blow your mind a little, if this is an issue you care about a lot) here’s a link to the most American Made cars from last year. Spoiler: #2 is a Honda!