Which Features Do Used Car Buyers Want for Winter Driving?

December 2, 2022

Team ACV




Which Features Do Used Car Buyers Want for Winter Driving?

ACV facts & figures

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A used car driving through snowy conditions

Driving in winter conditions can be challenging, and drivers want to be confident that they’ll have the proper traction and clearance to handle wet, snowy roads. Plus, many people look for amenities to make winter driving more comfortable. Anticipating customer needs is an important part of sourcing car inventory and running a successful dealership, so it pays to know what your customers are looking for this time of year and why.

3 Essential Winter Driving Features—and the Used Car Models That Include Them

1. ABS Braking

For nearly a decade, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) have been government-mandated in cars¹, meaning there are plenty of vehicles on the used market with this feature. ABS kicks in when the driver steps on the brake pedal. Rather than locking the wheels, which can cause the vehicle to skid, ABS engages and disengages the brakes cyclically to slow the car down while avoiding sliding. It works with the vehicle’s traction control sensors to detect when a wheel is slipping and brake that specific wheel to maintain stability.

ABS braking has been standard since 2013, so you’ll find it on every vehicle made since then, from family-friendly vans and sedans to the rugged Ford F-150².

2. Drive Traction

A vehicle’s drivetrain has a large impact on how it handles the terrain. All-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles are ideal for winter driving; they’re similar to 4-wheel drive vehicles but have additional electronic control. AWD vehicles actively control how much power is sent to each wheel at a given time. This way, more power can be placed on wheels that aren’t slipping to compensate for the ones that are.

There is no shortage of options for winter-capable vehicles, but there are a few standout models. The Toyota RAV4 has multiple modes for monitoring and maintaining traction, including one specifically tuned for driving on snow³. It also has signature Toyota safety features to detect when the car drifts and warn the driver, making it one of the best used SUVs for snowy winter driving.

The Subaru Crosstrek is another quality option thanks to its AWD drivetrain and 9 inches of ground clearance³. This used compact SUV is unlikely to lose handling on uneven surfaces. Customers in the market for a larger vehicle may prefer the Subaru Forester. Both models have similar handling capabilities and reputations for reliability, but the Forester offers more room for cargo and passengers⁴.

A used white 2020 Subaru Crosstrek
2020 Subaru Crosstrek

3. Cold-Weather Amenities

It’s hard to talk about winter driving without mentioning a Jeep model. In addition to a variety of traction-control systems that make it one of the best cars for winter driving, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a roomy vehicle for anyone needing a lot of space. There are many add-on options as well, such as heated seats and heating steering to make those morning commutes a little more pleasant³.

Drivers looking for a more compact option may gravitate toward the Mazda CX-5, which also features heated seats and steering, plus AWD and all-season tires. The New England Motor Press Association chose the CX-5 as its best compact SUV for 2020⁵—and that’s a region that knows a thing or two about winter driving.

A used 2019 Mazda CX-5 in an empty parking lot
2019 Mazda CX-5

Find the Best Used Cars for Winter With Help From ACV Auctions

There are many vehicle types that make it easier to drive safely in winter conditions. The key is balancing safety options for maximizing traction and handling with desirable design, comfort, and utility options. Our auction platform lets you focus on specific vehicle types so you can stock the sedans and SUVs your customers can depend on when the snow starts to fall. Our market and vehicle condition reports give you the tools to understand what shape a car is in before bidding, helping your customers drive away safely. Join ACV today and start building your auction watch list.



1.  Heaps, R. (25 October 2022). Best Cars and SUVs for Snow: Features You Need. Kelley Blue Book. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.kbb.com/best-cars/driving-in-snow/

2. Riley, E. (2 February 2021). Cruise Confidently in Winter Weather with These Used Vehicles. Auto Influence. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.autoinfluence.com/cruise-confidently-in-winter-weather-with-these-used-vehicles/

3. Sheldon, A. (14 January 2022). The 5 Best Cars for Winter Driving. AAA Northeast. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://magazine.northeast.aaa.com/daily/life/cars-trucks/best-cars-for-winter-driving/

4. Evans, S. (11 May 2020). Crosstrek or Forester: Which Subaru SUV Is Right For You? Motortrend. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.motortrend.com/reviews/subaru-crosstrek-vs-subaru-forester-2/

5. Brock, L. (5 June 2022). New England Motor Press Association Announces 2020 Winter Vehicle and Ragtop Awards. NEMPA. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://nempa.org/articles/2020/new-england-motor-press-association-announces-2020-winter-vehicle-and-ragtop-awards/