While Calgary is one of the most sought-after locations in all of Canada, it’s not always the most friendly place for the motor vehicle. The freezing temperatures in the winter and wilderness landscape once you get out of the city and off the main highways mean that most people’s cars take a beating. The residents of Calgary need their vehicles to be built like a tank. 

This problem then begs the question of what type of vehicle the average Calgary resident should buy? What kind of car has the strength to survive the harshest conditions while still enabling you to go about your business and live a regular modern life? It’s a tricky question. 

It should be noted that we’re not saying that you need a tank to live in Calgary. The town is not some random outpost in the far frozen north. But it is true that the residents of Calgary experience more extremes of temperatures than practically any other group of people living in a major Western city. It’s not that the town is particularly far north (although that’s part of it), it has to do with how the icy weather from the North Pole cascades down from over the continent. It envelops the city for large sections of the winter. 

Clearly, in those conditions, the type of motor vehicle that you buy makes an enormous difference to your experience. If you live in Calgary, you need something robust that won’t let you down on a cold winter morning. You want a car where the lights will work on a frosty evening and an ignition that will function even if temperatures dipped overnight. Reliability is vital, especially over the winter months. A vehicle unable to stand the test of time is a poor choice for people living in Alberta. 

So what’s the solution? What type of cars should seasoned Calgary residents actually buy? Let’s take a look at your options if you go to a used car dealership in Calgary.  

Choose A “Winter Car” In A Used Car Dealership In Calgary

No car manufacturer in the world markets “winter cars.” After all, when most people buy a car, they expect it to function the whole year round. Very few people use a car in winter and then alternate means of transportation for the rest of the year. But that doesn’t mean that manufacturers don’t have the notion that they need to build a car for winter conditions in their minds. There are vehicles out there with a distinctive cold-weather theme. 

Temperatures in Calgary can get ridiculously cold in winter. In 1943, for instance, the temperature in the city dropped to 43 C below, or 20 C colder than the average freezer. At those kinds of temperatures, it’s easy to imagine something like a motor vehicle seizing up and not going anywhere. Temperatures in Calgary regularly hit minus 30 C and have done so consistently over the last 30 years. It’s just a consequence of living in this particular part of the world. 

Winter cars are a special breed of vehicle designed to make living in these conditions a little more bearable. They are the kind of cars that have unique features that mean that it’s quicker to set off in the morning and, when you do, you’ve got better handling on the roads. 

Snow Handling Abilities

If you’ve ever tried to drive a regular car over the snow, you know that it can be a nerve-wracking experience. Most vehicles slip and slide all over the place and never gain any traction.

All-weather vehicles, on the other hand, tend to do better in the snow. So-called “winter cars” have excellent handling in icy conditions and can provide you with a little extra control, including on inclines and declines. You can find these types of vehicles at used car dealerships in Calgary/

High-Power Climate Control

Stepping into a vehicle that has been outside in the cold on a freezing winter night in Calgary can be colder than a freezer. Unless you’re wearing an expedition suit, you need to get warm air flowing immediately. 

Turn on the heating in most cars, and it takes a couple of miles to take effect. The engine has to warm up, and then warm air emerges as a byproduct. But, if you’re like most people, you don’t want to spend a couple of miles waiting for hypothermia to set in. You want a car the provide you with immediate heat. The extreme cold is unpleasant. 

One of the great things about many of today’s modern, winter-orientated vehicles, is that they come with instant heating systems. These pipe warm air, almost from the moment that you turn on the engine. The car’s battery heats an element which then provides a large surface to warm air coming into the cabin. 

All-Weather Tires

Perhaps the most critical part of any winter vehicle is the all-weather tires. All-weather tires have a unique tread which allows you to use them in practically any conditions. What’s great about them is that the performance is the same on a hot summer’s day as on the iciest of winter nights. All-weather tires help to assist with control in ice.

Handling Assistance

If you’re not used to driving on frozen road surfaces, you can quickly find yourself in trouble. It’s incredibly easy to spin a car that doesn’t have driver-assist features. A winter vehicle, however, is a car designed for the harsh Calgary winters because it uses electronics to control wheels independently and counteract skids. 

If you try to take a tight bend at your regular speed in winter conditions in a typical car, you’ll simply continue in the direction that you were traveling initially. Most cars can’t turn in frozen conditions. 

Some vehicles, however, have special driver-assist features that will independently adjust the speed of the wheels to prevent a skin from occurring. You might not get the turning performance you want, but you do have the sense that you’re in control of the vehicle that you are driving. 

Choose A Vehicle With A High Safety Score

If you live in an area consistently exposed to harsh weather conditions, it’s vital to have a car that has an excellent safety rating. The better the safety rating, the better your vehicle will be able to protect you against the type of accidents you get in the winter months. 

The world’s leading vehicle safety rating agency is Euro NCAP. The agency bases its safety ratings on four broad categories: 

  • Adult occupant safety – how well the car protects adult occupants
  • Child occupant safety – the ability of the vehicle to protect children in a variety of crash scenarios
  • Vulnerable road users – whether the car has any accident mitigation technology (like external airbags) that can protect vulnerable road users in the event of a collision
  • Safety assist features – the features that the car has to prevent or avoid accidents from happening in the first place.

The rating system started in 1997 and has continued to this day. It provides a comprehensive assessment of the quality of a vehicle’s safety features and is something that all people living in Calgary need to know about. 

Notice the fourth category: safety assist features. These are arguably the most important for winter driving. 

Safety assist features include a wide variety of technologies, designed to help you negotiate the busy streets of Calgary in poor weather conditions. 

Traction Control

When driving in Calgary in harsh weather, you can quickly lose traction. The great thing about traction control is that it has been around for a considerable amount of time. It’s something that you can find on a lot of used cars. 

The purpose of traction control is to prevent tires from spinning on wet road surfaces. Sensors in the wheel make measurements of the wheel’s rotational speed versus that of other wheels on the vehicle. If the car detects that the wheel is spinning out of control, it’ll make adjustments to the power going to it. As it lowers the power, the wheel will once again achieve traction, putting the driver back in control. 

LED Tail Lights

LED taillights are also exceptionally common on today’s second-hand vehicles. LED lights have been used in mainstream motor vehicles for more than ten years and offer a host of benefits for people driving in harsh conditions. 

Perhaps the most crucial feature of LED lights is that the driver behind you can see them more easily. LEDs use a semiconducting crystal that emits an enormous number of photons for surprisingly little energy. 

The other significant benefit of LED tail lights is that they are more reliable than their incandescent counterparts. They don’t burn out with anything like the frequency of the former, providing you with extra reliability when the temperature dips. 

Adaptive Headlines

Standard vehicles shine their headlight beams directly ahead. But adaptive headlights help drivers by directing the beams around corners. Some models use additional lights positioned at the side of the vehicle while others have headlights that swivel on stilts like eyeballs. Sensors detect a change in the direction of motion of the car and then adjust the lighting accordingly. 

You can imagine how useful this feature is for people driving out of Calgary. All of a sudden, you’re able to peer around darkened corners on country roads and get a better view of potential oncoming hazards 

Forward Collision Warning

When the weather is poor, braking distances go up. You need more space to stop in wet weather than you do in dry. While forward-collision warnings don’t reduce braking distance, they can minimize reaction distance. 

Vehicle manufacturers know that people aren’t always paying attention to the road in front. The idea behind forward-collision warnings is to provide an alert that jolts the driver out of their stupor and gets them to brake. Overall, the total distance traveled while reacting to a hazard in front goes down.

The way that forward-collision warnings work is relatively simple in concept. The car uses a set of sensors on the front of the vehicle which tell it how far a car is in front and whether it is a car that you need to avoid or not. Modern vehicles get better with each passing year at figuring out if the car in front is a vehicle or not and if you should brake. 

Some used car models in Calgary also combine forward-collision warning with auto-braking if the driver doesn’t react to the warning. This technology, however, is still in its relative infancy and will likely appear on many more vehicles over the coming decade. 

Buy A Used Vehicle With Plenty Of Storage

While Calgary is a large city of more than a million people, it’s also relatively isolated. People who live in the area, therefore, need vehicles with lots of storage space for transporting goods to and from their homes, especially if supplies to the city are cut. 

When it comes to large storage spaces in vehicles, you’ve got several choices. The most obvious is to pick an SUV and use that for carting all of your stuff around, but you do have other options. 

One popular choice is to use a pickup with a covered rear trunk from a used car dealership in Calgary. The space provided by pickups is surprisingly generous. Most people are shocked to discover that they are usually able to fit large recreational items, like skis and bikes, into the trunk area. Some varieties come with an elevated boot section, giving you extra height and room – helpful if the weather is terrible. 

The other option for those who need plenty of space is to buy an estate car. Estates have gone out of fashion as a form faction, but this means you can pick up a bargain on the second-hand market. Toyota, for instance, famously stopped making its Avensis so that it could focus on SUVs and small city cars. 

So, there you have it: the type of car that you should buy if you live in Calgary. You want something that’s designed for driving in the winter has plenty of safety features and has all the storage you need to cart large numbers of items to and from your home.