The No. 1 trick to buying a car if you live in the Southwest


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Since the summer of 2021, the American Southwest has been hit hard by severe weather. The region has faced extreme drought conditions, with five of six states — California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado — experiencing record-high temperatures. By contrast, the winter saw heavy storms and even snow in some areas.

With both flash-flooding and dry heat in the forecast, how do you choose the right vehicle? Not all cars are suited for extreme heat or heavy rains, but vehicles with the following features and systems will fare far better in the extreme conditions of the Southwest.

Six considerations to make when buying your car

Weather conditions vary across the Southwest, so car buyers in the region have unique considerations to make. In addition to shopping for the best rate on an auto loan, which can vary in APR and term length, drivers should look for a car that can handle local weather and road conditions. Here are some of the ways your next car can be outfitted for extremes:

1. Drivetrain

Hot weather isn’t typically correlated with all-wheel drive (AWD), but even if you won’t be near the snow, having AWD can help with traction, especially on wet or unpaved roads.

Some AWD vehicles come with additional features to help with tough driving conditions. Honda equips certain trims with their Intelligent Traction Management system, which allows drivers to switch between mud mode, sand mode and snow mode. Acura offers a Super-Handling, All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD), which is built to improve handling on dry roads.

2. Seasonal tires

Tires affect traction and handling even more than wheels and drivetrain, so good tires are crucial in wet and muddy conditions. Winter tires should not be left on past spring, and if you drive in an area that’s warm most of the year you may not need winter tires at all.

You can avoid needing to change your tires right away by shopping for a vehicle that has the right tires for local conditions. If you’re shopping for a used vehicle, prior maintenance should be a main concern. In addition to inspecting the vehicle for flood damage, be sure to check the tires to make sure they don’t have shallow tread or uneven wear.

3. Brake systems

Anti-lock braking (ABS) is essential technology since it helps prevent wheels from locking up and makes the vehicle easier to steer when a driver brakes hard. For added safety, some vehicles come equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which helps prevent collisions by automatically braking when the driver doesn’t respond quickly enough.

If you can’t afford a trim with AEB or other braking safety features, like brake assist, you can still equip your brakes properly for hot temperatures. For tolerance of extreme heat, look for brakes with ceramic rotors. Stainless steel can also be a good option, but you’ll want to avoid aluminum and other materials.

4. Interior cooling

When it comes to A/C systems, some cars can’t withstand the heat. In addition to avoiding cars with air conditioning problems, look for these features that can help keep drivers and passengers from overheating:

  • Remote starting so you don’t have to load passengers or cargo into a scorching-hot car
  • Ventilated seats to cool individual seats and passengers
  • Automatic climate control, which adjusts the fan and temperature so you don’t have to fiddle with settings
  • Roof vent diffuser to improve airflow for passengers in the third row

5. Telematics

Telematics allows drivers to get 24/7 roadside assistance or emergency assistance. Telematic systems, like OnStar and Safety Connect, do this by connecting GPS and cell phone technology to share your location with a central dispatcher. The service can also automatically request assistance on your behalf in the event of a collision and can unlock your doors or even honk the horn to help others locate your car.

If you purchase a car equipped with a telematics system you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee to keep it active. For drivers who face dangerous road conditions, the peace of mind is likely worth the roughly $10 to $30 a month you’ll pay on top of the car payment, which averages from $397-$563 a month.

6. Rear seat reminder systems

Many drivers aren’t aware that a few minutes in a hot car can be deadly for children, but vehicular heatstroke has claimed the lives of a record number of children in recent years.

More vehicles are being built with alert systems that can save lives by preventing heatstroke fatalities. This includes some Hyundai, Genesis and Kia models. Their rear-seat reminder systems alert drivers when a child or pet is unattended in a back seat or cargo area and can even inform drivers remotely by sending an alert to a cell phone.

Wondering which vehicles are preferred by car-buyers in your region? Check out our data on the most popular cars in the Southwest.

1. Arizona

  • Most popular car brand: 13% of all car shoppers were interested in Chevrolet models
  • 8% of Arizona’s Chevy shoppers are looking for Cameros compared to only 4% of Corvettes

2. Colorado

  • Most popular car brand: 13% of all car shoppers were interested in Ford models
  • Colorado shoppers accounted for 25% of Americans interested in the Electric Ford Focus

3. New Mexico

  • Most popular car brand: 15% of all car shoppers were interested in Ford models
  • 33% of shoppers in New Mexico were in the market for a pickup truck

4. Nevada

  • Most popular car brand: 11% of all car shoppers were interested in Chevrolet models
  • One-quarter of all Chevy shoppers had interest in the Silverado truck

5. Utah

  • Most popular car brand: 12% of all car shoppers were interested in Ford models
  • The Ford Fusion Hybrid accounted for 11% of all hybrid interest in Utah


Data pool represents those who shopped for cars in Q1 2021. Data was then sorted and filtered to determine the most popular model per state. For this analysis, southwestern states were defined to include Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

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