Top Tips For The Mountain

AutoTrader NZ
Published 26 April 2024

Are you planning a trip to the snow this winter but unsure what to pack?

Whether you’re a first-time mountain goer or a seasoned skier, check out these top tips to ensure your next trip goes smoothly!

What car do I need for the Mountain?

Due to New Zealand’s generally warm climate, ice often forms on the roads, especially in regions that dip below zero. This is typically seen in areas closer to the mountains or in the South Island.

Choosing the right type of car:

There are several different types of cars to choose from, whether you are renting or looking to purchase the perfect winter car.

Depending on how many people and how much luggage you have, your car needs will vary. A large family may require a 7-seater or van, while a small family or a couple might only need a small SUV or hatchback.

Some popular cars for the Mountain:

  • Subaru Legacy: Known for its all-wheel drive and spacious interior.
  • Toyota RAV4: Offers robust performance with good ground clearance.
  • Audi Q5: Features luxurious comfort and superior traction.
  • Ford Everest: Ideal for its towing capacity and rugged build.
  • Toyota Hilux: Famous for its reliability and off-road capability.

Top Tip: Having a car that is equipped with a roof rack or ski rack is always a plus, as it allows you to move your skis or boards to the roof, giving you more room in the car. Consider other winter driving accessories like snow chains and an emergency kit for added safety and convenience.

Hatchback with a ski rack installed.


For wet weather and slippery terrain, a 4WD (Four-Wheel Drive) or AWD (All-Wheel Drive) is often the preferred drivetrain method, as these vehicles drive all four wheels simultaneously, providing the best traction and security on wet, slippery winter roads.

The other common drivetrain methods in most vehicles are FWD (Front-Wheel Drive) and RWD (Rear-Wheel Drive). These are good options but usually require the addition of chains because they drive only two wheels at a time. Putting on chains can add extra hassle to the trip, especially when it’s cold.

View Our Top 5 Cars For The Mountain

What to pack?

Packing the right gear for the job is key. Staying warm and ensuring your car is in tip-top shape should be your top priorities.

Make sure you pack warm clothing. Raincoats, jumpers, beanies, and gloves are must-haves even if you’re just going for a sightseeing mission.

Food and water are essential for the mountain. With the lack of food and beverage options on most mountains, it always pays to come prepared.

Make sure your car has its spare tire or tire repair kit. Quite often, the mountain roads are rough and gravelly. Ensure you have a backup plan if worse comes to worst.

What do I need to check on the car before I go?

  • Fuel: Make sure you have enough petrol to make it up the mountain and back down, as your car will burn more petrol than usual due to the steep gradient and decreased oxygen levels.
  • Tyres: Check your tires to ensure they are road legal, with no cracks, splits, and ample tread. During winter, this is even more critical as roads become slippery.
  • Oil and Coolant: Double-check your oil and coolant to make sure your car does not need a top-up; this avoids any unwanted breakdowns.
  • Windscreen and Wipers: Check your windscreen washer’s water level and wiper blades. The mountain roads often have snow. Ensure all your wipers and washers work so you can see.
  • Chains: If you have a FWD or RWD car, make sure to double-check that you have your chains!

Last but not least, have fun!