I daily-drive a 2018 Honda Accord. With the proper preparation – pretrip maintenance, new-ish tires, full-size spares, maybe even paint protection film, etc. – would it be advisable to take this or any other front-wheel drive sedan up the Dempster Highway from Dawson City, Yukon, to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories? It’s 800-plus kilometres of dirt and gravel each way. If not, what vehicle would you suggest? – Chris
Richardson: The Dempster Highway is a gravel road. You can drive anything on a gravel road if you take it easy and do some preparation beforehand.
Gentile: Are you kidding, Mark? I wouldn’t even take my 2001 Honda Accord on that gravel road. And before you make a snarky remark – yes, it’s an old car, but it’s reliable and in great shape. I wouldn’t risk damaging my car’s undercarriage or paint. I don’t think Chris should do it, either.
Richardson: Nonsense. I once drove up to Inuvik in a Smart car, in winter. Not the best vehicle, I’ll agree, but it’s doable.
Gentile: And didn’t you just do this route in a full-size pickup truck, the Chevrolet Silverado?
Richardson: Yup, on the new extension up to Tuktoyaktuk last fall, as part of a press drive. It was way easier with smaller tires fitted to the truck. And I’ve ridden part of it on a motorcycle, too. But the real question is whether an Accord, or a sedan like it, will be damaged by a road like the Dempster. And is there something else that will be a more comfortable and reliable vehicle for such a road?
Gentile: The only vehicle I’d take on this route is a truck, such as the Ram 1500 pickup or even the new Ford Ranger. With a higher ground-clearance than a sedan, you run less risk of damage to the undercarriage and paint from all the dirt and gravel.
Richardson: Most of the vehicles in the north are trucks, but there are cars too. And pretty much every car has a chipped windshield and chipped paint. I know of a guy who drove all those northern roads in an old Honda Prelude, with no issues.
Gentile: Chris doesn’t say if he would drive north in summer or winter. That’ll make a difference.
Richardson: A huge difference for the preparation of the vehicle, but it still shouldn’t be a deterrent. Frankly, it’s easier in the winter when the roads are smoothed over with snow, provided you have good tires. In the summer, there’ll be more ruts and rock chips, but the days are literally endless.
Gentile: Chris should really consider renting a recreational vehicle for this trip; it’s the best way to see the country on a budget. Have you ever done a road trip in an RV, Mark?
Richardson: Oh God. I almost got divorced driving the family from Toronto to Tofino in a 28-footer.
Gentile: I haven’t driven the route to the Northwest Territories, but I did drive through the Yukon and Alaska in an Adventurer 24-ft motorhome. And it was a blast! It was a press trip driving rented RVs in Whitehorse.
Richardson: Not every RV rental company will allow its vehicles on the Dempster, because of the risk of broken windshields and flat tires. But it is nice to be able to just park at a campsite, or a pull-out from the road, and enjoy the wilderness experience. It helps to pack beer, too.
Gentile: My RV was fairly easy to manoeuvre and drive. Granted, reversing takes a bit of patience and time. Come on, you can’t deny – it’s a cheap and fun way to travel. No hotel accommodations needed. My RV slept up to six passengers, and it had a small kitchen and washroom, too.
Richardson: My RV slept six, and we carried six – three adults and three teenage boys. It was comfortable for the two people in the front and miserable for the four people stuck in the back on hard bench seats, looking sideways at the views.
Gentile: At least you saved money on hotels.
Richardson: I guess, but it wasn’t a cheap rental. Four weeks and 5,000 km cost more than $10,000. Fuel consumption was abysmal: I got 35 L/100 km, and that was driving at the speed limit.
Gentile: So you’re not really an RV person, I guess.
Richardson: They have their uses, but Chris just wants to know if his Accord will be able to make the trip. Yes, of course it will if he takes it easy.
Gentile: Skip the Accord and go for an RV. Less stress and more fun.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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