Do I need 4wd to drive to Big Sky? YES!
Every winter we get countless last-minute, panicked phone calls of individuals desperately seeking an All-Wheel-Drive or Four-Wheel-Drive rental car. There are two reasons for this. First, and absolutely foremost, you need a four-wheel-drive car in Big Sky during the winter. Heck, it snows in Big Sky literally every month of the year, but you really, really need four-wheel-drive in the winter. In every pre-trip info packet from Property Managers or VRBO owners, you will see a requirement for a four-wheel-drive vehicle. This info is often not read until the day before arrival, and then blamo’, the realization sets in.
The second reason we get so many last minute calls for 4WD or AWD rental cars, is that we are the only company in Bozeman that guarantees 4WD or AWD rentals. We do not have anything else, so there is simply no other option. And very often when a renter from an on-airport franchise goes out to their assigned rental car, they find it is actually 2WD. See Point #1.
Just last night 12/29/18, we heard a story of a family in Big Sky that was provided a 2WD rental Suburban- for $450/ day! A franchise company that starts with “A” told them, the renters, that they move a number of 2WD SUVs from California to Bozeman to accommodate the Christmas rush. No sympathy. No apologies. Take it or leave it.
I personally cannot believe that any company would rent someone a rear wheel drive SUV in Bozeman, in the winter. There simply is not a more dangerous car to drive. Add to the fact it most certainly has the terrible factory ‘All-Season’ gas-save highway tires, and honestly that is like handing someone a death sentence. You might get lucky and have decent road conditions, or you could spend your Christmas drowning in the Gallatin river. Historically it seems 85% or so that rent SUVs at the Bozeman Airport will get a 4WD or AWD rental car. But for that remaining 15%- geez, good luck.
The moral of the story: Plan in advance? That means nothing as they are just as likely to swap you out for a 2WD car last minute or if you booked a year in advance. Or, book your Bozeman/ Big Sky rental car with a company that guarantees you an AWD or 4WD rental car.
UPDATE: We just had some renters return one of our Chevrolet Suburban Super Roadwarriors- our least expensive option. They exclaimed repetitively how happy they were with the rental, especially considering his brother had rented a Suburban from one of the franchises. He stated our car was cleaner, less expensive, and did not slide off of the road getting into the VRBO like his brother’s rental Suburban did.