Cars in Alaska

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Cars in Alaska

Postby Yaffasmom » Wed Nov 17, 2021 5:48 pm

Ok, so I am busy filling out applications and applying for next year. Everything I had read, led me to believe that there would be no way I would get a job in an "on the road" school. However, maybe since I am a special ed teacher, I am getting contacted by ASD and Matsu. So I HAD been planning just to not have a car. My lease will be up next summer and I was just going to let it go. However, if I am in Anchorage or Palmer, I need a car. So, what kind of car would I need? If I am in an apartment, will my car be OK? Do apartments have garages in Alaska? What about rust from salt? Do people worry about that? What about the cold? I know I would need snow tires minimally. What else do I need to know? Thanks in advance for any help.

Before I post this, I thought if I had any other questions, because initially, I was planning on the Bush. Are they worth comparing? What about comparing salaries? Other important facts I should consider?
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Re: Cars in Alaska

Postby Johncn » Tue Nov 23, 2021 6:08 am

Hi Amy,

To should check out the main Alaska Teacher Placement website for starters at:

But, the differences in lifestyle, pay and costs are sometimes significant. You'll have to check with each district about housing options, and research rental costs. Most road system districts do not have subsidized rent as part of their union contract, so you'll need to rent a place. Some have housing assistance in locating suitable places that other teachers have used, while others may not be able to help you locate one.

In general, having a car in most Bush locations (off the road system) is not necessary, especially your first year. Having a car in a road system community is generally recommended. Cars should be AWD or 4x4 if you want to have mobility during the winter pretty much anywhere in Alaska. Alaskans also do use snow tires much of the year, even in commuting areas like Anchorage, Mat Su and the Kenai Peninsula. If you live in Fairbanks or some other areas away from the coast, but on the road system, you may want a plug-in engine block heater to keep oil flowing enough to start easily. Anchorage is not nearly as cold as most people think, but still gets real winter. Fairbanks is colder than many realize, but people are active all winter, it's all what you become used to. Kodiak and Juneau are on the ferry system, but their weather is somewhat moderated by the maritime environment.

Many road crews in Alaska use more cinders, grit and sand than salt, however, due to temperatures. Districts you are talking with can provide valuable insights about this sort of thing. Some areas plow more than others, but driving in the city of Anchorage or Fairbanks, for example, is often on hard-packed snow and ice as the norm during much of the winter. ;-) Watch for moose! Slow down on major roads when approaching red lights or intersections. Start out slowly when the light changes. Shiny ice is bad. Seat warmers and remote starting is good. ;-)

Hope this helps.

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Re: Cars in Alaska

Postby ungaknunap » Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:19 am

Your chances of getting a teaching job on the road system are much higher this year than in the past. I know Fairbanks is trying to fill a LOT of vacancies with Long Term Subs like me.

Any car will work. You can drive one up the Al-Can Highway from the Lower 48. When you get to Alaska, especially places like Fairbanks, you will want to get it "winterized" so that you can plug it in to an electrical outlet at school, grocery stores, etc. It will cost about $500 to winterize it.

You won't need a car in the Bush, as there are few roads that lead anywhere. A 4 wheeler ATV (called "hondas" locally, regardless of the brand) can be used year round. Snowmachines (snow mobiles) are only useful for 4-5 months, depending on where you are located in Alaska.

Good luck!

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Re: Cars in Alaska

Postby Holly406 » Thu Feb 17, 2022 9:20 pm

I'd also like to add that titles in Alaska can be "clean" or "reconstructed." (There may be other designations that I'm not familiar with, but these are the ones I've come across so far). My home state doesn't have the differentiation of titles, so I had a bit of a crash course on arrival.

Know that if you choose to buy a vehicle that has a reconstructed title, the value (at purchase and again upon resale) is generally about half what is stated by bluebook. The "reconstructed" designation really drops the value down.
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Re: Cars in Alaska

Postby marymatt718 » Thu Mar 03, 2022 4:23 pm

I have lived in bush locations where you want a car and one where a 4-wheeler was enough.

My first 3 years here in Alaska, I was in Togiak. There are so few roads that a car was unnecessary, and it would have been difficult to get one out there and back. On days in the teens, with windchills of something like -35, I would have loved to have had a car, but those days were rare, and it would not have been worth the expense of getting a vehicle out there.

I spent the next 5 years in Galena, which is along the Yukon River, west of Fairbanks. There is a barge to get a vehicle in and out (in the summer when the river is not frozen), and there was enough distance from teacher housing to my school campus that an enclosed vehicle with a heater was nice to have, especially on mornings when the temperature was -50 or so. I had a 4 x 4 truck that had a battery blanket, an oil pan heater, and an engine block heater, all of which were necessary to prevent careless damage of the vehicle in temperatures that cold.

Now I am out in Sand Point, close to the Aleutians, and the school is 3 miles from my housing up a hill. In the winter the weather is not nearly as cold as Galena, but because we are an island in the middle of the ocean, there is a LOT of sideways rain in the winter. The only day we had a closed-school day was one on which we had wind gusts up to 110 mph, so it was too dangerous for the bus to run. I am VERY glad I have a vehicle out here, and I got it out here on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry in July.

You may not NEED a vehicle in the bush, but you may WANT one if it's convenient to get it there (and back out), if the weather is uncomfortable, and if there is quite a walk to your school. In Galena there was also the issue of running into wolves and moose in the winter while walking in the early morning or late afternoon in the dark. The bears were sleeping by then, but the wolves would come looking for moose, then of course you NEVER want to come on a moose and surprise it in the dark. (More people are killed by moose in Alaska each year than either wolves or bears.) Check the climate data and ask good questions when you interview for a bush location. If they make fun of you for asking and don't take those questions seriously, move along to the next bush prospect. Bush locations are NOT to be taken lightly. They are gorgeous and are something you can brag about seeing someday to your grandchildren, but they are NOT to be dismissed as being perfectly safe.

Yes you will absolutely need a vehicle if you are on the road system. In Fairbanks you may need all the accoutrements I had on my truck because the temperatures are very cold in winter. In Anchorage you can get away with just an engine block heater, though I recommend a battery blanket just in case. (nothing worse than a dead battery on a frigid morning. Have separate plugs for them and put them on a sturdy outdoor timer. You won't need the battery blanket unless temperatures go below 0, but the engine block heater is recommended for temperatures below 20.
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