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What should I look for when buying a winter beater?

By Kijiji Autos
Winter driving_winter road

Scared your lowered and supped up Civic SI won’t take the pounding of the salt and sand of a Canadian winter? Or maybe you just don’t want to roll that classic Chrysler Challenger through a snow drift on your way to work?

Have you ever thought of buying a winter beater for the long and hard months of November-April? Many Canadians buy a “winter beater” to let their regular ride take a rest from the relentless Canadian winters. Brampton North Nissan’s Sales Manager Tom Kowalski talks us through 5 thing to look for when searching for your winter beater.

1. Reliability

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to worry about in -30 weather is your car not starting. Ensuring that your car actually turns over on at 6am on a Saturday morning when you are driving your kids to TimBits hockey is absolutely critical.

Tom says that when looking at purchasing a winter beater make sure that there are absolutely no warning lights lit up on the dashboard. This is a tell-tale sign that your winter beater could turn into a winter headache. Check to see the age of the battery in the car as well. The newer it is the less likely you’ll be asking your neighbours to boost your car.

2.  Simplicity

Tom believes that simplicity is one of the key points of a successful winter beater. Sure, we all love our iConnect’s and Sync systems, but complicated electronics make the price tag of a winter beater go way up, as well as the maintenance.

Focus on older, domestic vehicles that are mostly engine and a chassis. This ensures that your winter beater will have less to break down. Tom advises that the older 4.3 litre engines may burn more gas but are simple and reliable. Older domestic cars also have the advantage of having many parts available and are much cheaper than import vehicles.

3. All Wheel Drive

It makes sense that your winter beater have all wheel drive. This will ensure that if you do get stuck in a snow drift that you have a fighting chance of powering through it and not having to have the neighborhood push you out of a bind.

Tom recommends vehicles such as the GMC Jimmy that is equipped with AWD. They are heavier, have a reliable and simple engine, and can take a beating.

If you cannot get your hands on a AWD vehicle, it is important that you search for at least a front wheel drive vehicle.

4. Safety

Safety is critical in your winter beater. As you know, the roads and drivers become a dangerous affair during the winter months.

At Brampton North Nissan, they allow you to put the car up on a hoist and have your own mechanic come and check over the car and test drive it before purchase. If you are dealing with a dealership that does not allow you to do this, be wary. You should be able to get your own set of eyes on your vehicle before purchase to ensure it is safe and can be easily safetyed and E-tested. Tom also advises that reputable dealers will not sell you a car that is unsafe.

5. Price

With a winter beater, you want to ensure that you are not spending a wild amount on it. A winter beater only needs to last you for 5 months before you can jump back into your convertible for the summer months.

The price range for a winter beater should be somewhere between $1000-5000. Tom advises that you will probably be faced with $1000-1500 in reconditioning costs after getting your beater off of the lot. Also factor in licensing, safety, and e-testing costs as well.

Tom advises by purchasing an inexpensive domestic vehicle, that you can not only get a bigger more reliable engine, but also spend the money saved on a great set of winter tires. This could take you from zero to hero in many driving situations.

When you invest more than $5000 in a winter beater, it may be smart to look for a car on the lot that is already saftied, e-tested, and ready to roll off the lot without any work.

Consider that for $10,000 you can buy a reliable vehicle that you can drive in all seasons and would have some more of the comforts that you are used to.

Tom and his sales staff at Brampton North Nissan would be more than happy to put you into one of his great vehicles – winter beater or not.

Tom’s winter beater hall of fame: GMC Jimmy, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Malibu, older Mazda 3’s, Acura EL

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