Here Are Your Picks For The Best Cheap Beaters For Surviving Winter

Here Are Your Picks For The Best Cheap Beaters For Surviving Winter

Cheap transportation for the winter months can be a good idea as long as you survive.

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Toyota Matrix XR AWD
Toyota Matrix XR AWD
Image: Toyota

I’ve personally never had to deal with snowy weather being from southern California. But I imagine if I had to, I’d love to find a cheap car with AWD to get around the slush in - something that’s practical in both its driving and hauling capabilities.

We asked readers what cheap beaters they thought would be best for getting around and surviving winter. These were their answers.

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Late ‘80s To Mid ‘90s GM FWD Mid-Size Sedans

Late ‘80s To Mid ‘90s GM FWD Mid-Size Sedans

Chevy Lumina
Chevy Lumina
Image: Chevrolet

Mid-80s to mid 90s Fuel injected V6 GM Fwd midsize sedans with snow tires. Cheap, ugly, nigh-unstoppable. My ‘85 Celebrity was a surprisingly awesome New England ski car.

Suggested by: Christopher Brown (Facebook)

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Jeep Patriot (And Subaru Rant)

Jeep Patriot (And Subaru Rant)

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Image: Jeep

Jeep Patriot, preferably with a manual. They are abundant and cheap. The 2.4L engine will go the distance if my casual perusal of CL daily is any indication. And because fuck Subaru. Why this brand has such loyalty baffles me. What happened in 2006 that makes them special? My Subaru mechanic says never buy one except the 2000-2004 year models. This after charging me $2500 to fix the head gaskets that puked at 52K miles on my 2007 Impreza. My neighbor’s 2014 Crosstrek has already been through one engine and one transmission at just 100K miles. A beater XJ would have been nice a few years ago, but they command way too much money now.

Remember, these things were Trail Rated! (I’m being sarcastic of course.)

Suggested by: TheBlightOfGrey

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Second Generation Volvo XC70

Second Generation Volvo XC70

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Image: Volvo

Since I know how they do in bad weather, I’d personally go with a 2004-2006 Volvo XC70. You can still get them cheap, and they are pretty luxurious and comfortable inside.

Fun fact: the designer of this gen of XC70, Peter Horbury, described its design as: “Imagine the front end of an E-type Jaguar married to the back end of a Ford Transit van... With the Volvo V70, we have tried to combine the two.”

Suggested by: DoctorNine

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2009 Honda Element

2009 Honda Element

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Image: Honda

Here’s what you want: Reliability, AWD (yes, with winter tires), safety (modern safety features - airbags, traction control, etc.), a manual transmission (or the ability to select a gear) - it’s a God-send for slowing on ice, at least some ground clearance (mounds of snow can be tough.)

I’m going (if I can find one) with a 2009 Honda Element AWD EX. You can get it with a stick shift. It’s new enough to have modern safety features. It’s drop-dead reliable. And, while not an ‘SUV’ - it should be able to make it through small mounds of snow that plows push up along roads. Plus, with an easily washable interior, you don’t have to be as worried about getting in with mud and snow covered shoes.

Suggested by: TheWalrus

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Chevy Cavalier

Chevy Cavalier

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Image: Chevrolet

My $800 Cavalier on General Altimax Arctics was an absolute beast in the snow. Had a great sound system, fantastic heat (and remote start) and an absurd level of ground clearance. It was legitimately unstoppable in snow. And dirt cheap to the point where if something happened, it wasn’t any kind of major financial loss.

Suggested by: MP81

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Old Saabs

Old Saabs

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Image: General Motors Archives

Cheap old Scandinavian is best, not to mention you skirt the Subaru tax. $1500, Swedish, FWD and unstoppable with snow tires. These cars are actually quite plentiful and really nice examples with less than 100k can be had for sub $3k. I have plowed through 2ft of snow in northern Michigan winters and have never had an issue. Clutch in around snowy corner and youre sure to step the rear end out in a very controllable fashion as well. Not to mention the heat and heated seats are like climbing back into a warm bed. I realize these cars have a mixed reputation, but if you keep up on basic things like Oil and DIC you’re golden.

Suggested by: Dawson429

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Saturn Vue V6

Saturn Vue V6

2005 Saturn Vue V6 AWD
2005 Saturn Vue V6 AWD
Image: General Motors

Saturn Vue v6 AWD. Like $3-4k on the high end, has a Honda engine so lasts forever, and plastic body panels so no rust(unless you look under the car lol) I have been running one for 2 years now with over 175,000 miles and it works great!

Initially, GM offered the Vue with the L81 V6 that was also used in the L-Series. That changed in 2004 with the introduction of the Vue Red Line, a performance version of the SUV that used Honda’s J35s1 3.5-liter 248-horsepower V6. Later model years you could get the V6 in the regular Vue as well.

Just be careful of those CVTs in the Vue as they experienced unusually high failure rates, coined by those working on them, the “Continuously Failing Transmissions.”

Suggested by: jstump

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Ford Freestyle

Ford Freestyle

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Image: Ford

Ford Freestyle AWD. With winter tires especially, ours was awesome in winter weather. Surefooted and comfortable in any weather, as good a family hauler as you’d ever want. We’d throw a roof box on ours for the “over the river & through the woods” runs to the grandparents for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

The Freestyle was essentially a crossover version of the Ford 500/Mercury Montego. It used the same 3.0-liter V6 and CVT transmission as Ford’s large midsize sedans.

 Suggested by: Jeb_Hoge

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Second Generation Acura RL

Second Generation Acura RL

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Image: Acura

2005-2012 Acura RL.

With the Honda J-series 3.5-3.7L V6 and SH-AWD, you can run aggressive drivers in Subarus and Jeeps off the road in northeast blizzards.

Not only is there torque vectoring, but it’s the only Acura SH-AWD system that includes overdrive capability in torque vectoring mode.

And it’s cheap now. And it blends in.

Suggested by: Andy

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2000's Suzuki SX4

2000's Suzuki SX4

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Image: Suzuki

2000s or 2010s Suzuki SX4 in a hatch or sedan. AWD, comes in a manual, hatch versatility, good mpgs, and used prices haven’t gone through the roof like if you wanted a Crosstrek.

The U.S. version of the SX4 was the only version of the car that same with standard AWD.

Suggested by: WayDude

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