Winter Car Buying: Features to Target in a Beater Vehicle

February 26th, 2016 by


There’s no way around it. There are certainly circumstance in our life when we desperately need a car, and we need it fast! Based on your emergency budget, you may be targeting some lower end used cars… and you may even find yourself eyeing some beaters.

Now, beaters get a lot of scrutiny, but they’re not all bad. These vehicles may look rough and beat up from the outside, but they should still be perfectly capable of bringing your from one destination to the other. Of course, if you’re targeting a beater car, you’re going to want to assure that all of the vehicle’s mechanics are working properly.

Since it’s the winter, we may see some very cold mornings. If you’ve just purchased a beater car, you’re likely relying on that vehicle for transportation. There won’t be anything more frustrating than coming outside and learning that the vehicle won’t start. To prevent these types of inconveniences, follow our guide to understand the features you should be prioritizing as you pursue a beater vehicle during the winter. When you’re finished, you should have a better understanding of what to pursue when shopping for used cars in Lexington, Kentucky

Heating/Air Conditioning Systems


This unit of your vehicle is especially important if you live in north. Those winter mornings can be absolutely brutal, and you’re going to want to assure that these units are working properly. Even if you live in an area that has better weather, it can still be important to secure a vehicle that has an operating air conditioning unit. Of course, it’s not all about comfort. These heating units help keep your vehicle warm, which could prevent your beater car from failing in the cold.

Considering the importance of heat in a vehicle, you’re going to also want to test the defroster. This unit helps remove any ice “wintery” accumulation from your windshield, which makes it a major safety factor.

“Unless it’s chillingly cold outside, a properly working defroster should begin to defog the windshield in just a few minutes, essentially as soon as the engine begins making a little excess heat,” Bill Visnic, an editor at, told Mitch Strohm of

Finally, testing these heating systems may reveal an even larger, more serious issue.

“If you have the heat blasting and detect a sweetish, burning smell inside the vehicle, something in the cooling system isn’t working properly or there’s a leak,” Visnic says.

Operating Battery


As we previously mentioned, those heat systems will play a role in keeping other aspects of your vehicle warm. Still, there are some car parts that are naturally more susceptible to damage from the cold. A car’s battery is at the top of the list, so you’ll want to make sure you’re securing a vehicle that won’t fail you in the winter.

“Exposure to extreme temperatures can affect battery life,” said Ricky Brooks, the CEO of an Alabama-based oil change company. “If the car has trouble starting, it might be the battery, but could also be the alternator, so both must be tested to rule out any problems.”

It may be tough to identify when you’ve come across a faulty battery. If the car has problems starting, you may be looking at a battery issue. Of course, the only real way to identify this type of issue is by bringing the targeted vehicle to a professional mechanic.

All-Wheel Drive Capabilities


You’re going to want the best possible traction as you’re traveling down those snowy and icy roads, and four-wheel drive systems are truly the best attribute of those capable winter-driving cars.

“All-wheel drive can keep the car from getting stuck in deep snow or help you climb a hill covered in slick pavement,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, a car research site. “Front-wheel drive isn’t as capable as all-wheel drive in these instances, but it’s better than rear-wheel drive and is also more common, making it a cheaper alternative than all-wheel drive.”

Of course, if you happen to come across a beater that he these types of capabilities, you should expect to dish out some extra cash.


As we previously mentioned, the best way to determine whether a used car is capable is by taking the targeted vehicle to a trustworthy mechanic. They’ll be able to identify any underlying issues that could prevent you from buying that beater car.