By on December 13, 2016

winter parked car (a2050/Flickr)

Weather forecasters deserve our scorn, and Northerners know why. They call for one to two inches of snow, update the forecast to four to six inches later in the day, and you wake up the next morning to find eight to twelve inches of fresh powder blanketing your driveway, your car, your life, your fragile psyche.

It happens every winter, but a good insurance policy against aorta-popping fits of rage (and exertion) is to get yourself a good winter vehicle. Something that eats snow and ice for breakfast and comes back for more. Ideally, it’s a low-cost, no-commitment “beater” that throws itself in front of winter’s bullet to spare your pampered summer ride, but not always.

That’s never been the case for this writer, but we’re a diverse society. A more civilized friend of mine abandons his XJ8 to slum it in a Cadillac DTS when the snow flies. For many, an all-wheel-drive crossover, four-wheel-drive pickup or Subaru Outback daily driver is the best tool for the job.

I never thought my lowly Chevrolet Cruze performed all that hot in the white stuff, but it got me home through a 20-inch snowfall last winter. Kudos to the quiet one. Living in Canada, you quickly realize that a manual transmission + cheap FWD car = decent winter rig. Assuming, of course, that you’ve invested in halfway decent snow tires.

My best winter beater was a base model 2003 Grand Am — one of two that I’ve owned. Thanks to its (very) low price, fairly torquey 2.2-liter Ecotec four-banger and five-speed Getrag, that nondescript grey sedan made a meal out of snowy roads. It also had a pleasant knock-around factor. Yes, it’s sometimes nice to not have to care if your vehicle sustains cosmetic damage.

So, B&B, what’s your recipe for the perfect winter vehicle? What combination carried you through the worst that winter has to offer? Sound off in the comment section below.

[Image: a2050/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

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210 Comments on “QOTD: What’s the Best Winter Car Recipe?...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    _____ with snow tires and Krown rustproofing.

    It really doesn’t matter much what you drive, though traction and stability control can help you get moving, while more ground clearance can help in places that aren’t plowed.

    The best advice, though, is not to drive until you’re reasonably certain it’s safe to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      That Valiant’s rocker panel is mighty clean for snowland. How old is the photo?

      • 0 avatar
        MoDo

        Its a 70-72 Dart, but yes, clean car for the climate – probably a garaged grandma special now being used by her grandson that inherited it.

        • 0 avatar
          OldManPants

          Always liked their handsome simplicity; we had the Valiant version for when Dad absolutely *had* to take Mom somewhere, otherwise you couldn’t pry him out of his pickup.

          Ours just had the dog dishes, not those fancy platters.

        • 0 avatar
          427Cobra

          this was my first car… a 1970 Dodge Dart 4 door in lime green… 318 V8… super-light power steering… but no power brakes… and drums all around. No air-conditioning… AM radio… from the cornfields of northern Ohio. Not a straight panel in it, from my great grandmother’s many “incidents”. And yes, I sort-of inherited it from my great grandmother who could no longer drive. Went through endless numbers of used $10 tires… but always whitewalls.

    • 0 avatar

      Totally agree, wait till its safe to drive, irrelevant of the vehicle you have http://www.thestrada.net/dialogue2008/2009/12/9/the-suburban-story.html

      • 0 avatar
        EAF

        That pic was taken in NYC, yes?
        More specifically, Queens Borough, yes?

        I’ve never had an issue getting around an icey NYC with all-Seasons and a FWD manual. My BMW’s, on the other hand, were useless. Never tried a winter tire on these – thank goodness for bumming rides & public transportation.

        The only time I’ve had serious issues and wished for an AWD or 4WD bump is when parked on the street and the salt spreaders plowed the road in. THE WORST!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      ______ with a heated steering wheel and remote start.

      Seriously, the heated wheel has changed winter driving. I grew up in Chicago, then in Minneapolis the last 15 years. The remote start and heated wheel on my 300 change EVERYTHING about winter driving comfort.

      A salvage, high mileage Verano would fit the bill for a winter beater.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      psarhjinian, that is basically the best advice.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Public transportation — subway, bus, train, taxi, etc.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Global warming.

  • avatar
    kobo1d

    Living somewhere where you can use summer tires all year.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ve never have an issue getting around here in Denver with a FWD compact sedan until the snow gauge hits two feet. At that point, though, it’s Game Over for just about anything but jacked-up 4WD vehicles.

    But tires are the key. I had a 2005 Focus ST with summer(ish) tires, and it was a nightmare in the snow, even with traction control.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Why I’m glad you asked! My current setup is quite choice:

    $1600 Lexus ES300 rolling on some fat 205/70R15 Firestone Winterforce snow tires mounted on junkyard Camry steelies. Steelies were $56, mounting was $61, and the tires ended up being free thanks to Walmart’s screw up.

    It’s a heavier FWD with decent-ish clearance, no stupid traction or stability control to impede my progress, and of course the snow tires that all combine for excellent traction. I’ve got heated seats, and it’s a cheap enough car that if it gets crunched up it’s not the end of the world, I’d just slap it back together with some junkyard body parts. I also did just a bit of Fluid Film touching up on the rear quarter panels and brake/fuel lines, but not my whole treatment.

    my 4Runner on General Altimax snow tires is of course an unstoppable tank (locking rear diff and tire chains when the going gets truly extreme), but for more realistic use scenarios like slick roads and higher speeds, the Lexus is much easier and more relaxing to drive. The 4Runner’s advantage is of course if someone rear-ends it, they’re in for a really bad time. That factory Toyota 2 inch receiver is one beefy mother.

    • 0 avatar

      Weight, clearance and common sense are all you need…

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Is there a reason you don’t give the Lexus a full fluid film treatment? I use fluid film extensively on my rig, and it seems to do a bang up job of preventing the rust from spreading.

      And do you run 70R15 tires in the summer as well? Is that the minimum size that clears the brakes?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Yamahog I took a look underneath and the subframe and underbody in general is damn near spotless, very impressive factory rust proofing. Aside from the rear quarter panel spots which I thoroughly pickled in Fluid Film, and the fuel filler neck which looks a bit dodgy (also got sprayed down), the only functional pieces I wanted to protect were brake lines and fuel lines. For what I’m using the car and how long I plan to keep it, that should be completely adequate.

        Summer is OE sized 205/65R15 on factory alloys, 205/70R15 just so happened to be cheaper and more readily available so I went with that. No rubbing at full lock, and the benefit of a cushier ride (3% speedometer discrepency from increase in diameter). It looks kind of comical (or cool depending on who you ask) on these big black donuts with an aggressive sort of tread and black steel wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      ” no stupid traction or stability control”

      I drove my Sat today because it actually has this, my Grand Prix was terrible in the snow as it has no traction control.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Stability control I can sort of get behind, for highway driving (as long as it is defeatable for parking lot hand-brake fun)

        I’d rather have my snow tires and my own right foot to modulate throttle than traction control, especially the primitive earlier systems.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        It was terrible in the snow because it had bad tires. Traction control is not a benefit in soft surfaces unless you lack fine muscle control of your lower right leg.

        I had to free my neighbor’s Odyssey from the alley last winter. He had been out there with his wife for almost an hour trying to work it and dig it out. He has winter tires so I knew immediately that he wasn’t actually stuck when I approached and saw that he wasn’t hung up.

        I told him to let me give it a go and got in. I backed up as far as I could, then took a run at it but the traction control stopped me. So I turned it off, backed up again, and the same thing happened because the stupid thing automatically comes on again when you change gears. So I backed up, then turned it off, then easily freed the van by just driving forward with some wheel spin.

        http://www.skstuds.ca/2015/10/14/how-to-drive-in-deep-snow/

  • avatar
    TTCat

    Living in the foothills west of Denver, my current daily driver for the last 15 years has been my Audi Quattro (alright, Haldex) TT with Dunlop 4D Winter Radials for snow duty – even deep snow is no match for this little turbo tank.

    I have a TJ Wrangler as well, but its awful for slick weather driving due to its more off-road tires, the Audi gets the call every time unless the snowfall is basically epoch ending….

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      My 01 TT was the first car to make it down the alley behind our row of houses when we got three feet of snow several years ago. I never had any problem with that car in the snow. Now I have an A5 S (AWD) with all seasons, and my wife has a Mini Cooper S (FWD) with snows. I sometimes wonder which would be the better choice in the snow. We haven’t really had enough snow in the last couple of years to put them to the test. When my wife had to commute, before she retired, she had a WRX with good snows. Now that was the way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      I have 31″ all-terrain tires on my TJ (they do have some sipes) and yeah it’s not the best. The Jeep also lacks stability control and ABS…so careful driving is the order of the day. Next year I’ll spring for a set of Firestone Winterforce UV in 265/75R15.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    My winter recipe:

    – Look at a map
    – Find I-40
    – Live somewhere South of I-40.
    – South of I-10 is even better

    Lifetime citizen of Dallas here, it’s currently 50 degrees with upper 60’s in the forecast. I don’t think I have actually seen a winter tire in my life.

    My personal motto in regards to weather in the winter season: “The only white Christmas worth having involves white sand and a tropical beach.”

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Every once in awhile we get the outliers, like the winter of 1978, or the winter of 2011 (the Super Bowl XLV winter). I was a new driver in the first one, having fun learning skid control, and using opposite lock.

      And, am I wrong for feeling bad for the Valiant in the picture? I just want to rescue it.

    • 0 avatar

      Just moved to Dallas from Portland, but I grew up in Fort Worth.

      In regards to the few times that we’ve gotten hit with a lot of snow (I missed 2011 because we left that day to go to Houston), the car that I was driving (usually a Town Car) was one of the worst to drive.

      Conversely, the best one (so far) was my old 2006 Spectra…until I decided to be dumb and slide into a corner too fast. Thankfully, the insurance company covered all of the repairs, and my premiums didn’t go up.

      Now? Even though I have a new CRV EX-L AWD, the “winter beater” will be my trusty old 2003 RAV4L. I’m looking forward to hitting the asphalt slopes soon. LOL

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    I bought a ’98 Chrysler Cirrus V6 with 175 thousand kilometers for $480 last month to be my first winter car now that I’m driving 50km roundtrip to work everyday. I put a few hundred into rotors, pads, and tie rods to pass safety and I drove it yesterday for the first time after the 6 inch snowfall in Toronto. I didn’t have to worry about the salt spray eating away my Cadillac CTS. It’s a pretty good little car too with no rust and a leather interior in excellent condition, about the only thing I miss is the XM radio. It seems like 50% of FM radio airtime is ads.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Sedan or coupe? It matters because the sedan should be a Cloud Car and the coupe a DSM special.

      • 0 avatar
        PRNDLOL

        The cloud car, looks just like this:
        http://tinyurl.com/hx9uzbz

        Was there a Cirrus coupe? I think that’s the Sebring- what’s DSM?

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          DSM = Diamond Star Motors. Gearhead slang for the cars produced jointly by Mitsubishi (Diamond) and Chrysler (Star) at the jointly owned Normal, Illinois plant. This includes the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Mitsubishi Galant, Eagle Talon, Plymouth Laser, ’95-’05 Sebring Coupe, ’95-’00 Dodge Avenger, and the Stratus Coupe. There was no Cirrus Coupe. Generally, products made in Normal after Chrysler concluded the relationship are not considered DSM cars (Outlander Sport for example).

          The Talon was a 1st and 2nd gen Eclipse, Laser was a 1st gen eclipse. The ’95-’00 Sebring Coupe and Avenger were basically Galant coupes. The Stratus coupe and ’01-’05 Sebring coupe were 3rd gen Eclipses.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I consider the Chrysler branded products built there from 95-05 to be “DSM” but I wasn’t sure if in Canada there was something called a “Cirrus” coupe (such as a Sebring rebrand for whatever reason).

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          If I were you I would read up on Cloud Cars in winter. These used to be a dime a dozen in my neck of the woods like their K-brethren but in the past few years you’re more likely to see a K-car on the road in winter. The last one I encountered was two years ago, it belonged to a janitor who inherited it with 80Kish. Initially the man was pleased with it but then he kept having corrosion issues (fuel line, brake lines) and it already had some rust on the wheelwells when I first saw it. For $400 CDN or thereabouts probably not a bad buy but I say be weary and do your homework.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I kinda like the cloud car, I’d take it over a Mitsubishi-sourced model

        A Plymouth Breeze 5 speed would be a contender for a commuter (winter beater) for me. Too bad the 2.4L 150 hp was automatic only. It was offered with a manual elsewhere, so a swap is possible.

        The 90s Avenger and stuff like that is a B¡tch to work on, as is the V-6 cloud cars (I had a Cirrus V-6). Try changing a coil on a Seabring convertible 2.5L V-6, its not quite as bad, but still bad, in a Cirrus/Stratus 2.5L.
        And the Sebring convert with the same headlights as a Cirrus? They’re not the same. Ask how I know. You can’t tell them apart until you try to install one in the wrong car.

        I’ve driven 4 cylinder Stratus and Breeze, and I liked them well enough. They handle decently and are roomier than a Ford Contour, although the Zetec didn’t need head gaskets like the 2.0L and 2.4L Mopars.

        Once in a Stratus, the brake pedal went to the floor when I was attempting to slow for a corner after overtaking and passing a vehicle on a two-lane. I mean I had just barely touched the brake pedal when it went “thunk”, and that was it.

        Lets just say I discovered that its economy car mission hides some impressive cornering ability.

        I drove it about 35-40 miles back to the dealer using the auto trans to gear down and the parking brake to stop. Mostly rual, country highway.

        The only victim was a road construction cone I took out when this woman decided to pull out in front of me. It got stuck under the rear bumper and left a wide black skid mark before popping loose lol. Didn’t damage the bumpers. No workers were present and I certainly wasn’t speeding.

        That issue not withstanding, I would consider a decent Breeze or first gen Stratus.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Anything that moves – with snow tires…

    My departed 325i was unusable in the snow – we’re talking getting stuck once I managed to back out of the driveway. But once I slapped on a set of Blizzaks, nothing I encountered for two winters was a problem, even unplowed country roads with 6″ of fresh snow. For city winter driving it was just fine, though the stability control kept the car going straight.

    My wife’s Mini Cooper S has Pirelli snow tires – and is a hoot to drive in the winter.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Psar beat me to it . Known ,good winter tires , Weather Tech, mats . Above all , a gentle foot, and a light touch on the steering wheel.

    The pre requisite list for a winter beater . First off , will it start without a block heater at – 30.? Does the heater work well.?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I would add “a known good battery” to this list. Cold days will reveal a marginal battery that might otherwise be adequate for summer.

      I can do without a heater, but pushing a car in slush just sucks.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Any awd with 4 Blizzak snows is really good (like my Caddy SRX).

    The only shortcoming at all is if there’s a blizzard you don’t have the 2 foot drift jumping ground clearance compared to 4wd pickups, but the tradeoff benefit of lower CG is preferable to me.

  • avatar

    I had a 1990 VW Fox in college. With 13 inch, 155 width snow tires it would easily go through a foot of snow and drifts up to two feet.

    About the only thing it couldn’t do was donuts in the parking lot, unless I was going backwards in reverse.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      How else do you go backwards?? LOL. Interestingly, I saw a four-door Fox out on the road yesterday in remarkably good shape. Always likes those little boxes on wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I like the Fox. VW of Brazil designed that car, and that’s where it was built. They only came to the US as a manual. Probably same down there.

      I miss our Brazilian auto reports. Hope that guy who wrote them is okay.

      Back to the Gol…err Fox up here. Yep. It was the Gol down there, and still is I believe. I want a coupe or the shooting brake (two door wagon). They are such good, basic little cars with a certain charm, I dunno, always liked them. I too thought they were some model related to the old Audi Fox, but no, just a recycled name.

      Easily my favorite VW of the era (don’t act too surprised, my favorite 1990s Toyota was the Tercel lol).

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        A Fox was my first car. I should have never sold it. (I just about gave it away too) If I ever find one for sale with a clean body, I’m buying it.

      • 0 avatar

        I liked the Tercel from that era – the base steel wheels kind of looked like Mercedes rims from the late 70’s – early 80’s.

        Mine was a red two door that I added Hella lights to and tried to make it look like a rally car. But I’d love to find a two door wagon.

        Coupe or wagon, I’d buy another one for fun.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    The wife’s Lincoln MkT + 18″ cop steelies + winter tires

  • avatar
    mikey

    I was torn between the Blizzak winters vs the Michelin X ? The Ford dealer had the Michelins with the OEM wheels , on sale , so far ,I’m satisfied . I will see how they wear.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Whatever is on sale works for me. Some of the best/longest lasting winter tires I’ve had are Firestone Winterforce cheapo tires. I’m on winter 4 with my C-Max and they have plenty of tread left.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        I slap the Winterforce’s on Mom’s car….which reminds me that I have to get that done this weekend. Fuel mileage takes a hit, but she feels more comfortable with them on.

        I may get a set for mine (18″s and cheap steel wheels), but will probably wait it out until spring.

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          I’ve been happy with them. Especially for the price. Sometimes tire rack or Discount Tire/Belle Tire has other brands cheaper so I look out for that when buying tires.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            That was basically how I ended up with Winterforces on the ES. Cheapest name brand option, $58 a tire shipped to store at Wally World. They’re some gnarly looking beasts with huge tread voids down the middle, and probably noisier than most as a result. But thanks to copious factory wheel well soundproofing, I am unperturbed.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        Since I had Winterforces on my Ranger and Blizzaks on the old Accord Coupe I’ve had opportunity for side by side comparisons. The Blizzaks are much superior, for the first two-thirds of the tread, especially on ice. They use a hydrophilic tread compound that takes up a lot of the water that you would otherwise be skidding on when the tires compress the ice and melt it. Makes a huge difference in braking and steering.

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          I have Blizzaks on my wife’s MkT. Winterforces aren’t the best tires ever, but they work fine on my commute. If I was driving open highway distances during the winter, I would probably go to Blizzaks or something else fancy. But for my C-Max, wheels and tires for $450 was pretty good and way better than the LRR all seasons.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Nokian Hakka R2’s

      Budget – Yokohama iceGUARD iG51v’s

      Hankook Winter i-Cept Evo2

      Blkzzaks are great for first 5-6 thousand miles then wear down and lose magic.

      Lots of Fluid Film of frame rails & suspension components, with Amsoil HD Metal Protector or CRC in wheel wells.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        The Hankook tires, are probably the best ” bang for your buck ” option .

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          They’re not just good for the $, but probably 90% as capable as the Hakkas.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            On your recommendation, I’m buying the Hankooks for my 2004 E500 4-matic wagon. Discount tire direct has a decent promotion right now.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Mbella – Make sure they’re the ones I cited above or iPikes.

            Do not get Icebears under any condition or at any price. I think they discontinued them, but if not, they are horrible and it’s hard to believe the iPikes & i-Cept Evo2s are even from the same company as the Icebears.

            The iPikes & i-Cept Evo series Hankooks are AWESOME.

            I was steered into the iPikes by someone who used to run them on his Subaru, after running Nokians, and he rightfully loved them.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            I am. I put Icebears on my parents Accord, and they are terrible. Discount tire direct has a decent deal on the Inept Evo so I’m buying those, even with the bad taste the Icebears left in my mouth. If the Inept is as good as you say, I might be pushing those instead of the X-ice as the best overall value winter tire.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            You’ll love the i-Cepts.

            They’re among the best.

            Discount is my favorite shop for tires, also.

      • 0 avatar
        kosmo

        “Blkzzaks are great for first 5-6 thousand miles then wear down and lose magic.”

        I think they changed this on the newest version. The second half isn’t the extra-porous, super-magic stuff, but still the high-silica winter compound.

        Agree that you can’t beat the Hakka R2s, especially from a “driver’s” POV. Amazing feel at the limit. Very communicative.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Michelin’s aren’t quite as grippy as the Blizzaks but the Blizzak is a dual compound tire. You get down on tread life and get into the “stiffer” compound. Michelin’s wear better.
      We did have a set of Michelin All Seasons with a supposedly great tread life that I just hated. They were loud and wear sucked. I unfortunately made the assumption that my wife would pay attention to tire rotations and because of that, they wouldn’t warranty the tread life.

      • 0 avatar

        I had the all season Michelins and found them overpriced and lacking in the same ways as you described above. I switched to Continental ExtremeContact DWS. The wear better, are quieter, better in rain and snow, and are less harsh over bumps. They are about 30% cheaper too. You do give up a tiny bit of dry grip and the turn in isn’t as sharp, if that matters.

      • 0 avatar
        GS 455

        The special multicell rubber compound on the Blizzaks extends 2/3 of the way into the tread. If you’re starting with 11/32″ or 12/32″ of tread depth when it’s new by the time you’ve worn through the multicell layer you’re at a 4/32″ tread depth at which time you should be thinking about replacing any winter tire regardless of brand. I’m starting my 7th season on my Blizzak WS 70s and still have 7/32″ of tread left! I like their ice braking and lateral grip but I’m thinking of going with Nokian Hakkas next.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      I can’t buy Blizzaks because of that ridiculous 50% wear issue (website says 50%) wherein the rubber compound changes and the tire turns into a traditional all-season. I just don’t get paying the premium price for a tire that loses a big portion of its effectiveness at half life. The Xice3 is nearly as great and is the same tire its whole life.

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      I can’t speak for car winter tires, but for a truck or SUV I really like the Cooper Discoverer M+S. Unstoppable in snow and pretty damn good in mud, too.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    My 2007 Chevy Tahoe running in “Auto” with a good set of all season tires is amazing on winter roads. It stops and handles great. You’d really have to be a lousy driver to ditch it or get in a wreck. It’s so sure footed with all that weight, 4WD, ABS and traction control.

    Never found a need for winter tires in a Minnesota winter. Even my ’81 RWD Old Cutlass one wheel wonder was just fine in the winter with a set of Goodyear AS Tiempo’s on it.

    My dad used to run snow tires on his rwd cars during the winter and usually got stuck multiple times during the winter trying to get up the steep driveway at our Minneapolis home. He bought an Escort wagon when they first came out and that thing would walk right up that same hill with nothing more than a set of all seasons. So in that case FWD + all seasons > RWD + snow tires.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The biggest downer is braking/turning something with that much momentum on all seasons on truly slick roads. Stopping distances on all seasons are about double what they are on snow tires. All the ABS in the world chattering away will not impede a 5000 piece of metal hurtling down a hill.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        It’s only a downer if your driving too fast. But if you know how to drive on winter roads you get a feel for how much braking power you have by stopping hard when it’s safe and then drive accordingly. Too many factors to make a blanket statement that snow tires stop in 1/2 the distance.

        I have been towing snowmobile trailers in the winter for over 25 years running all season tires. I’ll never spend money a set of snow tires on any vehicle equipped with a set of all seasons. Just not needed IMHO. I don’t know anyone else that does either. Friends or family that spend money on snow tires for the winter usually have a performance car running performance tires. So they get a set of snows when the reality is a set of AS tires would be a better choice. Because for most of the winter in Minneapolis/ St. Paul and the surrounding rural areas the roads are dry, not snow covered

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @Carlson. For 3+ decades I used only all seasons. On all types of vehicles. However once I had young drivers in the family I got smarter and mounted winter tires on our vehicles.

          Not using them is a false economy. If you use winter tires you are safer and your regular tires last twice as long. And you get an insurance discount.

          Winter tires do make a difference, particularly for less experienced drivers.

          Their compound is such that is stays softer at cold temperatures. All seasons at anything under 7 degrees celsius start to become too hard to have proper/safe adherence to the road.

          So unlike old ‘snow’ tires the amount of snow on the road does not matter as much as the temperature.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          But the temps are probably still under ~40 degrees most of the time and the winter tire will do much better in those conditions than an A/S tire. Now some winter tires do sacrifice wet traction but no more than the average A/S tire does. Why switch from tires that are good in the summer to tires that are just OK in the winter and usually more expensive than a quality winter tire.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yes on slick road surfaces (packed snow, slush, etc) the all seasons take TWICE as long to stop as snow tires, full stop. have you also considered that a snow tire’s softer compound allows it to stay more pliable and more grippy in very cold temperatures, so the grip advantage can extend to dry pavement as well?

          The up-front expense of snow tires is compensated by the fact that you’re using your summer tires only half the time. Snow tires depending on driver’s mileage of course easily last 4/5 seasons or sometimes more. And that up front cost will be paid for the very first time you DON’T smack a curb and bend a tie rod end or pop a balljoint.

          Lastly, just try driving a car on snow tires some time in the winter. The night and day difference in control and ease of getting around, confidence when braking and turning, etc makes them totally worth it to me just for that alone. If you can afford a nice Suburban and a trailer with toys to tow, I think it’s a bit silly to be stubbornly against spending money on some season appropriate tires for said tow-rig/family hauler.

          I grew up with my dad only using all seasons. We lived on a hill that descended down to a turn. Our 4wd MPV would get up the hill no problem, but descending was at times pretty scary. Braking that last 20mph-0 was a very dragged out process when going down an incline in something that weighed in at 4100lb.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            I hear you guys and I won’t argue that winter tires perform better but like I said for most of the winter here in MN the roads are completely dry and the braking power from a set of good all seasons is more than adequate. The times during and right after a snowfall I’ll just slow down and drive accordingly. The cars in front of you dictate how fast you can travel anyways. In the mountains of Colorado or out east (which are different winters than what we get in the midwest) I might have a different view.

            The ‘Hoe is parked in the garage right now and will stay off salty roads along with the Volt(which needs new tires bad) until my Sierra HD is sold. Put the cold, salty miles on that!

          • 0 avatar
            Jagboi

            I only cheaped out and didn’t buy winter tires once. I had bought a brand new Passat in January and it came with Michelin All seasons. I though I could drive through the remaining part of winter on the new all seasons.

            2 months after I bought the car we had fresh snow when I was going to work. I was driving slowly and left at least 10 car lengths ahead of me at the top of a hill. Started down the hill going about 20 km/h. ABS hammered all the way down and and I gained speed instead of slowing down. Rear ended an old GMC van and his trailer hitch punched through my headlight. Naturally the van was totally undamaged.

            As soon as the car was out of the bodyshop I bought snow tires, and have put them on every car since. They really do make a huge difference in stopping distance.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      I grew up in MN, and you are absolutely right.

      Then I moved to the mountains, and started doing a lot of winter road trips (ski junky).

      Now it’s AWD and snow diggers.

  • avatar
    Frode

    Looks like a 1971 or 72 Dodge Dart in the photo. I had its near twin, a 72 Plymouth Valiant, 30 years ago, as my year-round beater. With retread snow tires on the back and a limited-slip differential, it was near-unstoppable in snow, even when I hit the brakes…. My current winter vehicle is also my year-round vehicle, a 2008 Grand Cherokee, with the level 1 4WD (no low range). Since it never goes off-road, that’s plenty for New England snow.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    In the early 80’s I was living in Anchorage Alaska and used a 1970 Olds Toronado for my winter car. With four studded snowtires and a 455 over front wheel drive, it truly was a tank. I could go through some seriously deep snow as long as I didnt stop and get high centered.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    The successful Winter Car is a beater; it is an unfashionable brand that can be had cheap, relative to the likely service. It should be terminal – use it and junk it in April.

    It MUST be equipped with the basics – good brakes, snow tires, wiper (singular). All else is optional, including floorboards.

    The best Winter Cars I had, thirty years ago, were Postal Jeeps. Solid as bumper cars. The AMC sixes used in them always started. NO rational love or pride of ownership. Use it and forget it – $300 to buy, and then, six months later, $75 at the boneyard.

    When I was an active blogger, twelve years ago, I did an essay on just this subject for a commentary site. Not sure of TTAC policies regarding links, so just Google “The Winter Car” and JPT

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “The best Winter Cars I had, thirty years ago, were Postal Jeeps. Solid as bumper cars. The AMC sixes used in them always started. NO rational love or pride of ownership. Use it and forget it – $300 to buy, and then, six months later, $75 at the boneyard.”

      This sounds like a really good time :)

  • avatar
    MoDo

    As others have said – anything can work. But if I was setting out to buy a “winter only” vehicle it would be something AWD with ground clearance, decent snow tires and lets not forget heated seats, heated steering wheel and remote start. Those last 3 things are by far the most important after traction.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    My last car !

    2007 Dodge Magnum SXT RWD. The car was an unstoppable tank. In 8 years it never got stuck. Went through a 14″ snow storm on Michelin tires (not snow, just regular M&S tires). Only things moving were large SUV’s and Pickups. Heck, even CUV’s were not moving around much.

    Man, I miss that car !!!

  • avatar
    ezeolla

    My TJ Wrangler with All Terrains has never failed to get me on the mountain for first tracks

  • avatar
    dal20402

    My car.

    “Winter” around here means it’s 37 and raining. (For months at a time.) All you need is the usual good maintenance, a good battery (this weather is cold enough to expose a marginal battery) and tires that put up well with cold and rain.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Which means winter tires, seriously for years I thought there was no reason to own winter tires in the Seattle area. Then I had a FWD minivan as the family truckster and since I had +1 for the summer I put winter tires on the factory wheels. The difference was amazing and now most of our vehicles wear winter tires.

      And it is not like we don’t get snow in Seattle, when I was in Ballard on Fri there was still a lot of snow in the yards, on roof tops and side streets. Meanwhile out here in Maple Valley I still have a lot of snow in my yard since it never turned to rain like everywhere else. I think it is highly possible that the recent snow storm is just the first and probably the weakest we will see this year as we are due since it tends to come around every 7-10 years.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Eh, I live close enough to work that on the very few days when it actually does snow enough to stick to roads (which are also fewer in central Seattle than in most of the outlying areas) I can walk. In the rain, I’d rather have performance all-seasons than snows.

        If I lived on Tiger Mountain in Issaquah, where I looked at an unbelievably gorgeous house but just couldn’t get comfortable with the commute, I’d probably have a different opinion.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          NO good winter tires are better in the 30 something and raining we get around here than a performance A/S tire by a mile. There is a reason that all 4 of us have winter tires on our main driver. And of course having a set of dedicated winter tires make it very easy to justify UHP or Max performance summer tires for the summer again for way better rain and dry performance than A/S tires.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Serious winter only comes occasionally here in The Capital of the Free World, but it can come with a big bite — viz. last year’s 20-incher in early February. Over a very long experience living here (and 10 years owning a mountain house in Canaan Valley, WV, which has its own micro-climate and gets over 150 inches of snow per year), I would list 4 qualities, in addition to true snows on all 4 wheels: (1) light weight (My “AWD” Honda Pilot scares me in the snow, even with 4 Michelin X-ices; it’s just too heavy), (2) either a manual tranny or an autobox with 2nd gear start (My ’02 Saab wagon had “snow mode,” which included 2nd gear start), defeatable traction control (my Z-3 on all-seasons wasn’t too bad on the slippery stuff — see “light weight” but usually required defeating the traction control; it had a limited slip diff), and (4) if not 4wd/AWD, weight over the drive wheels.

    For people who know how to drive, I have not found that FWD is so much better than RWD; you just need to put weight over the drive wheels if you have RWD. I learned to drive in the mid 1960s, when virtually all cars were RWD. Typically, smart folks put a couple of bags of sand in the trunk, to add weight over the drive wheels. Pickup trucks (empty) and Mustangs and other pony cars should stay in the paddock. The combination of light rear ends, gobs of low-end torque, rwd and big fat tires are just not good. My ’87 Mustang GT was the only car I just could not get moving in any kind of snow, even cable chains did not help.

    Fat tires are not what you want in snow; they work in mud where you want to float. In snow, you want the tire to dig in; so, if you’re buying a set of steelies to mount 4 snow tires, get a higher aspect ratio, narrower tire.

    Oddly, one of the most unstoppable snow cars I’ve ever owned was an AWD Previa mini-van, even though it’s fairly heavy. Since it was a front/mid engine vehicle, weight distribution was about 50/50. It was basically a RWD platform with a viscous clutch in the transfer case, so, when the back wheels started spinning, the fronts would engage. Open diffs all around. I took that up to West Virginia and passed many Jeep Cherokees and similar that were totally stuck — admittedly, they were running all-seasons and probably had less than competent drivers. Lots of them did double-takes when they saw a mini-van (which did not advertise itself as having AWD) pass by with no difficulty. Ultimately, with snow much more than 18″ deep, it became a snowplow. In the absolute worst conditions, coming home from WVA with iced-up roads, I put chains on the rear wheels — no accidents or incidents.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    In order of importance:
    (1) Winter tires at all four corners.
    (2) Plenty of ground clearance.
    (3) All wheel drive.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Current DD of a 92 Sentra with a set of 3 year old General Altimax Artic Snow tire. I did get it stuck once when I beached it on a snowdrift on the shoulder of the road.

    However, the heater SUCKS! New heater core didn’t make a difference, the radiator is completely blocked off with cardboard (that did help) but I still freeze…

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’d say that the best winter vehicle is a full sized 4×4 pickup with at least 1,000 lbs of weight in the back along with good mud and snows or winter tires.
    My F250 reg cab 4×4 with heavy insulated canopy and tool box was incredible in the winter. The 5.0 was underpowered so it wouldn’t overwhelm traction unless you were stupid. The 5 speed manual was very handy. It was pre-ABS except on the rear axle but you lost that in 4×4.
    My 4×4 Ranger reg cab even with weight in the box was always a bit sketchy in the winter. It was too light and narrow.
    My current F150 is great in the winter. The 150 lb tool box with 250 lbs of gear balances out the box nicely. It is long., wide and heavy which works well in snow. The General Grabber AT2’s work well in snow. I’ve driven on better ice tires though. I can’t complain too much since they are 10 ply tires.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The idea of a winter beater is inane, irresponsible and totally out of date. After 40 + years of experience driving throughout Ontario, Quebec and Northern New York state for hundreds of thousands of miles, in all weather including for hockey tournaments, out of town games and ski trips and to rescue stranded friends/relatives, I believe that I can qualify as some sort of expert on this topic.

    When driving in the winter you want the absolutely most reliable vehicle you can afford. Preferably something with acceptable ground clearance to clear reasonable accumulations of snow on the road.

    Add in traction/stability control, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 4 winter tires, winter wiper blades, rear window defog and an engine block heater. Find a vehicle that has an excellent defrost system. Some just cannot handle keeping a large front windshield clear in heavy weather. ” ‘Er Indoors” has now decided that she will never give up her heated seat. And now is debating the necessity of a heated steering wheel.

    Checking and maintaining the charging system is a necessity. Any battery over 5 years old will probably not be able to handle repeated extreme cold starts, particularly with the rear window defrost, wipers, lights, heater fan going full blast for much of the time.

    Front wheel drive is preferable. It prevents the over-confidence that far too many drivers with 4wd/AWD have. Yes they can accelerate and maintain higher speeds but forget the laws of physics. They cannot stop or turn any better than a RWD vehicle. Same with higher gravity and heavy vehicles, they also take longer to stop. RWD is just not as good, even with heavy weight in the trunk. The number of ‘high performance’ RWD German sedans we see stranded at the bottom of hills and off-ramps is almost equal to the number of pick-ups stranded/stuck on the sides of highways/in ditches.

    Make sure that your cellphone is fully charged, that you have an up to date CAA/AAA membership, an emergency kit including booster cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, candle, bag of kitty litter and a shovel.

    Check your washer fluid and lights before venturing out.

    The beater idea is inane because you do not want your family to be travelling in winter weather in an unreliable vehicle, or one lacking in modern safety features or one that may have body rust leading to exhaust leaking into the vehicle.

    My all-time favourite was a Pontiac Montana SV6. Big heavy nose, good visibility, great heater. After that Dodge Caravans no more than 3 years old or with less than 100,000kms.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Not “inane” if you have to live on a realistic budget and cannot afford to trade cars every few years. Rust is murder on automobiles, even today. Frames still rot out, on SUVs. Floorboards pool with melting salty snow. Cold starts in subfreezing temperatures are hard on engines; and shutdowns in subfreezing weather leads to condensation in the crankcase and sludge.

      Yes, if you’re in rarified air and can afford to buy a new car every couple of years…you do not need a Winter Car. For the rest of us, either with a heavily-mortgaged vehicle or an older one we want to last…a winter substitute is a better plan.

      Most winter trips are short – to work, to the grocer’s; to other mundane places. Someone relying on a winter beater would be well advised to rent a good car for that ski trip.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @justpassinthrough, It is inane because you should be using your ‘best’ meaning most reliable car in the winter. If you can only afford for example a RWD Mustang and a winter beater, and you have a family I would categorically state that you need to reconsider your priorities and trade in the ‘Stang and beater and get as good a family car as you can afford.

        Krown charges only $125 Canadian and is more effective at fighting rust than leaving your ‘good’ car parked outdoors all winter. And better than putting it in a heated garage.

        If you are worried about cold starts, then get a block heater which is usually about $150 installed and use synthetic oil.

        And check out the accident rates for short trips.

        Few things more inane, illogical or irresponsible than trying to ‘save’ your good car and putting your family at risk.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          Nope. First off, what is a “good” Winter Car depends on your family situation. Nobody rational is going to pile little kids in a junker.

          MOST trips are made with driver alone. Those local, short-hop trips through slush are what Winter Cars are for.

          Take winter use out of a car’s life and any vehicle today can easily last thirty years. That’s 25 years of no-car-payments. The only cost is having a junker nearby for three months of the year; or keeping a low-book-value vehicle around for severe duty.

          And old doesn’t have to mean unreliable. With basic maintenance, with the mechanics fundamentaly sound, even a beater can start on cold mornings.

          Reliably. And a new battery, good tires and an emergency kit are a lot cheaper than buying a $30,000 vehicle every five years.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @justpassingthrough: ” Take winter use out of a car’s life and any vehicle today can easily last thirty years.” What world do you live in? Do you actually regularly see 30 year old daily drivers where you are? And who would want to drive their family around in a 1985 Dodge Aries or Chev Celebrity?

            “An emergency kit are a lot cheaper than buying a $30,000 vehicle every five years” Not having your family stranded in some rural 2 lane highway in the dead of winter is well worth making car payments. You do not need a $30k car. An ‘Ace of Base’ style Corolla or Civic or Lancer or Mazda 3 or even (forgive me) a Dodge Journey would be preferable to most ‘beaters’.

            Sorry, but there is just no credible defense for your position. At least in cold climate regions.

            And in parts of Canada, driving around a ‘beater’ can get you pulled over regularly in spotchecks to review its safety, if it could even pass the new provincial Certification standards in Ontario.

          • 0 avatar
            JustPassinThru

            “Sorry but there is just no credible defense for your position. At least in cold climate regions.”

            What you mean is, you don’t like it.

            That’s fine. You have your own needs and priorities; and some of us don’t have that kind of money to waste.

            The idea of a Winter Car didn’t come to be this morning. Rural Northern drivers have been doing this for seventy years, since highway departments started using salt on paved roads.

            It pays. Someone who makes relatively-low wages cannot be cavalier about the use of his car; and staying home when it’s snowing doesn’t work when one has a job.

            You’re free to do what you like. Also free to pay for it…and autoworkers the world over, thank you.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            “What you mean is, you don’t like it.”

            “The idea of a Winter Car didn’t come to be this morning. Rural Northern drivers have been doing this for seventy years.”

            And for 70 years spousal abuse, impaired driving and blatant racism were also accepted in large parts of North America. That does not make any of them right.

            And no it’s not because I do not like it. It’s because it does not make any sense. You work to support your family, so use the money accordingly. Having a winter ‘beater’ means that you have another vehicle. One that sits in the winter. That is not just a waste but inane, illogical and irresponsible. Use it and spend the ‘beater’ money on some rustproofing, winter tires and synthetic oil. You would even save on insurance by taking the ‘beater’ off the road.

          • 0 avatar
            mikey

            Arthur and Passing through….You both make valid points. I think the ” bottom line “would be..What ever works for your personal needs / wants.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “And for 70 years spousal abuse, impaired driving and blatant racism were also accepted in large parts of North America. That does not make any of them right.”

            Jesus. Strawman much?

            “you like winter beaters? You know who else had a winter beater?! HITLER.”

          • 0 avatar
            Zackman

            This thread has gotten ridiculous, now. Somebody’s missing the point.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @gtemnykh: Hey I didn’t even mention incest! Just kidding but when someone refers to past practice/tradition as a reason for anything then they are really trying to defend the indefensible.

            I am not claiming that a winter car needs to be less than 3 years old, although I personally never trusted my Caravans after that age.

            But if someone has 2 cars, a ‘good’; summer car and a winter ‘beater’ I do challenge their priorities and their risk management skills. Better to have 1 vehicle that you maintain and use year round. Cheaper and safer.

            See @LouBC’s comment below that nicely summarizes things.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Arthur in my own example I have a pristine and reliable, Fluid-Film slathered ’96 4Runner with 4wd and snow tires on it. It lives in a garage and sees only limited use in the winter: when snow is truly deep and I want to just cruise around or go hiking somewhere remote, or our Christmas travel out to NE ohio and Central NY (carrying dogs and gifts), I will usually find some offroading to do while I’m there. The other car that I specifically bought to keep salt away from the 4Runner is my 207k mile ES300 that I bought for $1600, likewise with snow tires, fresh t-belt and brakes. The Lexus is in no way unsafe or unreliable. I just want to keep a nice rust free older 4Runner nice and rust free for a decade or more to come.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Oh my God, the same thing happened in another discussion forum I was in.

            The guy complained of rust causing a multitude of issues on his 02 Continental. He loved the car and refused to give up fixing the rust.

            I said why not buy a 10 year old beater and never drive the Continental in salt again. Better yet, buy a rust-free Conti from The Land Of Lincolns (Florida) and drive the rusty one during the winter.

            I got this long list of reasons why that is absolutely the stupidest idea in the history of stupid ideas from another poster.

            Oh no WAY am I risking MY LIFE in a some horrible 1981 hatchback! YOURE CRAZY!! I will NOT EVER risk my kids safety and blablabla.

            [Samuel L. Jackson voice]
            Ain’t no body said nothin’ bout no mufukin 1981!
            [/voice]

            You don’t have to drive a 1986 LeBaron. It can be some 8-10 year old compact, something cheap and disposable. Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cobalt, Scion xWhatever, Focus, Caliber, or maybe a midsize like a Dodge Avenger, Taurus, Sonata or a Malibu. A W body Impala is very safe, cheap and long-lived. It doesn’t have to be spectacular, it just needs to work, and it doesn’t hurt to have horrible resale value work to your advantage. And, contrary to popular opinion, it will remain operational so long as you keep on top of it, *as with any car*.

            It will have airbags and ABS. It isn’t like your uncle’s 1976 Aspen, it will start in winter, its fuel injected. And a block heater is cheap and effective IF you have issue.

            And just because cars of 30 years ago today weren’t the greatest, maybe some modern (2016+) cars are worth keeping that long. THATS THE WORLD WE LIVE IN. Not everything out there is a Dodge Aries. If someone bought a Charger or 300 with a V-8, a Fusion Sport, a Mustang/Camaro/Challenger, a fully loaded truck or nice luxury car, it would have plenty of value as an antique. A lot more value than it has when it rusted into nothingness 8 years ago. “Gosh, wish I still had my old Hemi Charger, but no, I had to drive it in winter, and save a terrible Chevy Cobalt from the tin worm instead.”

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Arthur Dailey – living in the great wight North, I’d have to agree. -25C and colder kills off beater vehicles. One needs a reliable vehicle. If you live in an area that has harsh winters and you need to buy a separate winter car, that implies you bought the wrong vehicle or are wealthy enough to own a stable of vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @gtemnykh: It just doesn’t seem right to be driving around in a Lexus sedan in the winter while a 4Runner sits in the garage. For many the 4Runner is the perfect winter vehicle. And correct me if I am wrong but it is not going to appreciate much over the years or depreciate much if you drive it in the winter.

        Also your mechanical skills are probably sufficient that if your Lexus does not start, you could diagnose it and make a quick roadside repair.

        But what about if you have a spouse driving it without you or a young family with you?

        And it seems traditionally that when a vehicle does quit, it does so at the worst possible time and the worst possible spot. A fuel line or brake line could rot out, the alternator could go, or a water pump. Then what?

        If someone is worried about finances but can afford to keep 2 vehicles then I will again state my belief that the best/newest/most reliable one should be the winter car. Because that is when you most need reliability and safety and winter driving being more extreme will more likely cause the car to quit.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          The 4Runner is 100% rust free including the frame (just some surface rust on the diff/axles/suspension) and the truck only has 135k miles. It had basically sat in a garage from 2000-2012, it’s definitely a truck I want to keep as nice as possible (within reason and still using it moderately offroad). It’s rust free state is the key to its’ pretty impressive value (for the age) of about $7500ish or so, it’s basically done depreciating as long as the rust is kept at bay.

          The ES is nowhere as pristine, and was purchased specifically for beater/commuter duty. Don’t get me wrong, I have a hard time calling it a beater as it was kept in excellent shape by the PO (single owner for 18 of the past 20 years), but the tin worm is slowly doing its thing, it’s had accident repair on the driver side door a while back (repaired well). It’s definitely not a “cherry” like the 4Runner. Before I sold it on craigslist, my commuter/beater was my ’12 Civic LX, which more closely follows your idea of driving you newest most reliable car during this time of year. It’s just a plain old Civic with nothing special/sentimental about it that I knew would not be a keeper long term so I never did any sort of fluid film stuff with it. Same with my fiance’s ’12 Camry SE. It is truly “just a car.” New, reliable, gets her to and from work every day without fuss and in comfort.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            gtemnykh you sound like me, although out choice in vehicle varies haha

            I see the value of keeping your 4Runner. Aside from it being *your* truck (like a Taurus is *my* car), the value is likely to go up after so long. Too many get used up and dumped, the rust-free, well cared for examples will be valuable.

            For those that don’t think so, go find a MINT and I mean pristine Datsun B210 or 520/620 or Ford Pinto or AMC Pacer. They eventually are worth something if they are cared for and preserved. It even works on undesirable, quirky cars like the B210 or Pacer, etc, so its bound to work on a popular SUV.

            A 30 year old very clean and original Ford Bronco is worth money. Even more if its older. K5 Blazer, same, IF you can find one not rusted out. When you do, be prepared to deliver the check on a flatbed truck, lol.

        • 0 avatar
          White Shadow

          I agree. I originally purchased a 4Runner specifically as a winter vehicle. I had no problem subjecting my brand new SUV to harsh winter driving on salty roads. After all, that’s the reason I got it. I kept my first one for 10 years before trading it for another one. After 10 years, it still looked virtually brand new, not a scratch, door ding, or any other type of blemish. The paint still shined like new because I took care of it. I did have a fair amount of surface rust on the chassis, but nothing that negatively affected the vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            ” I did have a fair amount of surface rust on the chassis, but nothing that negatively affected the vehicle.”

            If you ever had to work on anything on the underside of that truck (brakes, suspension work, etc) at that 10 year mark you would quickly realize just how “negative” that surface rust would be. 4th gen 4Runners are actually kind of known to have corroding/frozen caliper issues, and frankly even their frames are not immune from rot in some cases of northern trucks that never got washed off. Likewise on 3g 4Runners the body might still look really clean but the trailing arm mount is rotting off as well as some spots near the muffler (hot exhaust catalyzes the frame rust near it). Fluid Film/Krown and thorough underbody washings go a long way to mitigate all of this.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            Interestingly, I worked for several years as a technician at a Toyota dealership (ASE Master Certified), so I got to work under several 4Runners besides my own. What I’m saying is that after 10 years, I had no frame damage or structural damage of any kind. Just surface rust that did not affect the vehicle from a mechanical standpoint. My spring regimen was to power wash the undercarriage. Other than that, no underbody maintenance at all.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            No I hear you, it’s definitely not a structural issue at that point, just that all of the hardware and bolts will be incredibly frozen up and a real bear to get off if you WERE to need some work, or even to adjust the camber on the front end or something. No different than any other vehicle really, although I will say the Germans/Swedes generally use higher quality alloys on their fasteners and brackets and such that keep the undersides looking almost new freakishly long. Conversely a lot of older Mercs (W124, 140, 210) are known to have their front spring perches rot off in salty climates (ie a very structural issue). Thankfully you can buy replacement perches and get them welded on at a qualified shop.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I’m with Mikey. I can see the logic of what both of you are saying, to me neither one is the clear winner.

      My assumption with a winter beater is that you expect it to be destroyed, either by salt or in an accident. If it survives, bonus! You can sell it for a few bucks after the season.

      But, for example, my wife’s commute is much longer than mine (17 miles vs. 6 miles). So her car gets all of the good stuff, the snow tires, the complete maintenance schedule, emergency kit, OnStar, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        When I was single I got in a debate with a few buddies that ascribed to the theory that new vehicles are too expensive and a waste of money. they felt buying used and buying winter beaters was the way to go.
        They added up the cost of all of their used vehicles and beaters and I pointed out that the cost of failures/repairs also has to factor into the equation. We compared that to my purchase cost and my operating expenses.

        Guess who turned out to have the more economical long term option?

        There is a point of “no return” on vehicle ownership. Once you get to “beater” status it isn’t worth the risk for me and/or my family. People are very poor judges of risk. If you want a beater just for you to go to and from work that implies there needs to be a better vehicle somewhere for the family.

        If winter beaters actually made sense or saved money then we’d see every corporate fleet running winter beaters.

        I don’t see 30 year old vehicles on the road in -25C or colder or during blizzards. That would be 1986. 25 years old is 1991. That doesn’t happen in harsh climates. I don’t tend to see 25-30 year old vehicles on the road even in the middle of summer.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      While I agree that AWD/4WD can give people too much confidence the fact is that a good system will help you go around corners far better than any FWD vehicle. Distributing the power to all the wheels means that you are far less likely to understeer through the corner into oncoming traffic or worse into the ditch on the other side. There is a reason that Audi’s AWD cars were outlawed in many forms of road racing and that is because the cars cornered that much better and faster than the 2wd vehicles and we are talking about dry pavement performance, it the wet the gap increased exponentially.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      Never had a beater. I go skiing in Vermont every other weekend. The last uphill is a 15% grade which is not plowed after 8pm. From 1993 – 2003 I used a XR4Ti with four snow tires as my ski vehicle. After 10 years of ownership an a year of living in Rome NY it was rusted out (and had 280,000 miles). I replaced it with my current ski vehicle a 2000 Lincoln LS. The Lincoln is due for replacement (at only 190,000) due to rust. Both cars were RWD with manual transmissions. On a windy hilly snow covered road I prefer a RWD with snows over an understeering FWD or an AWD with all seasons any day.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    1. Keep your car in the garage, if you have one. Use it and get rid of excess junk so you can.

    2. Maintain your car: Tires, battery, brakes, fluids, etc.

    3. I no longer have a summer and winter car, just my trusty Impala, which does very well in the snow. I’m very close to retirement, and the idea of having a fun car disappeared over four years ago to save money.

    4. If the weather is really bad in the morning, stay at home until 8:30-9:00 am. That’s when most of the riff-raff is either at work or in a ditch, so you have most of the road to yourselves, and stay in the clearest lane, irregardless of speed. Speed does kill, so you whippersnappers, take it easy – this ain’t no time to play “Gran Prix” racing and find yourselves wrapped around a tree or having harmed someone else because of your selfish “me first” attitude (true of any age!).

    5. In a day or two after the storm clears (roads, too), get a good car wash.

    6. Before I forget – CLEAR ALL YOUR GLASS of snow and ice, for goodness sake! Same goes for lights.

    This advice works very well for me, whether I have a “beater” car or not. I don’t – yet.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “Keep your car in the garage, if you have one.”

      Putting a salty/slushy car into a heated garage every winter is basically catalyzing the hell out of the rusting process. Now, certainly if you value your family’s comfort over long term corrosion concerns (a very rational viewpoint) then definitely use that cozy warm garage.

      My Lexus has paid dearly for the PO parking it in a heated garage not only at home but every day at work for the past 15 years. Similar age ES300s here don’t normally have the rear quarter panel rust that’s starting to bubble up a bit on mine. Still, two decades worth of salty winters and the car looks very presentable and is by no means structurally unsound. The same could not be said for the ’00 Maxima I sold earlier this fall, much worse “cancer patient” you could say.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        True, about the salt on the carbody.

        But storing the car in a warmer area, limits condensation in the crankcase. And for that matter, probably, the transmission gearcase.

        You pays your money and you takes your choice. Plenty of rust-resistant newer cars wind up dying of terminal sludge in the engine oil galleys.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Who said anything about a heated garage? Mine sure isn’t, even though it’s warmer than sitting outside in the weather.

        Comfort wins every time. We made do with a carport for years, and I’m thankful for that garage. Ever have to change a water pump in sub-freezing cold, in the evening in a carport or totally outside? It isn’t fun and something I thankfully will never do again. Of course, when one is young, one has the energy to match!

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          The colder the temperature the less chance of rust. Rust starts when the temperature is warmer. Which is why it is best to get your vehicle Krowned in the spring.

          Use a block heater. Protects the engine and makes things more comfortable for the passengers on start up.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          @zackman….. Been there, done that….. Like yourself , I will never do it again .

          • 0 avatar
            Zackman

            Hello, Mikey!

            As for my experience, I wish I had Wifey take a photo of that! I had an old late 1940s Arvin forced-air small heater propped up against the firewall to give me the impression I had some form of heat, dressed like an Eskimo, a few lights hanging around and a pretty good mess to top it all off.

            What was worse, I had to do it twice, because the fan clutch was shot and totalled the bearings post-haste.

            These wonderful experiences were accomplished on my old, inherited 1980 Le Baron 225 cu. in. coupe, commonly referred to as the “Bat Mobile” in 1988.

            Oh to be young…

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          I split the difference. In winter, my car goes in the mildly insulated, unheated barn. It’s warm enough that it’ll always start, but not warm enough for anything to melt and run down into the rocker panels.

          Only bad thing is that when it gets above freezing, the low spot in front of the barn is the first place to get sloppy. But by then it’s usually time to start putting it outside again.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Good tires are the key for what ever you are going to drive. I loved the Continental ExtremeWinter Contact that I had on our Fusion they were great on icy roads, dug through the snow and unlike just about every other winter tire they were very sticky in the rain. Alas they have replaced them with the WinterContact SI and for what ever reason Tirerack refuses to do a full test on them. They did do an ice test where they out performed with Blizzak WS-80. Since I had no idea of how they would work in the rain this year I bought both my kids Goodyear Ultra Grip Winters because they were priced right and my Daughter loved the last set she had. However the failed to do the job for my son this week but to be fair the hill he lives at the bottom of is very steep and even cable chains didn’t get him any further and by then the traction control was in heat protection mode and wouldn’t put on the brakes anymore. When he heads back after winter break he’ll have a set of cable links in his trunk and maybe he’ll take our old SUV as well with its winter tires too.

    I’ve been impressed with my wife’s Escape Hybrid and it’s Intelligent 4wd. Contrary to what most people think it is not a slip and grip system like the Control Trac II as found on earlier models. Push on the accelerator and it engages the rear diff clutch w/o before any wheel slip can occur. Doesn’t matter if the pavement it dry, wet or snowy it engages the clutch based on throttle application. Watching the logs of it in action on the scan tool software is impressive. Yes you can see a wheel spin side to side but the slip is minimal. On hard packed snow the worst I saw was LF at 13 mph, RF 6, LR 6, RR 13 and that was with a full throttle application from a dead stop up hill.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Old (up to 07) Ford Taurus. Incredible snow traction, drove my mom’s through many blizzards with bald all seasons and it didn’t skip a beat.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I think that is worth noting, within the FWD class, the heavier midsize cars seem to do better than lightweight Civics and such. My experience is that those compacts are so light out back that the rear wheels tend to get pushed around when crossing built up slush on the highway, for example. An older Taurus bought for cheap sounds like a perfect winter car (just watch out for the rear springs rusting in half!). If/when I do end up selling the Lexus, I think I’m finally ready to dip my feet into domestic beater ownership: higher trim (ie with heated seats) Taurus/Sable with a Duratec 3.0 or a 3800 GM are topping the list.

      • 0 avatar
        Compaq Deskpro

        Those old Taurus’s have awful rust problems, the rocker panel rotted until the plastic cover fell off in the street, the subframe rotted, the subframe bolts broke. That car was a piece of crap, but the engine and trans were bulletproof. It didn’t run good, but it always ran. I know its not just that one either, almost every catfish I still see on the road is missing the rear rocking panel cover and has some serious cancer exposed.

        They are cheap and very snow capable, but don’t try being an enthusiast or you’ll be like the guys on the Mazda Protege forums sobbing into their beer.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Compaq…..You., and all the others on the road, dodged a bullet.

  • avatar
    LambourneNL

    Tried the beater thing but I hate cars that are falling apart around me, so I always end up either fixing them or swapping to something I don’t hate. Used a Volvo 940 for a few years, now I have an an E46 3-series. I’m in northwest europe and it won’t have to deal with more than 3-4 inches of snow and the occasional spot of black ice. A good set of winter tires has been enough. If I was in the mountains, I’d want ground clearance and AWD.

  • avatar
    AlfaRomasochist

    My wife’s Leaf is both the best and worst winter car we’ve had. The good points? Front and rear heated cloth seats, a heated steering wheel, and a timer you can use to pre-heat the car at a scheduled time every morning make it hugely comfortable, and the fact that it doesn’t rely on engine heat to warm the cabin means you don’t freeze for 10 minutes waiting for the engine to warm up. With studless snow tires, plenty of mass, and a low center of gravity it gets around the slick stuff just fine.

    The downside? The Leaf’s already limited range is cut dramatically by use of the cabin heater in cold weather. So it’s an outstanding winter car … briefly.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    My strategy is to make sure my current set of wheels is in good operating condition already. Good battery, tires and wipers at a minimum. A decent heater/defroster is also vital. Cell phone charger, emergency kit and boots/shoes that I can walk a distance in without freezing my feet.

    My life is structured such that I don’t have real long commutes and if I want to. I can come into the office late to avoid all the “four-runners”. These are the folks who believe their AWD CR-Vs with all season tires will get them to work on time when they start out 20 minutes too late and don’t clear their windows. These used to be the 4-Runner owners, but the demo has shifted some over the years.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Hey I clear my windows, and even my roof! :p

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I’m glad you do.

        It’s state law in Michigan, although I can’t ever imagine someone *actually* getting ticketed for this offense alone. It’s one of those tack-on offenses, something else you can get cited for after the initial offense is realized. Really, it’s more like revenue enhancement.

        Actually, my next door neighbor is one of the worst of these offenders, his Edge rolling around with a “top hat” of snow on top of his roof.

  • avatar
    FalcoDog

    We average between 150 to 200 inches of snow where we live.

    For years we had a Sport Trac with heavy AT tires on it as a winter hack. It was truly amazing in the snow. At one time I was blasting through snow coming over the hood. It was slow and unstoppable.

  • avatar
    Troggie42

    Here’s the best winter car recipe:

    Front engine.
    Rear Wheel Drive.
    Turbocharged.
    Nokian Hakkapeliitta winter tires.
    Enough practice not to die constantly.

    Anyone who disagrees is a boring person with no imagination.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Snow tires and go slow. Don’t much matter in what.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    What, Corey and Adam aren’t going to call me out on this thread?

    Dave sad.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      We thought you were busy looking for GMC Sierras.

      We did not fire up the Dave Signal. :(

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        The obvious answer is Suzuki SX4 AWD hatch with Nokian WRs.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Advantage SX4 in that you can actually select FWD mode when there isn’t any snow.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          My brother’s friend briefly owned a manual SX4 hatch (totaled out by a deer a month ago). Honestly, for how tiny that thing is, fuel economy is pretty subpar. He ended up replacing it with an ’09 Forester 5spd, that gets equal or even slightly better mileage, and has vastly more utility and more comfort. Having said that, the Subie is going under the knife at my bro’s shop as we speak for new head gaskets, it’s already had 3 wheel bearings replaced, and a pretty serious water leak into the interior fixed. This is on a car with less than 100k miles (98k).

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Since I’ve been driving Citroen BXes, winter has lost all respect from me. FWD, excellent heater, adjustable ground clearance thanks to hydropneumatic syspension (but already quite good in normal driving height), no electronic driving nannies, and nicely narrow (165/70 R 14) but good snow tires make it as unstoppable as a 2WD car can be, and more comfortable than I’ve ever been in any car.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “hydropneumatic syspension”

      The only thing besides cheese and Gauloises those frogs got right. Phuq! Why can’t we have that?

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        They made a better job of it than I made of spelling “suspension”, that’s for sure :-(

        But the Hydractive, as it’s now called, is soon to be a thing of the past even in Europe. The next C5 is already on the horizon, and with the current model bowing out, so will HP. It had a good 62-year run though, and to me is still as fascinating today as it must have been to those first DS buyers in 1955.

        Il n’y a pas des chaussées mauvaises; il y a seulement des châssis mauvaises. (There are no bad roads; there merely are bad suspension systems.)

        • 0 avatar
          OldManPants

          Yeah, I researched it several months back when I first became aware of hydropneumatic boingos and it appears that the tech is being completely abandoned for passenger vehicles.

          This as roads only become irretrievably worse in the US if not everywhere else.

          • 0 avatar
            redliner

            Mercedes-Benz Active Body Control and Magic Body Control differ in execution but are conceptualy similar and achieve similar or better results. Sadly, reliability is also to modern Mercedes-Benz standards, which is to say that it will survive the warranty period and not a day longer.

          • 0 avatar
            Ermel

            Any modern suspension tech that isn’t steel (or, in some cases, plastic) springs and shock absorbers is dependant on computers and sensors. Whether it’s Mercedes’ Body Control in either Active or Magic flavours, any air suspension system, or even Citroen’s own Hydractive as seen in the XM, Xantia, C5, and C6.

            Old-school hydropneumatic, as last seen in the BX and maybe early low-end Xantia (and previously in the DS, ID, GS, SM, and CX), is dependant only on (relatively simple) mechanics and of course leaklessness, and therefore will remain fixable in the long run.

            Of course, to care for something like that isn’t the norm. I do, however. My BX has a computer in the fuel injection system (made by Bosch, so probably rather easy to diagnose and replace) and one in the radio (which is a throwaway item anyway), and that’s it — so I’m good. :-)

  • avatar
    DJM

    I bought a 91 volvo 240 at an auction a decade back for use as a winter beater. It had a limited-slip differential of all things so shod with Blizzack WS60’s it moved quite well in the snow.

    Got tired of being nickel and dimed to death on maintaining/repairing it so I sold it to a workmate who still drives it to this day. What a tank.

    My much-maligned Freedom Drive II Patriot is probably the best vehicle I have ever had to pilot through winter’s worst weather. Saved my rear during a storm that closed hwy’s and buried cars. I was going around a lot of suv’s that were stuck on the road. I had just put a set of WS70’s on it, and the AWD just kept slogging away until I was able to get below the storm front 7 hours later.

  • avatar
    Thorshammer_gp

    The ’01 Grand Prix I drove during high school was a surprisingly competent wintermobile, and it only had all-seasons. Winters in Nebraska generally weren’t bad enough to really justify winter tires, and my parents were (rightfully) insistent that I learned how to drive safely when the roads weren’t perfect as early as possible. Ground clearance in it wasn’t the greatest, but it certainly did well enough in what we got.

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    First generation Pontiac Vibe AWD w/a decent set of snow tires. Corolla reliability, bullet proof 1.8l, 24-30mpg, $2500-3K for a decent example with <125K miles.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “$2500-3K for a decent example with <125K miles."

      Find me one and I'll buy it!

      • 0 avatar
        BoogerROTN

        I’ve got an ’05 AWD w/106K I’ll be listing this spring for $3250. All options (sunroof, factory cross bars, sub, etc.), a Thule luggage carrier and a set of snowtires on black steelies. The car has never been into a shop, other than for the Takata air bag recall. Annual Mobil 1 oil changes, ATF drain and fills every ~50K, new brake pads at 80K, new plugs/wires at 60K, OEM battery replaced two months at 102K. Seats could use a deep clean (children have no respect) and there is a chip in the windshield (driver’s side), but pretty minor stuff all-in-all. Oh, never seen road salt either (PNW)…

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          If I weren’t on the wrong side of the country I’d be all over that deal!

          For $3k out here, you’re getting a 200k+ mile unit, or one with a rebuilt title.

          I feel like uber/lyft has totally changed the game on prices of anything remotely fuel efficient, 03+ MY, clean title and with 4 doors.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @gtemnykh, if you were closer I’d be talking to you about my wife’s Vibe. 2005, 135,000 miles, 5-speed manual, all service records and one owner going back to mile 0. All maintenance has been done including the 120,000 mile service. But it is just FWD not AWD.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Shoot! FWD is fine by me!

  • avatar
    redliner

    I run a 4×4 Tahoe Hybrid as my “winter beater” although it’s very clean and it’s about as highly optioned as a Tahoe gets. Seems silly to drive around in an 8 passenger vehicle in summer for a single guy with no kids.

    Thinking about adding an MX-5 to my summer fleet in addition to the Volt, which might get replaced with a second-hand Tesla or something very electric. (Not a Bolt, those are fugly)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am fortunate enough to be able to work at home 4 days a week. On the day or days (sometimes 2 days a week in the office) it is 4 miles to the Park and Ride which drops me off a block from my office and which my employer pays the fare. Many years ago I had to drive 35 miles to work (70 miles round trip). I do not miss that commute are getting caught in a blizzard.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    For a cheap winter beater I’d say any old front-wheel drive Dodge/Chrysler product does well. Back in the day my Shadow was fantastic in the snow even without snow tires and my 300 pulled itself along nicely as well. If all I wanted was a junker, I’d look for an older full size Mopar first. They’re dated, but comfortable to drive and have plenty of room.

    I’ve never been a four wheel drive guy but I’ve owned two over the years and drove both of them in the snow. For going over the pass my GMC was amazing in the snow – just an unstoppable tank – and even the Pontiac Torrent we owned in Buffalo was surprisingly easy to drive in the snow. The traction control worked really well and it was almost impossible to slide it around.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The nice part of living in the mountain west of the U.S is we don’t have to worry about salt. So, the need for a ‘winter beater’ is really not there unless you DD a vette’. Though, in all seriousness I had a neighbor years ago who was a golf pro and his DD was a Vette’. For him it was no big deal, no one was at the course when it snowed so he didn’t go in.

    I really like the Suburban in the snow. I have Kumho tires (forget which type, but they are an aggressive tire vs the standard Good Year 20 inch tire) which work great.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      That’s not totally true anymore; and hasn’t been for many years.

      ALL the Interstates in snowy regions get salted. Because of the steady stream of truck traffic moving through. Doesn’t matter the state; there might be short, isolated stretches where they don’t salt to avoid contaminating runoff, but generally, doesn’t matter if it’s Montana or Colorado or North Dakota. Interstates get salt. And salt slush.

      Parts of Colorado, especially around Montrose, used salt when I was living there twenty years ago. Here in my Montana town, with heavy traffic from Federal employees and the State University…salt is used liberally. The dry air between storms mitigates it some; but cars aren’t as clean as those from Portland or Los Angeles.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        No salt in CO. Mag Chloride. Which, while it won’t rust your car will eat your ceramic brakes and chrome if you don’t wash it off in a timely fashion.

        Now, they may salt in Montrose still. In the metro denver area it is not used. Which is the bulk of my snow driving.

  • avatar
    relton

    My winter car is the same as my Spring car, my Summer car, and my Fall car.

    335i coupe, with tires appropriate for the season. 9 years old, 9 Michigan winters, and never stuck once. I routinely made it to work when young guys with the latest SUVs, but with all season tires, did not.
    Also, not a spec of rust showing anywhere. With luck, good for 3 more winters.

    I worked long and hard for many years so I could afford to drive around in a nice car. I’m not going to look for a crummy beater to drive for 1/3 of the year.

    Bob

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    Best winter beater I had was an 96.5 XJ, 4.0, Command-trac, Auto. It’s stablemate was an E36 M3 Vert (no rain, no snow, etc.) First generation Focus ZX3 manual with snow tires was very good, but not enough clearance.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Midsize or full sized American FWD car with good winter tires. They depreciate worse than Japanese cars so they make good used bargains and parts are generally cheap. Look around and you can find nice low-mileage examples for cheap.

    My 2002 Taurus SEL wagon with the Vulcan V6 was found on Craigslist in California a few years ago with 25k miles. I brought it to Michigan, got steel wheels with General altimax winter tires, and it does great in the snow and even has a roof rack built in for skis. Two winters so far, kept in an unheated garage, and still totally rust free. It suits my needs and has been completely reliable… granted with such low miles it is still nearly new. It wins no style points and the fuel economy borders in abysmal (21 mpg on the freeway in the summer is pretty bad for such an underpowered car) but she gets the job done.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Being underpowered is part of the issue. That same engine in my second gen sedan is sprightly, if not exactly quick. And I get high 20s consistently with a heavier foot than I should at times.

      The gen four car in general was a lot heavier, and being a wagon adds more weight. Still should get around 25 highway. May have an issue causing it to drink fuel. Clogged cats? I dunno but its got more in it than that, I’m sure.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      I’d guess that there are plenty of Chrysler 200s out there off fleet that would be ideal. I had a breeze that was presumably part of the evolution of the 200, and thanks to the light weight (probably gone if 200s met any kind of 21st century crash testing) and having the wheels in the corner meant it was a veritable snowshoe.

      Remember more recent cars are more likely to have traction control and anti-lock breaks. Things that make going up and down hills a no brainer.

      And of course, all this assumes that you live in areas where salt has already eaten all the Subarus.

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    Ditto on the beater quality, midsized domestic FWD, but in my case by GM. Keep up with maintenance, expect repairs and drive them all year round. These can be exceedingly cheap wheels but with good tires on them.

    The wife drives the good car, also a FWD GM but much newer and an SUV thing.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    If I lived in the snow belt: This, heavily rust proofed.

    http://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/cto/5908251121.html

    (1996 Tercel coupe 4spd.)

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I’d want something AWD, winter tires are a must, heated seats and steering wheel are very nice too. Ignition system, battery and heater has to be in perfect shape.

    The winter cars in my fleet now are a Saab 9-5 and Jaguar X Type. The Saab is good, but the Jag is better because of AWD.

    The Jaguar has a heated windshield, which is a godsend in very cold weather. We’ve been between -20 and -30 this week, and if the car is outside for a while and everything is cold, just breathe and the inside of the windshield frosts up. It takes quite a while after starting for there to be any heat in the cooling system, so turning on the windshield clears the frost. It’s much safer, especially with the low angle of the sun all the time. Drive into the sun with the frost on the glass and it’s impossible to see. Other advantage is no scraping the frost which always scratches the glass. Turn the windshield on, wait a min, run the wipers once and the glass is clear.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    For me the best snow vehicle has snow tires, lots of ground clearance, a traction control off switch, and “offroad drive” 4×4. My Silverado makes an awesome snow vehicle, but I’m sure a Tahoe with more weight over the rear wheels would be better. A traditional 4×4 drivetrain (transfer case, fixed ratio) is best in deep snow as all four tires will always move.

  • avatar
    arcuri

    Any of the GM A bodies. Great cars, reliable,tough. Throw on a taller tire, you’ll be unstoppable. ditto for the Ford Taurus. Also had a 81 corolla 2 door sedan,5 speed. Am/fm one speaker radio, lol !Also went with taller tires, kept the narrow 175 width. Great car for the Northern NY winters.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Ideally, mine would have:

    -Full-time, fully mechanical 4WD/AWD.
    -European factory-studded tires.
    -Decent ground clearance.
    -Any electronic nannies nonexistent or permanently disabled except ABS, which protects the studs from damage during lock-up.
    -Manual transmission, so there’s a direct correlation between engine speed and wheel speed.
    -Block heater.

    My ’98 Pathfinder was the best winter vehicle I’ve had. It didn’t meet that tire requirement, but the studded 31″ Cooper Discoverer M+S tires were decent enough on ice and excellent in deep snow. It had more ground clearance than necessary for city and highway driving though. I’d prefer something a little less thirsty if it didn’t need to be so capable on rig roads in the middle of nowhere.

  • avatar
    Nikolai

    My favorite winter car was my 95 Audi A6 Quattro.
    AWD, manual, good ground clearance for a sedan, and thin tires (195 profile iirc).
    I had the car from 120k-200k miles and as long as my tires had tread, all seasons were enough to get me around

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    GM W-Body with 3.8L NA V6 under the hood, traction control, and good snow tires.

    Dirt cheap to buy, dirt cheap to service, generally speaking as reliable as an anvil, you sure aren’t going to care if someone bends the sheet metal, 16″ rims gives you a lot of options for good snow tires, most will accept tire chains (a lot of cars today won’t), and they are darn good in the snow. Large enough trunk to swallow up your “oh shit” gear plus more. Engine bows at the altar of torque,

    Pleasant to drive – meh – get you there in the crap – definitely.

    Of course almost anything AWD/4WD will be better, but you end up paying a stupid high premium for it, or get something at risk of falling apart.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    When I lived in Ohio, my first winter car was a ’77 VW Rabbit with mechanical fuel injection.(Great car) I had to sell it after it rusted so bad, the drivers seat started falling through the floor. LOL. However, it was super reliable. My second beater was a ’84 Celica GTS. Enjoyable to drive, but RWD made it a horrible winter car. My next beater was a ’87 Dodge Colt hatchback. Another reliable, great car. I purchased it for $300, then drove it 3 years, then sold it for $300. How could I honestly complain.
    My final beater, was a ’95 Escort sedan. My first American beater. It wasn’t bad…but the reliability did not compare to my foreign predecessors. I think the best part about ALL beaters is…you can park them anywhere with no worries. Go-ahead…ding my car. LOL. I absolutely loved parking next to a new BMW, and hopefully catch the reaction of the driver. Priceless!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Here’s an article on why ‘winter beaters’ are a bad idea in Canada. From the Globe and Mail back in 2015. Below are key excerpts:

    “I would not recommend running an old, cheap, beater car for winter use,” said Raynald Marchand, general manager of programs for the Canada Safety Council, in an e-mail. “You need reliability, and all the new safety features on your side in bad winter driving – since most people would not spend money on the old beater car, the safety concern is even worse.”

    Said Calvin Feist, automotive instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton. “I personally don’t believe in winter beaters – I drive the same vehicle all year and maintain it so I have no worries,” Feist said. “When it is ready to be replaced, I do so.”

    “Winter beaters are not cheap or really easy to find anymore,” said Sean Cooney-Mann, store manager for an OK Tire in Toronto. “Good used cars have risen in value due to new safety standards.”

    An older car is more likely to need repairs, even if it’s just for wear and tear like tires and brakes. That will add to the price tag. And then you’ll need a place to park a beater – if you’ve got no room in the garage, do you really want to be scraping ice off your beater at six in the morning? Or to pay for storage for your real car? And you’re also paying for insurance for the beater.

    And, if you’re in Ontario, you’ll need to make sure the beater passes its used car safety inspection and emissions tests.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/culture/commuting/the-winter-beater-a-good-idea-or-bad/article33370200/

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  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber