Winter Beater Cars: Why You Should Drive One

April 10, 2014

Five Reasons Winter Beater Cars are Better

Beater Car

If you drive a winter beater car, drive it with pride. There’s a wonderful sense of freedom that comes from driving down the road with no car note and no worries about what anyone else thinks about your ride. There are quite a few tangible benefits to driving a less-than-perfect car, too.

What Is a Beater Car?

A beater — aka clunker or hoopty — is a car or truck that has seen better days. The check-engine light may be on permanently. Foam may be peeking out of the upholstery. And the body panels may be five different colors. Even if the exterior is rusted or just plain ugly, a beater car may still run perfectly well.

Five reasons to drive a beater car

  1. Clunkers are cheap to insure. You may be able to drop your collision and comprehensive coverage if your car’s value is low. Compare your annual premiums to the car’s replacement cost, minus deductibles, and see how long it will take for the amount you pay to surpass your insurance benefit.
  2. Driving an older car is a smart financial move. Almost all vehicles are depreciating assets, which means they lose value over time. The second you drive a new car off the lot, its value sinks like a stone. Your money’s better spent on investments that will increase in value, or putting the money into an emergency fund.
  3. While you’re driving your beater car, you can save for a new car. Many people are on a car loan treadmill. By the time their car’s paid off, they’re ready to upgrade to a new one — and a new loan. Get off the treadmill by driving a beater until you’ve saved enough to pay cash for a new car.
  4. A beater car serves as a great backup car. Many people keep their beaters around to use for their daily commute, for dirty work or to drive when their primary car’s in the shop.
  5. You have no new-car stress. When you’re driving a brand-new car, it’s painful to scrape the bumper or see a ding in the door. When you’re driving a beater, minor damage is no big deal, and you can worry less about theft.

Where to find beater cars for sale

If you don’t already own a beater car, here’s yet another reason to get one: You can pay cash for one and avoid the pain of a car payment. Craigslist, newspaper want ads, and vehicle consignment lots can all be great spots for finding a beaut of a beater. Public auctions of seized vehicles or municipal vehicles can also be good places to find cheap cars for sale.

Wondering what make and model to buy? Check out this Jalopnik discussion of the best beater cars under $2,000. Commenters like late-’90s Jeep Cherokees and ’80s Ford trucks, among other models.

How you know it’s time to upgrade

Even if you love your beater car, you can’t keep it forever. You know it’s time to trade it in if:

  • Your beater’s not safe, or it keeps breaking down.
  • Repair bills exceed the car’s worth.
  • It’s a huge gas guzzler.
  • You’re planning a long road trip.
  • People point and laugh when you’re at stoplights.
  • You find yourself constantly fantasizing about driving a better car.

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