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Buying a Winter Beater: 15 Cars That Won't Break the Bank

Tempted to buy a second car as a winter beater just to bear the brunt of Old Jack Frost? You aren’t alone. A winter beater is a vehicle that you drive for four to six months per year so that your ‘good’ car isn’t exposed to harsh, sub-zero conditions. Some Canadians are attracted to the idea of protecting their main vehicle from the harsh elements, but there are pros and cons to consider.

The upside of a winter beater? There are undoubtedly a few: 

  • Your ‘good’ car stays safe and protected. The goal is to keep your primary daily driver pristine, which means lower maintenance costs overall.
  • It keeps your ‘good’ car’s resale value high. You’ll be putting fewer clicks on the odometer and potentially avoiding accidents on your vehicle history report that could slash your resale value. 
  • Less stress about wear & tear. If you get a scratch or dent on your winter beater, or if you get into a fender bender, so be it. That’s why you have it.

But a cheap winter car isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. The idea for most people includes purchasing a car for under $7,500 (often much less) because it is a secondary car, after all. That can lead to its own set of concerns: 

  • You’ll be doubling up the cost of maintenance. You’ll have two cars to change the oil on, replace fluids, etc.. 
  • It’s probably less comfy. Odds are, your winter car won’t have heated seats or a heated steering wheel, remote start, or the AWD or suspension you want for your comfort and security.
  • Will it even last the winter? Depending on what you can afford, a winter beater is usually up to 15 years old. Older vehicles might not stand up to the harsh winter conditions and require replacement sooner than you imagined.

Buying the best used car for winter only

Perhaps the best feature any winter beater can have is an all-wheel drive sytem. There are different ways AWD systems can work. Many send all their power to the front wheels in most driving conditions, and then send some power to the rear when they detect a loss of traction. Here's more on what AWD is and how it works.

The bad news? Vehicles with all-wheel drive can be on the pricier side. But keep in mind many of these are luxury vehicles (and we're guessing you're not going to buy a premium winter beater). 

The good news? Fortunately, you don't have to break the bank. We share our top ten best AWD cars in this article, including five affordable models listed below:

Dodge Charger 

  • It’s the last internal combustion engine, large sedan sold by an American automaker
  • The Charger is roomy and quite comfortable
  • It is ageing well, and we still think it’s great


  • It is incredibly attractive
  • Surprisingly sophisticated i-Activ AWD system
  • Refined and sporty driving experience

Nissan Altima

  • Its styling is as bold as ever
  • The Altima’s cabin is extremely spacious
  • It is value-packed

Subaru Impreza

  • One of the least expensive new AWD cars in Canada
  • It almost feels like a low-spec WRX
  • Smartly laid-out cabin

Toyota Camry

  • It’s a Camry
  • AWD is just one of the many ways to get a Camry
  • The Toyota Camry is one of the safest purchases in the industry

More used winter beater cars to consider

These five models above are strictly affordable all-wheel drive options. For even more choices, read our guide with the top ten most reliable cheap used cars for Canadians, where you may just find the right winter beater that works within your budget. This list includes:

  • 2012-2013 Mazda3 GS-Sky - $4,900 to $13,000
  • 2015 Kia Forte sedan - $8,300 to $17,000
  • 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer DE/SE - $7,000 to $18,000
  • 2015 Hyundai Accent - $5,000 to $17,000
  • 2015 Nissan Sentra SV - $9,000 to $17,000
  • 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Trendline 2.0 - $7,000 to $14,500
  • 2014 Toyota Yaris - $9,000 to $17,000
  • 2015 Honda Civic - $10,000 to $16,000
  • 2013 Chevrolet Cruze LT - $9,000 to 12,000
  • 2018 Kia Rio LX - $12,000 to $15,000

Ready to buy a used car from this list?

Find all these cars above and more in our inventory here. Every vehicle has completed a 150 Point Inspection, comes with a no-charge 30 Day / 1,500 km warranty, and is covered by our 7-Day money back return policy.

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