As residents of hot and dry regions of the U.S. prepare to bring their convertibles out for prime driving season, those of up north and in the Snow Belt have to start thinking about off-season storage. When you don't want to subject a car you care about to the elements, that's where a winter beater comes in real handy.
Read the full list over on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/buying-and-selling/5-winter-beaters-to-endure-the-cold-months-ahead/
Second generation Ford Explorer Sport Trac 2007- 2011 with 4.6 V8 and all wheel drive. Was impressed with how well it handled in the snow over regular 4X4's when I first bought one new and still have.
Another vehicle to consider as a winter driver is the 2nd gen (2002-2006) Honda CRV. I have a 2004 CRV that I use in the winter. I also use it as needed during the rest of the year to haul things. It is highly reliable with the Honda K24 engine and it is so easy to service. It is also fuel efficient and comfortable too!
Must have a stick shift and I prefer AWD to 4WD for winter roads, so it would probably be a Subaru wagon for me. The domestics don't offer much with manuals and AWD, in fact, I'm at a loss to think of any right now.
My choice is a car. The Oldsmobile Calais. As a prior owner of two, an 86 which was my first Brand new car and a 91. I can attest to the fact that these cars really plow through the snow, limited only by their ground clearance. They were of an era where the front wheel drive Weight bias was very heavy towards the front.( you could replace the front brakes by a 3:1 ratio compared to the rear) New front wheel drive cars are not the same, since Manufacturers are looking for more neutral handling. I would assume The other GM "N" cars the Grand Am and Buick Somerset/skylark have the same ability.
For my winter ride up here where it snows is my 2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R (six cylinder)
as much ground clearance as a Jeep, ultra reliable and (in my opinion) the best All Wheel Drive system. And it is a real five speed auto, not the stupid CVD
What about the Toyota FJ Cruiser? Our 2007 FJ is a beast in the snow. We haven't had to pay anyone to plow our 175 ft driveway since we bought it 3 years ago. And it holds its value better than anything else you mentioned in your article.
I live in a rural area of southern Ontario and commuted 15 miles each way .My favorite winter beater was a Buick LeSabre, preferably a '95 or newer.These had a better rocker panel design that didn't rust as bad. A combination of an indestructable and fuel efficient 3.8 V6,ABS, traction control,front wheel drive, and enough weight to keep it stable made for a very comfortable and reliable winter ride.
Living in the land of rust as I do (Ontario), I'm very familiar with this concept of a winter beater. All of these could be decent picks but finding one that isn't already too rusted-out for winter-beater money (<$5,000) will be the challenge. Explorer (rocker panels and frame), GMT-800's (rockers, cab corners, bedsides & tail gates), Grand Cherokee (rockers, front fenders, doors, tail gate). Of course, a winter beater isn't (and shouldn't) be a perfect specimen, but you also shouldn't require a tetanus shot before getting in (at least not when you first buy it, anyhow). All these years of these models are/were prone to bad rust unless meticulously cared for and could be difficult to make pass a safety inspection. I would rather spend a lot less money on an old FWD sedan (Bonneville, Olds 88/98, Accord, Camry) put on some good winter tires and be done. You'll find them in better shape for a lot less money than any truck or SUV and unless you have to have to capability of a truck, are just fine in the snow with the right tires. Just my two cents.
A 2003 Volvo XC70 I picked up from original owner has been my winter beater for almost three years. AWD, very spacious/comfortable interior and surprisingly rust resistant body make this one of my favorites. Likely helps that the previous owner cared well for the car and so do I, but not as much as I care about my summer classics! Long live the winter beater!
I was JUST driving and looking at these GM pickups, wondering what the first year of the LS based engine was. Great choice for a beater with lots of utility. Have you seen the price of (even high mileage) Toyota truck/ suvs lately? Jeepers!
Mild Northern California weather for me, but when I needed a "winter" car to get to the Sierras for skiing and snowboarding, it was an AWD 911--'92 964 C4, '97 993 4S, and '03 996 Ruf R Turbo. (And really the only "need" for AWD was to get past the chain controls. Proper snow tires work just fine.)
Aging, reliable and powerful yet fuelishly economical is my 2013 F150 Ecoboost. With 4x4 and ground clearance it gets me where I need to go as long as the weather allows road visibility! Bought it new 8 years ago and it has given me 90,000 miles of service with few minor and no major issues at all.
I drive a 2014 Tacoma 4X4 pickup during the winter. All of my cars from the 1980's and early '90's will be safely stored in the garage by the time the snow flies. Unlike the earlier Tacomas, that were simple, light and pretty, this era is porky, slow and ugly. But it goes through snow with ease. Even with all of the electronic gadgetry, the truck is still easy to service. No one will miss it when it's gone.
Nothing cheaper to beat in than the S-10 4x4 platform. Blazers bring the least money. You can pick them up from gov auctions for less than $1000.00 with under 100K miles.
For a small platform they do suck fuel, but hey, it's a beater.
Aging, reliable and powerful yet fuelishly economical is my 2013 F150 Ecoboost. With 4x4 and ground clearance it gets me where I need to go as long as the weather allows road visibility! Bought it new 8 years ago and it has given me 90,000 miles of service with few minor and no major issues at all. Looking forward to another 90,000 miles or more! Then I might figure out how to stuff that 3.5 twin turbo into my Ecoboost Mustang!
Not necessarily the winter ride of choice, but it's the one I've got; a 2012 Nissan Rogue SV. Yes, I am quite aware of it's performance limitations, but the distribution of what power is available by Nissan AWD system works very well, making it a reliable stable driver in bad weather. In northern Michigan winters quarter mile time become less important than just making it through the next quarter mile.
My current favorite winter vehicles are our 2005 Trailblazer, the 96 Silverado I just bought (whose 5.7 L engine I will indeed save for my C4 Corvette when the truck disappears in a cloud of rust) and my 84 Chevy C10. My all time best, was the one and only new car we ever bought; a 91 Honda Civic hatchback. We took it on a deer hunt one winter. The snow reached the the top of the hood level on the roads. 4X4's were getting stuck all around us, but that little Honda just plowed the road with it's grill and we had no trouble at all. Best little snow machine we ever had. The worst snow machine we ever had was a Jeep CJ7, and winter driving was the main reason we had bought it. Made me vow to never want a Jeep again!
Using your good vehicle (non classic) all winter wouldn't be a problem if people oil sprayed them annually and waxed them regularly. Many such vehicles driven in northern winters have no rust whatsoever, even underneath after 20 years of use. Too many cheap and lazy people out there.
Wholeheartedly agree with "Balocco" on the E30 325iX; I've owned two of these. With snows at all four corners they will go almost anywhere and are an absolute hoot to drive (sideways at times). Older Mercedes E320 4matics are also unstoppable when so equipped. But any older German car can be very expensive to maintain, so be very careful if considering one.
For snowbelt guys you missed the point. Take it from a Winter resident (the worst 4 moths) of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, road clearance is as important as anything but 4 wheel drive. Those low slung yuppie and millennial go karts just won't cut it. The backup for that statement is the number of them that we pull out of the banks every month and drive them to a warm place while they wait for the tow truck that's busy tow their brethren out of the banks. Mostly at the local watering holes.
Me, I use a Ram 1500 Laramie the 3rd one in a row for me all with between 145000 and 225000 miles on the clock, no problem ever. They have all the bells and whistles, ride great and are pretty. The only change for the next one will be that its on air. Getting harder, as I get older to get up and in. Evan with the great running boards to assist.
I agree with your suggestion of the ZJ Grand Cherokee (although the 99-04 WJ is just as good/cheap) but the manual you mention was a one year uber rarity you are not likely to find in the wild. Kinda same for the 98 5.9 ZJ. More common than the manual but pricier than a "regular" ZJ.
The Explorer is almost ideal for snowy, icy, slippery New England roads, however, I found one even better. I traded my Ford in on a Porsche Cayenne S. The early Cayenne's have depreciated in price and are much more reliable cars, however, I will admit that while they are much more reliable, the cost of maintenance and repair, when needed, far exceeds any savings. There is no valid comparison between driving the Explorer and the Porsche. Why sacrifice luxury, performance and handling just because of snow?
Just to add - the most important aspect(s) for winter driving are the tires. Get real and really good snow tires, ideally "minus 1" (skinnier than summer profile) fitment, and almost any reliable car or truck will do the job.
I'm going to be rocking a Toyota Sienna XLS AWD with climate control on those cold and snowy days this winter, and a Scion xA with a 5 speed on those just really cold days. I will admit that I drove a Miata with studded snows one winter and that was a really impressive setup in the snow, lousy on dry pavement but amazing in the snow.
I used to live in a rural area near Chicago. My favorite winter car was Volvo 240s. Snow tires on the real and I could go thru almost anything. I used to call my wife upon reaching work to tell her how many FWD and 4WD vehicles were in the ditch. These were fantastic winter cars. Who knows winter driving better than the Swedes?
As you said, the GMT-800's in 4x4. Can't beat them. I own 4 of them right now & use them all year 'round. Cheap to buy, cheap to maintain & reasonable gas mileage if you "tune" them properly. Factory suspension can lift the front end 2'' (Levelling truck---Free!) & they go for 100's of thousands of KM'S! Throw on some 33'' tires & your good to go! Perfect for here in S.K. where it is winter for 9-10 months of the year & the Polar bears are HUGE! LOL
While I feel a FWD/AWD SUV is necessary to own as a winter “beater” I have to point out my best winter driving discovery ever: my ‘17 Challenger GT with AWD. I always said I’d buy a Challenger if I could drive it in the winter. Dodge apparently discover they were missing out on a ton of sales and put out the GT. I live this as a winter car that I still enjoy driving all the time.
05 Grand Cherokee Hemi Limited my beater of choice here in the north studded snow tires damn near unstoppable and still drag a snowmobile trailer wherever,bought one years ago silver in color easy rust repair Tremclad silver shaker can is a close enough touch up paint comfy heated seats great heater bring on the snow.Cheers
Ordinary as it is, my Volvo XC70 wagon (on my second) is just great for anywhere - granted snow is rare in Africa, but dodgy roads, sand and gravel are not. Happily rust is less of an issue unless you live on the coast here. Ive had a diesel and now the 3.2 - cheap to buy, well engineered, and if you go carefully, affordable. (and for us of a certain age, supremely comfortable!!)
Back in the '70's I had a Citroën GS Club Station Wagon.
It was a great winter ride. Front wheel drive 1015 cc air-cooled flat four with hydro-pneumatic suspension, power brakes and 15" wheels shod with skinny 145 section Michelin 'X' tyres. In snow and ice it would go anywhere and I lost count of the number of water cooled, fat tyred cars I'd pass stranded on the road. It wasn't powerful and it had quite a thirst but that flat four was turbine smooth and the ride was sublime. Sadly Citroën seem to have deserted the innovations that made them unique and a modern one is just another mobile box.
I live in the Northern Left Coast where we've had snow of 1 inch in twenty years. I would pick either the Explorer or the Jeep, simply because they are multi use vehicles and I have a small truck now. The Ford somehow does not look like an idiotic SUV, nor the Jeep. I was born and raised in New England, and as much as there is much to detest about the Left Coast, high taxes, Nanny States, everything overpriced, congestion and so on the benefits still outweigh living in heavy weather. I would still advise my fellow Hagerties to buy a Jeep or 4 wheel drive Explorer or Expedition. Great utility vehicles.
My winter beater choice is my 1990 Audi 200 wagon w/280K miles. It works great in the snow and ice, it has powerful heater, good ground clearance, a Torsen center diff plus rear locking diff, manual trans and ABS. Man trans w/4wd is hard to beat for crawling down a steep ice covered hill. I have a first gen S6 Audi, but it has less ground clearance and is too nice for beater duty.