Shopping for a winter beater

The time has come to shop for a cheap car to get me though the winter. I’ve been commuting with a bicycle so far but it is getting a little cool and things get a bit dicey with the snow and ice on the hills I need to navigate. The requirements are pretty modest:

1. Must be able to pass a safety check with minimal work. I don’t mind replacing a set of brake pads but don’t want to be rebuilding an engine.
2. Must be cheap. On the road for well under $500 is the goal. We’ll see how it goes.
3. Decent parts supply in the local junkyards to keep running costs to a minimum.

A few other factors would help as well like simplicity of the vehicle which limits the number of things to go wrong and helps with the ease of fixing them. Fuel economy concerns probably take out any big land barge style cars. There are a number of reasonable candidates locally with most being late 80s to early 90s economy cars or small, rear wheel drive trucks. This is in the sweet zone for my requirements – anything older has usually disappeared from the junkyards and the newer stuff often is more complex and pricy to buy.

Last time doing this I ended up with a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron. It was rusty and had many, many flaws but around the city was very reliable. I bought it for $160 including a valid safety inspection. The LeBaron lasted me eight months or so relatively trouble free and I put almost no money into it. I did give it a flat black paint job but that wasn’t a necessary expense. With inflation of used car prices lately I don’t expect to do as well this time but we will see how it goes.

1986 Chrysler LeBaron

I’m off to look at an automatic 80s Corolla tonight. The price is right but I have no passion for it. I suspect no one else does either but it does fit the requirements on paper. What I would like to buy is this Citroen CX – ad here.

It, of course, fails all three of my requirements above. Adding that is has a diesel engine which generally don’t cope well with -30C cold starts it makes no sense at all. Parts supply has to be a nightmare at best and generally cheap, French cars don’t rate highly on the reliability scale. Still it is interesting. No doubt I’ll go with the Corolla (or similar soulless appliance) since it has a better chance to get me to work and back everyday but it is nice to dream a little about the CX. If I didn’t already have my Mazda 808 coupe I’d consider it has a fun summer car.

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4 Responses to Shopping for a winter beater

  1. Pingback: Winter Beater Purchased | Old Car Junkie

  2. Glen says:

    Was perusing the net and just happened to stumble onto your web site.
    Great reading and subjects that are near and dear to my heart,,,beater cars, and older cars in general….it may be 2011….but I live in the 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s when it comes to vehicles.

    Keep up the good work…..I look forward to more good reads.

    • oldcarjunkie says:

      Thanks! People ask why I drive old cars and I always tell them because I want to. They have character. Plus no monthly payment is great too.

  3. Trouble says:

    My buddies keep asking me when i am going to upgrade from my 15 year old car. I tell them i am looking right now for a 30 year old car. Why? Because I can.

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