Once again it's wintertime. Or at least it's the part of fall that might as well be winter. The salt is on the roads, and for many people that means it's time to take the nice car to the garage and drag out the winter car. That cheap, rusty, already probably broken vehicle that you buy to last until the roads get nice again. Or, at the higher budget points, something that's almost as nice as your summer vehicle, but maybe not as special, and definitely more suited to the bad roads and corrosion of the colder half of the year.
So we've found some of the best new and used cars and trucks listed on autoTRADER.ca, in six different price ranges. Now, the condition of the car or truck you're looking at is extra important, especially in the lower price ranges. So we're using these as examples of models you can find for these price points. Whatever you choose, there are questions to ask before buying that used car. We also really recommend that you get it inspected before you buy to make sure that you aren't going to get any immediate surprises. After all, a breakdown in the summer can be inconvenient, but one at 20 below can be downright dangerous.
So here are some of our best picks.
The basics for under two grand are basically that it have four wheels and be road legal. Bells and whistles aren't easy to come by. Snow tires included are nearly a must, because otherwise, a set will cost close to half of what you paid for the car.
Cheap doesn't mean small, and it doesn't necessarily mean car. You can find yourself in a used crossover. How about a Saturn Vue, like this 2006, for sale in Richmond Hill. It's front-wheel drive, but it comes with four winter tires. And it's even a V6 – the peppy 250 hp 3.5L model that Saturn actually bought from Honda for a few years.
The Toyota Camry has never had a reputation for being exciting, but it definitely has a reputation for longevity. But you can still find them for well under $2,000. This one's for sale in Kamloops. It comes with a four-cylinder engine, automatic, and winter tires.
$2,000 to $5,000
Move into the up to $5,000 range and vehicles start to get a little newer and a little nicer. Now you can start to look for something with a service history. And all-wheel drive. Like this 2005 Subaru Outback, for sale in Winnipeg. It's got extra ground clearance, all-wheel drive, and this one even has heated seats. No need to give up luxury features to have an affordable winter car.
Have a bigger family? Need to tow or haul lots of big items even in the winter? Check out a full-size SUV like this 2000 Ford Expedition in Kelowna. V8 power, rear climate control, seating for eight, and enough cargo space to fit whatever Boxing Day deals you can find this December. Yup, we're talking about Boxing Day sales already. Sorry.
$5,000 to $10,000
Once your budget reaches to $10,000, it's hard to still call it a Winter Beater. But it's all relative, right? If your summer car is a sports car, then these might still qualify. But you don't want to give up all of that fun.
Try a BMW 335xi like this one. A turbocharged straight-six that makes 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, with an excellent handling balance and loaded with optional luxury features to keep you warm and cosy. The all-wheel-drive 3 Series can help keep your sporty side at bay until the spring brings back the warm weather.
Hybrids are ready for winter too. Like this 2007 Lexus RX 400h. A 3.5L V6 and hybrid drive gives you all-wheel drive, great fuel economy, and it's loaded with luxury features. A Mark Levinson stereo, rear seat DVD, and navigation make it a nice place to spend the cold months. And less time standing beside a gas pump at -35°C, so your fingers should be happy too.
$10,000 to $20,000
In the $10,000 and up bracket you can start adding in some new cars. Even better – and something that would have seemed near impossible just a few years ago – you can get a brand-new car for under $20,000 that comes with heated seats. And a heated steering wheel! The Kia Rio LX+ offers those and cruise control and comes in under budget. In hatch or sedan body.
Or on the used side, you could move into a big pickup. Tired of shovelling? How about a 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty. With a plow and a salter. There are more of these trucks around than you might think, like this one, for sale in Thornhill, ON. It's a crew cab for the family and a diesel because you need all of the torque, right? A plow truck can need a little more front-end maintenance than one not used to plow, but do a couple of driveways for the neighbours and it'll pay for itself in goodwill. Or maybe cash.
$20,000 to $40,000
From $20,000 to $40,000, there's a much better range of cars, trucks, and SUVs to pick from. On the new side, a crossover like Hyundai's all-new 2019 Santa Fe offers up a heated steering wheel and heated front seats even on the base model. If you haven't yet experienced the warmth of a heated wheel on a cold day, it can be a life-changing experience. To go with the interior warmth, if offers up all-wheel drive and 185 mm of ground clearance. Enough to help keep you going over snowbanks.
Depending on where you are and where you drive, winter isn't just driving through a metre of snow and jumping icy banks. Sometimes it's just window scraping and waiting for the glass to defrost. Check out something like this Volvo V60, for sale in Fredericton. Not only does it have heated seats and a heated wheel, but it's one of just a few models to offer a heated windshield and heated washer nozzles. Melt that window ice and frost in no time, and keep it from coming back. If you don't like an all-wheel drive-wagon, the S60 offers up the same features with less cargo room.
Above $40,000, the sky is the limit. And while I want to give you suggestions like a 6x6 Mercedes G-Wagen, something with tracks, or maybe even an RV so you can just head somewhere warm, this is serious advice for serious winter needs. At this price point, a pickup truck looks like a great idea. Pick the right one and you can go just about anywhere.
When you're trying to get through the worst winter has to offer, a locking differential is always a plus. That way you're not sitting there watching the wheel without traction doing all the spinning and the other one sitting there being lazy. And if one locking differential is good, more is better.
Chevrolet's Colorado ZR2 pickup lets you lock both the front and the rear. So there will always be four wheels spinning. It's lifted and wider, too. You can even get it with a diesel engine for impressive pickup fuel economy. The Multimatic shocks are great for off-road, but since by mid-March most paved roads are looking like the surface of the moon, they're also great for on-road ride comfort. Just remember that all of the fancy computer hardware in the world doesn't mean you don't still need four winter tires.
The Lexus LX 570 could be one of the most comfortable ways to get through winter. Based on the legendary, go-anywhere Toyota Land Cruiser, this adds a boatload of luxury features. Like heated and cooled seats, plus a DVD player for rear seat passengers. More importantly, it has low-range four-wheel drive, a height adjustable suspension, adjustable dampers, and crawl control that can automatically control the throttle and brakes on tough terrain. And it'll tow up to 3,181 kg so you can bring some winter toys with you.
Those are our picks if you're looking for a winter vehicle. But whatever you choose, make sure that you catch up on any maintenance issues before the temperatures drop. And unless you're planning on heading south for the winter, make sure to get a proper set of winter tires.