Welcome to Found, a series where classic goods are handpicked by Gear Patrol‘s writers and editors and are ready for a good home.
A winter beater is an automotive sacrificial lamb. A dirt-cheap conveyance to be bought on the cheap, driven into a sea of salt and slush, then abandoned in spring. Sure, it’ll save your nicer car from the hell of winter, but you’re still stuck with a machine you don’t like very much for a few months out of the years.
Instead of treating the winter beater as a cheap-as-dirt commodity to be used up and tossed aside, spring for something a bit more premium. Pick up something that’s actually enjoyable to sit in and drive. Take care of it and use it for more than just one winter. There are plenty of luxurious and fun-to-drive cars that can be found on the cheap and equipped to take on what winter can throw at them. Just don’t forget the winter tires.
2000 Audi A8
What we like: Yes, it has Audi’s vaunted Quattro AWD system and, yes, it’s one of the A8’s selling points as a luxury car apt to handle winter. But the first-gen A8 is also notable for being the first production car ever to utilize an aluminum space frame. Here’s a science lesson: when it comes into contact with oxygen, an aluminum develops a thin surface layer of aluminum oxide which keeps the main structure from oxidizing, meaning snow and salt won’t dissolve an A8 to a rusty heap of its former self.
From the seller: Recent service done. Brand new timing belt and water pump service; brand new alternator; brand new battery.
Location: Stafford, TX
2000 Toyota Land Cruiser
What we like: Some may bemoan that the the Land Cruiser of the ’90s and beyond brought the traditionally rugged and simple off-roader too far into luxury territory, but the Land Cruiser has never lost its off-road roots and its dependable build, being built around the concept of a “25-year service life.” If you believe the best way to tackle winter conditions is with overkill, then you’re in luck; plus, it’s hard to find a better combination of ruggedness and comfort.
From the seller: Vehicle has minor dings on the exterior body. The engine on this vehicle is running properly. All power equipment is functioning properly.
Location: Huntingdon Valley, PA
2005 Subaru Legacy GT
What we like: An overlooked gem in Subaru’s lineup (with prices reflecing that), the Legacy GT is what happens when a WRX grows up. Featuring the same turbo-charged 2.5-liter engine as its rally-bred stablemate, the Legacy GT keeps the same running gear but has more interior room, and more leather and wood trim than you could possibly need in a “beater.” And in wagon form, there’s additional space for all your ski and snowboard gear.
From the seller: The car comes with a leather interior, an over-sized powered sunroof, and heated front seats. Production numbers have this specific configuration (Regal Blue, Wagon, Limited, Automatic) as one of 79. I believe I am the fourth owner of the car, and I have put 42,000 miles on it in the past four years as my daily driver.
Location: Chicago, IL
2004 Volvo S60R
What we like: Volvo’s S60R is a perfect convergence of fun, safety and comfort. It’s powered by a turbocharged inline-five engine producing 296 horsepower and sending it to all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Throw in some leather seats with La-Z-Boy levels of comfort and a five-star crash rating (just in case), and you have a complete package.
From the seller: I have dealer maintenance records and receipt for a timing belt and water pump job done just 4,000 miles ago. The car is in overall good condition.
Location: Endicott, NY
1999 Porsche 911 Carrera 4
What we like: Perhaps you don’t like the idea of giving up a fun two-door sports car. Though we wouldn’t call it a beater, per se, the 996 generation 911 is the least collectible, but the most affordable generation. The addition of AWD makes this particular 996 apt for winter, and assuming you sort out the notorious IMS bearing failure, you have a reasonably dependable car to toss through the snow.
Location: Greensboro, NC