Inspect your beater closely
If you dread taking your car out in the snow and slush and exposing it to the elements, you might invest in a "beater," or a no-frills car you drive only in winter. When it comes to beaters, looks don't matter. So forget fancy paint jobs and flashy rims. With these cars, it's all about function and safety.
Sarah Lee Marks, CEO of MyCarlady, a car buyer's concierge service, suggests shopping in areas where older cars generally haven't experienced bad winters. She says deals on dry, desert cars can be found this time of year in states such as Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
Regardless of where you shop, it's wise to check for leaking fluids right off the bat.
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"Never do your first check of a vehicle where it sits," says Bill Visnic, senior editor at Edmunds.com. He says to drive it several feet away and check its "footprint" for any leaking fluids.
"If you see any fresh drips or puddles, find another vehicle," he says.
Here are some additional important features to check before buying.