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7 things to look for in a winter 'beater'

All-wheel drive offers greater traction
All-wheel drive offers greater traction © Nneirda/Shutterstock.com

All-wheel drive offers greater traction

Front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive models are good options for a winter beater, but all-wheel drive seems to be the best overall choice.

"All-wheel drive can keep the car from getting stuck in deep snow or help you climb a hill covered in slick pavement," says Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, a car research site. "Front-wheel drive isn't as capable as all-wheel drive in these instances, but it's better than rear-wheel drive and is also more common, making it a cheaper alternative than all-wheel drive."

The downside: All-wheel-drive vehicles can be more expensive to maintain and usually use more fuel than their front-wheel-drive counterparts, says Dan Gray, founder and blogger at MPGomatic.com, who suggests getting better fuel efficiency by opting for an all-wheel-drive sedan or wagon rather than an SUV.

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