Home Cars Beater Car Guide: Pros, Cons and 5 Best Options

Beater Car Guide: Pros, Cons and 5 Best Options

by Elsa Stringer

Beater car can sometimes be the best option if you are looking to buy a car and you are on a tight budget. It doesn’t matter whether it’s  your first car, second car or you just need a car for the winter, this guide will give you all the pros and cons when looking to but a beater car.

What is a Beater Car?

A beater car is an older, high mileage car that has a purpose of getting you from point A to point B. It usually has a few cosmetic issues and can generally be purchased for under $2,500. Also, there is a scale of beater cars. Those which are in seriously bad shape are usually around $500 while those on better condition are around $2,500.


One important note is that a “beater car” doesn’t usually mean a bad, unreliable or breaking down car. The factor that plays a very important role is the owner and how he treats it.

Who Should Get A Beater (And Who Shouldn’t)

There are usually two times when a beater car is the perfect choice:

  1. For a first car
  2. To save money to reach financial goals

There are some cases where these two are combined, but the most common one is for best financial strategy to save money.

Some reasons not to get a beater car:

-It must be 100% reliable (whether you use it for frequent hospital trips or a situation where an unreliable car could actually be life threatening)

-You make money of your car or you need a specific model (e.g Uber requires a certain type of car and year of car)

-Looks are important to you

-Fixing cars in not your expertise

With all that aside, getting a beater car is one of the best financial decisions you will ever make, at least from my experience. I’ve been able to save a decent amount of money in a short period of time.

Beater Car : Benefits


It’s outright cheap. One of the greatest benefits from buying a beater car is that it’s cheap. Most of them go below $2,500. It can be bought in cash so it helps avoid any sorts of car payments or loans.

No car payments. Instead of paying $200 pear month you can pay in cash at once and save yourself from having car payments.

You can get minimum insurance coverage.  If your car is worth more than $5,000 you will likely have to get a full coverage car insurance. You avoid all of this by buying a beater car and save $1,000 over the span of a year which you can then spend on vacation or a better car.

Less depreciation. Buying a car that’s 10 years has gone through the worst of the depreciation curve, which saves you from facing that loss from depreciation. This can easily help you sell your canr in a couple of years for a minimal loss.

Cheaper gas (usually). Because older cars usually run on cheaper gas, that is a great financial option than can save you over $100 per year.

Cheaper parts. The best beater cars are usually the ones made around 90’s or 2000’s because the part for them are cheap and can be found easily. Junk yards are the best places to find these types of parts.

Lower car taxes. If you live in a state that requires a car tax, beater car is the best option because it has a low value so it can reduce your tax bill.

Freedom. With a beater car you don’t have to worry if you scratch it, hit it or total it. It’s not as nearly painful as damaging your brand new car.

Beater Car : Downsides

Although the best benefit from buying a beater car is saving money, there are some downsides.


Less safe. Modern cars nowadays have state of the art safety systems while beater cars have none of that. They are old and prone to breaking. That is very important to have in mind, especially if you have children.

Long distance car rides might not be possible. While it doesn’t mean that you can’t go on long car rides with a beater, it could also be disastrous. It all depends on the car. If it’s a cheap beater, you probably won’t make it. So, if you are considering on going of long road trips, make sure you get a beater that is in very good condition.

How To Buy A Beater Car

If you want to buy a great beater car you have to take your time and search as many as you can. That way, your chances of buying a great beater car, increase.


How many miles does it have? It is one of the most popular questions when buying a car. If a car is treated badly it could give you 150,000 miles while a car that has been treated properly  could probably give you around 200.00 miles. The conclusion to this is that it’s very important to treat your car properly and to maintain it in the best way possible. You should also look for a car that had fewer owners because that increases the chances of it being poorly treated.

Has it been maintained? You will want to know what types of maintenance it’s had. Inform yourself about car’s oil, gas filter, transmission fluid and so on. If it has been poorly maintained it isn’t going to be reliable.

What is Kelly Blue Book value? This is a great tool which can help you in your search of a good beater car. You just need to put in the details of the potential beater and see what the price comes out with. If the KBB price is lower than their asking price, keep in mind that you could pay more than what the car is worth if you don’t negotiate. If it is opposite then it may be because they are hiding something or you found a great deal. Just pay attention to the KBB while negotiating.

What’s my goal with getting a beater?

Be very clear with your goals when buying a beater car because you can end up with more problems that wanted if you are not careful enough.

What beaters are the most reliable?

Reliability is the most important factor when buying a beater car. These are some of the few options to find when buying a beater car:

-Ask friends and family

-Look at the J.D Power Car Awards for the cars year

-Search online for discussions on the car. Forums can be of great help.

What should you test before buying? One of the most important steps is testing the car. You don’t want the car to die hour after you have purchased it. There are some great checklists online which can help you tremendously. Testing it can help prevent getting a beater that will require expensive repairs.


Toyota Corolla

-Honda Civic

-Toyota Camry

-Nissan Altima

-Subaru Outback

Most of these cars are from 90’s and 2000’s which are the best years if you are looking to buy a beater car.

Fixing a Beater Car

Beater cars are inevitable going to break down so you will be looking to save money on spare parts like spark plugs, censors and so on.


Best way to save money on this is by doing the repairs yourself. Simple online search can go a long way. You can find everything you need on how to do basic repairs on cars online. Complex things like replacing an engine will require a trip to a car mechanic but there are a lot of things that you can fix by yourself.

I had a situation where I switched out both O2 sensors by myself for just $50, while a trip to a mechanic would cost me more than $200. And it was a fairly easy fix.

If you put the time in educating yourself about these kinds of things, it will definitely pay out.

Here are some little things you can do to make your beater, well, less of a beater:

-Get a steering wheel cover. These things can help improve the look of the car by itself.

Replace the floor mats.  If you have floor mats, replace them. They will help with the interior’s appeal.

-Get rid of the smell.  If someone smoked or had a dog in the car, it’s not going to smell great. Deep clean in or at least cover it up with some air fresheners.

-Clean it! A lot of things can affect the smell of your car. If you clean it regularly you won’t have these problems and people will enjoy riding with you.

Replace the highlights. Usually the cost new headlights is about $100, but that can make a huge difference on the appeal of your car.

To Fix or Not to Fix?

When a beater car breaks down, it is very difficult to decide whether to dump it or fix it.

When to fix, and when to sell?

If your beater is worth $1,500 these are some of the options you have:

-It’ll cost $300 to fix my $1,500 car – worth it? Yes

-It’ll cost $50 to fix my $1,500 car – worth it? Yes

-It’ll cost $1,500 to fix my $1,500 car – worth it? Maybe

The last question possesses a problem for many. If it costs the price of what your car is worth to fix it, should you? Maybe yes, maybe no. You should make a decision based on this:

What else is wrong with my car, and more importantly, what are the odds of something else expensive going wrong soon?

If something else is going to break soon on your beater car, spending $1,500 doesn’t sound like a good idea.  But, if you know that the car in in great shape, then maybe it’s worth the money.

It all sounds complicated  but if you know your car’s condition you will make you life easier.

Where to sell a beater?

These are some of the options:

Sell it to someone who fixes cars.

-Sell it to another beater car driver

-Donate it

-Sell it to a junk or scrap yard.

My Beater Car Experience

Even though I have never owned a “true” beater, I always tried to buy a car that is borderline beater. I saved a lot of money in the process. I had it for 2 years, out 30,000 miles on it, and I only had a loss of $250 after selling it.

Toyota Corolla was the car that I bought and I was very satisfied with it. When I did the math, I basically spent $125 per year for my car. Of course, I had to spend money on gas, oil, and a few fixes, but nothing that I wouldn’t do with any other car.


What is the most important advice in all of this you might ask?

Buy slightly above the beater car definition!

In conclusion to all of this, beater cars are truly amazing. You can save money, and still go wherever you want on your own.