Winter Car Buying Guide: Four Tips for Buying a Car This Winter

Great news – the winter time is a great time to shop for deals on new and used cars. With winter weather, the looming tax season and holiday obligations keeping potential buyers away from car lots, dealers experience a substantial decrease in customer traffic between the months of December thru March. And as the law of supply and demand commands, less demand and more supply means lower prices:

Demand is Low — Shop Around!

Because customer traffic from dealership to dealership is sporadic during the winter months, deals and pricing can vary greatly, even between car lots that are on the same block. With this in mind, never settle for the first deal you come across. If the dealership down the road has more cars in stock, they may be more willing to negotiate. But you will never find out, unless you are willing to shop around.

You Have the Salesperson’s Attention — Start with your lowest offer.

When shopping in the summer, you are competing against a myriad of customers, and unfortunately you may not always have the salesperson’s undivided attention. But in the winter, you may be the salesperson’s only customer of the day. This means they are desperate to make a sale, and they will be more willing to negotiate.

Last Year’s Model is Less Expensive — Buy the older model!

What happens to the 2012 model car when the calendar year turns to 2013? It becomes outdated, even if it is still brand new. But because the car is now last year’s model, the dealer has to offer it at a much lower price tag – just to move it off the lot.

Even older cars, that are slightly used but less than five years old are great buys. These vehicles often have many of the same features of the newer models, but due to deprecation, they will be listed at a significantly lower price tag.

Icy Roads are Dangerous — Look for a winter ready car!

When buying a car in the winter, its ability to tackle snowy and icy roads should be top of mind. If the car is new, ask about features like traction control, All-Wheel Drive (AWD), heated seats, and anti-lock brakes. When buying used, those same features need to be considered, but you will also need to have the tires, battery and cooling system inspected to ensure that they are ready for sub-zero temps.

Winter Maintenance Guide: How to Winterize Your Car

Winterizing your car is an annual rite of passage for just about every driver living in a colder climate. As the arctic winds creep down from the north, sub-freezing temperatures, ice and deteriorating road conditions combine to create hazardous driving conditions. And unless you have prepared your car properly, you may find yourself – quite literally – stuck out in the cold.

To help you stay safe this winter and keep your car’s engine working all season long, UsedCars.com has prepared the following list of tips for winterizing your vehicle:

Check Your Tire’s Tread Depth

Take note, even though 2/32” tread depth is considered the minimum in normal driving conditions, you will need substantially more than this during the winter. For snowy or icy roads, at minimum each tire should have a 6/32” deep tread (most new tires start with a 10/32”deep tread).

An easy way to check your tread depth is to use the penny test. Place the penny (headfirst) into several of the treads on your tire. If any part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, your tire has more than 2/32″ of tread. Now flip the penny over – If the top of Lincoln memorial (the bottom of the memorial should be facing away from the tire) is covered, you have at least 6/32” of tread.

Maintain Your Battery

Your car’s battery can be tricky – Even though it may have performed great all summer, don’t be surprised it if ends up letting you down when the weather turns cold. This is because colder temperatures can reduce your battery’s power by up to fifty percent. A good rule of thumb for batteries over three years of age is to have them tested at the beginning of every winter. Some auto part stores will offer this service free charge.

You will also want to test the connection between your battery, cables and terminal. Begin by gently pulling on the cables to make sure there is no slippage. Next, inspect the terminals for corrosion (this can be detected by looking for the formation of a white, flakey material).  If you notice any corrosion, you will need to clean the terminals and the ends of the cables.  This can be done by disconnecting the cables and scrubbing the terminals with a mixture of baking soda and water.

Inspect Your Fluids and Cooling System

Fluids that have not been called on for all summer have a way of disappearing when you need them come winter. And subfreezing temperatures can wreak havoc on belts and hoses. To avoid these headaches, make it a point to have your oil, antifreeze and wiper fluid levels checked at your next oil change. You will also want to thoroughly inspect your belts and hoses for any cracks and leaks.

To ensure that your cooling system continues to run properly, now is also the time to consider having it flushed. While most systems need to be flushed every two to four years, this can vary. So please check your owner’s manual for details.

Best Features for Winter Driving

Certain cars simply come better equipped and ready to handle the icy roads than others. So if you live in a colder climate, and need a car for everyday driving, look for cars that offer some or all of the following winter-busting features.

Winter Tires Or All Season Tires

Many performance cars will come equipped with high-performance summer tires – which can be quite dangerous when the roadways become slick. So at the very least, you need to ensure that your car has a set of all-season tires. Of course, the better choice is to invest in winter tires, which offer the pliability to ensure your car will continue to grip the road as conditions begin to deteriorate.

All-Wheel Drive

While four-wheel drive is ideal for areas where snowfall often amounts to several feet, for many this can be a bit of over-kill. So instead of four-wheel drive, look for cars that offer All-Wheel Drive (AWD). AWD, which is automatically applied in most cases, is designed to ensure equally distributed power to all the wheels of your vehicle.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Regardless of driving conditions, anti-lock brakes can help you avoid a serious accident. Because ABS systems prevent your wheels from locking, you are less likely to experience a slide or skid out of control.

Heated Mirrors and Wiper De-Icers


Ice buildup, especially on your windshield or side-mirrors, can severely limit your visibility. To avoid this, look for cars that offer heated mirrors and wiper deicers. The heated side mirror can clear itself of fog, melt accumulated ice or prevent further snow buildup, while the wiper deicer will keep your wipers pliable while also preventing snow or ice from accumulating during your drive.

Traction Control

When your traction control system detects wheel slippage (it does so by monitoring the speeds of all your driven wheels) it will strategically apply the brakes or reduce engine power, which in turn works to correct a slide.

The above features are designed to keep you safe during the winter. However, if you want to increase your comfort and driving enjoyment, also consider cars that offer remote start, heated seats, and advanced dual-climate control technology.

Best Deals on Used Cars: December 2013

Ready to start browsing for a used car, truck or SUV? Spring and summer are the best months to start shopping for used cars because dealers have larger inventories and easy-to-spot deals. So whether you are shopping for a recent grad, Father’s Day or for a safer vehicle, shop December used car deals. Find models that fit your specified budget and that offer fuel-efficiency, reliability and high safety ratings.

UsedCars.com can help you strike the perfect balance between what you are willing to spend and finding a reliable vehicle. We are happy to help you find December used cars for sale that meet your most important specifications. Our stock of used cars, trucks and SUVs changes often, so let us help you narrow your search with our collection of December used cars for sale. Browse our December car deals below to see some of the stand-out used cars for sale this summer.

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Feel free to browse our entire inventory of used car deals to find the perfect used cars, trucks and SUVs listed below Kelley Blue Book value.

2011 Honda CR-V

(27 mpg/highway)
KBB Price: $23,917*

What gives the 2011 Honda CR-V such high praises among critics is the spacious interior, comfortable ride and overall dependability. With ample cargo room and additional storage space, the Honda CR-V is the ideal family-friendly SUV. The CR-V also offers decent fuel economy, making it a good choice for road trips and one of our top picks for December used car deals.

Here is what some of the critics have to say about the 2011 Honda CR-V:

  • Consumer Reports 2010 Test score: 76/100
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted reliability score: 4.5/5
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Overall rating: 4/5

2011 GMC Yukon

(21 mpg/highway)
KBB Price: $48,787*

If you’re in need of a vehicle with some leg room, the 2011 GMC Yukon is a great choice. With three rows of comfortable seating and the ability to tow heavy loads, you can’t go wrong with this large SUV. Another notable feature of the GMC Yukon is that while it boasts the size and space of a large SUV, it drives and handles as well as a much smaller model. The GMC Yukon makes our list of December used cars for sale because it’s a great choice for families.

Here is what some of the critics have to say about this 2011 model:

  • Consumer Reports 2013 Test score: 66/100
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted reliability score: 3.5/5
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Overall rating: 4/5

2012 Chrysler 300

(23 mpg/highway)
KBB Price: $33,686*

With a long list of standard features, the 2012 Chrysler 300 offers a refined interior and sleek design. This classic American sedan has been reinvented for 2012 with rear-wheel-drive and a V8 powered engine.

Read what some of the critics had to say about this December used car deal:

  • Consumer Reports 2013 Test score: 83/100
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted reliability score: 3/5
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Overall rating: 5/5

2012 Kia Sorento

(26 mpg/highway)
KBB Price: $25,343*

The 2012 Kia Sorento makes our list of the best December used car deals because of its capable engine options and impressive list of standard features. For its price range, the Kia Sorento is an excellent choice when it comes to small or midsize SUV crossovers. Families will enjoy the third row seating on this pick for our December used car deals.

Here is what some of the critics have to say about the Kia Sorento:

  • Consumer Reports 2013 Test score: 74/100
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted reliability score: 4/5
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Overall rating: 3.5/5

*The KBB price listed here was quoted as of 3/20/2013 – and it is reflective of the suggested retail price of a similar vehicle in excellent condition with less than 50,000 miles.

Four Costly Winter Driving Mistakes

According to a University of California Berkeley Traffic Safety Center Study fatal car crashes are more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season than any of the following days.

So what can we conclude from these findings? How about a connection between weather related driving accidents and driver error.  Simply stated, the Berkeley Center Study reinforces the idea that most weather related crashes don’t involve mechanical failures –instead they are directly tied to the fault of the driver.

To keep you safe and prevent you from adding to these statistics, UsedCars.com has put together this list of common winter driving mistakes:

Driving Mistake 1: Driving Too Fast

UC Berkley’s Traffic Center also notes that speed is the single greatest cause of serious crashes. But not because drivers fail to obey posted speed limits. Instead, most weather related accidents happen when drivers ignore the deteriorating road conditions and fail to reduce their speed.

The takeaway from this is that sometimes driving at the posted speed limit is dangerous. And instead of just driving the recommended speed, you need to take stock of how your car responds to any changing weather patterns. In other words, when snow or ice begins to form on the road, do not feel obligated to continue traveling at high speeds – even if other motorists are zooming on by.

Driving Mistake 2: Assuming Four-Wheel Drive Means You Can’t Crash


Too many drivers think that four-wheel drive (4WD) makes them invincible. If you need proof of this, then the next time you are out on a wintry day, take stock of the number of four-wheel drive vehicles you see stuck in a ditch.

The reason for this seems to be the faulty assumption that the added traction from 4WD means that you can continue to travel at super high speeds.  Unfortunately, 4WD does not improve braking or turning. So while you may be okay traveling in a straight line, what happens when you have to come to a sudden stop? Or make a quick turn?

Driving Mistake 3: Not Preparing

There is a reason why more weather related accidents happen during the first snowy day of the year than at any other time: It’s because drivers simply aren’t prepared. Whether your tires don’t have enough tread (you should have at least 6/32” of tread for snow and ice), your wipers are worn, or your fluids are low, this lack of preparedness can lead to a serious accident.

Driving Mistake 4: Slamming The Brakes

What is the first thing that happens when most drivers feel their car start to slip? They slam on the brakes. And then what happens next? Their car goes spinning out of control.

When you slam on your brakes, you are transferring energy from your tires to your brakes – which in turn will cause your tires to lose traction. To avoid this, your best option is to ease off of the accelerator and let your car slow down on its own. Of course, in some cases, braking may be required. When it is, try quickly pumping your brakes.

Note: If your car has anti-lock brakes, you should not pump them. They’re designed to mitigate this very thing and pumping anti-lock brakes means that you’ll just take longer to stop.