Author Topic: What is a "beater"?  (Read 20025 times)

APowers

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What is a "beater"?
« on: December 24, 2017, 10:08:40 AM »
I'm often surprised when I read vehicle related questions on here. People will talk about not wanting to drive an old beater, and at the same time, complain that they can't find a decent used car/truck for under $10k (or whatever the really high number is).

Am I missing something here? When I hear "beater", I take it to mean a vehicle that is worn out and dilapidated but still drives/functions with relative reliability-- e.g., the windows don't roll down, the heater doesn't work, the seats/covers are ripped, engine smokes/burns/drips oil, there is OBVIOUS rust and/or obviously replaced body/door panels, etc. Like this:


link

Or like this:

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Or this:


Or this:


Etc. These vehicles cost ~$1,200 or less. Yes, in a year or two, they'll likely need a $500 repair. Which will probably keep them going for another year or two. They'll probably need some driveway tinkering along the way (adjusting carbs, changing spark plugs, etc.)
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But I feel like a lot of folks here think "older than 5 years" is somehow considered "old", and "anything less than mint condition" means "beater". And I see perfectly fancypants cars passed over.

Like this one:

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Or this one:

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Or this, if your tastes are REALLY fancypants:

link

Or this, if you need a truck:

link

^These are not beaters. They're reasonable quality mid-range used cars with tons of life left in them. The most expensive asking price is $4500. In a year or two, they'll likely be fine (given consistent oil changes, etc.). Maybe 4-5 years down the road, they'll need a $500-800 repair, which will likely keep them going for another 3-4 years.
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Am I missing something? Or am I just so poor/broke that I'm just agog at the level of wealth and hedonic adaptation here? In literally no case (okay, maybe 0.01% of cases) will a brand new car ever be more cost effective for transportation than a vehicle like any of the ones I've listed here. And these aren't rare or special-- I just went on my local craigslist and looked at cars "by owner" for <$1500 and <$5000, respectively. And even then, I passed over a bunch of okay-looking cars to pick out "beaters", and a bunch of less-than-cherry cars to pick out "not beaters". What gives?

wenchsenior

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2017, 10:42:52 AM »
I share your definition of a beater.  Our cars (which we buy new) are currently 17 and 7 years old.  Our 17 year old car runs fine and is starting to show physical wear on trim, seals on windows leaking, etc.  But it has in no way yet achieved what I would consider beater status.  That would  likely be at least 5 years away, possibly 10.

SC93

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2017, 10:48:20 AM »
Yeah, beater can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. In my opinion a beater is something that is cheap.... under $2000 for sure and hopefully under $1000. I drive a beater that I bought 2 years ago for $1300. 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan.... the hail damage is so bad it looks like the dimples on a fat ladies ass, the headliner is held up by white tacks.... they don't call them tacks for nothing because it looks really tacky :) .... paint flaking off but the a/c works great and the motor runs near perfect! The only reason I'm thinking of getting another van is so it looks better as I drive down the road for potential customers to see. What did I have before I bought the van? A Maserati with a Ferrari engine, Ferrari transmission and a Ferrari drive train (only 300 made with this). Man the sound and power of that car was so cool.... but my ol' van is so much more comfortable and I love the $25 oil changes compared to the $800 oil changes. My buddy who bought the car from me is one of the other types of guys that if he drives anything under $25,000 it is a beater. It's all relative.....

big_slacker

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2017, 10:50:58 AM »
Generally agree, although that honda you posted is definitely beat on, lol! Look at the hood.

My SUV is 10 years old and I don't consider it a beater at all.

When I met my wife she had a 20 year old honda with no muffler, cracked windshield, caulked closed sunroof and we had to put power steering fluid in it every 2 weeks. That's a beater. :D

APowers

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2017, 11:58:19 AM »
Generally agree, although that honda you posted is definitely beat on, lol! Look at the hood.

My SUV is 10 years old and I don't consider it a beater at all.

When I met my wife she had a 20 year old honda with no muffler, cracked windshield, caulked closed sunroof and we had to put power steering fluid in it every 2 weeks. That's a beater. :D

I thought about that on that Honda, but based on the ad, the hail damage/paint is literally the only thing wrong with the car, as all the big ticket maintenance items have been kept up on. And it has a sunroof for crying out loud.

accolay

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2017, 12:44:29 PM »
There's beater, and then there's reliable beater. One is just a piece of shit and always has something wrong.

The other isn't flash, but always works. It's paid off. You don't care if someone puts their door into yours at the supermarket. The insurance is liability and cheap. If it dies you could leave it by the side of the highway walk away and just buy something else.

SC93

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2017, 01:23:39 PM »
^^^ I'm this way about almost every car I've owned. We have a newer Honda now but if it was up to me... some crashes in to it, it breaks down.... what ever.... leave it and get a new one. lol It's just a car.

terran

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2017, 01:52:15 PM »
I would say some of your first set (like that truck) have probably crossed into junker territory as in it would not pass a state inspection (in places that have such a thing) which means you couldn't legally register it if you bought it, and it has at most a year of useable life left before you will fail inspection and need to move on (or do significant repairs). But otherwise, yeah.

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2017, 02:00:38 PM »
My DD is 22 years old. It's not a beater. I put around $1,500 into it about 18 months ago. Exceeded the value of the car. New struts, control arms, tires etc. Drives nicely. Paint is decent and the interior is mostly Ok, except for torn leather seats.

I would be pissed if someone hit it. The "beaters" above are great examples of people not taking care of their stuff. It's not hard.

APowers

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2017, 02:04:09 PM »
I would say some of your first set (like that truck) have probably crossed into junker territory as in it would not pass a state inspection (in places that have such a thing) which means you couldn't legally register it if you bought it, and it has at most a year of useable life left before you will fail inspection and need to move on (or do significant repairs). But otherwise, yeah.
State inspection? Admittedly, I've only ever bought vehicles in WA and CO, but I've never run across an inspection requirement. Denver area counties require an emissions test, but I don't think that's too hard to pass, as long as the vehicle is running reasonably well, and doesn't have a check engine light on. Caveat...I'm not in Denver, so I have no actual experience with the aircare system.


CindyBS

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2017, 02:10:36 PM »
Another issue is how much you can tolerate a breakdown.  I got rid of my last car b/c I was having so many breakdowns.  After losing all the brakes at one point, I was done. 

I am now in a position of having a critically ill child that I need to be able to get to the hospital at a moment's notice.  A breakdown in our case would not just be an inconvenience, it is potentially life threatening. 

There are many people, especially those with babies/toddlers in car seats who don't fit in a tow truck who can't tolerate breakdowns as much as others.  Add to that list people who regularly go through sketchy neighborhoods or drive past unsafe places. 

I currently drive a 9 year old reliable car, DH has an 8 year old car.  We have some repairs, but not many of the critical variety.

terran

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2017, 02:14:24 PM »
I would say some of your first set (like that truck) have probably crossed into junker territory as in it would not pass a state inspection (in places that have such a thing) which means you couldn't legally register it if you bought it, and it has at most a year of useable life left before you will fail inspection and need to move on (or do significant repairs). But otherwise, yeah.
State inspection? Admittedly, I've only ever bought vehicles in WA and CO, but I've never run across an inspection requirement. Denver area counties require an emissions test, but I don't think that's too hard to pass, as long as the vehicle is running reasonably well, and doesn't have a check engine light on. Caveat...I'm not in Denver, so I have no actual experience with the aircare system.

Maybe it's a back east thing. I was shocked to find no inspection when we recently we moved to the middle of the country, but maybe that's normal if you're not from MA, NY, CT, etc where my wife and I grew up?

As long as I've been driving they'll fail you for mechanical issues (e-brake doesn't hold, horn doesn't work), lights being out, too much rusted out metal (either a rusted out frame, or body panels), too much tint. And then there's the emissions inspection. OBD2 is just check engine light or not, but before that they would hook your exhaust up to a machine. The dangling light on that truck would definitely need to be fixed, and the body panels would be questionable. You might get away with the rust on that civic, but maybe not.

APowers

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2017, 02:31:10 PM »
I would say some of your first set (like that truck) have probably crossed into junker territory as in it would not pass a state inspection (in places that have such a thing) which means you couldn't legally register it if you bought it, and it has at most a year of useable life left before you will fail inspection and need to move on (or do significant repairs). But otherwise, yeah.
State inspection? Admittedly, I've only ever bought vehicles in WA and CO, but I've never run across an inspection requirement. Denver area counties require an emissions test, but I don't think that's too hard to pass, as long as the vehicle is running reasonably well, and doesn't have a check engine light on. Caveat...I'm not in Denver, so I have no actual experience with the aircare system.

Maybe it's a back east thing. I was shocked to find no inspection when we recently we moved to the middle of the country, but maybe that's normal if you're not from MA, NY, CT, etc where my wife and I grew up?

As long as I've been driving they'll fail you for mechanical issues (e-brake doesn't hold, horn doesn't work), lights being out, too much rusted out metal (either a rusted out frame, or body panels), too much tint. And then there's the emissions inspection. OBD2 is just check engine light or not, but before that they would hook your exhaust up to a machine. The dangling light on that truck would definitely need to be fixed, and the body panels would be questionable. You might get away with the rust on that civic, but maybe not.
Wow, that's pretty harsh. After a quick look at the Boston Craigslist, it seems like there is a decent number of cars in the beater price range, they're just nicer looking, lol.

soccerluvof4

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2017, 04:45:59 AM »
I'd say from the pics you have a combination of beaters and Junk. Beater to me is a car that has wear and tear like faded paint, maybe some tears in the interior, some rust ,  a lot of miles etc.. but still is worth driving as its reliable and safe all the lights are in tact, good tread etc..doesnt cost you more to drive because its worn.

poetdereves

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2017, 07:53:24 AM »
My wife and I have cars that are 22 years and 10 years old. People call our cars, especially my little Toyota pickup, beaters. Itís funny to me because my little truck has been known to go for over 500k miles for many, and the ones making comments about it replace their cars with new ones every five years. At this rate my truck will probably last for three of their replacements. Even my wifeís 10 year old car feels brand new to us because we take care of them well and do preventative maintenance before things go out.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 10:01:08 AM by poetdereves »

undercover

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #15 on: December 25, 2017, 08:26:54 AM »
There really isn't a such thing as a beater if your primary goal is finding the cheapest mode of transportation.

The term is probably used most often to describe one's "secondary" vehicle that they use to haul or do things things in that they wouldn't normally in their main vehicle and don't really care about dents/scratches. Other than that, it's just used to describe the relative crappiness from one car to another.

If you only see cars in terms of "it runs" or "it doesn't run" then of course the term beater is pretty useless to you.

Syonyk

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #16 on: December 25, 2017, 08:53:22 PM »
If the junkyard is stunned that you were willing to spend your morning in the mud to get this car running so you could drive it home, and you were stunned that they wanted so little for it, it might be a beater.

Or if you buy it for $500 or less.  Ideally, a lot less.

Or if you tell a friend that you want their car when they sell it, they call you, and say, "Junk yard offered $125.  Beat it and it's yours."  And roll up with $150 cash for a Daihatsu Charade.

I drove a lot of what I'd call "beaters" in college because I couldn't afford any better.  I learned to work on them myself, because if a real mechanic looked at it, the diagnostic fee alone would total the car.  Not that I could afford that anyway.

My cheap cars, ordered by price, and... if I'm honest, plus or minus a year or three on date now, it's been a while.

$100: 1988 Subaru DL Wagon, drove it 30 miles home with enough of an oil leak that I'm surprised the engine held any oil or pressure.  Ran great, great FWD snow car.
$150: 1992 Daihatsu Charade.  Don't buy weird cars as a beater, getting parts is a nightmare.
$200: 1988 Chevy Cavalier, "Redneck Ricer" by the time I was done with it.  Only four door two seater I've owned.
$350: 1987 Subaru GL Wagon, of the "I can't believe the junkyard let me have it for this" fame.  To be fair, I spent my morning in the mud replacing the fuel pump on it with the one from my '88 DL, which had just broken a timing belt (non-interference engine), and I had to beg for a working power booster jump start pack (they gave me a bad one, which didn't work, and eventually the other guy at the junkyard had pity on me and offered me their working one, which actually did start the car).

And then into non-beaters, from $2000 and up.  I put an awful lot of miles on those cheap cars, though, and sold every one for more than I paid (though, if you count parts costs, probably a wash - except for all the miles I drove).

I wasn't bad with money, I just didn't have much.  Post-college, or "I've quit a poorly paying job to go back to grad school and have no income beyond a bit of a side gig writing website backends."  When most of it goes to rent, you bike to Aldis to buy the bulk packs of ramen with pocket change, and you'd still like a car to get around in the winter... you pick what you can afford.

I won't claim perfect reliability on these.  But I can say, entirely honestly, that none of these ever left me stranded (which is better than I can say for my $2000 cars - one of those required a tow truck because the front suspension came apart, and one blew an engine and a coolant line and a few other issues - RX-7, so... garage queen).  The cheap cars certainly required work, and I usually figured on spending $500 on anything I purchased within the first 6 months, but they got me home every time (even the 88 DL had the good sense to break a timing belt as I turned into my parking lot).

Am I missing something here? When I hear "beater", I take it to mean a vehicle that is worn out and dilapidated but still drives/functions with relative reliability-- e.g., the windows don't roll down, the heater doesn't work, the seats/covers are ripped, engine smokes/burns/drips oil, there is OBVIOUS rust and/or obviously replaced body/door panels, etc.

It's relative, but, yeah.  I don't expect much to work in anything I call a "beater."  The windows on mine were usually fine, though hand crank, and I learned quickly that the fewer "features" a car has, the fewer things there are to go wrong.  That Daihatsu Charade had manual windows (that mostly closed - track was funky and I never cared to fix it), manual steering (fine once you were moving), a manual transmission, and a barely working AM/FM radio.  I think it had a tape deck but I never dared put a tape in it.

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Etc. These vehicles cost ~$1,200 or less. Yes, in a year or two, they'll likely need a $500 repair. Which will probably keep them going for another year or two. They'll probably need some driveway tinkering along the way (adjusting carbs, changing spark plugs, etc.)

The general tinkering is just part of a cheap car, and TBH if you can't do that, you have no business owning a cheap car.  I learned this very quickly.  At the time, anything I purchased got new plugs/wires/distributor, a new O2 sensor, a new fuel filter if I could find the stupid thing (I was not dropping a fuel tank to mess with fuel filters), and then whatever else it needed as I found problems that were actually important enough to fix.

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Am I missing something? Or am I just so poor/broke that I'm just agog at the level of wealth and hedonic adaptation here? In literally no case (okay, maybe 0.01% of cases) will a brand new car ever be more cost effective for transportation than a vehicle like any of the ones I've listed here. And these aren't rare or special-- I just went on my local craigslist and looked at cars "by owner" for <$1500 and <$5000, respectively. And even then, I passed over a bunch of okay-looking cars to pick out "beaters", and a bunch of less-than-cherry cars to pick out "not beaters". What gives?

My guess is that most people on this forum have their finances well enough sorted out that they're not buying "true beaters" because they have the money to afford something a bit nicer, don't have the hands on car skills to maintain a beater (I didn't when I started, but learned quickly because walking in the winter sucked), and, really, once you're post-college and have a bit of income, there's no reason to buy a rolling wreck if you can afford a bit nicer.

Also, Cash4Clunkers ruined the used car market for at least a decade.  You can't find that sort of stuff I bought anymore at those prices, because so many cheap cars were taken off the streets that it distorted the market, badly.  For a while after that abomination, used cars with 2 years and 25k miles were selling for almost as much as a brand new car - and you could get better financing on a new car.  New car for an extra few grand at 0%, or a used car at 8% or something?  The used car savings were very, very minimal.  </rant>

When I met my wife she had a 20 year old honda with no muffler, cracked windshield, caulked closed sunroof and we had to put power steering fluid in it every 2 weeks. That's a beater. :D

Muffler... um... OH!  The cheapest one at the parts store, held on with coat hangers, routed with the flex exhaust tubing!  If you're fancy, get a glass pack - makes an old Subaru have a much throatier roar than it ought, and it might set off the occasional car alarm idling through a parking lot.  A 1.8L 4 cylinder with 85hp setting off car alarms made me giggle for weeks thinking about it.

If you're going through that much power steering fluid, the stop leak stuff is worth a shot - saved me an awful lot in power steering fluid (one of my cars literally left a puddle of it if I sat with the engine running for more than a minute or two).

My wife was driving a Taurus with a bad transmission when I met her, and rapidly replaced that with a $500 Ford Festiva that I insist she overpaid for, but I hadn't realized just how badly C4C ruined the used car market.

With a kid around and another on the way, there's no way in hell I'll let her drive anything that ragged around unless we're genuinely out of all other options.  Pure and simple.  I drove beaters, she drove beaters, but we're further on in life now, and we can afford more reliable vehicles.  I do plan to keep the Mazda3 about forever, and I plan to keep my truck about forever, but they're far from beaters.

There's beater, and then there's reliable beater. One is just a piece of shit and always has something wrong.

*shrug*  Something wrong isn't a big deal, as long as the core functionality works and/or it gets you home.  I never counted random coolant leaks or such against a car, as long as it wasn't a catastrophic failure (those are less fun, and don't get you home).

State inspection?

Some states have them and they're expensive and require scrapping cars when they get too ratty.  Some states, if you're willing to drive it, Godspeed.  I obviously lived in the second category.

I'd say from the pics you have a combination of beaters and Junk. Beater to me is a car that has wear and tear like faded paint, maybe some tears in the interior, some rust ,  a lot of miles etc.. but still is worth driving as its reliable and safe all the lights are in tact, good tread etc..doesnt cost you more to drive because its worn.

Nah... that's not a beater.  Good tread?  A beater usually comes with "tires that more or less hold air."  At best.  I think all of mine had hit a deer at one point or another.  I'll go so far to say that if it doesn't have a salvage title, it's probably not a beater.

Anyway, my experience and thoughts on the term.  I simply don't think many people on this forum are in a situation where a $150 car seems like a good option.

Apple_Tango

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #17 on: December 25, 2017, 09:05:33 PM »
The post above deserves a slow clap! I am not handy. So my beater definition is different.

I consider a beater as a car that you donít care how many miles you put on it, you donít care if the doors get dinged, you donít care if the paint is peeling.  Itís the  car you use on snow days, the car you drive in for your clown commute to work (that you should work on getting rid of). You have to roll the window down to get out of because the inside door handle broke 3 months ago and itís not worth fixing. The knob for the radio has been replaced with a straw and putty. Probably worth less than $3k. But it still runs, still gets you where you need to go, starts up on the first try, and you will drive it until the floor falls out under your feet. All of the pictures look like beaters to me.  Any mid-1990s Toyota probably fits the bill, mine was a 1996 :) first car I ever owned, still in the family going on year 22.

And VA has state inspections, but MD doesnít. I was given advice to  buy a used car from VA and not MD for that reason. (Again...not handy. Cars are not my thing)
« Last Edit: December 26, 2017, 09:58:58 PM by Apple_Tango »

FindingFI

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #18 on: December 26, 2017, 07:49:43 AM »
My boyfriend's last car fell in "beater" territory.  It was an older (honestly no idea what year) Honda Civic that he bought from a co-worker for $500.  It had dents on just about every door.  The trunk was crunched in somewhat from the previous owner's daughter backing it into a loading dock. The interior was somewhat ripped and severely stained.  Cosmetically, it was a disaster.  Mechanically though, it was basically immortal.  He had it for 5 years and it only needed oil changes.  He eventually traded it in for a different used car his last day working at a dealership and they gave him $750 for it.

big_slacker

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #19 on: December 26, 2017, 08:23:01 AM »
Syonyk:

We lived in tahoe at the time and work was the casino less than a mile away. I had another beater at the time (1987 BMW 325) that I had spent a decent amount of our meager fixit budget on (o2 sensor, plugs, couple relays) that we could use as well. Both of these just needed to make it through the winter as we were moving to vegas and wouldn't be taking either vehicle. Didn't want to spend anything we didn't have to. Nice tip with the stop leak, I hadn't heard of that and it may have saved us some $$ and at least the annoyance of the power steering leak.

I tend to agree that most folks probably haven't been at the level or need for a true beater and may not know how to limp them along. Snowboard bums know beaters though, haha! These days I'm extremely grateful to not have to deal with the drama of keeping a beater running, sometimes having a surprise when going to work, etc. I still enjoy oil changes, tire rotations and small fixes (did the heater fan on the wife's car) but love my relatively 'new' toyota with 85k miles and everything in perfect working order. :D

ketchup

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #20 on: December 26, 2017, 09:25:48 AM »
I'd consider there to be a few "classes" of cars that look something like this:

Fancy New Car: Up to 5 years old, still cosmetically excellent, no problems at all.
Nice Car: Usually 5-10 years old, maybe a few dings or scratches but no rust, no mechanical problems.
Good Car: Usually 10+ years old, not super shiny and maybe very minor rust, occasional issues but nothing major.
OK Car: Usually 15+ years old, probably some dents and/or rust but nothing too hideous, major problem once every few years but still overall reliable.
Beater: Gets you where you need to go for the most part, but looks and/or sounds like hell (really bad rust, dents, etc).  Some optional things permanently broken, like air conditioning, cruise control, odometer, power windows, anti-lock brakes, or the radio.  Probably some slow leaks but you know what they are and keep them topped off so you're "fine."  Braking power is low enough to keep things interesting.  Perhaps fewer mirrors than legal.
Piece Of Shit: Never sure if the starter will turn over after getting groceries, wince if you put more than $20 of gas into it, coast in neutral just in case the engine gives out and you need to coast to safety, a gear or two out on the tranny, constantly pisses oil/coolant/both, after leaving it to be towed to its death your only regret is the $5 phone charger you forgot in the trunk, or all of the above.

Cars of course can slide down the scale as they age or stuff happens.  Also note that this is not strictly correlated to age, price, or value. 

I'd consider our current car (2001 Volvo) to be a Good Car. 

Our last car was a 2009 Hyundai (with 262k on the clock when it died) and it was probably a Nice Car despite being very cheap and very high miles.  However in a matter of minutes before its death, it quickly flew down three classes to Beater, and then again to Piece Of Shit.

1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon was an OK Car on purchase ($700 in 2014), but after we hit a deer it became a Beater until its demise a year later (2016).

1999 Chevy Metro was a Beater for most of its life with me (2014-2016), and then a Piece Of Shit for a couple months before the engine rudely died a mile after gassing up.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2017, 09:27:41 AM by ketchup »

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #21 on: December 26, 2017, 12:22:40 PM »
I'd consider there to be a few "classes" of cars that look something like this:

Fancy New Car: Up to 5 years old, still cosmetically excellent, no problems at all.
Nice Car: Usually 5-10 years old, maybe a few dings or scratches but no rust, no mechanical problems.
Good Car: Usually 10+ years old, not super shiny and maybe very minor rust, occasional issues but nothing major.
OK Car: Usually 15+ years old, probably some dents and/or rust but nothing too hideous, major problem once every few years but still overall reliable.
Beater: Gets you where you need to go for the most part, but looks and/or sounds like hell (really bad rust, dents, etc).  Some optional things permanently broken, like air conditioning, cruise control, odometer, power windows, anti-lock brakes, or the radio.  Probably some slow leaks but you know what they are and keep them topped off so you're "fine."  Braking power is low enough to keep things interesting.  Perhaps fewer mirrors than legal.
Piece Of Shit: Never sure if the starter will turn over after getting groceries, wince if you put more than $20 of gas into it, coast in neutral just in case the engine gives out and you need to coast to safety, a gear or two out on the tranny, constantly pisses oil/coolant/both, after leaving it to be towed to its death your only regret is the $5 phone charger you forgot in the trunk, or all of the above.

Cars of course can slide down the scale as they age or stuff happens.  Also note that this is not strictly correlated to age, price, or value. 

I'd consider our current car (2001 Volvo) to be a Good Car. 

Our last car was a 2009 Hyundai (with 262k on the clock when it died) and it was probably a Nice Car despite being very cheap and very high miles.  However in a matter of minutes before its death, it quickly flew down three classes to Beater, and then again to Piece Of Shit.

1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon was an OK Car on purchase ($700 in 2014), but after we hit a deer it became a Beater until its demise a year later (2016).

1999 Chevy Metro was a Beater for most of its life with me (2014-2016), and then a Piece Of Shit for a couple months before the engine rudely died a mile after gassing up.


Perhaps it would be better if, instead of constantly buying cars, to just repair the one you have and get it in tip top shape?

Four years ago, instead of junking my Volvo, I bought another one like it with a bad motor and good transmission and swapped it in. Also got a ton of expensive parts, mostly sensors, that help keep it on the road. All for the grand sum of $160. The radiator I got off of the newly purchased car was brand new and cost $250, which I actually needed as luck would have it!

Constantly trading into cars is just inheriting someone else's problem and will result in you being left stranded. Something I'm not open to.

The 2001 MY Volvos have ample parts availaity with cars from 2001-2007 using the same stuff. You can buy a cheap non running one and rob a ton of stuff of off it. All my parts fit into a 2'x3'x2' box.

ketchup

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #22 on: December 26, 2017, 01:05:51 PM »
I'd consider there to be a few "classes" of cars that look something like this:

Fancy New Car: Up to 5 years old, still cosmetically excellent, no problems at all.
Nice Car: Usually 5-10 years old, maybe a few dings or scratches but no rust, no mechanical problems.
Good Car: Usually 10+ years old, not super shiny and maybe very minor rust, occasional issues but nothing major.
OK Car: Usually 15+ years old, probably some dents and/or rust but nothing too hideous, major problem once every few years but still overall reliable.
Beater: Gets you where you need to go for the most part, but looks and/or sounds like hell (really bad rust, dents, etc).  Some optional things permanently broken, like air conditioning, cruise control, odometer, power windows, anti-lock brakes, or the radio.  Probably some slow leaks but you know what they are and keep them topped off so you're "fine."  Braking power is low enough to keep things interesting.  Perhaps fewer mirrors than legal.
Piece Of Shit: Never sure if the starter will turn over after getting groceries, wince if you put more than $20 of gas into it, coast in neutral just in case the engine gives out and you need to coast to safety, a gear or two out on the tranny, constantly pisses oil/coolant/both, after leaving it to be towed to its death your only regret is the $5 phone charger you forgot in the trunk, or all of the above.

Cars of course can slide down the scale as they age or stuff happens.  Also note that this is not strictly correlated to age, price, or value. 

I'd consider our current car (2001 Volvo) to be a Good Car. 

Our last car was a 2009 Hyundai (with 262k on the clock when it died) and it was probably a Nice Car despite being very cheap and very high miles.  However in a matter of minutes before its death, it quickly flew down three classes to Beater, and then again to Piece Of Shit.

1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon was an OK Car on purchase ($700 in 2014), but after we hit a deer it became a Beater until its demise a year later (2016).

1999 Chevy Metro was a Beater for most of its life with me (2014-2016), and then a Piece Of Shit for a couple months before the engine rudely died a mile after gassing up.


Perhaps it would be better if, instead of constantly buying cars, to just repair the one you have and get it in tip top shape?

Four years ago, instead of junking my Volvo, I bought another one like it with a bad motor and good transmission and swapped it in. Also got a ton of expensive parts, mostly sensors, that help keep it on the road. All for the grand sum of $160. The radiator I got off of the newly purchased car was brand new and cost $250, which I actually needed as luck would have it!

Constantly trading into cars is just inheriting someone else's problem and will result in you being left stranded. Something I'm not open to.

The 2001 MY Volvos have ample parts availaity with cars from 2001-2007 using the same stuff. You can buy a cheap non running one and rob a ton of stuff of off it. All my parts fit into a 2'x3'x2' box.
I've kept our cars in the best "tip top shape" that I can.  I'm not willing to do an engine swap or rebuild (I don't have the time or space), but I'll do (almost) anything else.

All three of the previous cars I mentioned in my post went to the junkyard after their engines failed.  Would you do an engine swap on a 1999 Metro (~185,000 miles) with a rusty body that best-case would last maybe another two winters and had no second gear syncro on the transmission?  What about on a 1992 Roadmaster (200,775 miles) stranded 400 miles from home with rust issues of its own, with multiple missing exhaust pieces that had fallen off the previous week, and several panels (including the driver door with a stuck window) crunched in from a deer impact?  The Hyundai (261,677) I could see, as it didn't really have any ancillary issues and the body was in OK shape (very minor cosmetic rust); if I was willing to do an engine swap myself, that one might have been worth it.  But paying a shop to put a new engine in that car would have been silly; it would have been likely thousands of dollars, and still mated to an automatic transmission with 261,677 miles on it.

The only one I've really been burned on money-wise was the Hyundai.  It just didn't last long enough miles-wise (I bought it at 250k as a bit of an experiment, and replacing both previous cars instead of buying two this time).  Total cost ended up being 29.4 cents/mile (depreciation, fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, registration, etc.).  The Buick and Metro only cost 22.3 cents/mile and 18.7 cents/mile respectively.

I'm aware that 2001 Volvos are mostly compatible among the 2001-2007 models parts-wise.  Ours is a V70 (LPT) and I like it a lot (lots of newer parts, dealer-maintained, and literally all the maintenance records and paperwork going back to the original window sticker).  We've already put about 17,000 miles on it, and the only major thing I've done is replace the ETM (if you know Volvos of this age you know what I'm talking about...).  And a $9 windshield wiper relay that the previous owner mysteriously removed (no idea what was going on there).
« Last Edit: December 26, 2017, 01:07:23 PM by ketchup »

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #23 on: December 26, 2017, 01:18:46 PM »
Perhaps it would be better if, instead of constantly buying cars, to just repair the one you have and get it in tip top shape?

That doesn't work in reality, at least in my experience.

A good working definition of a beater is "someone else's problems, mostly attached in close formation."  You don't know what all it needs - maybe the alternator is dying, maybe it's fine for another decade.  Maybe the fuel pump is near dead, maybe it's not.  And these things fail at a semi-regular rate, but it's not frequent enough to justify preemtively replacing a lot of parts (not that you can afford that anyway - and, I'll note, alternators are optional if you have an extension cord and a battery charger).

Having at least 2 cheap cars means that one is likely working and can be driven while the other is waiting for parts/money for parts/time to install parts.  And you can share things like batteries between vehicles if needed.

... looking back, I suppose I was really quite broke.  Didn't think anything of it at the time, but I guess if you're swapping batteries between $200 cars because you only have one working battery and no money for another one... hm.

I've definitely helped people drain gas tanks before getting rid of cars too.  If you're just getting it towed to the junkyard, no point in leaving a few gallons in it!

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #24 on: December 26, 2017, 01:20:11 PM »
No I wouldn't repair a crappy car. But I would purchase a better car in the first place and continue to keep it in good condition and running.

It took me eleven hours to drop the transmission out and swap it in my garage. Time well spent!
« Last Edit: December 26, 2017, 01:26:57 PM by inline five »

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #25 on: December 26, 2017, 01:26:31 PM »
Perhaps it would be better if, instead of constantly buying cars, to just repair the one you have and get it in tip top shape?

That doesn't work in reality, at least in my experience.

A good working definition of a beater is "someone else's problems, mostly attached in close formation."  You don't know what all it needs - maybe the alternator is dying, maybe it's fine for another decade.  Maybe the fuel pump is near dead, maybe it's not.  And these things fail at a semi-regular rate, but it's not frequent enough to justify preemtively replacing a lot of parts (not that you can afford that anyway - and, I'll note, alternators are optional if you have an extension cord and a battery charger).

Having at least 2 cheap cars means that one is likely working and can be driven while the other is waiting for parts/money for parts/time to install parts.  And you can share things like batteries between vehicles if needed.

... looking back, I suppose I was really quite broke.  Didn't think anything of it at the time, but I guess if you're swapping batteries between $200 cars because you only have one working battery and no money for another one... hm.

I've definitely helped people drain gas tanks before getting rid of cars too.  If you're just getting it towed to the junkyard, no point in leaving a few gallons in it!

Well that was my point. Not sure what yours was.

Instead of continuing to purchase old crappy cars just buy a decent one instead and put money into it.

Two cars means two insurance bills, two registration bills, etc. Even minimum level insurance will run you $20-$30/month.

The equipment I operate was manufactured in the 80's, money continually gets put into them because they are cheap to operate/own and reliable.

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2017, 02:08:18 PM »
Instead of continuing to purchase old crappy cars just buy a decent one instead and put money into it.

That presumes one can actually buy a "decent one."  If I had a few grand for a car at that time in my life, you really think I would have been driving $100-$200 cars?

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #27 on: December 26, 2017, 03:13:36 PM »
Instead of continuing to purchase old crappy cars just buy a decent one instead and put money into it.

That presumes one can actually buy a "decent one."  If I had a few grand for a car at that time in my life, you really think I would have been driving $100-$200 cars?

From what I have seen by purchasing those types of cars from people who couldn't afford to fix them, they couldn't afford NOT to purchase a decent car.

Every one of them went out and purchased a newer car with reasonable payments and low interest loans because the crappy cars they bought originally to "save money" were costing them an arm and a leg.

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #28 on: December 26, 2017, 03:28:34 PM »
From what I have seen by purchasing those types of cars from people who couldn't afford to fix them, they couldn't afford NOT to purchase a decent car.

Every one of them went out and purchased a newer car with reasonable payments and low interest loans because the crappy cars they bought originally to "save money" were costing them an arm and a leg.

*shrug*  Ok.  Nobody in their right mind would have given me a car loan at that time, and I wasn't stupid or desperate enough to take a 27% used car loan on a freshly polished pile of problems when I could get a pile of problems I could maintain myself for a lot less.  I assure you, I drove very, very cheaply, even with the parts I had to obtain and some of the hassle I had to go through to get those (seriously, don't buy a weird car, no matter how cheap it is).

As I pointed out to people at the time, if I couldn't make a car payment, they took my car.  If I couldn't make parts payments, well, I walked for a while until I scrounged together enough for parts.

I'm pretty sure I was living on $400-$500/mo, with no steady income, so I really do wonder how you expect someone in that situation to get a car loan.

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #29 on: December 26, 2017, 03:33:34 PM »
From what I have seen by purchasing those types of cars from people who couldn't afford to fix them, they couldn't afford NOT to purchase a decent car.

Every one of them went out and purchased a newer car with reasonable payments and low interest loans because the crappy cars they bought originally to "save money" were costing them an arm and a leg.

*shrug*  Ok.  Nobody in their right mind would have given me a car loan at that time, and I wasn't stupid or desperate enough to take a 27% used car loan on a freshly polished pile of problems when I could get a pile of problems I could maintain myself for a lot less.  I assure you, I drove very, very cheaply, even with the parts I had to obtain and some of the hassle I had to go through to get those (seriously, don't buy a weird car, no matter how cheap it is).

As I pointed out to people at the time, if I couldn't make a car payment, they took my car.  If I couldn't make parts payments, well, I walked for a while until I scrounged together enough for parts.

I'm pretty sure I was living on $400-$500/mo, with no steady income, so I really do wonder how you expect someone in that situation to get a car loan.

That is a tough situation and you did the best you could. But that isn't sustainable over the long term and I highly doubt the person I was conversing with is living on $500/month. At least I hope not.

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #30 on: December 26, 2017, 03:42:04 PM »
That is a tough situation and you did the best you could. But that isn't sustainable over the long term and I highly doubt the person I was conversing with is living on $500/month. At least I hope not.

The OP was asking why he doesn't see more "beaters" on the forum (with a definition that seems similar to mine).

And I expect, as noted previously, that it's because people who are driving those get their asses into something nicer when they have the option.

I drove them for years.  I maintained them.  When I found a nicer car ($2000, woo!) that I could afford, believe me, I was out of the cheap cars.  And I used a credit card to buy that one, because... well, I didn't exactly have the cash, and I still wasn't going to convince anyone to give me a loan for it.

At this point, I wouldn't mind a "$5k beater Leaf," but that's a joking term for a knock around car, not anything I'd actually call a beater seriously.

ketchup

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #31 on: December 26, 2017, 03:55:46 PM »
From what I have seen by purchasing those types of cars from people who couldn't afford to fix them, they couldn't afford NOT to purchase a decent car.

Every one of them went out and purchased a newer car with reasonable payments and low interest loans because the crappy cars they bought originally to "save money" were costing them an arm and a leg.

*shrug*  Ok.  Nobody in their right mind would have given me a car loan at that time, and I wasn't stupid or desperate enough to take a 27% used car loan on a freshly polished pile of problems when I could get a pile of problems I could maintain myself for a lot less.  I assure you, I drove very, very cheaply, even with the parts I had to obtain and some of the hassle I had to go through to get those (seriously, don't buy a weird car, no matter how cheap it is).

As I pointed out to people at the time, if I couldn't make a car payment, they took my car.  If I couldn't make parts payments, well, I walked for a while until I scrounged together enough for parts.

I'm pretty sure I was living on $400-$500/mo, with no steady income, so I really do wonder how you expect someone in that situation to get a car loan.

That is a tough situation and you did the best you could. But that isn't sustainable over the long term and I highly doubt the person I was conversing with is living on $500/month. At least I hope not.
I'm certainly not living on $500/mo (assuming you were talking about me).  What would you consider a "decent car"?  Is my 2001 Volvo a "decent car"?

accolay

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #32 on: December 26, 2017, 05:11:05 PM »
I would be pissed if someone hit it. The "beaters" above are great examples of people not taking care of their stuff. It's not hard.

I agree with caveat that if you live in a state with real snow that also uses salt on roads, it will be difficult to avoid the rust. After a while it doesn't make sense to repair it. There are threads on repair vs replace vehicle when cost to repair exceeds value.

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #33 on: December 26, 2017, 05:20:42 PM »
Also, in the midwest, deer are a common way of mashing up the front of a car.

I think everything I owned for a while had hit at least one deer and had a salvage title from that.

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #34 on: December 26, 2017, 05:27:00 PM »
I'm certainly not living on $500/mo (assuming you were talking about me).  What would you consider a "decent car"?  Is my 2001 Volvo a "decent car"?

Yes if you take care of it. They are fantastic cars that will last 300k+. Are you comfortable doing work yourself?

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #35 on: December 26, 2017, 05:36:00 PM »
I'm certainly not living on $500/mo (assuming you were talking about me).  What would you consider a "decent car"?  Is my 2001 Volvo a "decent car"?

I'd consider it a "decent car."  If a bit short on twin turbo V8 mods, presumably. ;)  https://www.carthrottle.com/post/this-turbocharged-v8-volvo-sleeper-wagon-is-a-190mph-superbike-killer/

If you don't have that much rust, a vehicle, well maintained, will last an awful long time.  My truck is 20 years old and I expect many, many more years of service out of it! :)

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #36 on: December 26, 2017, 06:00:07 PM »
I would be pissed if someone hit it. The "beaters" above are great examples of people not taking care of their stuff. It's not hard.

I agree with caveat that if you live in a state with real snow that also uses salt on roads, it will be difficult to avoid the rust. After a while it doesn't make sense to repair it. There are threads on repair vs replace vehicle when cost to repair exceeds value.

Rust for sure is the death knell. Mine spent the first eight years in NH and has no rust. It has a nice rubber coating on the bottom which prevented any from hitting the frame.

As far as paying more to fix than its worrth, that's just it, you won't really find a comparable car for most repair values. Even if you car is only "worth" $1000, you know it's history and how it's been taken care of. As I mentioned I put $1500 into mine, on paper not worth that, but in reality worth much more.

I know it inside and out, know what parts have been replaced, can do a lot of work myself, and have a small bin of replacement parts for it.

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #37 on: December 26, 2017, 06:58:53 PM »
"Beater" is a player position in the wizard's game of Quidditch. The Beaters carry small wooden bats and their job is to use the bats to hit the bludger balls away from their teammates who are trying to deliver the quaffle ball through the hoops.

Nerd much? Yep!
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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #38 on: December 27, 2017, 08:15:02 AM »
I'm certainly not living on $500/mo (assuming you were talking about me).  What would you consider a "decent car"?  Is my 2001 Volvo a "decent car"?

Yes if you take care of it. They are fantastic cars that will last 300k+. Are you comfortable doing work yourself?
I am.  I did the ETM myself as part of a getting-to-know-you repair, and have done various maintenance as well.  On past cars I've done all my own work too (with the exception of exhaust work), the most annoying jobs being a heater core and two clutches.  I bought the car in May with 140k on the clock for $1800 from the original owner, and now it's at 157k (we're a one-car couple now and we drive a lot).  The first time I changed the oil, I looked pretty closely at the underside and there's literally zero rust; I live in northern IL but this was a Texas car (from Volvo of Austin) for its first ~10 years.  It should last.

Based on your username, I assume you too have an 850/S70/V70?

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #39 on: December 27, 2017, 10:46:30 AM »
Syonyk - In the spirit of MMM, I know you'd face punch me for being a spendypants and you'd be right. I would, however, face punch you right back and say you were very inefficient with your time. Even if you were going to school, if you were truly living on $500/mo, you should have been saving money easily AND improving your skill set to earn more in the future by working more/smarter. If you used your 'tinkering time' to work a part time job selling on pure commission, you'd probably easily make at least $20-30K allowing you to save $10-20K/yr which would make a $5K car which a smarter choice both in the short term (you just saved $5-15K the first year) and the long term (improved a highly valuable skill in the marketplace). You even admitted that you in your 'I sold my cars for more than I paid and drove for free' analysis that you exclude the cost of parts. I'd be willing to bet that you also valued your time at $0/hr which is a horrendous thing you could do financially.

I'm not sure where one would earn $30k/yr selling stuff in a college town while also in school/grad school, but OK...

I certainly don't drive those cars now.  I have a reasonably new Mazda3 I intend to keep running about forever, and a large truck that I also intend to keep running forever.  That was just my experience with "beaters" in the context of the thread.  I owned a lot of them, and I also note that once I was able to buy a decent car, I did.

There's a bit of a bootstrapping problem, though.  If you don't have the money for a decent car, it's hard to get a job that requires you to actually get around reliably.  I didn't have $5k, and nobody was going to loan me $5k for a car when I didn't have reliable income.

Quote
Now, if you (the general you, not Synonyk specifically) enjoy the mechanical tinkering as a hobby, go right ahead and buy the beater. Just don't fool yourself into thinking its the smarter financial choice.

Does a 75 year old tractor count? :)

inline five

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #40 on: December 27, 2017, 11:24:31 AM »

Yes if you take care of it. They are fantastic cars that will last 300k+. Are you comfortable doing work yourself?
I am.  I did the ETM myself as part of a getting-to-know-you repair, and have done various maintenance as well.  On past cars I've done all my own work too (with the exception of exhaust work), the most annoying jobs being a heater core and two clutches.  I bought the car in May with 140k on the clock for $1800 from the original owner, and now it's at 157k (we're a one-car couple now and we drive a lot).  The first time I changed the oil, I looked pretty closely at the underside and there's literally zero rust; I live in northern IL but this was a Texas car (from Volvo of Austin) for its first ~10 years.  It should last.

Based on your username, I assume you too have an 850/S70/V70?

Yes I posted a picture towards the top of the thread. Mine spent eight years in NH with no rust. They have some sort of rubber coating on the bottom to reduce rust, at least mine does.

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #41 on: December 28, 2017, 07:07:11 AM »
When I was at the beater level I was working 2 days a week as a blackjack dealer. IIRC I generally made around $1000-$1200 a month. Rent and utilities were about a third of that. Food was pretty cheap cause my entire diet was frozen chicken breast, sandwiches, oatmeal, frozen veggies and apples. The rest was gear, ski pass, gas and partying. There was SOME savings but it would usually get wiped out by unforeseen events like dentists, or to the point of this thread, car stuff.

You can easily apply a retroactive facepunch to a 23 year old snowboard bum without much in the way of financial acumen. You can say, "2 days a week, what were you doing with the other 5????" and the answer would be shreddin POW, playing video games and partying! That said, opportunities for side work in a small mountain town in dial up internet days are limited. But looking back another part time job would have been a good idea, liftie at the ski resort gets you a pass AND money. Maybe enough to save up a couple G's over a couple seasons to get a decent car or a car loan. Which did happen.

I would just say to recognize that someone at the income level where $500 cars are a thing, probably doesn't have their shit together or is trying to survive while getting their shit together. Having the level of knowledge and discipline idealized in this forum is not a common thing. I can't be too hard on my young self or others on internet forums because of this.

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #42 on: December 28, 2017, 09:19:26 AM »
I would just say to recognize that someone at the income level where $500 cars are a thing, probably doesn't have their shit together or is trying to survive while getting their shit together. Having the level of knowledge and discipline idealized in this forum is not a common thing. I can't be too hard on my young self or others on internet forums because of this.

I completely agree. Frankly, I am 110% sure that you had a lot more fun in your 20s than I did as well (I was working 60 hrs / week plus going to school nights for a graduate degree). As I stated before, the original poster asked why he/she didn't see more beater cars on this forum. I gave an honest response.

Definitely with you. I don't think there is much call for true beaters for members of this forum. They're driving mostly solid, reliable used vehicles which given the goals of most here is the appropriate choice.

I've had the fun then vs stability now convo with friends who did the opposite. My ski buddy now is about to turn 30. He has 2 houses, the rental has SERIOUS equity, enough that he's looking at selling both and doing a reloc for a paid off house. At that point he's free to quit the day job and go self employed/part time. He'll be ready for FIRE by 40 or before I'm sure.

Meanwhile I got my first real job at 30, I'll be more like mid/late 50's for FIRE. In the mean time the things I really love to do (mountain bikes and snowboarding) are WAY limited now compared. So pros 'n cons. :D

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Re: What is a "beater"?
« Reply #43 on: December 28, 2017, 10:42:02 AM »
Most of my cars have been in the OK quality range. Have never paid more than $5K. Got rid of one for being too small for having a third kid, one was totaled by my wife in the snow, replaced the engine on a third but a couple more years down the road it had some more annoying problems and we wanted to experiment with being a single car family.

I no longer do a lot of my own work besides basic maintenance and easily accessible parts like a battery, starter, etc. I have bad hands with limited grip strength so certain things are just really hard to do in the very tight spaces of many modern engine bays.

Weíre back up to two cars. 2000 Sienna minivan. A few expensive repairs - basically all new suspension, timing belt, some substantial exhaust work, knock sensors (absolutely buried on this engine). About to hit 180K and the rust isnít too bad yet so Iím hoping to get a few more years out of it.

2000 Honda Accord, about 165K. Also had to do some expensive things - complete transmission rebuild, and timing belt. Needs new tires soon and one new wheel because one of the alloy wheels is just bent enough they have a really hard time getting it to balance. Need to call some junkyards soon to track one down. Otherwise it should hopefully run for many years. Almost no rust on it still.

All in all, I did the math once and Iíve owned cars since 16, and 2 cars since getting married 22 and with all the repair costs weíre still less than a mid-priced new car in the $30K range costs just to buy.

Weíve been stranded a couple times, but heck those make for the best stories ;)