Not everyone can afford to buy a new car. If you’re living on a budget and in need of a set of wheels to get around in safely this winter, there are plenty of options in the used car market that might do the trick.

Of course, if you live in an area that experiences snowy or icy conditions during the winter months, picking the right used car requires that you look at more than just the car’s mileage rating and cost. Here are a few things to look for in a used vehicle that will serve you well in the snow.

Anti-Lock Brake Systems
Make sure the car you’re buying has an anti-lock brake system (ABS). Hitting your brakes too hard under slick road conditions can cause you to slide uncontrollably. This is where an ABS can step in. ABS uses a method of applying brakes in a “pumping” manner that helps prevent your wheels from locking up, which helps you keep control of your vehicle.

Keep in mind that not all anti-lock brake systems are the same. Some operate on all four of your wheels, while others only apply to your rear wheels. The latter scenario leaves open the possibility that your front wheels could lock up, causing you to lose control of your steering. The most effective anti-lock brake systems are the ones that control all four wheels, minimizing the chances of losing control of a vehicle in a potentially dangerous situation.

4-Wheel Drive Versus All-Wheel Drive
Choose wisely between four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or rear-wheel drive vehicles. Both four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive systems provide power to all four wheels, which can help provide traction on slick roads. The difference between the two is that four-wheel drive must be manually engaged by the driver, whereas all-wheel drive is always “on.”

As for the two other options, rear-wheel drive is probably the least attractive choice as far as traction on snowy roads. Front-wheel drive ensures that your front tires, which are involved in steering, do all of the gripping, as well.

Traction Control
When you’re shopping for a used car, find out what kind of traction control system the vehicle has. Many newer cars come with features like electronic stability control, which uses sensors and single-wheel braking to help you keep control of your car’s steering, and electronic traction control, which can help keep your tires from slipping. Both types of systems can help make it easier to stay in control of your vehicle during adverse conditions.

Safety Features
Look for safety features, like front- and side-impact air bags. Even with top-of-the-line traction control and all-wheel drive, there are no guarantees when ice and snow are involved. Prepare for the unexpected and make sure your car has the appropriate equipment to help keep you protected from all angles, including seat belts with shoulder harnesses and air bags that deploy from both the front and side.

Buying a used car with features that can help keep you safe in the snow and ice is a good starting point. But it’s also important to remember that, if you’re going to be on wintry roads, you should also make sure to drive cautiously, keep your car well-maintained and carry emergency supplies in the trunk.


This guest post comes from the editors of The Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life.


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