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The 3 Best Work Cars for Small Car Budgets

Needing wheels to just get by on or maybe you have a newly licensed family member who needs a "my first car" driving and ownership experience? Here are the 3 best work cars (beater cars) for small budgets according to this popular “the peoples’ mechanic."


In Praise of the Beater Car

Beater cars do not get the praise or attention they should. Now we’re not talking about some smoke-churning behemoth that limps wherever it goes begging to be put out of its misery. We are talking about cars that look as used as toy cars in a thrift store, but still get the job done because the owner took the time and a little money to make sure it runs and runs right.

My first beater was a 1972 Buick LeSabre that I bought for $800 when in college. It was all steel and handled a couple of auto accidents admirably well and still kept running and myself safe from injury---don’t ask about the other guy though.

I took so much pride in my ride and what it could do that I had the idea of rather than fixing the front end after a crash, to paint small car crash symbols on its bent fender like WWII pilots did recording downed enemy plane kills. Fortunately, someone talked me out of that idea.

In fact, I discovered (by accident) the best way to pass emissions testing was to drive up to the testing station with a rope tying my crumpled hood down. The emissions facility techs would either through laziness or pity (I’ll take either, thank you very much) would check off their paperwork with a “pass” and send me on my way.

But I digress.

Why a Beater

There are a lot of reasons why you should buy a beater that include:

• It saves money on the cost of owning a car and its insurance.
• You do not worry about shopping cart dings while parked.
• Nobody would steal your POS.
• Odds are it’s old enough to allow DIY maintenance and repair.
• Less tech means less expensive parts and repair.
• Makes the cost of having a teen driver MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE.
• It makes a great everyday workhorse while keeping your honor student sticker wheels clean and low on miles.

Here is a pre-pandemic Scotty Kilmer YouTube video that goes into more detail about why you should buy a beater that is still useful although today’s pricing of some models he refers to are now significantly higher.

Here's Why You Should Buy a Beater Car

A More Updated Beater Car Recommendation

Today’s used car beater selection is different than what I had in my day as a kid and the selection is even smaller today. However, there are good beaters out there that are being ignored because they look…well…like a beater.

Here’s a recent Scotty Kilmer YouTube video of his recommendations of why you should consider these three car models as a good beater choice today:

3 Best Cars to Buy When You're Broke

And finally…

For additional articles about car ownership and maintenance, here are a few selected articles that are applicable toward shopping for and owning a true beater:

Spark Plug Car Maintenance Mistakes Many Car Owners and Service Centers Make

Consumer Reports Used Car Fixes: DIY Fix for a Dented Bumper

Rattle Can Repair Scam Warning for Used Car Shoppers

Do Not Fall for This Car Repair Reverse Scam

Tell Us About Your Beater!

If you have ever owned a beater, be sure to tell us about its condition, model, why you bought it, and what you find remarkable or memorable about it in the comments section below.

COMING UP NEXT: One of The Best Lexus Models Ever Made, Says This Mechanic

Timothy Boyer is a Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.

Image Source: Pixabay