Can You Drive A Classic Car In The Winter?

Classic car ownership is something that appeals to many.

In fact, classic cars are what this very website is all about. At Garage Dreams, we love helping prospective classic car owners find and buy their dream cars, as well as helping you to get the most out of the classic car ownership experience.

In a recent article, we looked at whether or not you can daily drive a classic car.

Whether a classic is your only option for getting from A to B (don’t laugh, this happened to me a few years ago – my car got broken into and it took over three months to find a replacement rear windscreen … and I was very thankful for the 1970s FIAT my dad lent me) or you just fancy the idea of rolling around in some cool old classic, there are loads of different reasons why you might want to drive a classic car as more than just a weekend toy.

But can you drive a classic car in the winter?

It’s one thing to have the wind in your hair in a “modern classic” like an early Miata, but what about in the depths of winter?

In this edition of Car Facts, we are going to explore more about whether or not you can drive a classic car during the winter. We will also look at some of the considerations and things you need to think about in advance if you plan on winter classic driving.

Important Note

When referring to driving your classic car during the winter, we are primarily referring to regular “daily driving” in winter months.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong at all with rolling your classic out of the garage on a crisp, sunny winter’s morning … but what about regularly driving your car when the weather gets nasty?

That is the primary focus of this article – whether or not you can regularly drive a classic car during winter.

Nothing’s Stopping You From Driving Your Car In the Winter

At a fundamental level, there is nothing stopping you from driving your classic car in the winter. In fact, even if you don’t plan on dailying your classic during the winter months, you should still ensure that you take the opportunities when they arise on a pleasant day to get your car out of the garage … leaving your car locked up in storage for months on end isn’t great for its health.

As long as your car is compliant with all the relevant rules and regulations of the jurisdiction in which you live (for example, some places with heavy snow require the fitting of special winter tires) then you are free to use your classic car for winter driving duties.

Many classic owners enjoy using their cars all year-round, and there is nothing wrong with doing so.

However, if you want to regularly drive your classic car in the winter, then you need to consider the downsides/risks:

Downsides Of Winter Classic Driving

While you can certainly drive a classic car in the winter, there are some downsides and potential pitfalls to consider:

  • Risk of damage/accidents – In the winter, road conditions are generally worse. Snow, ice, and even higher volumes of rain/water on the roads can lead to more dangerous conditions. This is a problem for any car, but if you’re considering regular winter driving of your classic you need to weigh up if the higher risk of damage is worth it for you. Maybe it’s just where we live, but people drive like complete idiots when even the slightest bit of rain starts falling. You can mitigate some of this risk by driving defensively and being aware of your surroundings (because heaven only knows the average person sharing the road with you isn’t aware of what they’re doing) but there is always going to be a higher risk of damaging your car or being involved in an accident in inclement weather.
  • Risk of rust and deterioration – Winter weather conditions can increase the risk of rust on your classic car (older cars are almost always worse for rust than more modern vehicles) as well as general deterioration of the paint and finish of your car. You can take steps to reduce the risk here, like regularly and thoroughly cleaning your car to wash off road salt and grime, as well as sealing the underside of your car to minimise the risk of rust. However, winter weather conditions are always going to be harsher than summer ones.
  • Lack of creature comforts – Step into even the most basic modern car, and you’re going to enjoy more in the way of creature comforts for winter commuting than most classic cars of old, with perhaps the exception of luxury cars that were built primarily for comfort and not performance. Having a lightweight sports car can be fun in the right conditions, but downright miserable when the weather is bad and you are peering through the window at the guy next door who is toasty and warm in his Toyota Camry with optional heated seats and powerful AC system.
  • Enjoyment factor – Take a modern classic like the Miata. It’s one thing to be driving along a winding canyon road on a warm summer’s evening, with the wind in your hair. Do that, and you’ll agree that it’s one of the best feelings in the world. Even a million bucks couldn’t compare … maybe. Take that same Miata (or whatever classic you like driving) and instead picture yourself stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, on a freezing winter morning, with the rain and sleet pounding down. Suddenly, you might find yourself wishing you were driving a more practical, modern car that is built for the drudgery of the daily commute – in all weather conditions. While there’s no doubt that it can be fun driving a classic in challenging conditions, you don’t want to spoil your fun and enjoyment by subjecting yourself to driving in miserable conditions … if you have another option.

Provided you are happy to accept those challenges/trade-offs and live with them, then there is nothing stopping you driving your classic car in the winter. However, it really is worth thinking through whether or not driving your classic on a regular basis during the winter is the right thing to do for your particular circumstances.

Recap – Can You Drive A Classic Car In Winter?

Yes, you sure can – provided the car complies with all relevant legislation in your area (this shouldn’t be an issue for anything other than the most vintage of cars).

However, if you want to drive your classic in the winter on a regular basis, then you’ll want to make sure that:

  • Your car is well serviced and maintained, with appropriate tires – especially if you live somewhere with lots of snow or ice that requires specific winter tires (here in New Zealand we never get that much snow or ice, at least not in most areas, so people keep the same tires year-round). Ensure your tires, suspension, brakes and other handling-related components are in good condition. Also ensure your car is properly serviced and not suffering from any mechanical problems that might be exacerbated by the cold weather, resulting in a higher chance of breakdowns or other issues.
  • You have inspected and checked for water-tightness, especially if your classic car is a soft top or other form of convertible. A big winter downpour is not the time to discover that your roof leaks, or the window doesn’t shut properly. Test and check in the dry or milder conditions before the weather gets too bad.
  • You have taken steps to mitigate the risk of rust, if you live in a country/area where cars are prone to rust. This can include the use of an under-car sealant or wax product, such as Waxoyl, as well as regularly and thoroughly cleaning your car from top to bottom, in order to remove road salt, grime and dirt that could increase the risk of rust forming. You should also keep your paint finish properly protected by using a high quality wax or paint sealant product – something like Meguiar’s Ultimate Wax should do a good job … but even a cheap bottle of Turtle Wax is better than nothing. Remember that car wax doesn’t really expire, so don’t be afraid to splash out on a decent wax that is going to last you for several years of wintery conditions.
  • You actually want or need to drive your classic in the winter. One piece of advice that kept cropping up when doing the research for this article is that if you don’t need (or really want) to daily drive a classic car in the winter, then you might be better to use something else. Even if that something else is a bit of a “winter beater”, provided it is safe, watertight and has a working heater, you can then preserve your classic more easily. Logically, this approach does make sense. Prices on classic cars have been climbing, and you can probably pick up a cheap car that is better suited to the rigours of winter driving for less than the “diminished value” you’d experience from potentially wearing out your classic over winter. If you go down this path, you also won’t have to worry so much about damaging your classic. As much fun as classics can be, I know from my experience that I’m the kind of guy who will be far more relaxed crawling to work in the rain and hail in a cheap Subaru Outback than my appreciating-in-value classic car.
    • As an aside, many classics – particularly performance-oriented cars – can be a bit miserable to regularly drive in winter conditions in the sense that they lack creature comforts. Another argument for getting a winter beater (or using a more modern car that will come with up-to-date features) is that you can then drive something that will be more comfortable and enjoyable for the purpose of your winter commute or errand drudgery.

Long story short, feel free to drive your classic car in the winter if you want to. Nobody is going to stop you. There’s a couple who live in my neighbourhood who drive an NB generation MX-5 all year round. And when I say drive it all year round, I mean regardless of the weather … and the roof is always down. If it’s cold, they wear warm hats. If it’s raining, they wear rain jackets.

You have to respect the dedication, but you also need to ask if that is worth it for you.

If it is, then take sensible precautions and drive your classic car in the winter to your heart’s content.

On the other hand, you might think that picking up a cheap winter beater – or using a more modern car if one is available – is a better idea. There is nothing wrong with this approach to winter driving, and if your budget and circumstances allow it, then it might be a better option if you’d like to keep your classic in the best possible condition.

What do you think about regular classic driving during the winter? Leave a comment below with your take … we would love to hear from you. All comments are welcome.

Author

    by
  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

4 thoughts on “Can You Drive A Classic Car In The Winter?”

  1. Hi Sam,

    Great Article. I live in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently bought a 1970 Jaguar XJ6 in good condition. The previous owners took very good care of it and bought it mostly as a future investment. There’s absolutely no rust on the chassis or body. This is the only car I own. It’s been sitting in the garage the past couple of months because I lost my Turkish license and so I have to go through the long process of getting a NZ learners license and waiting 6 months to get the restricted license.
    Winter is around the corner… I’d hate to wait another 3-4 months to drive it, but at the same time I don’t want any rust to form on it. I’d love your opinion on an autoshop/garage that offers a under-car sealant or wax or oil rustproofing service. I still won’t be driving when it’s raining or when the roads are too wet, but Christchurch winters aren’t as bad as other countries so I’d love to drive it as soon as possible while taking all the precautions needed for a classic.

    Kind regards

    Reply
    • Hi Shafique, thanks for commenting (and greetings to a fellow Christchurch resident). The XJ6 is a lovely car, a real classic.

      In terms of garages in Christchurch that offer under-car sealing or wax oiling, I’m honestly not sure. Cars in NZ tend not to rust too badly as the roads aren’t salted here as the weather never gets bad enough (in terms of icing) to warrant it.

      One person you could chat to is Yuriy from Yuriy WOF on Langdon’s Road (just down from Northlands Mall and that new big outdoor shopping precinct). Yuriy runs an excellent garage from his house – although when you see the setup you’ll know immediately it’s more than just an average garage – and he’s the guy I take my cars to apart from my Suzuki Swift as it’s still under warranty, and my Touareg as it’s got a few months of 3rd party warranty left and I don’t think he’s a ‘warranty approved’ mechanic for 3rd party/extended warranties … as soon as that’s done I’ll just take it to him.

      I would have a chat to Yuriy and see if he can help, or if he knows anybody. Very honest and straight-forward guy who charges a fair price and does good work, and if he cant’ do something he’ll tell you rather than trying it anyway. http://www.yuriyswof.co.nz/

      Reply
      • Hi Sam,

        Thanks for the reply. I know salt causes rust, but will just driving in the rain/wet conditions corrode the car as well?

        It’ll be exactly 3 months in a few days that the car’s been sitting in the garage. I bought a good car cover for it, but I’m getting scared keeping it stored any longer might bring other problems like rubber hoses and fuel lines becoming brittle, engine seals drying out, drive belt cracking, flat spots on tyres etc… I’ve disconnected the battery. What’s your advice on how much longer I can store it without major problems? Before I drive for the first time, I’ll have it go through a full comprehensive servicing.

        I’ll definitely get in touch with Yuriy and see what he has to say. Under car sealing would definitely give me piece of mind. Thanks again for the help. I really appreciate it. Hope you have a great day and weekend.

        Kind regards

        Reply
        • Hi Shaifque,

          Thanks for checking in once again and for taking the time to reply.

          Storing the car for three months is unlikely to do much problematic at all – it’s more long term storage (e.g. where someone garages a car and never moves it for a year or two, sometimes even longer). Get it serviced when you can and then get driving it if possible, that will keep problems at bay.

          Thanks,
          Sam

          Reply

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