20 year old male looking to buy first car, parents willing to help with cost, limit around $15,000

Hey everyone, so I’m a 20 year old college student in Los Angeles looking to buy my first car. I’ve always been into cars since I was a little kid, and I’ve been excited to finally get to this point in my life.
Here is my current list of cars I am debating on buying. I’ve placed both reliability and driving pleasure as my top prorities. Would anyone be able to help me make a decision between these cars, especially based on what you think the most reliable is/what is going to be the most reasonable to insure?

  • Infiniti G37

  • Lexus IS250/IS250 C/IS 350

  • Ford Mustang

  • Chevrolet Camaro

Call your insurance agent and ASK them what the cost would be. Anything from us would be incorrect guesses. Rates very wildly across the country, state, county and even zip codes as well as credit history. Yes, credit history.

Rates also vary based on the engine you have… Mustang and Camaro V8s being higher cost than V6 versions.

The next part, reliability, is strongly a matter of how the car was treated assuming a used car. And I am assuming the car will be a used car. How used depends on your budget… Ok 15K… don’t know what these cars are selling for in your area, you need to look at the listings.

A 100K mile G37 could be a good choice or a really bad one depending on how the previous owner maintained the car. Same is true for the Lexus, Mustang and Camaro. Both the Mustang and Camaro V8s and automatic transmissions from 2012 up are pretty much bulletproof for well over 100K miles. I haven’t heard any bad things about the Mustang V6s but I have about the GM V6s. The Lexus or the G37 should be good for 100K and up as well.

Any with a manual at 100K you should assume a clutch replacement is close at hand and that will cost you about $2000. Figure tires are $1000 a set for any of these cars if needed.

All are fun to drive in their own way. The V8 American cars are quicker than the other 2 but still handle very well.

Any car you might want to buy… Avoid modified cars. There will be a LOT of examples of these cars that ARE modified. Wheels and tires are OK as long as they fit the car properly. Maybe even lowering springs if the car is not too low but NO engine or exhaust modifications. You live in California and that WILL be a problem for you.

Get a pre-purchase inspection by YOUR mechanic so you at least have a chance to avoid obvious problems.


None of those vehicles would I call suitable for a 20 year olds first vehicle. Nothing is going to have low cost insurance at your age.

@suburbancityboy I would look at the web site of Carmax near you and just see what 15000 will get you . Carmax does have a sort of warranty while an individual will not. Many used dealers are a As is purchase ( no warranty ).


You left Miata off your list, main advantage, your college buddies wanting to ride along will be limited to one.


I like the Miata for 2 additional reasons… cheaper insurance because of the small engine and really fuel efficient. Your gas prices are painfully higher than the rest of the US. The Miata gets much better MPGs than any of your 4 choices.


None of the cars on your list would be good choices for a 20 year old male driver.

Check on the insurance rates before you choose anything; I think you’ll be shocked.

Get something with 4 doors, preferably 4 cylinders, and either a Honda, Toyota, or Mazda. That’s where I would start.

Good luck.


Not as sporty as you have in mind, but two young people have recently asked my advice for cars to buy, and I suggested a Genesis for the guy and a Camry hybrid for the gal. Both are well pleased a couple of years later. Both are low maintenance and low insurance cost.

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If this is your list of cars, and your purchase price limit is $15k, and you are concerned about fuel/insurance/upkeep, this falls firmly into “baller on a budget” territory. What you need is a used Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, etc, which costs no more than $10k to buy–with the remainder set aside for maintenance and repairs. I would even consider a used Kia Spectra, Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, etc, because parking is a major issue in any university campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

The list of cars which you have given consist of sports cars and luxury cars, which will cost a lot to buy, maintain, and insure. These kind of cars are often treated poorly by the first owner (who often leases) and/or by the second owner (who often buys with sub-prime credit). A family-oriented car, or an economy car doesn’t have this same level of risk, and is much less likely to have been raced or modified by previous owner(s). As always, when you buy a used car, assume that major expensive maintenance–such as timing belt replacement, transmission fluid and filter change, etc–was not done, and pay to have it done ASAP.


I’m going to go off script and suggest a Civic Si. Sporty looking but something that should be reliable and moderately inexpensive to operate.

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When I graduated from college and needed a car, I was with my dad at the DeSoto/Plymouth dealer. My dad was friends with the owner of the agency and my dad was having some work done on his 1952 Dodge. There was a Porsche on the lot and I was drooling over that Porsche. The owner of the agency came up to me and said, “That is the last car you should be thinking about. It will take all your money and then some”. I was going 350 miles away to work on a master’s degree. I had an assistantship that paid $200 a month plus tuition. I wasn’t serious about the car because I knew I couldn’t afford it. I bought a 1947 Pontiac for $75 that got me to my destination.
My big mistake was that I was home on spring vacation and had saved enough to buy a 1955 Pontiac that I thought would be a great car. It was a manual transmission and had just had an engine overhaul by the Rambler dealer who had the car on his lot. That car was taking all my money to keep it going. This was in the early 1960s. A mechanic for whom I had done yard work as a teenager had advised me to stick with Ford and Chevrolet because they were cheaper to maintain as parts were more readily available. I should have taken his advice. 1955 was the first year for the V8 in the Pontiac, and it was a disaster. When I went for my second round of graduate school in the early 1970s, I had a 1965 Rambler. There was no Rambler dealer in the university town where I attended graduate school. Again, I would have been better off with a Ford or Chevrolet.
Today, my advice for a 20 year old college student would be to go with a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic.


I completely agree with bcohen2010 advice. Anything sporty or luxury is going to cost a mint to insure/repair and anything parked on or around a college parking lot is going to quickly look like a whipped dog.

More generally, a car during college is more a “functional choice”, something to get you from A to Z without bleeding you to death or distracting you from your goal of earning a degree and landing a good paying career than it is a “status choice” so again, bcohen2010’s suggested cars are all great choices.

And with the money you save, spending it on college sponsored “overseas studies” or “internships” at NYC, Washington DC or in the Grand Canyon will benefit you much, much more than any used car.
The experience was invaluable but the stories alone are priceless.


. .

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Additionally, owning a car that seats several people can result in running a reluctant (uncompensated) taxi service, and owning a pickup truck as a college student invariably leads to being drafted for every friend’s move from one apartment to another.

As a result, I like the earlier suggestion of a used Mazda Miata. Reliable, durable, economical, peppy, and only one other person can ride with you.

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What do parents drive?
Only asking to get an idea of what you drive now?
Unless you have a car.

They mainly drive a 2016 BMW 330e which they got used in 2019, and a 2007 Volvo XC90 that my family has had since it was new in 2006 which we’re looking to get rid of. The Volvo is starting to become a liability because it’s been breaking down constantly over the past year.

The Miata is definitely a fun choice, my concern is that it’s so tiny. With everyone and their big trucks here in California, I’m afraid the Miata is gonna get squashed like a bug if someone were to hit me in a car accident.


What would you say about a Honda Civic Sport Coupe (EX/LX)? Like an automatic version of the Honda Civic Si.

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@suburbancityboy I was talking in general terms about the Civic and Corolla. I don’t know anything.about specific models as I haven’t kept up with the automotive world. I am 60 years older than you are. My own vehicle is a Toyota Sienna minivan which I use to transport my fellow musicians and their instruments. If I were to give up my musical interest, I would probably own a Toyota Prius or a Camry hybrid. On college.and university campuses, the Prius has replaced the VW Beetle of my college days. The Prius might be a possibility for you.

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Stupid question but why would you presume to buy a car “With your parents contribution” when your parents are presuamably paying your outrageious college costs and driving lesser cars?
A 2019 Vovo and a 2016 BMW…

We all love our kids and would do anything to help their success but there’s something terribly wrong when our “no income” college kids are driving nicer cars than their parents.

Son forget the car, I suggest a serious rethink about your priorities and responsibilities.


I am with Mr. B . Counter . Why are the parents helping when it looks like they need a new vehicle more than this kid needs pleasurable driving vehicle . Maybe cityboy should buy a used small motorcycle after this is Los Angeles ( no snow ) .

A ten-year-old Lexus IS250 can be found for less than $15,000. Side airbags, side curtain airbags, most have a back-up camera. Not overpowered and should be less to insure than a Mazda two-seater.

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