Best car for a teenager to learn stick shift and basic repair

I have two boys, one 18 years old and the other 16.

They only know how to drive automatic and to put gas in the tank (with my money of course) and I want them to learn how to drive stick shift and some basic car maintenance like change the oil, battery, tires, and maybe even brakes. With the obvious lessons in electricity, by that I mean the stereo system.

My idea is to buy some old car that is easy for them to fix. In my youth I had a VW Bettle, a Renault (that’s a hard car to learn) and a VW Rabbit.

Any suggestions?

I have a 94 ford f 250 manual, with a plow. 1st gear is a granny gear no one could fail to work. The engine compartment is near big enough to stand up in while working on the engine. It has been bulletproof as far as running, course the assumed hole in the exhaust manifold turned out to be a bolt that had rusted off and disappeared, then a couple of weeks ago a guy borrowed it and the lower hose blew off. I think it was a rusted clamp that failed as upon trying to remove the other clamp the nut broke rather than unscrew. The one thing I have not figured out yet was he said the plug wire was burning and pulled it off. No gas or oil I could see, just a charred boot, but the engine ran fine after a new hose, clamps and the charred boot plugged back on to the spark plug. How can it get more fun than that?

Four banger five speed Ford Ranger. Simple, durable little trucks, and a dime a dozen.

A compact 2wd Toyota, ranger, Nissan. Pu with a manual would be a great learning experience.

Get any car that they might like with a stick shift as you want and that is ok. Any car that breaks or will, of course, need maintenance is good as a learner. Small cars have more difficult access to various components but I, for one, have seen that as an adjustment made as needed. To avoid particularly easy access to various components is to avoid what car repair is mostly about now.

Rental car (if you can find one with a manual).

I have a 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse. The clutch is very forgiving and the gearbox is the best I’ve ever driven with. You KNOW when you are in gear. I’ve had to do a bunch of maintenance on it myself. Just recently, I actually changed the thermostat. I’ve had to get a new ground cable for the battery, new brake pads and such. Never anything too big. Another thing, I was 17 when I got the car. It’s been great! Yes it is only a 2 door, but it’s safe, relatively reliable, and pretty good looking. Everything a teenager needs in a car. Oh, and I would recommend getting the GT. That has a V6 instead of an inline-4. Much better and easier to drive than the 4 cylinder.

18 and 16? They should have jobs and buy this car/truck themselves. Help them learn independence or there will be two grown men living in your basement someday. You should not be paying for gas either.

I agree. My son wanted a baja bug. I helped by finding an old bug owned by a co-worker. He got it for almost nothing. He and his friends did 95% of the work. Once done, it did not take him long to decide that was not the best of cars for him and he sold it, at a profit, and got a Rabbit diesel.

The point it, those were his choices, not mine. He is almost 40 now and remembers that right of passage well and often thanks me for letting him make his own mistakes.

I would recommend a small 4 cylinder car or compact truck.
More things can be done with hand tools than on a big heavy vehicle.
6 cyl FWD can be a bear to do basic maintenance, like spark plugs.

Honestly, I am going to recommend any simple, RWD vehicle you can find.

Small pickup trucks are going to be the best bet, as they are plentiful, and fairly cheap, all across the board.

Plus, this will make it easy for them to remove the transmission when they kill the clutch.
A FWD vehicle is not nearly as easy to replace the clutch in as a RWD vehicle.


My daughter learned on a six cylinder Ford Ranger.
On this truck she learned, not only to LIKE the manual trans but also how to change oil, change spark plugs & wires, change a flat tire, change a fan belt, check and maintain fluid levels & tires.
And after rolling it on some ice in the shadows of an otherwise dry road, she learned first hand, the hard way, about handling properties of different vehicles.

Where did I put that 63 Galaxie?

My 95 Dodge Dakota (OBD-I) had plenty of room under the hood with the V6. I could change plugs, distributor, and rotor in an hour. The 96 and later models got cluttered under the hood with all the OBD-II (s)crap. Every time I open the hood of my 2000 Blazer, I miss the Dakota.

Ed B.

Chevy Vega.

They’ll be working on it all the time just so they can drive it on the weekend.

My choice would be a Toyota Tacoma 2WD with a 4-banger.

Longitudinal engines are always easier to maintain and repair than transverse engines in FWD vehicles. 4-bangers make the jobs even easier. Spark plugs are a snap to change.

In a Tacoma, the drivetrain is robust and will withstand abuse during the training (I taught both of my kids on a Toyota pickup), the front end is dual A-frame with shocks rather than struts (much cheaper and easier to change), and the rear is leaf springs with shock, again much easier to change than struts and extremely robust.

And parts are cheap and easy to get.

Whatever you choose, be sure to get it thoroughly checked over before buying.

I had a paseo for a beater and everything was extremely easy to fix. Now I have a corolla; granted it’s reliable and doesn’t need much work, it is still extremely easy to work on.

I am going to tell you how we learned to drive straight stick back in the 50’s, when most cars were stick.

The car would be parked in a safe place, either flat ground or blocked so it couldn’t move. We were not given the keys!!!

We would sit in that thing by the hour, with our dreams of actually driving it someday, and go through the clutch / gear shifter sequence, over and over, imitating what we saw our elders do.

Put the thing in first, put the foot on the throttle, let the clutch out gently, press the throttle a bit, push in the clutch, shift to second, let out the clutch gently, and do it again until we were (hypothetically) in third driving along at great imaginary velocity.

Before the car moved, we had our brain fully trained on the sequence, and were not trying to figure it out in a moving car.

Sure, we had to fine tune the clutch when we actually got to drive, but this was a big head start.