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Hey guys,
I am a current college sophomore and I have started looking into buying my first car. I would really like either a BMW or some sort of hatchback. It doesn’t need to be too reliable so long as parts are easy to find and somewhat inexpensive, as I’d like to be able to work on the car myself. I don’t need a car, so it doesn’t even need to be practical, I just want something fun to drive and interesting to tinker with. Any tips, both about looking for a car and what car to look for, would be greatly appreciated.

Inexpensive parts puts you out of most Euro brands.
Since this will be your first car, call various insurance companies and see how much each car you’re considering will cost you; you save a little bit by doing 6 months at a time, atleast with my insurance company.

I agree with skipping the BMW. Hopefully this fascination with having a car to tinker with won’t meddle much with your finances and academic workload.

You did not state your car budget or desires other than a BMW but a suggestion might be a Fox body Mustang (80s-90s) with the 2.3 Liter 4 cylinder if you can find one that hasn’t been thrashed into the pavement.
They’re cheap, easy to tinker with, cheap to insure, and parts are everywhere. The GTs will hit you on insurance rates so you might avoid those.

The others are correct. A BMW is unlikely to end up being “somewhat inexpensive”.

A domestic make will probably end up being the cheapest and easiest to maintain. A Japanese car would be pretty good too, with Mazda being worth a look if you want something fun to drive.

To expand on my previous post:

Anything fun to drive will probably be more expensive to insure than a boring sedan. Anything unreliable won’t be fun to drive, since you’ll never know when the next problem will occur.

While I’m not trying to discourage you from this endeavor, taking the money you’d use to buy and tinker with a car would be best used to pay down your student loans.

You can find a 2005 Ford Ranger regular cab pickup for around $5000. Would that work?

A 2005 Chevy Cobalt coupe or sedan will be less than $5000. We have 2 Cobalts. They are fun to drive. My 20-something daughters like them, anyway. And you can get them with manual transmissions if that’s what you want.

Tell us what you want to spend and we’ll get serious.

I agree with jtsanders that an econobox makes the most sense for a student. A Cobalt, Mazda Protege or Mazda3, or Ranger pickup, as mentioned will do fine. OP’s zeal to work on a car without having a garage or workshop at his disposal probably won’t last.

The girls I dated in college had two basic requiements; the car had to have a good heater and it had to be reliable!

And not smell funny,whats this thing about BMWs? you are probaly not going to be able to afford European.Get bored to death and get a fairly late model GM or Ford as last resort get a Nissan (the Toyotas are too expensive{ you might get a Yota’ somebody ragged out}) the resale is generally not as good on a Nissan and you can sometimes get a good deal-Kevin

Let me get this straight, your a college student who doesn’t need a car, but wants to buy one anyway, and as a college student, you will have plenty of time to work on it. Is that about right?

Are you independently wealthy or are the student loans just that good now? You have time to work on it, what are you majoring in, basket weaving?

“whats this thing about BMWs?”

They are consistently rated the best handling small coupe/sedan and have been for decades. That’s some thing!

Well I have been flagged, but I do have to admit the basket weaving comment was a bit harsh. My apologies. But heres the thing, a car, any car is going to drain your time and resources. Even if it is reliable and economical, you still will be inundated with requests for rides to various places and you will be tempted to just get away once in a while.

I did one year in college where I didn’t need a car and didn’t have one. When I did need a car and had one, it did get in the way, but when you need one, you need one. I do hope you will reconsider and devote your resources to your education. I also hope you are working on a degree that will provide you with a decent job and maybe the income to buy a BMW.

But money isn’t everything, if you have a passion and you are getting a degree in a field that will at least provide you with employment that satisfies your passion, that is good also, even if the pay isn’t that good. Good luck and reconsider on that car, your education is far more important.

When my son got his BMW it was with my blessing as long as he got rid of it when the warranty is up.

Jt,try to get one repaired around here-Kevin

Tinker with? Like fix cuz it won’t run? That’s no fun. Where is school? In snow country? Working on car in a snow bank when it’s 6F is no fun. Plus u gotta park it somewhere and insure it and so on. U must be young since ur in school. Any family members have cars? Borrow one of theirs.

Someone please help this young man get a car that can be tinkered with and still run and be reliable enough to get him home @ class break-Kevin

“Jt,try to get one repaired around here”

Come on, kevin. With all the rich folks, university professors, and rich college kids in C-ville, there have to be places to get a Bimmer repaired. There’s even a dealer in Lottiesburg.

I happen to agree with Keith. If you don’t need a car, don’t buy one. There is a better investment of your resources (time and money) and that investment is in yourself. Go that extra mile in the classes that you are taking. Take demanding classes, not classes that award a high grade for minimum effort. From my 44 years as a university professor, I have had many students in my classes. I remembe one student back in 1968. He was failing a trigonometry class. He came in to see me and was very upset as he was close to flunking out of college and would be drafted into the military. It turned out that he was working an 8 hour job to make his car payments. He claimed he needed a new car because he was commuting 12 miles from home. I showed him tht the interest he was paying on his car loan would provide him with room and board for the year. He didn’t want to give up his car, so he flunked out and was drafted. I had another student back in 1982 that was a computer science and a music major. I had gotten her a couple of paying orchestra gigs when an additional horn was needed At any rate, she took a job as a night computer operator and went on a buying spree. She moved into a luxurious apartment, bought a new car and all kinds of appliances. She came to me at the end of a term and was failing a statistics class. I spent several hours helping her. She came back after the term was over and thanked me for helping her. She managed to receive a “C” in the statistics course. I then told her that she was a slave to her possessions and that she was just getting a surface knowledge in the classes she was taking. I told her that if she wanted to be a computer operator for the rest of her life, that was fine. However, I said that I doubted that she would ever advance beyond that job. I said that she needed to get out from under all her possessions–sell them off and really work for an education. She became very angry and started to walk out of my office. I said, “The person went away sorrowful because she has a great many possessions”. She slammed the door of myh office so hard on the way out that thought the glass in the door would break. I didn’t think I woul ever see her again. To my amazement, at the end of the next term she showed up at my office. She said, “When I was here before, you really made me angry. However, after I thought about what you said, I realize that you were right. I sold the car, moved into an inexpensive room just off campus, quit the job and am now really involved in my classes”. That student now has a very good position in a large company with quite a bit of responsibility and the salary to go with it. The plant where she worked as a computer operator was shut down and the whole workstaff was out the door.
If you really want a good career, invest in yourself. I have seen really good students get jobs in a tight job market where other students didn’t get jobs because these good students invested in themselves. They went to the head of the class.

Well JT I dont live in Charlottesville-but you are right there are plenty of Beemers there(mostly late model too) got to be a good BMW shop somewhere close to there.I live in flyover country about 80 miles West as the roads meander-just have to go to C’Ville to work quite often as of late

OK, kevin. You are a good distance from a dealer unless you are near Lynchburg. But you said west, not southwest. In the immortal words of Emily Latella: Never mind!