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Buy a car for teenager

My son is 14, and hard to live with as an adolescent. Can’t wait for him to turn 25. Nothing awful, but I don’t have a way to be in his world. Grunts. Sassy talk. “Whatever.” Looking for ways for us to connect. He can’t wait to turn 16 and drive. About all he does talk about with me, when he talks, is about cool cars he sees when we’re driving about. Loves Camaros. I was thinking: What if I buy a used Camaro, a klunker, cheap, and he and I can fix it up for 1.5 years till he turns 16? Something we can do together. What do you think? I know nothing about working on cars, but I can learn, or pay people a bit here and there, right?

I’ve heard of crazier ideas. You’d need a good place to work on the car, a garage is best. Then you’ll end up spending money on tools, and parts, and …

At best your son will come to understand this car, come to value this car, and when the time comes for him to drive it he won’t trash this car.

At worst your son will prove to be totally irresponsible and giving him a cool, fast, older (and therefore lacking a lot of up to date safety features) Camaro might prove deadly for him, a friend, or unfortunate stranger.

The fact you know nothing about cars, isn’t a plus. Do you have any mechanical aptitude? Do you fix stuff around the house? Perhaps you and/or your son should take an auto shop class. Many community colleges, high schools, and vocational tech schools have adult classes in the evening. Do some research, take a class, and have a long talk with your son before setting out to buy a car as a joint project.

Check with your insurance company, teenagers and sports cars can be costly.

Uncle Turbo pretty well summed it up. Any car built in the last 20 year is very hard to restore from ‘clunker’ status, even if you’re a mechanic.

Maybe think of something to get him saving for a car, he’ll have more ‘invested’ that way.

@texases I agree; have him save the money from his paper route or other part time job and you will be able to get him a good entry level car such as a Hyundai Accent coupe. At least the insurance for that car is affordable.

I have mixed feelings. It does seem like a good bonding and educational experience, assuming he doesn’t get bored and bail out on the project. On the other hand, an old Camaro is near the bottom of the list of good choices for a young new driver.

Thanks everyone!

Now would be good time for the son to start saving for a car.

You may be on to something since you are closely looking for that point of interaction that will work for you.
I say get the project car.
and as you’re going over it tip to tail, be sure to notice the differences in safety features old to new.
Discuss the different ways a driver can compensate and allow for these differences.

And of course you’ll hopfully begin to connect to other areas of his psyche ( but don’t tell him that ) as you small talk durring project times.

If you do it, get the V6 model. Parts might be harder to come by for certain things, but you should be able to get by. Also let him know that he’ll be responsible for everything once he turns 16 if he still wants the car; that means finding a job somewhere and earning the money to keep it going

I think that is a great idea, provided he is willing to let it sit until he gets a driving license of course. I’d try to dissuade him from a sports car though. Pretty much everything during the rebuild process will be more time consuming, more difficult, and more expensive. And the gas mileage wouldn’t be very good, and the insurance would likely be more expensive. Why not go to the bookstore with him and look through the car magaines. From the looks of my bookstore, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear there are 1000 car magazines! I’ve noticed there’s magazines that are geared to rebuilding older econobox models, jazz them up with cool paint jobs, install some improved performance stuff in the engine compartment, and turn them into the kind of cars teenagers like. Plus he’d have a car unlike one any of the other kids in his group could purchase even if they wanted to.

i think your idea is a good one as long as he is interested in doing it with you. My dad actually did this with me, and the conditions were when i was 16 i could have it but i had to maintain it, and have good grades and good behavior and if i did not have those i would lose the car. But all that was made very clear to me before he even purchased the car. And when we bought it we worked on it and got it 100% restored and i loved it. I also think that him doing this taught me alot of self respect and discipline.

There are a lot of good suggestions so far, but–as a HS Counselor for 35 years–I feel the need to include another point for the OP to consider.

Your son–like almost all male adolescents–is resistant to limitations/discipline.
So…you have to consider this possibility:
What if he decides to take that borderline-safe Camaro (or other heap) out on the road some night before he is licensed? Trust me…it does happen.

My suggestion is to add a $1million liability rider to your auto and/or home insurance policies, just in case your son decides to take that fix-up car out for a ride and gets into a serious accident. I wouldn’t even mention this scenario if I hadn’t seen it multiple times over my 35 year career of working with adolescents and their parents.

It is better to be prepared, rather than have your savings wiped out by a lawsuit spurred by the actions of an irresponsible teenager.

The 3rd generation Camaros ('82-'92) are plentiful and with a bit of looking you should be able to find one in decent shape for a good price; other than the RS and Z28 models.

Parts are cheap, readily available, serviceability is easy, and insurance was very reasonable.

My youngest son had an '88 model that we bought for a college car and it served him extremely well all through college and for 6 years or so afterwards. He was very attached to it and the car still performed very well even at the 300k miles mark by getting 27-28 MPG and using no discernible amount of oil. A careless driver making a faulty turn ended the life of that car unfortunately.

(Note that an '88 or later model is preferred as the early '87s and back had a few hiccups with the 700R4 transmissions that were resolved in the later models; unless the transmission has been redone in the earlier version of course.)

Any car that he actually owns will be a cool car to a 14 year old, it does not have to be a Camaro. You would be surprised at the number of young people on the Tercel 4WD web site that think that was the coolest car ever made, and it only has 62 HP.

Other cars that seem to have some cool with young teens are older Honda Civics and Toyota Celicas. Just make sure they have a stick shift.

Hopefully the kid isn’t drooling over Generation 1 Camaros; that could involve selling the entire farm and a few pounds of flesh…

I’ve always felt teenagers should either buy their own cars or use what is handed down from the family.

Today, for what it will cost you to restore a “klunker” you can by a new car…“But what if we do the work ourselves?” You don’t have the skills or equipment to BEGIN to restore a car…

Anything built between 1980 and 1990 is just junk, not worth restoring…before 1980, things get pricey quickly, even for a klunker…Newer than 1990, there may be some opportunity in there but it will get expensive…

"Anything built between 1980 and 1990 is just junk"

Oh so wrong. I am partial to the 83-88 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon and the Toyota Supra’s with the inline 6. The AE86 Corolla has a following as well. To me, it is 1971 to 1978 that is the dark ages of automobile design and engineering.

My neighbor has a 1988 560 SL. Sweet car. Another friend had a 1982 Corvette with all of 200 HP. Still, he loved the car and drove it for almost 15 years. He might still own it, but he got married and needed a kid carrier.