Looking for a good first car for a young car enthusiast

Hello all. I am 14, and beginning to save for a car. I’m a car enthusiast, as much of one as you can be without actually driving, at least. I’ll be given my mothers car which I assume will sell for around $1500 (Toyota Highlander Sport, 2008). I’m a huge fan of the JDM category, so I’ve got a couple cars on my mind. My all-time dream car is a 1998 Toyota Supra Twin Turbo. However, these are challenging to find. I’m also looking into S-Body Nissans (180x, 240x, 300zx) or an older BMW E30. My budget for this car is around $10,000 for the car. Maintenance, Fuel, and Insurance not included. Any suggestions, comments?

Check your local police impound auction. They often have older cars like that. Some are wrecks, some are prisoners vehicles, some are abandoned on the side of the road. IF you buy something at one of those auctions, though, you need to be able to trailer it home soon. They normally only allow form a few hours, to just a couple days to make it go away. Don’t get caught up in bidding, either. The other bidders want the car, too, so set your top dollar, and stop when you hit it. The people doing the selling just want the night to end and go home, so they’re happy to sell it to you for $25, or whatever the minimum is. I’ve seen some decent (repairable) ones around here.

Other than that, you’ll have to spend time on craigslist, which is always a crapshoot.

Good Luck!

Insurance is a major factor for new young drivers. Your dream cars are high powered sports cars and will costs you over $2000 per year to insure. Put off your dreams until you are 25+ with a spotless driving record.

Until then the Highlander gives you freedom to go where you please and should be reliable with low maintenance and repair cost. A fast car and a new inexperienced driver is a recipe for disaster.

Found this site www.japaneseclassicsllc.com based here in RVA. they have very good reviews and import prices aren’t too bad. Insurance is a problem, though.

@SupraCooper2860 - I was a 14 year old car enthusiast too. I still am at 67. I’ve had some fast cars and superfast turbo sport bikes. I know what 0 to 60 in 3 seconds feels, and also what a high speed crash feels like too. Now there is a 2004 red T-bird in my garage strictly for fun and it just looks good to me.

Trust me you need time behind the wheel before you get your dream car. No matter how skilled you are, the learning curve is all about what the other drivers sharing the road with will do. Before you learn how to drive fast you have to learn to drive defensively.

Keep the Highlander, maintain it well and you will have lots of money left over for dates and other entertainment.

A used high performance sports car will cost you the earth in insurance and eat up all your spending money in repairs and maintenance.

By the way, most girls worth going out with care little about what you drive as long as it looks decent, has good climate control, and is easy to get in and out of.

^^ and a comfortable spot to “cuddle”. :wink:

First of all selling a 2008 Highlander for $1500 is almost giving it away. Second my neighbor canceled a Car purchase of a new Dodge Charger because the insurance for the 17 year old was going to be $238 a month. Third every one of the vehicles on your list will have the mechanic planning a vacation in Hawaii just on the profit from working on them.

It is giving it away. Average mileage in “good” (not great or excellent) condition fetches 15 grand from one of those things.

OP, the mid 90’s Supra twin turbo is one of my dream cars too. But you’re not gonna get one yet, because good ones are still 30-40 grand (and if they’re modified well, I’ve seen them go for as much as 80), and they’re 20 year old cars which means you’re going to have to spend lots of money to keep them on the road, especially so thanks to the turbos.

And the insurance company will charge you absolutely crippling rates because you’re male, still in high school, and are driving a very fast car that is very easy to exceed the driver’s limits in.

Honestly, even if you somehow found the money to do this, you could get a lot of cars that are faster, for less money.

I would stay away from older cars in general. You’re in high school and probably have a job so that you can afford to buy and run a car, which means you don’t have time for the thing to break down every few weeks. Honestly, your best bet at this point is to keep your mom’s car.

Otherwise, if you combine the 10 grand budget you have with the 15 grand you should get from your mom’s car, you can pay cash for a very lightly used Genesis Coupe Ultimate edition, which has all the go fast bits and all the tech/luxo bits. It’s a very nice car and, honestly, is superior to the Supra in almost every way, and it would also only be a year or two old and still under warranty.

I would caution, however, to be very careful if you do get something fast. I’m a good driver now, and I’ve got a good deal of seat time in performance driving situations, but when I first got my license I damn near rolled a minivan because I was a novice kid who hadn’t driven much and thought I was much better than I was.

Don’t buy an expensive car as your first. I’ve never spent $10,000 on a car in my long car loving life. In fact, I’d suggest driving your mom’s highlander for a year or two, until you really know how to drive. First cars often get wrecked. You’ll be real popular because have the only car capable of hauling all of your friends. I also suspect that the Highlander will be worth considerably more than $1500 in a couple of years. Check out www.nada.com for a good value.

Who pays insurance? You or your parents? You will certainly be on your parents policy no matter who pays. If your name is on the title insurance rates will be much higher than if one or both of your parents are listed a owners.

If you are into cars and want to drive, maybe you should look into kart racing. You can use the Highlander to pull your kart to the track. Best of all, you can do it today. And your parents can drive you to the trac with the Highlander. Several of today’s successful professional racers started out karting.

If you’re in RVA check out the Sportscar Workshop on Boulevard, near Broad Street. They usually have an eclectic selection of sportscars for sale. Sometimes they have vintage 240Z’s or RX7’s for sale.

Insurance is a major factor for new young drivers. Your dream cars are high powered sports cars and will costs you over $2000 per year to insure.

You must live in a low insurance state. Here in NH…a car like what the OP wants is easily well over $5,000.

I’m not a huge fan of being on the same road of a young inexperienced driver driving a sports car. They see way too many “Fast and Furious” movies and have no idea about reality.

Car enthusiast is NOT some who just goes out and buys the fasted car and races up and down the streets. Car enthusiasts are people who want to learn about cars, how they drive…who to upgrade or improve…not just pay someone to do it for them.

fan of the JDM category

You know what? I have no idea what the “JDM category” is … lol … I think it is great you are planning in advance, and are interested in cars and car technology and willing to ask here what the experts who frequent this forum think. I expect you’ll get excellent advice.

My recommendation is not about which car to buy, but what to read and study prior to deciding. You have some time to study up, so now’s a good opportunity. Start with a general knowledge book about the repair and maintenance aspects of newer cars. Popular Mechanics has one titled “Popular Mechanics Complete Car Care Manual”, that’s the one I’d recommend. Next would be a a more detailed technical manual about the computer control of the powertrain, how it works, and how to optimize it, closed-loop vs open-loop, and how to diagnose it when it goes wrong. OBD II topics. My local Barnes and Noble bookstore has a couple of good books that cover that area, in the “Transportation” section. Try yours, see what they have on the shelf there. Third is the factory service manual of the car you decide upon. You really want to learn as much of the information in that book as possible. Haynes or Chilton or whatever do a good job for what they do, but the information they provide is often confusing and lacking detail b/c they have to cover so many versions of the same car and model years. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief – even if you don’t fix the car yourself – if you own the diagnostic and service procedure book that covers just the car you own, and no others.

Good for you for listening to Car Talk and having a healthy interest in cars. Best of luck.

@UncleTurbo wrote:
Trust me you need time behind the wheel before you get your dream car. No matter how skilled you are, the learning curve is all about what the other drivers sharing the road with will do. Before you learn how to drive fast you have to learn to drive defensively.

This was my first reaction as well. Many of us on this board either were ourselves or knew young car enthusiasts who were blinded by vehicle acceleration and speed, just like @SupraCooper2860. Now we’re all too aware of the risks.

I know I’m not alone when I say that “need for speed” recipe came close at times to almost killing or permanently injuring me. Several of my friends weren’t so lucky.

@UncleTurbo. Some of the OP’s selections aren’t exactly fire breathers. The most potent U.S. Spec 240SX made all of 155 HP. The most powerful BMW E30 (non M Mode) made about 160 HP, A non turbo 300ZX made 160-222 HP depending on year.

OK. But, the A80 (1992-2002) kinda was. In-line 6, 3L, with the turbo version producing 320HP, and that can very easily be upped with some software magic.

I’m with ya, I always loved the old Supra twin-turbo’s myself. Always wanted one - never got one. I don’t care for the A80 style, though, I wanted the A60, in a pinch, the A70 would do. Neither of those can you find for a reasonable price, unless they’re basket cases.

If you want to get a JDM (for the uninitiated is “Japanese Domestic Model” (or Japanese Domestic Market, but not many use that one), work on it, play with it, and NOT drive it on the streets, I say go for it. There’s nothing wrong with having a track car, but insurance won’t touch you for anything you’ll be able to afford for a while.

I have no way of knowing your plans. The advice about the Hylander is spot on. That’s worth a lot more. If you sell it for such a low price, let me have first crack at it. :wink:

OP, you’re 14 right now. In the two years until you’re street-legal, you might find your priorities in cars change…say, less interested in a small, sporty car, and more interested in a car with a spacious rear seat :wink:

Learn to drive in a car that's forgiving of mistakes; transition to the car you love around 18.