Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

My first car- airbags question

Huh. That’s interesting, just did a quick search for a 4th gen and a good chunk of them are hovering in the double digits range for some odd reason. Except for one, which is $6400.

Edit: Opinions on this one?

Damn thing has approximately 104k miles, I don’t think that’s too good. But I don’t know much vs, your guys experiences

1996 = LT-1, with 104K Not as good a choice as a 1998 with an LS-1 with 104K

A help making a choice might be to compare insurance cost for the car you are looking at.

1 Like

I’ll tell you what a fun car is, a 2000 to 2002 Saturn SL. The insurance on them is dirt cheap, they get great gas mileage, the SL2 has plenty of power but the SL1 gets better mileage. With the right tires, they can stick to the road like a cat on a curtain, and that is the OEM size tires, but I wouldn’t recommend fancy wheels or oversize tires.

They can be found cheap, they had a high safety rating for their day, and if you ding it up, you haven’t lost much. A good car to learn on. And the simple 5 speed models are very reliable. Warning, prior to 2000, Saturn"s had a reputation for excessive oil consumption.

As you gain more experience buying cars, you are going to develop a paranoia about buying a car that someone else modified. I’ve only done that once - and it was modified by a friend of mine, which means there was no question about whether or not he knew what he was doing.

People who modify their cars take shortcuts all the time. Some of those shortcuts are just annoying. Others are a ticking timebomb waiting to set the car on fire.

This is why people often get very surprised when they discover that the $10,000 car that they sunk $15,000 worth of mods into is only worth $5,000 – no one wants to assume the risk of the person having been an idiot and screwed up the car.

Great example. A friend of mine bought a right-hand-drive CRX, sight unseen from 1,000 miles away. Got it home to find out the idiot previous owner had imported the front half of a Japanese CRX, and welded it to the back half of a US CRX to get around import restrictions. Did a garbage job and the car wasn’t straight, the wiring was junk, and he ended up selling it for a 5-figure loss. That’s the kind of stupid you’re risking getting yourself into if you buy a car that someone else modified. Much better to buy a stock car and modify it yourself - then you either know it was done right, or have no one to blame but yourself if it’s not. :wink:


It is refreshing to see a teenager ask for advice & be willing to accept it unlike most teen’s who think they know it all.Agree with barkeydog on the insurance.

1 Like

Gee my first car at 17 was a $125 Morris Minor, then a $500 VW bug. I’m thinking air bags aren’t going to help much when its wrapped around a tree. The kid across the hall in college had a brand new GTO that his rancher folks bought for him and he would often brag about running it past 100 mph. No air bags in 1966 so he would have been toast.

It certainly is.

To everyone else replying, thank you for the insight! You basically saved me from a stupid decision to pick up a 35 year old racey car that still can’t talk to me and jump over other cars in this day and age ;D But thanks! You people are pretty helpful. I hope to come back to this forum years later with pictures of my car, and hopefully a Trans Am
I’ve converted into my childhood hero KITT! :smiley:


Agreed. I had a 94 saturn sedan with a manual 5 speed and my buddy had an SLT2 (I think it was either 2000 or 2001, but I can’t remember) also with a manual 5 speed. They were such fun cars to drive, they were easy to work on, and yes mine ate a little more oil (although it wasn’t excessive, maybe 1-2 quarts in between changes at 5k), but that gets you into a good habit of checking your oil weekly.

No worries, good question. A little history first. For my first two cars, around your age, I bought a Fiat Spider and an Opel GT , both 2 seater sports cars. The first one I gave back to the seller, his wife made him sell it, but he missed it too much. He looked so sad, so I gave it back. The second one leaked so much oil on the driveway my dad forced me to return THAT one to the seller. So my first two cars, I owned for a total of about 2 weeks. For me the car-thing wasn’t starting well.

Here’s what the Fiat looked like

And the Opel

I mentions this b/c I know where you are coming from. I think if you want a Trans Am, that’s what you should buy. But make sure you understand what you are getting into: higher insurance rates and higher repair costs for example. Suggest to ask your insurance company for quotes on that car compared to a Civic. And do a little research on typical repair cost, find out how much it costs to replace the water pump on that car vs a Civic in the same used-car price range. The alternator. The radiator. An oil and filter change. Stuff like that. But if you’ve done your cyphering, & you can afford it, that’s the car you want, I think you should go for it.

Safety-wise, sure, it doesn’t have all the safety features of newer cars, but it is still a pretty safe car. Safety has much more to do with you and the manner in which you drive than the car’s safety features. Give some thought on whether it matters much whether you make the next light or not. If you don’t make it, what, delayed 2 minutes. Sheesh, you can make that 2 minutes up by taking a slightly shorter shower tomorrow morning. If safety is a concern, make sure your car is in good repair, your eyesight is 20/20, and just plan to go a little slower & take a little longer to get where you are going is all. A light foot on the pedal in other words. Will save you in operating costs too.

Pontiac Trans Am are common topic in Hot Rod magazine, so you might want to take a look at some back issues at your local library. Especially pay attention to the Hot Rod to the Rescue section, where they diagnose and fix older cars like that and explain how they do it. Best of luck. And you are spot on about manual transmission. Don’t compromise on that at all.

Oh, one more thing, assuming you are a teenage boy. If you think a Trans Am will attract some cute co-eds in your direction, you may well be right about that. My advice on that point: When those cute coeds approach you and your car , hang on tightly to your wallet … :wink:

I do appreciate the little positivity here. See, thing is, I certainly do want the Trans Am if nothing else, but considering for my age I’m just a new driver, I don’t know how wise it is to be driving a 35 year old racey car around here until I’ve gained some years of experience. Doesn’t mean I can’t buy it of course, it just comes to down to the fact that 1) it’s 35 years old, expect a lot of repairs and as you said insurance rates and 2) Probably not the safest for me right now. But again, at the end of the day its me and my parents decision. So for a better alternative I’m looking for a Firebird Formula right now. Thanks for the tips though!

The Firebird Formula is just as fast as the Trans Am, just with less spoilers. The insurance problem is the same as is handing a V8 coupe to an inexperienced driver.

Expect to wreck your first car. My personal experience says this WILL happen. Better to wreck a cheap low horsepower 4 cylinder car than a V8 coupe. You will wreck it at a slower speed and more likely survive. Hate to splash cold water on your dreams but we want you to live a long and happy life.

Agree. I used to road race a 1992 Saturn SC2, the twin cam coupe. It handled very well and was fast enough. The oil consumption problem was valve seals. Fairly easy to replace or just pull the head and get seals and a valve job at the same time.

hey OP, look what’s obtainable for $17,000:

And it has airbags. Just sayin’. :wink:

Aw man. That sucks to hear. I mean I’m not gonna race in the streets obviously but it being a fast car still poses a risk for me no doubt. Would still love to find a car similar in looks I guess but more slower and cheaper.

@shadowfax Good deal, but I’m in New Jersey. Haha.

A new teenage driver has no business with an old rear wheel drive vehicle in an area where there is snow, period. Do your parents even have a clue of the dangers that new drivers have?

I disagree, strongly disagree. They handle so poorly on snow that the first time a teenage driver finally experiences the limit of traction on snow or ice, he or she will be in a larger vehicle and the loss of control will be at a much lower speed. How can that not be a good thing?

Almost any driver who drives on snow or ice IS going to lose control. It may not result in an accident and if they are lucky, they may even regain control. Most will lose control several times before they finally figure out when they are approaching the limit.

As for an 83 Trans Am, their 0-60 times are probably slower than or on par with a 2000+ Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. But they are still a gas hog, insurance pit and maintenance nightmare. Maybe a 96+ Crown Vic or similar would be a good starter car. Still like the 2000+ Saturn SL but maybe for after wrecking the Vic.

Have you begun to look at insurance rates in NJ for somebody your age?
The rate will automatically be very high, but if you factor a car with a very large engine–and almost no modern safety equipment–into the mix, the cost is likely to be…astronomical.

When I was first driving in snow, I went out to my schools parking lot when there were a few inches of snow and tested the limits of what i could do. Turning, stopping. going, all with almost bald snow tires. I believe that anyone who has to drive in snow should do something similar and find the limits of their vehicle somewhere safe and not on the interstate. Because of doing this, I have been able to drive safer and defensively, and the only mistakes I have made since were once I started to slide towards a curb at very low speed (8mph), but was able to correct and counter steer towards a driveway. I also slid through a stop sign in the middle of nowhere, but you have to learn from your mistakes, and had no incidents after those.

Same. A cop pulled in and asked me “what the blue hell” I was doing. I explained I was learning how to control my car in a slide. “Nice! Carry on.”