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New car to work on, what should I get?

I recently commissioned in the US Navy and will be moving down to Pensacola where I will have an apartment with it’s own garage! That means its time to buy a car and get a tool set going.
I have taken 3.5 years of auto mechanics in high school so I feel very comfortable turning a wrench, but I am no expert. (I can do everything from oil change to transmission switch, but I don’t have the tools or confidence to do any rebuilding of an entire engine). So what I’m looking for is a car that is going to be easy to do my own work on but nothing too old.
My criteria right now is about $15000-$20000 and manual.

So what are your suggestions for a car, or things I should look for in a new car, that can easily be worked on and is in the 15,000-20,000 range?

First, congratulations on your commission. Thank you for your service. Now about your car.

I admire your willingness and determination to do your own maintenance and light repair. But I suggest that seeking an easy-to-fix car should be far down on your list of priorities.

Most of your DIY tasks will be equally easy on all cars or equally difficult. And would you turn down a great deal because of a rumor that replacing a headlight takes over an hour on this particular model?

Make your selection based on the same criteria that everyone else uses. That done, then check the forums for any special problems associated with that model.

Finally, we note that there are many new cars in your price range. They all come with warranties of 3 years or longer. As long as the warranty is in effect, you may not need to make a single repair yourself.

Agree, a new car will just require regular maintenance for several years to come. You’ll want to get a repair manual, and maybe a code scanner, but this would apply regardless of the car you get.

Are you wanting a used (new to you) car, or a new car?

$15 or $20K should result in a vehicle that requires very little in the way of maintenance and repair…

I hope your stay in Pensacola is pleasant, but knowing the Navy, you will not be there long enough to invest in a major car hobby…How about something you can sell quickly, like a Mustang GT convertible…

Haha yea a GT would be nice. And you guys are right about a new car not really needing the service…thats the problem I want to do work. I will probably be looking for things to be wrong with it just to have an excuse to take it apart :slight_smile:
I am currently looking at a used car and a little more power than a new car of that price may have.
And still if my car doesn’t have problems I can maybe make some money fixing my friend’s cars.

Not to worry…once you get down there, you’ll want a vehicle capable of towing a boat, and you’re also going to want to spend a lot of time on the water. I speak from experience :slight_smile: From the sounds of it (and what I know about NAS Pensacola), you’ll also be in training, and your free time should be out chasing girls (there are LOTS of pretty ones down there), touring, and hanging out with buddies. Get a good car you don’t have to maintain, and enjoy your time down there. You’ll get crappy assignments where you’d rather work on a car than watch the grass grow. Save the car work for those.


If you want to do work come to my house, it seems to be more to do here than I can keep up with!!!

Most anything you buy in the $15 - 20,000 range will require little more than the occasional oil change. What fun it that?

If you want something to tinker with, buy an old British sports car. Something from the 50s or 60s. That will give you an excuse to buy LOTS of tools and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to take things apart and put them back together again.

Florida has the perfect weather for a car of this sort, except for the rain, which the tops on most British sports cars won’t keep out. But that’s part of the fun.

An older Itialian car, such as a Fiat or Alfa Romeo, would provide nearly the same opportunity for wrenching.

The only problem I see with your plan is; what will you do with the tools and the car when you get reassigned to somewhere else?

Here’s the perfect car for Florida: Caterham Super 7. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, and constantly in need of something.

“The only problem I see with your plan is; what will you do with the tools and the car when you get reassigned to somewhere else?”

He’ll put the tools in the car and drive to the next duty station, or sell the car and ship the tools. Or ship the car and the tools. Or sell the car and the tools. Or some combination thereof.

I’ve heard that there are people in the military who own things. Is that an urban myth?

If you’re only interested in doing upkeep and repairs, not modifying for performance, get what you want. Learn to work on whatever you end up getting. It’ll all be the same in the end unless you end up with something mechanically bizarre like a Citroen DS. If you plan on modifying it, older cars are easier because their computers don’t freak out at the smallest change.