Never drove, what sort of car should I get?

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Hi Eric! Found your website through and I think it’s awesome. I will try my best not to be a clover as I take to the roads. What advice do you have for someone who has practically NEVER driven before, in general but especially in terms of what car I should buy?

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  1. If you want a sports car you might look at a Mazda Miata in good shape. I just became interested in the Honda del Sol but don’t know much more than it’s a Civic in a nice dress. I followed one up the road today (my road :), been driving it for 35 years, mountains, well engineered curves) and I was impressed. May have been the driver though…

    • I amen the Miata idea. These cars are legendary for their handling – and toughness. The only downside is, of course, they’re small. But I will tell you from personal experience with numerous Miatas that even a pretty big guy can drive one comfortably – so long as you’re ok, physically. No arthritis or similar issues.

  2. Excellent suggestions/questions. I’m coming along a little late to the conversation, but I’ll throw in my ever depreciating $0.02.

    1) I STRONGLY recommend a driving school. I don’t mean a typical brain-dead school run at the local community college to help you get a discount on your insurance. I mean a real driving school. Something like the Bondurant School out by Phoenix, AZ. There are lots of others that may be closer to where you are. You don’t have to do a high performance class, although it wouldn’t hurt. You’ll need to do a beginner’s course first, though, before progressing. Lots of times they have courses that are specifically for that sort of thing. It’s expensive, but you’ll almost immediatley be better than about 95% of the other drivers on the road if you do so, before you ever actually drive your own car very much.

    2) All else being equal, get something small, inexpensive, reliable, and cheap, and especially used (not new). That probably means Japanese economy car, but could also mean a small Japanese truck like a Toyota if you really need that sort of capability. It’ll be decent on gas (especially cars), you won’t care if you ding it or scrape a pole or wall by cutting a corner too tight, and you won’t have to get full coverage insurance if you don’t want to.
    3) Don’t get a big car, a high powered car, or an SUV until you’re ready to move up to that sort of challenge. They all tend to have either higher limits before you lose control OR narrow margins of error (e.g., SUVs). If you need the room of an SUV, get a station wagon or hatchback instead. I’m thinking Subaru, for example, especially an old one. The lower the power, the less trouble you can get yourself into. Plus, it’s kind of fun learning where the limits of a car are located in the handling, accelerating, and braking departments when such limits are not very extreme. You start to appreciate how cars handle and behave much better than in a car that has such high limits that it always does exactly what you ask of it, which describes nearly all new cars, especially mid-sized family cars and up. This trait is a wonderful thing, and something that is truly an advantage of newer cars over older cars of the same style, but most people never approach the limits of newer family cars and don’t know what to do when those limits are breeched. An older car can be just as safe, but you just won’t have to push it very far in spirited driving to approach the limits and learn about car handling.
    4) Manual transmission vs. auto – I think this is probably the least important decision you’ll make. I love driving manual transmission cars. I wish everything came with it as an option. But I like to drive, not ride. There’s more potential for driver error with a manual, but more potential for driver fun as well. It’s also a very useful skill and can help you look like a hero when some friend’s car needs to be moved and you’re the only one that knows how to drive a stick. If you do go with a manual transmission car, make sure you have a friend who can at least teach you the basics OR that you take a driver’s course that includes this sort of training. Lots of folks think they know how to drive a stick, but few actually know how to do it properly. I do not exempt myself from that statement.

    Just get something and drive it ’til the wheels fall off. Your first long-term car is usually quite memorable and turns out to be a blast for most folks, if you like cars.

  3. A good high performance driving school would be the first thing if youve not driven much before.

    Id get a cheap car, any Japanese car with a manual transmission, or a 93-97 Thunderbird or Cougar, they are cheap, and reasonably dependable if they were maintained.

  4. … Or, what do you intend to do with the car?
    I.e. what is your highest priority?
    Go fast?
    Haul stuff?
    Maintain and fix it yourself?

    For many People their first cars were beaters because it was likely they would crash them in a fender-bender. Get the nicer car when you’ve learned how not to drive.

    ~my two copper Cents.


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