Reader Question: The $1,000 Car … or a New Clutch?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Zane asks: As the title says, I thought of a fool proof way to learn manual that’s relatively cost effective and you’d only lose $100 or so if you count gas; The $1,000 Craigslist Civic.

Obviously, it’s not a new daily driver, it’s not the end all to be all. It’s basically you buy it for $1,000 cash (might be $1,300 before negotiation), drive it for a few weeks/months and then flip it, again just losing $100 or so on gas.

What do you think of that idea, good or no?

My reply: I think a clutch is a lot cheaper than a car!

Moreover, it’s my experience that one can teach a newbie how to drive stick without burning up the clutch. I’ve taught probably a dozen kids so far and the vehicles were still perfectly drivable after these kids learned how to drive them.  I can’t recall any needing a new clutch, though service life was probably shortened in some cases.

In any event, a clutch job is much less expensive than buying a thrashed old car – which is likely to have an already- thrashed clutch, too. Plus everything else. Then factor in all the costs associated with titling and registering and getting emissions/safety certified.

Also, today’s beaters are not like yesterday’s.

Any car you can buy today for $1,000 is likely to be a candidate for the recycling yard – or the service garage.

25 years ago, a drivable beater purchased for the equivalent money could be driven for a couple of years or more without having to spend twice what it cost to buy to keep it running.

But beater modern cars – any cars priced in the $1,000 or so range are likely to need another $1,000-$2,000 of parts and labor to be made drivable and then more ongoing to be kept drivable.

I think it’s sounder policy to buy a $2,500 car in sounder overall shape that needs less to just get in and drive and is less apt to hit you with a huge expense within the first year of ownership.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I’m with you eric, it doesn’t take any time at all to teach manual. I taught many women back in the 60’s and my wife in the 70’s and even taught her relatively easily to shift a big rig. I taught her first and foremost, the clutch is for starting and using if you have to come to a complete stop. She’d muff an shot now and then but nobody is born knowing hot to do anything but I think everyone can be taught. It’s not rocket science.

    Probably the best thing a newbie can be taught, is how to change a tire. I got one already knowing how since that was part of her being able to drive a car. Can’t change a flat tire, you can’t drive was her mother’s motto. Damn, I do miss her mother.

  2. An old Volkswagen is a great car to learn stick on, the clutch is soft and the car is light; makes it easy to start out. I learned on my dad’s ‘65 VW which I later got to own. Was a fun car to drive, wish I still had it 🙁

  3. Thanks Eric

    Time to reformulate my idea then. Still, for the price of an hour at a driving school that teaches stick, you pay for a months worth of gas at most before you flip it


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