Hooniverse Asks: What Piece of Car Advice Do You Wish You Had Gotten Sooner?

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and for the longest time I thought that meant it was okay to look at sexy butts. I now know that it means to learn from your mistakes, but honestly who of us would rather not make those mistakes in the first place? 
When it comes to spending the kind of money it often takes to buy and maintain a car, bike or truck, that foresight is especially important. There are times however when we need to make a decision based on the information at hand, only later to learn that information was incomplete or inaccurate. Have you ever been jabbed by fate’s fickle finger, having bought or done something of a questionable nature to a vehicle only to be told after the fact information that would have stopped you in the first place? What is the piece of car advice you wish you had heard sooner?
Image: BBC

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65 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Piece of Car Advice Do You Wish You Had Gotten Sooner?”

  1. GTXcellent Avatar

    Don’t ever sell your first vehicle. No matter how big a P.O.S. it happens to be, you’ll have enough sentimental attachment that no amount of money can replace it. 25 years later I still wish I hadn’t sold my ’70 CST 10 (especially given the ridiculous prices on ’67-’72 Chevy trucks)

    1. Smaglik Avatar

      I feel the same way about my 86 Nissan Sentra, though it’s doubtful it would have survived through the 90s, as it was already falling apart, and worth mid 3 figures in 1992.

      1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
        Wayne Moyer

        I’m fine with having gotten rid of my 86 Sentra. Which was my first car. I bought another 86 Sentra later on actually and it was another POS.

        1. Smaglik Avatar

          Mine was falling apart. Nevermind the rust, we’d had to install a switch under the dash to turn the starter as the ignition switch would not, the wipers would come on of their own accord, on a road trip, the driver’s seat simply broke, and fell back. I think it was one of those cars in the final run up to 15,000 cars in Gung Ho.
          On a 6 year old car…

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            Pretty much in line with my experience with Nissan. Crappy parts, beer can quality and thickness of most of the metal, nightmarish seats. Got to say, the Primera wagon I had was good to drive though.

        2. crank_case Avatar

          Likewise, but my second was a 205 GTI, and now they’re going for up to €25k, it would have been a better investment than most things.

          1. Spin Avatar

            There’s a reason I removed all the badging and the front seat from my 01 Sentra. It may have been my grandfather’s last car, but it was rusting away and could not be saved.
            The chair will live on as my computer chair.

    2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      I agree with the concept, but am more pragmatic about the implementation. I would like to have another of my first car, but I have the means to get a much better example of it now. I haven’t done this for my first car yet, but I’ve bought up a handful of better examples of things I once owned. (Guitar, amp, BMX).
      I have nostalgia for my first car, but I’d rather have a nice Spitfire than a monument to my sub-par bodywork skills at age 16.

    3. Top-dead-centre Avatar

      My first vehicle was a $100 1972 Ford Pinto, 4-speed manual. It was white with a blue interior, and a Sparkomatic cassette deck. It was a gutless, terrible, awful car. The hatchback had to be held up with a broomstick or it’d randomly fall on your hand or head or whatever was in its way. Big highway hills meant praying you’d make it to the top. It died on a roadtrip from Amherst MA to Burlington VT, and two friends and I pushed it three blocks to the junkyard because if we had paid for a tow we wouldn’t have had enough money for the bus home. The junkyard guy gave me $20 for the car, so we had pizza while waiting for the bus, which sure beat going hungry.
      I have zero sentimentality for it, though I wouldn’t mind being able to be 20 years old again…

    4. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      I gave my first car to my best friend’s younger brother when he turned 16. He drove it for years, added Torq-Thrust wheels and put a big block in it, really learned to be a gearhead with that car. It was a rusted ’71 Skylark; I’m totally fine with that legacy.

    5. Alff Avatar

      No regrets whatsoever that I didn’t keep that Ford Courier. Every truck I’ve had since has been far superior.

    6. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      Maybe I’d feel the same if my first vehicle was a Chevy or GMC pickemup truck of that era, but not once since selling my ’72 Cutlass in 1989 have I had the slightest twinge of fond sentiment or nostalgia for it. (The kid who bought it used it for a season of demolition derby & enjoyed the hell out of it, which I appreciate.)

    7. outback_ute Avatar

      My sentimental attachment wasn’t that strong and sold for $300. I had a twinge of regret many years later when the historic rally club started a series for standard cars, where I could have used it. But realistically, I don’t have space to keep it and not using cars is the worst thing you can do with them, as I have a daily reminder with my ute when I walk past it.

    8. mdharrell Avatar

      After approximately fifteen years of ownership and nearly constant use, I avoided any regrets that might have arisen from the sale of my first car (a 1959 Ford Custom 300 four-door sedan) by giving it away instead. Problem solved.

    9. njhoon Avatar

      When I think of my 70 Chevelle, 69 nova, or the 67 442 convertible I turned down because it needed a top…

  2. Smaglik Avatar

    Don’t buy new unless you can stick with the vehicle for many years. I bought several new cars during those first career years where I thought I had money before realizing that my personality for cars is not one predicated to long term ownership.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I was sort of the opposite, I was told NEVER buy new. But later discovered that in many cases it does actually make sense to go with the new model. But as you stated, the big thing is only if you are going to keep it 10-12+ years, 150k+ miles.

      1. Smaglik Avatar

        What you described is not me. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and getting something ‘new to me’ every couple years. Living in a state that doesn’t assess sales tax on private party auto purchases is simply an enabler.

        1. P161911 Avatar

          That’s what the 2nd or 3rd car is for. I went through a phase of trading vehicles on Craigslist about 10 years ago. I went through about 4 vehicles in less than 2 years. Traded 1987 Bronco for a 1988 BMW 750iL, traded that for a 1979 Ford Ranchero, traded that back to the same guy for a 1984 Chevy K-10. Then bought a 1988 F-150. Then we had our first child.

          1. Smaglik Avatar

            Agreed. I’ve had my x3 for 4 years, and have no plans to sell. Competent, fun to drive, been reliable. No urge to part. It’s the other ones than move around a lot.

  3. neight428 Avatar

    You can have time, money and a nicely finished project car, but you can only have two at any given point.

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      Sounds like the vehicle-specific corollary to “fast, cheap, good – pick two”.

      1. neight428 Avatar

        Indeed. I first heard it as “Light, strong, cheap” but same concept of any two together being mutually exclusive of the third.

  4. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    Do you know that classic itch you get in your twenties for cars that are only fifteen years old? That car that’s only $1500 at that point? Yeah don’t ignore that itch. That car will be come prohibitively expensively late on. Spend an extra $500 or $1000 and get a better version of it. Heck if you can’t afford insurance just find a garage to drop it in for $50 a month or a place at your parents until they force you to pay for that garage.
    This message is from all of us who are in our forties who are looking back at the cars we didn’t buy in our twenties at $1500 that are now worth 20k.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      That garage is 12kUSD in 20 years, plus purchase price – that’s the minimum selling price inlcuding 20yo fluids an seals (i.e. minimum maintenance).
      There are not many ~2kUSD cars that made that jump to 15+ kUSD since 1997. Alas, if you started with a 20kUSD car in 1997, your chances to get a return on that garage fee are much higher.

      1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
        Wayne Moyer

        When I was in high school in 90-91 most of the kids drove 2nd gen F-Bodies or big block Novas and Malibus because they were dirt cheap and gas was expensive. Oh and Monte Carlos were also popular. The 2nd Firebirds and those Nova’s and Malibus are worth a fair amount now. I understand what you are saying but it’s hard to go get those cars now when you watch the auctions.

      2. pj134 Avatar

        On my list of cars I should have pulled the trigger on for less than $1000 that made this jump: Grand Wagoneer, Datsun 510, E30.
        There are more, I just can’t think of all of them. Also, this is since I started driving so within the past 11 years they’ve made that jump.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          When I was at school a guy bought 3 1970s Falcon hardtops for fairly cheap. Now people are asking $5k for the rustiest heap of junk (these things rust at an Olympic level), and a good running car would be more like $25k minimum. Similar for late 70s Torana hatchbacks or even the first gen 2-doors.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      I’m only 15 years removed from buying my first car, and as much as a lot of the stuff I would have wanted then is still attainable (or stuff I know now that I should have wanted then), I have no where to store it, and enough financial obligations to make it irrelevant (also, rust and time have claimed plenty). There’s definitely part of me that wishes someone encouraged me to be a little more stupid (or the right kind of stupid) as a teenager.

    3. Alff Avatar

      Forget the $1500 cars – set your sights a bit higher. I remember when a nice air cooled 911S was a $12-$15K car, a Dino $20-$25K and the nicest Bandit T/A in town might set you back six grand.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        My point precisely.

    4. Lokki Avatar

      Sadly, that $1500 becoming $20K is only breaking even after inflation rather than appreciation in value.

      1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
        Wayne Moyer

        Well in 1991 I could buy a loaf of bread for a nickle and a car for $300.
        Well I could actually buy the car for $300. I bought a couple back then.

    5. crank_case Avatar

      This is the flipside to “wish I’d hung onto my 205GTI” – I’ve had a few cars that were bought for very little that would be worth multiples of that now. It’s just a shame I was never quite able to stretch to an R32 Skyline – that ship has totally sailed now.

  5. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    Know when to cut bait on your project car. If it is no longer worth it to you, give someone else a chance.

  6. nanoop Avatar

    20 years ago?
    For a successful advice, you need two, one who giveth, and one who taketh.
    If I had tried to read “Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic” 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have finished that boring self-adulation of this BMW smarthat. Today, I think it’s hilarious, and on every page I’m like “Haha! Yeah right exactly!”

  7. engineerd Avatar

    Houses are nice, but a big garage full of cars is better. Don’t buy the house. Buy a garage. Rent a tiny apartment because all you’ll do there is sleep. Live in the garage.

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      A guy in my town (I assume it’s a guy) has a house that looks like a giant barn from the outside. The entire ground floor is a garage big enough for 4 cars and a medium size motor home. 2nd floor is living space. He’s a frikkin’ genius.

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        This sounds very similar to my house. 1600 sqft* of garage on the ground floor. Upstairs is about 1200 sqft. 2 bed, 1 bath.
        *40X40, but not all 1600 sqft is usable space, since the mechanicals take up some floor space.

    2. njhoon Avatar

      I really wish someone had told me this! I have had the opportunity to purchase two places and passed both times….I still kick myself

    3. Lokki Avatar

      I heard this advice as
      “You can sleep in your car, but you can’t drive your house”

      1. nanoop Avatar


    4. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      planning for the long term, i bought a small house on a corner lot with one car attached garage. later built a two holer as that was the city’s limitation on the lot. added an rv pad and we are happy but not satisfied. needs a barn for sure

  8. crank_case Avatar

    There’s always another car out there, if you even get a gut feeling about a car, just walk away, you’ll find another one.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      I would probably expand this to say don’t buy the first car you see. The only time this doesn’t apply is if the car really is that rare or unusual that you will never find another one. Even then, think carefully.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        What if the first car you see is a good un? 😉 ..I guess the danger of course with some cars is you don’t know what a good one feels like. A lotus elise handles so well that you could be blown away by a ropey one, you need a good one for comparison. If buying a rare car, try get a spin from an existing owner who isn’t selling I guess. MX5s/Miatas can vary wildly in how they feel having had three and driven more, but you only know that after you’ve driven a few in different condition/spec.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          Then seeing a second/third one will make it clear the first one was good. Good idea on trying one not for sale to compare, the other thing is bring an expert/owner with you, or even a friend to temper overenthusiasm!

  9. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    Spring for the high-end trim. Modern luxury features are typically worth it.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      We recently did this. After coming to grips with the wall of buttons in the center console in our new-to-us Pilot Touring, I think I agree.

    2. crank_case Avatar

      Safety features too, hard to imagine that there’s a box you can tick when buying a car that basically says “Magic feature that can apply the brakes to stop you killing the pedestrian you didn’t notice and living with a lifetime of guilt” and someone just thinks “nah, I’ll spring for 19″ wheels instead”

  10. mdharrell Avatar

    Don’t buy someone else’s disassembled project. Just don’t.

    1. Victor Avatar

      Unless you have another like it,even then it is a gamble.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        I wish you all the best but I stand by my original statement.

      2. cap'n fast Avatar
        cap’n fast

        in this case a straight up trade is equatable. just so everyone is happy is what counts.

  11. P161911 Avatar

    If you see the right car, buy it, don’t wait. If the deal isn’t working out, walk away, don’t force it to work. I have been on both sides of this.
    My 1977 Corvette was the first one that I looked at in 1990, wasn’t sure about the deal, hadn’t seen enough of them. Went back to get it a week later, it was gone. Ended up buying it 6 months later for several hundred dollars more from the buyer after looking a a dozen or two other Vettes.
    My 1996 Z3, M roadster replica. Left a deposit, guy called back that he had taken a higher offer (I was paying the asking price). I put up a big stink, had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get the funds together. Didn’t need the car, just wanted it. Should have walked away. Had to put a new engine in it within 400 miles, needed a another new head within a year. Dumped about 150% of the purchase price in the car in less than a year and sold it for a few grand less than I paid for the car less than 18 months later.

    1. JayP Avatar

      “If you see the right car, buy it, don’t wait. If the deal isn’t working
      out, walk away, don’t force it to work.”
      I’ve been on both side too… walked away from a several cars but the one that seemed to be the pain to buy was only shades of things to come.

  12. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

    More steering angle and brake will not get you around that corner.

  13. Alff Avatar

    Always check that the gasket came off with the oil filter.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      I learned that lesson on a friend’s car. Fortunately we noticed the problem within a few seconds of starting it, while still within the “just an awful mess” stage.

      1. Alff Avatar

        I wasn’t so lucky when I hurriedly completed the 500 mile break-in oil change on the rebuilt engine in my Mustang. Long story short, I did another break-in oil change 500 miles later.

  14. outback_ute Avatar

    Don’t let a car linger. If you are struggling to find the time/skill/inclination to get a job done, pay the man, and get the car back on the road to enjoy it. Otherwise years may pass!

  15. I_Borgward Avatar

    If your heart is set on a particular model car but you live in the rust belt and can’t find one locally that hasn’t corroded halfway to oblivion, figure out a way to find a specimen elsewhere. Grab a trailer and take a trip to where they don’t use road salt, find a buyer’s agent, fly-and-drive, whatever it takes. It may be a hassle to get it home, but in the long run it’ll be cheaper than shelling out for body work.
    Unless a given car is rare or particularly hard to find, you’re always ahead buying one with the body in the best condition possible. Engines and mechanical bits are far easier and cheaper to deal with body damage. Besides, unless the bodywork is done with skill and attention to detail ($$$), they’re never the same again once they’ve been mangled or rotted out.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      As someone that lives in a damp climate, rust is the biggest enemy. It’s way easier to get an engine rebuilt than really good bodywork done.

  16. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    doctors advice was to get off the motorcycle.
    hmmm.. really liked the mustangs but they are a very young persons car(noisey, rough, not really comfortable for greyhairs) so i looked and listened.to advice from a trusted source.
    found a 98 mark viii for sale or trade. he was looking for a bike. guess what i did. fixed air suspension, 3.73 gears in the irs, turtrac differential as the tracloc was not even an option in the car, installed a decent radio and speakers, a windshield, 2.50″ dual exhaust.. runs fine. stealthy. not really fast but quick. corners much better than mustangs i have had. 26mpg/18mpg.
    a lot to be said for good and bad advice. worst advice is advice not heard.