By on January 27, 2009

When it comes to cars, nothing is more expensive than an education. A bad owner. A neglected model with expensive problems. Or even a stupid owner with nothing but dreams in their head can easily turn a pearl into Chinese recycled swine. Case in point. I once had a well intentioned mom buy a 1998 Audi A4 from me. The good news? It had over $8000 worth of records over a period of 120,000 miles. The bad news? Re-read the last sentence and add arrogant 16-year-old kid and clueless Mom into the equation. I explained to them the high costs and maintenance involved, referred them to a very good repair shop, and even showed them the owner’s manual stating the next service due. As you already figured out, it didn’t matter.

By the time we were filling out the paperwork, Junior was blasting the speaker system so loud that you could hear it from the inside of our building. Even with the Audi’s and building door closed. Mom blew my advice off quicker than a texting teen and less than 2 months later the turbocharger literally exploded into pieces. $2300 and several Italian style tongue lashings later, a humbled Junior was forced to ditch the German that cost uber-Duetsch Marks in maintenance for a ‘sensible’ Corolla.

But it didn’t have to be that way for Junior or the overspending prior owner.

There are literally thousands of A4 owners who post on various Audi enthusiast sites. If he had taken that base of knowledge. Add a few hours of reading and note-taking. Learn the car’s weak points. Use top quality replacement parts. Throw in a visit to an impound lot and buy a parts car or two to gain experience and parts. Junior could easily have become a true master of his automotive domain. But then again maybe not. Junior hadn’t actually earned his car.

That’s where it should really start. Earning. It doesn’t have to be money. But a first car does have to be earned if it is to be valued. Good grades. A good work ethic. Honesty. Integrity. Devising a budget based on money earned rather than borrowed. These merits aren’t just the flavors of the month despite the cultural and political norms of today. These are universal ideals. When I see folks at the public or impound auctions come as a family with a decent kid whose obviously been well brought up, I go out of my way to help them. I quietly but firmly shoo them away from the junk (even if it’s all junk) and if there is a car that’s been conservatively driven and well maintained. I let them know about it.

It rarely ends there. Most folks looking for a ‘first car’ are not so much shopping for price as they are assurance. Everyone from a first time seller to a decades old dealer should focus on eliminating uncertainty and providing full disclosure. Giving folks the car’s history (Carfax and Autocheck), explaining the strengths and weaknesses of a particular model (they all have them), and providing them with web sites that can give them more in depth information about the car gives these folks the confidence and wisdom they need to make an intelligent decision.

It also makes you (and me) an ally and an asset rather than an adversary. The outcome? Usually we do business. But even if not I’ve received everything from referrals from folks who did buy cars, to free concert tickets and even long-term friendships. As this year draws to a close, feel free to take your automotive wisdom and pass it forward. You’ll be amazed how far it can take you.

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58 Comments on “Hammer Time: An Education...”

  • avatar

    no matter how little maintenance they do. The car shouldn’t fall apart after 2 months. That’s why I (German) drive a Mazda :-)

    Anyway, when you buy a used car you alwys assume the owner did not much maintenance (unless in this case there are receipts to prove it) and you do a lot even if it was redundant. After all, there is always a reason why the owner wants to get rid of that car.

  • avatar

    There should be a cavaeat with this article.

    I love to give advice on cars and help people shop, but I refuse, flat out to recommend a car for someone. I’ll list pros and cons and which brands are good or not, but I won’t give them ideas.

    The reason being, that like you inferred in the article, the buyer should be responsible for the car, that includes choosing it.

    I spend hours reading about cars and learning their “little quirks” to make sure I’m clued up about them. Likewise people should do them same. You don’t buy a house because a friend said it was good, so why should a car, which is the second biggest purchase a person can make, be any different…..?

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    Why do all the dumbass douchebag teens get turbocharged Audi A4s, while I’m stuck in my Civic (not a bad car, just not A4 good) till the insurance rates drop? Life isn’t fair! Graaah!

  • avatar

    My Dad aways said, “You can buy someone elses problems (used) or you can by your own and pay more (new)”.

    I always equated that to “It doesn’t matter how great her body, how beautiful and how intelligent she is, somebody is already tired of her shit!”

    One more comment, Mr. Lang – you are a rarity amoung Car Salesmen. My hat (if I wore one) is off to you!

  • avatar

    At times, though, as with my ’98 A4 2.8 Quattro, even well maintained cars aren’t worth the $1000 worth of tires they sit on.

  • avatar

    no matter how little maintenance they do. The car shouldn’t fall apart after 2 months. That’s why I (German) drive a Mazda :-)

    A turbocharged car? I can think of a dozen ways that a teenage driver can blow up any turbocharged vehicle within a week.

    Never buy a kid an expensive car. Ever. You buy them a pile of junk with a carburetor, a half-dead battery and a full set of tools in the trunk. Let them bust knuckles choking the carb, get burned on jumper cables, and wrestle with frozen lug nuts while changing a flat tire in the driveway. Give the kid a turbocharged car or worse, a reasonably fast one, and they’ll either blow up the engine or the gearbox in an incredibly short period of time.

    If they don’t kill themselves, first.

  • avatar

    I try to impart similar wisdom on n00bs who come into our automotive chat channel. They fall into one of three groups, and I lay it out to them as such:

    1 – rich, spoiled brat. In which case, buy anything, it doesn’t matter, you’ll afford it.

    2 – broke-ass and has no interest in learning even basic automotive skills. This is the most common category, and often come in asking us which unreliable, high maintenence sports car to buy… “I have $10k I really want an old Jaguar–how can I go wrong!?” … To these I recommend the Accords and Tercels and whatnot.

    3 – broke-ass but wants to learn. To these I recommend cars that are easy to wrench on and teach you tons about maintenence and performance. Basically, anything RWD, V8 and American, or earlier V6 Nissans, or simplistic hot hatches like Mk1 and Mk2 Golfs and Mk2/Mk3 Jettas. You save money on the initial purchase if you’re smart, then you spend reasonable amounts repairing and modifying. Anyone who listens to this suggestion and goes “eeeeeh” I immediately refer to #1.

  • avatar

    er oops, that should read “I immediately refer to #2.”

  • avatar

    I really didn’t gain much interest in cars until I was 21 or 22. Thank God my first car (at age 16) was a 1985 Ford Tempo.

  • avatar

    I gave up offering advice on used cars after a friend asked about an Intrepid years ago. He ignored what I said, bought the car and paid for it. When it came time to replace said car he asked me again, this time about a Passat. Again, he ignored my advise, bought the car and is currently paying for it…only this time at a VW dealer which is much more $$$ than the Dodge guys. Oh, and he falls into #2 category above and why I suggested he visit the local Toyota or Honda dealer. Oh well, at least I can say “I told you so.”

  • avatar

    I have always been tempted to talk people into bying the cars that I have wanted myself. This has given me a cold shower or two, so I bite my teeth together when I feel the advisor inside me is waking up.

    Guess what made me careful with what advice I give? In 1980 I talked my dad into buying a Chevy C-10 Pickup – Silverado and everything – with the Olds 350 Diesel engine. In retrospect it could have been a total disaster, but amazingly enough, the Diesel engine lasted while he had it, 15 years. The only serious mishap about halfway thru the ownership was a shot transmission. The 700 R4 was not up to the job of serious farm work!

  • avatar

    I know everything about the e36. I know exactly what the weak points are. What aftermarket parts to use to fix those weak points. What problems to look for. What years to buy.

    I will never buy an e36 or German car again, except maybe a 914 as a cheap toy that does not have to be reliable.

    It’s not worth the annoyance. The Japanese make it better and cheaper.


    Let’s start a Germans who drive Japanese club.

  • avatar

    Essentially, you can put humans into two basic categories.




    Doers – do things. They do think, do try their best, do work hard, do try to learn new things, do have a work ethic and do also have all the quirks and idocincracies of the rest of humanity, but in their own fashion. They’re individuals.

    Users – use other people, and use things up. They are the chicken thieves from times past, the never-do-wells of infamy written about throughout all of human history, the “typical” as I call them, the idiots who always “borrow” things and never return them, expect a free handout from uncle sugar (really, they expect Doers to work FOR them and they, sit around on their asses) and vote accordingly as may be recently seen in our big election, they are the folks who fall for the idiocy of thinking they can afford a $450,000 house on a crap wage by means of a variable rate mortgage, and similarly, think that a used luxury Audi is just the thing – never mind reality, never mind learning to actually think things through, how to take care of anything, maintain anything, drive with care or give a sh!t about anything except – themselves.

    /rant over/

  • avatar

    (I hope Rev Junkie is being ironic…)

    “Give the kid a turbocharged car … and they’ll either blow up the engine or the gearbox in an incredibly short period of time.”

    Not if you did a good job raising them?

    I’d loved cars since I was a toddler, and my dad (no driving ace, but a damn smart guy) took the time to really hammer in both the skills of driving, as well as the responsibility of ownership, or more importantly the responsibility of driving and the skills of ownership.

    When I picked out and paid for my first car out of high school, my dad was fully behind me. Instead of a front drive automatic econobox like everyone else, I found a low-mile 13 year old ’83 Volvo 240 Turbo with a stick (a full-on hot rod compared to Dad’s malaiseomatic V8 Berlinetta)

    No accidents, no surprises. Learned proper wet and winter driving techniques with a manual rear wheel drive no-nanny-gadget car. Got good advice about living with a turbo from a Volvo tech, learned to do my own basic maintenance… even some IPD upgrades here and there. Road trips, hauling band gear, it did it all while even pulling some halfway decent autocross times. My girlfriends’ parents were always happy to see the Volvo badge (overlooking the turbo badge or its inherent waggonness).

    It nickel and dimed me after a few years like all old Volvos do, but even then it was a good lesson learned. I did what I could, put off what I couldn’t, and eventually sold it for what I paid for it after college when the original turbo wore out (around 190k).

    It was the perfect first car for a teenage driving enthusiast, made more perfect by the effort my dad and my mechanic put into my education and understanding.

  • avatar

    My first car was a 1963 Renault Caravelle which my mother had driven for four years. The good news is that it was reasonably reliable for a 1960’s French car, but that did not preclude the new transaxle at 60,000 miles, which no doubt suffered an early demise at the hands of my constant rowing of the gears and teaching myself the essentials of heel-toeing in the process. Unlike today’s cars, however, it was a treasure trove for a teenager; I learned to do brake jobs, “tune ups” (how quaint by today’s standards), exhaust system R$R and shock replacement. The sense of ownership allowed by doing some of one’s work was simply extraordinary. And driving a 51 hp, 950 cc automobile for a few years gave me a lifelong passion for even tiny engines that could (0-60 in 18 seconds).

    The highly “electronified” cars of today don’t offer nearly the opportunity for self-abuse and learning available from those of yesteryear. Nonetheless, how better to learn that it’s a tough world out there than to deal with an intractable and unreliable car. It is also possible that one’s exposure to poor reliability have given the Japanese a leg up in the market today.

  • avatar

    What a great example of the value of having a real salesperson! Helping people make the right decision for themselves might not always result in a sale, but it will certainly build a business as word of mouth spreads people of the rare salesperson who’s in their corner.

  • avatar

    I think that Mr. Lang’s point here is not necessarily to avoid the Audi. But that maybe this particular kid should have researched the car online a bit before jumping in.

    I can think of at least three Audi forums right now, where people share their problems and solutions. Do you see the same issue cropping up all the time on these forums? Well guess what, it will probably break on your car too. Be prepared. Luckily, the German car forum folks tend to be very helpful in detailing the common repairs, with lots of pictures and details.

    Yes, it takes more effort to maintain an Audi than it does a Civic. You need to be prepared for that. There’s a reason that Audi is so cheap to buy.

    My buddy has a 95 Benz E320 wagon. The car looks fantastic. But he does have to spend time on it to keep it running 100%. He accepted that when he was buying the car. As long as he’s wrenching on the car himself, the car doesn’t really cost much to maintain. How expensive would all those man-hours be at the Benz dealer if he wasn’t willing to do the work himself?

  • avatar

    My first car was a Triumph TR4. My father towed it into the driveway and told me that if I could get it running it was mine. A great way to ‘earn’ a car and learn how they worked (or not – Lucas and Stromberg gremlins were hard to banish).

    The added benefit was an enormous appreciation for the non-Englishness of my next car — a Datsun 1600 roadster.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    LOL! I hate to tell you folks this. But I’m not a salesman. Well not a ‘typical’ car salesman. I work as an auto auctioneer and retail cars on the side.

    Then again. With the way the retail side of my business is going, I’m beginning to reconsider that. This month so far I’ve had more sold vehicles (18) than auctions (8). Yesterday three went off the lot that I have, which is only three miles away from my home. I have a part-time employee who handles folks and minor repairs.

    It’s a very busy life and EVERYONE has a story to tell. Yesterday I had at least forty conversations with everyone from the affluent and productive to the parasitic, drove about 250 miles, and forgot to eat until 8:00 PM. Even then I wasn’t finished with my work until 10:00 PM.

    Ten years from now I’m retiring. I’ll have worked the equivalent of thirty years by that point.

  • avatar

    Great article Steven.

    My opinion no one should ever buy their child a nice ride. I’m 46 all of my friends who recieved a new car or some really nice used car from their parents never grew up with a sense of money and value. My parents told me they would never buy me a new car no matter how much money they made or didn’t make. It sent me into shock at the time. (but they did give me a hand me down 10 year old chevy and a college education)

    So I’ve always appreciated anything nice I bought because I had to pay for it. My friends ragged out their vehicles and treated them the same way most welfare recipients treat their income. I think thats why I am so tight fisted and good with money today.

  • avatar

    KatiePuckrik I agree with you. I spend way too much time on the web (or so my girlfriend would say…) researching cars. All cars. Cars that I would never buy, but like to know all about just to serve my automotive curiosity. This lends me as the car guru of my family and friends. They come to me with the model(s) that interest them and I point to multiple sites to read up about the ownership experiences that others have had, reliability, comparison tests, etc. This usually keeps them on the straight and narrow, but of course some are overcome with emotion and buy something totally bad and they regret it later. By that same token, they don’t hold it against me since I did point them in all the right directions and they ignored the research (or never went to begin with.)

    I also COMPLETELY agree with everyone’s comments that kids need to earn their first vehicle… but with cold hard cash, grades and good intentions do not pay the bills (if so, please let me know where I can cash in my old report cards.) Kids need to understand how expensive it is to have the privilege of owning their own car and the consequences of when something breaks. Life isn’t always easy and the parents that don’t teach this lesson are doing a dis-service to their kids.

    Heck, I saved for years to be able to buy my first car when I was 17 – a 10 year old Accord with 86k miles that was more $$ than newer domestics, but I was going for reliability and low cost of ownership. (And the car was in mint condition, granny driven was my guess.)


  • avatar

    Full disclosure works wonders for me in the financial services field, an industry that can almost be as misleading as selling cars, except ignorance is even more expensive.

    This e-book might be a good one for sales people who hate using sales techniques. I don’t follow his lead generation techniques, but I generally like the gist of his message:

    That and the qualification querying from High Probability Selling are the only things I use. Selling is so much easier (and profitable) for both the seller and buyer when you stop using manipulation techniques.

    Oh, and I had hand-me down’s as a teenager: a 1975 Mercury Comet, and a 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. These cars had rust holes the size of soccer balls in the trunk, and were lemons through and through. Our “deluxe” car, a 1984 Toyota Tercel was out of reach. I would have bought the Audi too at that age.

  • avatar

    Dunno if I can agree with the article… are you saying these kids should know more about their car or what…?
    I’m almost 40 and I never *owned* any car because I never really wanted one because it never made sense to me: beyond being horribly expensive to maintain (I’m from Europe) it was always counter-productive/meaningless as well (smallest city I lived had a population of 2M or more, if you drive only on weekends then you can’t drink etc) despite all the summertime ‘cool’ factor on the beach (I always said some of us does not need a car to get the top boobs! :D)
    Now even though I *still* do not want to *own* a car, soon I will have to buy one (our baby is growing etc) and I don’t think I will be much better first owner than a 20-y old would be – perhaps the fact I meticulously research all sorts of things online (this is how I ended up here :)) will help but again, how do we know kids aren’t doing the same thing today? As an IT person I obviously have some advantage in this type of research etc but IMO it’s nothing compared to having to worry about next to nothing except your car and your grades like young punks do… ;)

    PS: as for my daughter (she’s still a baby), I think it’s going to be the same way – unless we move out from our usual urban environment I don’t see the point to buy any car for her before she wants and can afford one (I’ll help if need, of course) on her own. I grew up just fine using mass transit and I don’t plan to leave my urban scenery anytime soon (and people coming to work from LI don’t drive either, there’s an excellent commuter train system here.)

  • avatar

    I think kids should have to take mandatory shop classes in high school. If you’re going to drive a car, you at least need to know the basics about maintenance. My first real car was an ’85 Jetta diesel. My parents did pay for it, but it was a 13 year old car back in 1998, and was pretty much the slowest car you could find aside from a Chevy Sprint. I learned how to drive a 5 speed on that car on deserted roads at 3 AM. I also learned to do lots maintenance items on that car, from replacing suspension to replacing worn out coolant hoses. And like Steven said, there are resources out there to learn about the car you’re driving. Back in 1998, it was the VW Diesel mailing list that taught me a lot. Now in 2009, has an answer to almost everything TDI related. I wouldn’t be driving VW diesels if there weren’t excellent free web resources, and if VAG-COM didn’t exist. It would be too much of a financial risk to have to pay a VW stealer for everything that might go wrong. I can’t believe how many stupid people there are that have no interest in their cars, and don’t want to learn about them no matter what. The internet allows access to so much information, it’s mind boggling that people don’t want to take advantage of it and educate themselves.

  • avatar

    My parents wouldn’t buy me crap so I saved up and got a Miata for my first car. I earned that thing with all my own money, and then I turbocharged it and blew the doors off of all the rich kids whose parents bought them turbo’d Audis and BMWs.
    Not bad for a car built by an 18 year old :-)

    One kid actually bragged about how he had never changed the oil on his 350z (it had 40,000 miles at the time, and his parents got it for him NEW).

    Also I didn’t blow my motor up after two months!

  • avatar

    If people truly made informed and non-bias choices, the Big 2.8 (among some others) would be long gone… bailout or not.

    Case in point: my wife’s dad influenced… no let’s say he decided on her first two vehicles because he only bought a certain “American” brand. Well both of these cars were piles of junk. The last of which I personally got rid of after I had a technician at a Sears in Southern Cali laugh at me how much it was going to cost!

    I then took my wife to a Honda dealer to buy her next car; a Civic. My father-in-law said to me afterwards that she should have bought a Neon instead. (lol)

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    My first vehicle was a $300 ’78 K5 Blazer that required a new engine block (a backfire while cranking managed to break the starter off the block, which destroyed the mounting features for the starter). I spent the weekend of my 16th birthday doing an engine swap on that beast, and the next three years of driving around a two-tone brown-and-tan rustbucket did little to improve my standing in the high-school social order. Ditto that for the Isuzu P’up and Chevy G20 conversion van that I drove during college. The little truck cracked the cylinder head and required a complex repair involving welding and machining; the van eventually required a fresh engine and transmission.

    But I can also state that, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be worth a sh*t as an automotive engineer or car enthusiast had Mommy and Daddy handed over a set of keys to a shiny new car. I’ve learned the art and science of TIG welding, running a mill and lathe, making a wiring splice that’ll last, dealing with a decade’s worth of rust, using a torch around all sorts of flammable objects that I’d prefer not be burned, and taking a cutoff wheel to the floorpan of a car that I love. There’s no way I’d want to trade that experience for the comfort of a warranty and a sequence of never-ending payments.

  • avatar

    My parents wouldn’t buy me crap so I saved up and got a Miata for my first car. I earned that thing with all my own money, and then I turbocharged it and blew the doors off of all the rich kids whose parents bought them turbo’d Audis and BMWs.

    One kid actually bragged about how he had never changed the oil on his 350z (it had 40,000 miles at the time, and his parents got it for him NEW).

    Also I didn’t blow my motor up after two months

  • avatar

    There is something charming about tooling around as a youngun in an old, cantankerous machine that you have to learn the quirks of. It’s part of the process of becoming a “doer”. You learn to lift the door when you close it because of the sagging hinges and spend an evening trying to re-align them, you learn the exact interval to top up the fluid due to that slow leak, and you scrape your knuckles replacing the spark plugs or steering pump or whatever else as you learn the idiosyncracies of working on your particular car. You bond with the machine, learning every noise and rattle by heart, coaxing it along when things aren’t going well, rejoicing when you drive 600 miles without incident. It’s part of the process of being a true enthusiast, and it’s the only way you can own a “cool” car (not necessarily expensive or exotic, just not a Corolla or Civic) on a teenage budjet.

  • avatar

    LOL – You Mr. Lang need to look in the mirror. YOU sir ARE a car salesman!


  • avatar

    I must be talking to the wrong 16-year-olds, if I’m interpreting this correctly.

    I have a hard time expecting any 16-year-old to become an expert on the vehicle he ends up in. I would think that life-responsibility would be better learned at, say, a job, than surfing car forums looking to see what’s going to detonate next on your dubiously-constructed vehicle.

    Is any kid going to truly respect a car until he has to pay for it? As the adults in the equation, perhaps the parents should take responsibility, and guide aforementioned 16-year-old into a car that makes a little more sense. Honestly, she bought her kid a car that explodes if you hit the gas too hard? It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to write the end of that little story.

    What happened to the tried-and-true tradition of putting a 16-year-old into the most embarrassing car possible, and letting him earn the next one? My first car was a 1991 Tracer wagon (a white one…urgh), and it kept me out of a lot of trouble. And after draining my bank account to pay for my Scion, you bet I’ve become an expert in that car’s inner workings.

    I think we should be far more critical of Mom’s stupidity than of a 16-year-old for not immediately morphing into a Sensible Adult the moment he got the keys. If Mom had any brain activity, she’d have kept the Audi for herself, and given Junior her seven-year-old Caravan. Or just bought him the Corolla in the first place.

  • avatar

    Rev Junkie :

    I’m jealous too. When I turned 16 I inherited a 1973 Ford Pinto Squire wagon with a bad steering box and 120000 miles on the clock.

  • avatar

    You know half way through my freshman year of highschool, I sat down on a Monday might and told my parents I wanted a car my senior year of highschool. They let me know that if I planned on having a car by then that I better start working. By the following Wednesday, I had a job. They later also vetoed my first choice of car (’68 firebird convertible) due to New York winters. The whole experience allowed me to realize that if I didn’t take care of my first car, I’d be walking. That was what kept me from doing anything (too) stupid those first years. It also taught my parents not to say just to dismiss me. Now, at 25, I’ve learned their is a time and place for the stupid things and for responsibility.

  • avatar


    Yours had a steering box?

  • avatar

    My second car was a 1973 Pinto Squire Wagon with fake wood paneling and a blown head gasket. I was 16 as well. It was great because it could haul our go-kart or tow our Boston Whaler to the Keys for a single tank of gas each way.

    Stupidly traded it for a 1973 Dodge Club Cab long bed with a 400ci engine. Three tanks of gas each way and double the tank size!

    I love the Pinto and also an Opel Matra wagon that was given to me to get it out of the parking lot. Changed the tire and the fuel pump and put another 40k on it before it rusted out. Kind of cemented my love for the lowly wagon…

  • avatar

    Katie, shabatski –

    Good advice that I didn’t take.

    I too am a sometimes auto guru in my family. My sister was looking for a car after college, and she said she wanted a fun, not too expensive, not too boring, 4WD vehicle. Naturally, I advised her to look a Jeep Wrangler. She loved it, of course, and after week of negotiating a minefield of dealerships she bought one.

    2 years later, she hates it. Too noisy, not enough space, thirsty, unsecure, uncomfortable, and impractical are the usual complaints. The things that she used to like about it (convertible, fun, great in snow, none of her friends had one) just didn’t matter any more.

    And it was my fault. Lesson: don’t advise your friends/family on what they say they want, advise them on what they actually need.

  • avatar

    Robert Farago :

    My bad, I meant rack :)

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Best Read of the day. What a concept, learning and earning the priviledge to own and drive a car. Same applies to housing.

    Very refreshing to read in this day of automatic entitlement mentality and the need for trophies just from showing up. Please forward this one to those “Helicopter” and “Black Hawk” parents you know out there……

    Kudos to this article!

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis


    We have crossed words here before….

    As a middle-aged conservative accountant who did not vote for BHO, doesn’t rely on uncle sugar, considers myself a doer and not a user, and who happens to drive a 12 year old A-6 Quatro Avant (which I got for a steal in Chicago and which has given me more than 30k of trouble-free miles in 3 years), and on behalf of those of us who are perfectly happy with our 4-ringers, I must protest your insinuation that Audi drivers are poseurs.

    Audi’s are sensible, reliable vehicles which, when shopped for carefully and with wide-open eyes, and treated with moderate maintenance and care, can provide safe, comfortable, reliable driving pleasure for as long as your average pedestrian Accord. Which I know, because my last car was a ’92 Accord.

    Just sayin’…..

  • avatar

    @Gary Numan: Thanks for a new term; I had not heard this and it describes intimately what so many of the “entitleds” in our culture seem to experience on their way to multi-million-dollar compensation because mommy and daddy got them the legacy appointment to Yale or Harvard and then ensured that they were taken in by the appropriate den-of-wolves financial institution or high end consulting firm.

    My son has a colleague who is a 24 year-old Harvard MBA; he was relating recently that on graduation from Harvard, six-figure job offers were flying his way, despite the fact that he felt he knew next to nothing about any particular business. His hope was to find a job somewhere and “get under the hood” so he could learn a specific industry well enough to become valuable. I suspect that part of our financial crisis is due to market manipulation and financial instrument creation by Excel wizards with little practical experience, but whose “Helicopter Parents” helped to put them into an influential spot in a particular business.

    When the same parents take a role in giving little Johnny his first M3, the results can be equally dire. The problem is that Blackhawk parents tend to create more Blackhawk parents…

  • avatar
    kid cassady

    My first car was my dad’s 328is, and I took more care of it than he did…but strangely enough, I totally agree with this article. Kids that young shouldn’t have nice cars purchased for them – hell, I don’t think they should be on the road at all until 18. I babied mine but I know I was the rare, odd exception.

    My trial by fire came later, when I decided I needed to purchase my own car and bought a 9000 Aero with a checkered past. After replacing every interior electrical component in the car, it works like a champ. I think every teen should be given a former flood vehicle to fix up as a coming of age thing. Kind of like a Native American spirit quest.

  • avatar

    MichealC,I love that story.

    K.amm, In the US, a car is not a luxury. We do not have public transport and everything is far away.

    I have a few stories that relate to this.

    First I’ll start with myself. When I was 16, my aunt bought me a Volkswagen Fox form one of her neighbors. The car was in horrible condition. It was terribly slow, with an 81hp engine, (and most of them had run away a long time ago), 4-speed manual trans. I can tell you that car built character.

    Being a stupid 16 year old, as soon as I learned to consistently drive the thing, I took it to a friends house. e decided that it was cool to do burn outs all afternoon. After eight of them, the car wasn’t to happy. I couldn’t get it to move. After letting it cool, I was somehow able to get 2nd gear to sort of work. I eventually fixed the clutch, and drove it for a few months. The whole time the battery was in just about dead. To avoid buying a battery that was cost a good portion of the value of the car, I would just take the battery out on cold nights, and put it back in the next morning. Buying a new tire for it, and a couple of other things, I ended up selling it for $200 dollars still needing a CV joint. What I did’ know at the time was that a whole CV axle is cheaper than just a joint and boot. I still regret selling the car, at least that cheep.

    After selling the Fox I ended up buying a VR6 Passat. (yeah, I know, another Volkswagen). At this time, I still somehow believed the hype that a VW is generally a reliable car. It had every service record including oil changes every 3,000 miles, new Michelin tires about 6 months before I bought it, and all major service performed at the dealer. I bought it for $1500, and I should have sold it right after. I did learn a lot about working on cars with this thing though. I eventually became a VW mechanic, so it kind of worked out.

    One of my friends had a similar experience to MichealC. His dad told him he has to buy his own car, but that he will my friend to fix it. He bought an old 3.8 V6 Thunderbird, obviously not running. They investigated, and found catastrophic engine damage. They ended up swapping engines, and he still had the car after we left high school.

    Another kid I knew decided that he was going to buy a VR6 Jetta. After much advise from me against it, he bought the car anyway. He didn’t listen to me about all the maintenance that he would have to do, and ended up giving a local shop specializing in European cars a great deal of business. He would definitely fall into Tigeraid’s #2 category.

    Going back to the 1.8T engine from the article. When I worked for the VW dealer, we had plenty that would come in without oil changes after 20K miles with blown engines, blown turbos, or sludged up oil systems. I love how these owners always point to a sludge problem with these engines, after never changing the oil. There is even a group petitioning VW to get new engines. I have never seen one come in that has oil changes every 6K or less. Sure that maybe a naturally aspirated engine might not sludge up as quickly as the turbo, but come on. Why can’t people just get their oil changed?

  • avatar

    While I do agree that this guy is a spoiled Brat(No kid that age should have a car built past 1993, I should know, I am one) I can attest firsthand to the “excellent” Audi Quality.

    I recieved my full License in October of 2007. I decided after saving up enough money from my then current job I would buy a car.

    I got a 1986 Audi 5000CS Quattro 5-speed. For 1000$ of my hard earned money. Needless to say, I would learn to hate the car. I bought it with 391,613km on it and it was dead by 393,000. The ABS didn’t work. After having to replace the pump and do all the car’s lines(myself) The shitty Turbo blew after taking it to the redline a couple of times. Why drive a car if you can’t drive it hard. It lasted slightly over 2 weeks.

    I then found a well-maintained 1983 BMW 533i 5-speed with 420,000km. Only paid 550$ dollars for it. I can run circles around that crappy Ingostadt piece of garbage. The paint is faded, but who cares? Hardly any rust. Easy to maintain. Has never left me stranded. The ABS actually works(Along with all the other electronic gizmos, I love the 80’s) flawlessly.Fully Loaded with every concieveable option.

    I drive it HARD! I’ve taken it to AutoX’s, and take it to the redline at least 10 times a day. I love driving it.

    Sorry Mr.Lang, but I can sympthize with the mother. I would be pissed if you sold me an Audi too.

  • avatar

    MBella – my friends 1.8T passat has got synthetic oil changes at the VW dealer every 5,000 miles since mile #1 and had sludge at around 50k miles. Since he was religious with the “stealer” oil changes they did replace the engine, but it’s not a problem isolated to those that never change the oil. Also recently did a coil job on engine #2. Needless to say, this friend should’ve kept his non-flashy Intrepid.

    My first “nice” car was a hand-me-down Ford Taurus fleet car of my father’s. Got it at about 110k miles and it was damn nice after the junkers I was driving in high school. It was a graduation/going to college gift, which today friends and I joke about how “poor” my family must’ve been that a near worthless (blue book) 1990 Taurus was such a sweet “gift.”

    All that said, being a poor college student that Taurus was all the car I’d have until I started making decent money. Outside of standard maintenance I never did a thing to it…just treated it well. Even the infamous AXOD tranny never gave me any problems. The pushrod 3.0 liter was dead on reliable and there wasn’t much high-tech in there to falter. Great car for learning maintenance on, cheap to fix, and thankfully required nothing over the 100k miles I owned it.

    Knew other people with hand-me-down Taurii that we complete piles of crap. Difference, little to no preventative maintence, hard driving and no respect for their “cheap” car.

  • avatar

    I never said anything about the coils. They are complete garbage. I am not defending VW, just saying the sludge issues I saw didn’t have oil changes.

    Now as for your friends sludge issue, I have no answer. I can’t even come up with a good guess. The only thing I can think of is the dealership techs no actually doing the oil changes they charged for. As a tech, I can tell you we didn’t make anything on oil changes. I hated doing the longitudinal 1.8Ts, because they took way to long to do, because of the stupid oil filter placement. Or maybe their business was slow, and they decided that they will change his engine, and blame it on sludge. The dealership also might not have used synthetic oil, even when they charged him for it. I have seen some questionable practices at dealerships. Again, I don’t know enough about your friends situation to be able to come up with a good guess.

  • avatar

    I live in a Athens GA, a small college town. Over the past few years I have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of undergraduates driving giant SUV’s that I assume were inherited from their mothers upon high school graduation. A Suburban full of 19 year olds, each talking loudly on a cell phone is a menacing site. When I see this on a weekend night I assume the driver and passengers are drunk, this is just plain scary. My nephew turns 16 soon, I cannot in good conscience put him behind the wheel of a small beater, poor kid is destined for a beater Camry, just like his mom. God bless the beater Camry.

  • avatar

    A friend of a friend of mine got a Corolla XRS from his grandparents who spoiled him to death. Of course, he didn’t like the car and wanted something else, so he abused it. Never changed the oil, etc. At one point, they wired up another friend’s nitrous system to the car, blew the head gasket and a sent a piston into the oil pan and cracking the transmission case. After putting the head back on the car, he limped it into Toyota on 3 pistons (they’d replaced the clutch, which he blew up, a week prior) and a download showed the motor went at 20mph at low RPMs, so it didn’t constitute abuse and he got a new motor under warranty.

    That kind of kid doesn’t deserve anything except an old jeep cherokee, or the old ’94 Mazda MPV I had to endure for many years.

  • avatar


    Change that number to 1998 for the rust belt. It wouldn’t be worth the effort to find a car that old that wasn’t rusted to pieces up in “da Nort”

  • avatar

    “MBella :

    K.amm, In the US, a car is not a luxury. We do not have public transport and everything is far away.”

    Umm but I *AM* in the US – been living here for a *decade* – and *am* using a fine mass transit system (NYC MTA).

    FYI my point was never against driving – I’m against unnecessary *ownership* when it’s clearly not necessary nor beneficial, let alone being more costly.

  • avatar
    black turbo

    When I started driving, I started out with a 92 Saab 9000 with no turbo and a 5-speed. I paid for the car on my own in cash, and blew it up pretty quickly. I blew the transmission up with prolonged burnouts. My dad and I replaced the transmission with a very very used one, and that one went out just cruising down the road at 25 mph in 3rd. Next, I drove my fathers 96 9000, until it got hit by a kid that ran a red light in his brand new FJ cruiser. Now I have a 9-3 that I financed through a family memeber, and have learned my lesson the hard way about maintaining a vehicle and driving in a manner that keeps my car on the road. I’ve always changed my own oil, switch my own tires according to the season, and do any basic maintainence or repairs that I can on my own.

    A friend of mine was given an Acura RL on his 16th birthday, and within a month was the only person to ever have been arrested at gunpoint in our area for a traffic violation (125mph in a 25 zone). He didn’t earn his car in any way, and our driving experiences have been very different because of it. He still knows nothing about maintaining his car and he calls me every time his car makes a funny noice.

  • avatar

    I misunderstood you K.amm,. I wish I could live somewhere with mass transit. I like driving, but for day to day things, mass transit would be OK with me.

  • avatar

    Sure, no prob, probably I wasn’t as clear as I wanted to be. ;) BTW I like driving too – of course, because I didn’t drive too much :D – but I also like the mass transit here: it’s faster, cheapER (not cheap!) and I can leave it behind when it breaks down. :D

  • avatar

    And you can have a couple of drinks, and still get where you need to go.

  • avatar

    My first car was given to me by my dear ol’ dad, back in 1980, it was a 1964 Ford Falcon(170 cube straight six, 2 speed auto) the car did not run. At the time I thought dad was the mother of all douche-bags. I did get that car running, and I did learn a lot. To this day I do most of my own car maintenance/repairs. Feels good to be the master of the my vehicles, and not the other way around. Thanks, dad.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A few years ago a family friend asked for some help and advice in her car buying adventures. The BMW 328 she had put over 200k miles on was completely trashed and she had in mind a few year old used Audi.

    Well, we spent many a day visiting car lots all around the area and I had her drive just about every sub $25k new or lightly used sedan we could find. In the end she chose a well equipped brand-new, 4-cylinder Honda Accord. Several years later she still seems to really like the car and has only had to do routine maintenance and buy one set of tires. I shudder to think what she might have gone through with a used Audi now past its warranty.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Back when I was 17, a good friend was given a nicely used mid-seventies Ford Maverick by his Father. A month later he hit a curb and broke the front lower control arm. The car was towed back to his home in the country. Before his Dad got home he dragged the Maverick into woods with a big old tractor. Several weeks later he went Rambo on the Maverick and shot it to pieces. To this day it sits back in them woods looking like Bonnie and Clyde’s death car.

    But a first car does have to be earned if it is to be valued. Good grades. A good work ethic. Honesty. No kidding.

  • avatar

    When I was a kid in high school there were all these other kids that were like Stepford children. Their parents bought them really nice cars, mostly late model used Ford Mustang V-8s, and the kids just drove them like normal cars and there weren’t any real problems or drama.

    The kids didn’t know fix them up or repair them. They took them in for regular oil changes and that was about it. The cars didn’t get wrecked or fall apart or blow up or anything. The kids I was most jealous of were the sons of the doctor who lived next door to us. The older son got a Datsun 280-Z and the younger one a Trans Am which they drove all through college without event.

    Weird, huh?

  • avatar

    Just a dumb question, but who the heck goes to an “impound” lot and buys a “parts car or TWO no less” ?

    For experience? Experience with what? The Zoning and code enforcement officer?

    And especially an Audi A4 parts car, which is far from the cheapest hunk of junk on the block. Most “auto salvage” yards in my area will remove high dollar items from a wreck, then sell the rest for scrap cost. Rare is that they have anything resembling a “car”, let alone are interested in selling said car. Even if you can find same like model, you’re going to “BUY” it, pay for the trasportation to your driveway, etc? That sounds like a heck of a lot of hassle to be able to drive a 1998 Audi.

    I’m not sure I understand at all the concept in this article. If it is mechanic’s skills you are desiring for the “kid”, why not just simply enroll him in a couple semesters of auto mechanics at the tech school. Seems to me, it would result in much happier neighbors and much less money spent.

    I sometimes read these posts and wonder if people are buying (and selling) these cars to use/drive, or to have another cross to bear. Because according to the article, you actually need to have 2-3 cars in order to drive one. That seems like a lot of hassle (and steel), but what do I know.

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