By on May 16, 2009

“Dear thetruthaboutcars.com, I am asking your advice on what type of car would suit me best. I am a high school student who is the not-so-proud owner of a 1997 Pontiac Sunfire. I recently took a ride in my neighbor’s Acura RSX and was impressed with the overall quality of the car, especially the interior and the car’s performance in general. It looked like my neighbor had so much fun, flawlessly shifting through the gears. I was amazed at how superior this car was to my low-quality Sunfire. I came to the conclusion that the RSX would be a perfect car for me because of it’s high quality ,small size, and because of how much fun it looked to be behind it’s wheel. When I go off to college and have the money, I plan on buying a better car for myself. Is there any car out there that is similar to the RSX that matches it in quality, size, and performance that I can look into? Any advise is appreciated.”

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

85 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: Acura RSX?...”


  • avatar
    Rix

    Used Subaru WRX. When I looked at cars in 2002, the finalists were RSX and WRX, and I picked the WRX due to the greater utility.

    Not too many competitors… unless you are talking accord coupe (bigger), MR2 or Miata (2 seat), lesser quality, or higher price (MB C220 hatchback of that year)

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Aside from some road noise, the RSX is a great all around vehicle for it’s class. Even back seat space is decent, the steering wheel is one of the best I’ve ever held, and the interior is a great place to spend time. The later WRXs have more interior upgrades but overall the RSX looks more refined inside.

    You could also take 00-06 VW Golf/GTIs that has either a 1.8T or a VR6 (which were offered from 01-06) and as with any german car, the more service history, the better. A friend of mine has a 1.8T with an H&R Cup Kit suspension, exhaust and chip and it’s held up great for the last 100k miles. There’s also Saab hatchbacks, though I’m not sure where their prices are, the Focus (and the SVT Focus, which are much cheaper than the RSX). If you don’t mind sedans, you can get a previous generation 3-series in the same price range as a used RSX. Going back to hatchbacks, there’s also the Mini, since it has a good motor and great handling. I’d also venture to think that a used Yaris or Honda Fit might fall into your price range.

    There’s a lot of great hatchbacks out there…but you’ll definitely want to check on insurance rates for the cars you’re shopping for. I know the Mini, WRX and RSX-S have above average insurance rates in some places.

  • avatar

    Um, dude, high school? Until you’re done with college, your job is completing an education.

    About all a luxury car will do is force you to work so hard for payments that you get bad grades or miss out on personal advancement opportunities, social experiences, or extracurricular leadership positions. These are life-enhancing events. Working for a payment is a pointless treadmill.

    You have several years before you’re in the workforce and financially stable. Who knows what the latest “new hotness” will be then?

    Drive the Sunfire until the wheels fall off. Cart goes after the horse.

  • avatar
    tced2

    If you want a newer car, Honda considered the replacement for the RSX to be the Civic.
    If you want to stay with Acura, it would be a slighly older car – the Integra.
    A slightly bigger car would be the TSX and it’s a 4-door.
    Concerning the Sunbird, GM never took smaller cars seriously and they have paid for that mistake. And the “wheels will fall off” the Sunbird far too soon.

  • avatar
    Petra

    Check out a 1997-2002 Honda Prelude. It performs pretty much exactly the same as the RSX, but it is way cheaper.

  • avatar

    Buy a new car after those student loans are paid off. Drive your hooptie until then, you’ll thank yourself when you’re in your late 20s/30s and have more important things to purchase.

    Just sayin’, dude. (or dudette)

  • avatar
    bomber991

    Don’t get an RSX cause the backseat is too small to bang a chick in. Cause you know, college and all is gonna mean being in a dorm.

  • avatar

    “you’ll thank yourself when you’re in your late 20s/30s and have more important things to purchase”

    …or a positive net worth!

  • avatar
    mikey

    Keep the Sunbird its easy and cheap to maintain.
    Parts are always available.Honda/Acura has a great product.Repairs and maintenance will drain you wallet very fast. Dollar for dollar stick with the domestics.

    Take it from somebody without one.An education in this f—ed up world is much bigger priority than a car.

  • avatar

    +1 on the Integra idea… It’s a better bet for a good student car, I’ve seen some go for absolute fire sale prices. Many are abused so shop wisely.

    There is also the 200SX if you want even cheaper and a bit older but still fun. 240SXs are much more desireable and have inflated values as a result.

    WRX is a cool car… But it’s going to cost you for upkeep and it will likely have been abused. Ditto VeeDubs, for every satisfied owner there are 10 raging ones. Oil sludging is the best known issue, but there is also the 60K timing chain on the VR6 (only 60K for a chain? my thoughts exactly) and the timing belts/water pump replacement costs on the 1.8T.

    My best advice overall? Avoid modded cars like the plague. Go for clean stockers instead.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    “Used Subaru WRX”

    No. It’s likely been abused, and they’re notorious for transmission and head gasket failures.

  • avatar

    Depends on your reasons for owning a car:

    1. Transpo – I say pay the more money to live on campus and in the dorms, you will meet more people that way.

    2. Status/Girls – I’ll not say much about girls that are impressed by cars, except they aren’t worth it. An Acura ain’t going to cut it there.

    3. Enthusiast driving – I’d buy a used Miata. Cheap, fun, and a convertible. Easy to take to the track.

    I’d say ditch the car entirely when you go to college, live somewhere walkable to classes, and just get Zipcar if available when you need a car for a roadtrip. Cheaper and then you don’t have to worry about a car at all. Then again, I spent a lot of college in an alcoholic haze, so no ability to drive a car socially anyway.

    If you have to have a car, a used Lexus IS300 would be fun to drive, RWD versus the RSX’s FWD, have decent status, cheap to get, more reliable than a BMW, and you could mod the hell out of it easily. Plus four seats for group things.

  • avatar
    LennyZ

    I agree with most of the posters. Your priority is school. Keep the Sunfire until it self destructs. Having a cool car is nice but your first focus for money and time should be school. You’ll have plenty of time to get a cool car later. Unless your parents are buying, and paying for school, then go for it.

  • avatar
    heaven_on_mars

    I favor the RAV4 Limited V6 over the RSX. More room, more power, and very reliable. I do wish the interiors had less plastic and the rear door swings to the side versus up. For me, those two flaws are offset by the other qualities the RAV4 has. Most media outlets rate the RAV4 very highly.

    The others are right about the low cost of repairs on the Pontiac you have. I hate car payments, but something from Toyota, Honda, or Acura is worth it.

  • avatar
    quiksilver180

    High school… dude, unless you want to get an awful driving record, lots of speeding tickets, and high insurance… I would second Sajeev about just waiting…

    Why? I got a 93 Honda Accord in high school in 2001… drove it until 2006 when I got a new car when I was done with school. I’m glad I waited… if I got something with more power earlier, I would be dead by now…. financially and probably physically.

    BUT… if you HAVE TO get a newer car (I.E., your car having mechanical issues, etc.), then I would recommend getting a used Toyota Corolla, Honda Fit, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, or non-turbo Subaru Impreza or Subaru Legacy. Maintenance should be fairly low key, but I would price shop around for insurance for all the cars, as well as getting some feedback from TrueDelta. The Subarus’ will get a little lower gas milage, but if you live where the weather can be iffy, it’s well worth it.

    If you want to get a different car because of the “cool factor”, well… please don’t. You WILL thank yourself later, like I did. Cars won’t make you that much cooler in school, and you’re probably almost done with high school in a short period of time… and chances are, you’ll never see or talk to most of the people there :-) College… no one cares. You’re there for school!

  • avatar

    mikey : An education in this f—ed up world is much bigger priority than a car.

    Ya know, its nice to hear this theme always come up in the comments section. Just goes to show how mature this website’s readership truly is.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Sticking to the subject… I would add the Civic Si hatchback which was built during the same time as the RSX. The hatch’s were higher quality than the Coupes & Sedans and used the 160hp 2 liter engine which was the same engine as the base RSX. They are pretty rare though and I would guess similarly priced to the RSX.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Everyone’s experience is different. When money is tight as it often is for those in HS/college/university, you need reliable wheels. There are many good small cars out there that will serve you well (even if the parts are more expensive) but the sunfire/cavalier twins are NOT among them. GM does not know, has never known and likely will never figure out how to design and build a good small car. Dollar for dollar, D3 small cars will rob you blind!

  • avatar
    DrivnEZ

    I suggest that the choice of college, the kind of degree, the extracurricular activities, and connections with people in your field of study are far more important than wheels.

    Present car or no car would be better than more student loans and car payments.

    Just my .02,
    DEZ

  • avatar
    gzuckier

    mazda 3?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    RSX is fun, but it will demand greatly of you for payments, insurance, and tickets. How about the last-one-before-the-3 Mazda Protege? Good bones, you can borrow handling parts from the Mazdaspeed version, you can load your friends in it, and it won’t attract the wrong sort of attention.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    I would suggest a Honda or Toyota instead of an Acura if you’re on a budget. Mainly a Prelude or hot Civic, or a Celica.

    A used VW is a sure ticket to the poor house.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    From what I’ve been able to learn from this website, your “Lowly” Big 2.7568 will serve you better ’cause maintenance is that much cheaper. How much does a circa 2000 Neon or Focus go for? (Neon, yeah, just stay on top of the head gasket thingy and you’re good to go)

    Don’t delude yourself thinking Jap cars don’t break. Specially since you are apparently looking for a car 10 yrs old or so, anything that breaks on them will smart. Another thing, isn’t the Civic like the most robbed car in America? Thinking that, plus higher costs for parts, will keep the insurance (specially for a younger dude) on the Jap cars positively uncompetitive w/ the domestic ones.

  • avatar
    Slare

    Anyone who thinks a Sunfire isn’t a dirt cheap to keep running reliable vehicle hasn’t turned a wrench in a long time. It is not a glorious vehicle and while you can make fun of the interior and parts rattling all to hell, you can’t poke fun at the reliability.

    My advice is that unless the Sunfire is already having problems you can’t deal with, take the advice of some reasonable folks here and keep on rolling with it.

    If you are worried about girls, just take care to go to a college that actually has them in some quantity or is in a big enough town they will be around.

    Having spare time to play sports, party, and having beer money in your pocket is going to go a lot further in “that” area than any nice car will do.

    Having said all of that, please ignore everything I just said if you have parents that are going to pay for your college and car. Start pushing that you’d like a more reliable vehicle like the TSX so you won’t be stranded and will be able to reliably make it home and to your college stuffs.

  • avatar
    davey49

    “And the “wheels will fall off” the Sunbird far too soon”
    above a comment by somebody with little knowledge of J-cars and obviously a jap car bigot.

  • avatar
    Wolf

    Everybody here seems to say that American cars are way cheaper to maintain that euro-ones and japanese ones. From my point of view, here in france,

    The cheapest parts :
    1 – Peugeot, Citroën, Renault, Fiat
    2 – Volkswagen, Seat, Skoda, Ford Europe, Alfa, Lancia
    3 – BMW, Mercedes, Saab, Audi

    The most reliable :
    1 – Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Citroën
    2 – Ford Europe, Seat, Skoda
    3 – Renault

    The cheapest insurance :
    1 – Peugeot, Citroen, Renault, Seat, Fiat
    2 – Volkswagen, Ford Europe
    3 – Audi

    When you take all these parameters into account, A French car cost us less to use than a german one, except the 15+ Years cars, where lots of used parts are available, and insurance is cheap.

    Except rich students, nobody under 25 here drives a BMW or an Audi, nor a car less than ten years old.

    I think you are very lucky to drive a Pontiac Sunfire. when I was a student, I had a 1990 mk3 Ford Fiesta 1.8 liter diesel engine, without a turbo. that car had 60 hp, and I was happy with it. I sold it when I had the chance to get a better car … a 1992 Citroën ZX 1.4 liter carburettor, with LPG fitted. I chose the car because of the low insurance, maintenance cost, and ran on a fuel which was half the price of the others. Plus, it had 75 HP ! I could get more than 100mph from the beast !

    I’m now employed, and with my salary, I bougth a car I really liked, a mk1 rabbit convertible.

    None of my cars were bought more than 1400 €.

    I really think you have a nice car, even without taking into account the fact you’re a student.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    If the Sunfear isn’t disintegrating yet, keep it.

  • avatar
    vento97

    I would drive that sunbird until the wheels, bodywork and engine fall off.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Love it, Wolf!!! Well said.

    And the whole idea of not waiting till it’s practical and one can afford it is what’s gotten us all into this financial mess in the 1st place.

    Keep the Sunfire and your money. There will be cars out there once you finish college that you’ll want more.

    Remember: somone somewhere will always have something nicer than yours. You’ll murder yourself chasing after “better”, mentally and financially. It will pass.

  • avatar

    If saving $ is the object at this point, I’m not so sure about keeping the sunfire. Might be better to get an old civic or corolla or Mazda Protege now than before the sunfire really starts going to pot.

    To figure out whether what you are getting is reliable: go to the library, look up whatever you are thinking of in a Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue (they come out every April) from six or seven years later, and check their used car recommendations on that car. For example, if you’re looking at a 1995 Corolla, check out the 2001 Consumer Reports. I did this when I bought a 77 corolla in 1985, for $450 (probably about twice that in today’s dollars). I looked at the ’83 Annual Auto Issue. It got great marks. I got it. I drove it for 8 years, from 91k to 161k. It treated me very well.

    PS: in college, at Berkeley, and for a number of years thereafter, I went everywhere on a bicycle. Including across the country.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    A hatchback is a great thing to have in college.

    But so is a car that’s cheap because you’re not paying for it and you don’t mind cosmetic damage. Sadly, college is not a good time to have a car you’re proud of. You don’t need a reliable car either, because you won’t use it regularly. When you do use it, it’ll be used hard (seven people in a five-seater, or using it to move three times a year, you get the idea).

    Once the money’s secure, yes, the RSX is a good car. But I’d recommend being cheap and getting an Integra or a Civic hatch. Just make sure to get insurance quotes first, they can be pretty bad for Hondas.

  • avatar
    Wolf

    The fact is, if you’re a car enthusiast, you won’t end with “a hatch with something under the hood” but with THE car that made your jaw fall, whatever car it might be. I may buy a refrigirator based on its spec sheet. not a car, no way.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I favor the RAV4 Limited V6 over the RSX.

    This is why asking others what car you should buy is a complete waste of time.

    On the other hand it is fun for the commenters!

    Personally I think you should skip the RSX and get a backhoe. Chicks dig backhoes and it is so much more practical than the RSX.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I had a 91 Accord in HS (crashed), than a 92 Integra (dented), than a couple of 240SXs (one stolen, one driven to hell), than a E30 325i (head gasket) now a E34 525i (ok). I loved all my cars/decisions/self, but I’d just skip automatics, soft, uncomfortable and boring cars (auto’s) if I did it again. Or atleast look at more cars. Maintenance has never been a big issue, and my cars are getting older. Glass is half full. Oh and BMWs are great great cars, specially stick.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Your conclusions about cars is bang-on, but if your POS is running well I’d just keep it for now.

    An affordable used RSX or Prelude will make you feel good for about ten minutes, until the repair bills start cutting into your tuition fund because the previous owner beat the crap out of it. Cut that time in half for a used Volkswagen.

    Focus on your studies, get a good job, then reward yourself with a brand new car.

  • avatar

    Keep the Sunfire until repairs cost more than you want to spend. Then, go without a car, or find an ’07 Honda Fit (if you’re in the U.S.) with high mileage. It’s a perfect, affordable car in so many ways.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    FromBrazil:

    The Neon head gasket is fixed from the 1999MY onwards. Anything after a ’98 and you’re good to go.

    Also, not all cars with this engine had this issue. I have a ’98 Breeze with the same 2.0L as in the Neon, and I have never had a head gasket issues, 120k miles and counting.

    While Cavaliers and Sunfires are notoriously unreliable, it is possible to get lucky with them. I have a friend who has one with 130k miles on it and it still runs fine. I also know that Cavaliers suck to drive, but I’ve never had the pleasure of driving a Sunfire. I’m hoping if they’re going to slap the Pontiac name on it they would at least spring it a little tighter.

    Hold onto the Sunfire, and drive it until you can’t drive it anymore. You’re never going to get anything for trade-in on the thing, so you may as well milk it for all its worth, and then by that point you’ll be able to truly afford something nicer.

  • avatar
    WildBill

    When you are in school everyone expects you to have a POS car. Take care of the Sunbird and worry about a slick ride later, like AFTER school.

  • avatar
    jckirlan11

    “In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king”
    I never had a car until I was 28; couldn’t afford it and school was way too important. You have a car so you don’t need another one.
    If I were to advise you I would say get rid if it and ride your bike or take the bus, until such time that school is finished and you have no debts.
    Rememeber the first million is always the hardest.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    @CommanderFish

    Good to hear that! You don’t see many Neons down here, but I’ve always thought of them as handsome cars (and daydreamed of buying one). So, your little tidbit of info just makes a Neon an even bigger contender for our college-bound friend!

  • avatar
    RayH

    Keep the Sunfire if the engine is a 2.2, ditch it yesterday if a 2.4.

    Personally I think you should skip the RSX and get a backhoe. Chicks dig backhoes and it is so much more practical than the RSX.

    I know what you meant with that, but man, it came across as CREEPY to me.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Hey, all ! I’m currently unemployed and drive an ’87 Isuzu Trooper. Recently a new Lincoln Navigator caught my eye. Should I sign for the new ride, or should I look for work ? Just asking…

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Don’t listen to these guys. You only live once. Don’t waste the precious young years of your life behind the wheel of the abominable POS that is the sunfire. I loved my old integra. One can be had in decent shape for around $4-$5k these days. The only thing you need to worry about is that they are thief magnets. If you park in any sort of area where there may be car theives, I recommend getting an alarm with a pager and doing the hood cable re-route: http://www.team-integra.net/sections/articles/showArticle.asp?ArticleID=732

    Repairs were cheap and there weren’t much more than basic maintenance. Also consider a prelude, which is less of a thief magnet. Whatever you do, DON’T GET THE AUTOMATIC. I had it and it was terrible. Still loved the car, but longed for a stick the whole time I had it.

    Furthermore, beware the owner. If it has cut springs, colored lights, or really anything other that a mild intake upgrade, do not buy it. A lot of these cars have been terribly abused. Look for one that is completely stock. It’s better when you get to defile it first anyhow.

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    There’s a lot of great pragmatic advice here for your to follow-here’s one more piece.
    Before you make any purchase call your insurance company to check the rates of the various cars you might consider. If you are indeed college age and if you are considering a used version of one of the cars above, you could easily wind up with your insurance payment exceeding your buy payment. Even if you’re buying new, insurance is definitely a huge X-factor of ownership costs to consider before your purchase.

  • avatar

    It seems a Mazda 3 hatch would be a great middle ground choice.. Much cheaper used than an RSX, roomy and sporty.

  • avatar
    B.C.

    Save your money. The RSX tries to do sport and luxury and does neither all that well. You’ll end up wanting something faster/sharper or more plush (or both), and I say this as the owner of a supercharged RSX-S.

    +1 on the Mazda3 hatch if you’re hellbent on a replacement car.

    Another +1 on driving a beater until you’re done with school. Other kids can be brutal. You don’t want something that you have to worry about.

  • avatar
    hans007

    well you can always just get an RSX type-s.

    they didnt make them in automatic so they are probably more rare, but the price differnece is pretty small and it comes with a better sound system, engine , extra gear.

    Friend of mine had one, and loved it.

  • avatar

    As with most of those here who’ve done it, I’d say save your money till after college.

    Traded in the old Sentra for something bigger and sportier in college, a 626 (don’t laugh). The maintenance cost increase in going from a vanilla compact to a bigger/better car almost killed me.

    That said, if you want to ditch the Sunfire… go for a Protege5. Yes, they’re not entirely trouble-free… Mazda’s rubber bushings are notoriously sensitive to bad weather, for example… but if the car hasn’t been raced or abused, it will give you many miles of trouble-free motoring, a biggish trunk, a bang-worthy back seat (especially if you fold them down) and great handling. It’s fun and the space will win you points with the ladies.

    Once you’re on your feet and have some income, convert it into an autocross car, so your main set of wheels doesn’t have to take the abuse. A Protege5 with a Mazdaspeed drivetrain (for that nifty LSD and turbo-friendly ECU) and a turbo upgrade is an arguably better autocross weapon than many cars of the same vintage (even WRXs)… and you can carry an extra set of rims with R-comps in the back on your way to and from the track.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Please, listen to the words of wisdom offered you–and not the Carpe Diem, you are only young once, advice. It is a waste of youth not to explore your physical and intellectual limits; it is not a waste of your youth to not own a nice car. At your age, you should push yourself as hard as you can at a sport that consumes, at a subject that fascinates you, at a cause that inspires you.

    When you are my age, 48 today, you will never impress anyone with stories of having owned a mid-level sports coupe when you were a student. On the other hand, scoring three tries in a half, running a five minute mile, earning a scholarship, being the student body president, or winning a scholastic award will be things that you can be proud of as you grow older, and will make for far better stories. And all will be easier if you do not saddle yourself with payments for a car that you are buying because it feels better to drive that your POS.

    I cannot tell you how many of my students tell me that they have to buy nice, reliable cars so they can go home on the weekend to work. It makes no sense, for they will never earn enough on the weekends to pay for their cars. Students who are not the recipient of great parental largess should not have cars. It is a cause of real hardship. Graduate with no or few student loans, get a solid job, save up some cash, and then buy yourself a car that will make you happy.

  • avatar

    If you park in any sort of area where there may be car theives, I recommend getting an alarm with a pager and doing the hood cable re-route: http://www.team-integra.net/sections/articles/showArticle.asp?ArticleID=732

    How does the rerouting make the car less stealable?

    do get a stick because a lot of potential thieves don’t know how to drive them.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    do get a stick because a lot of potential thieves don’t know how to drive them.

    That is just so funny on so many levels I can’t even begin to explain!!!

    God, pls., do bless America!!!

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    I’d first figure out where you are going to college. At that point you’ll have a better idea if you want a vehicle at all. Few undergraduates had cars where I went to school, as they were nothing but trouble. If anything, I’d wait for fuel prices to skyrocket and buy a used 7-seat SUV guzzler for cheap. At least then you’ll have some utility. You’ll probably drive a lot less than you anticipate, so gas costs will be small; if you are driving a lot during school, then you should probably figure out why you are spending $200/day for school when you are mostly driving around (and not in school).

    The last thing you want is a car payment… then you have to waste additional money on insurance for the vehicle. No need to buy comprehensive and collision on a vehicle that sits in a parking lot for weeks at a time.

    The TSX might be a joy to drive, but that’s not going to increase your stature with respect to other students. There’s not as much joy with an automatic, and it is tricky to let people borrow if it is a stick. You’re kind of stuck either way. For some schools, a TSX might be considered a “utility grade” vehicle anyway. The Miata, at least, is cute and a convertible.

  • avatar
    BillySeward

    Okay a few things. Cars don’t have to interfere with how well you at school. How well you do is up to you. They can be a distraction, but what isn’t? They can also be a great stress reliever, few things clear my head faster than a long drive. I say this having bought a Subaru SVX last summer. It was cheap and I thought it would be worth it. I have loved that car but it is currently on its last legs. Owning a car didn’t stop me from becoming a class president for the 3rd year straight or becoming the Head RA at my school, you just need to have drive and have personal responsibility. Don’t forget you will need to move into your dorm rooms and none of the cars named will carry everything you need. At times you may want to fit people in your car, but being the guy who drives everywhere and never gets paid for gas can suck, smaller cars can prevent this and allow for you to just talk with friends in the car instead of concentrating on driving. Thats why I bought a 2 door, I still drive people. But not all the time. I will caution you though, money is always tight in school. The SVX is dying and I can’t afford to replace it. In fact I will park it at my house when it dies and hope I can sell it for what I owe on it. So whatever you do plan for the worst. Buy something cheap and reliable but fun. Don’t dream about a fast car or any car because that could very well result in you reaching for a car you have no business owning in school. I would suggest seeing how much you can afford, then spending 2/3rds of that. College is about friends and having some extra cash to go on a road trip or to go to the movies at a whim is great. A heavy car payment, a string or breakdowns, or the stress of bills is something you don’t want, trust me. Be very careful cars can be the death of you.

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    Keep the Sunfire! It will last a looong time. Get you through college years no problem and minimal expense. Back when I was in school (early 80’s) I had a 74 Pontiac Grand Ville. Party machine that could eat up mailboxes without a flinch.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    My wifes 2000 neon is dead reliable. We bought it with 124k for $1k and it has 170k on the clock with no major issues. $0.10/mile keeps’er running.

  • avatar
    bluecon

    When I was at university a buddy had a big Dodge van with a bed in the back. Now that was a useful vehicle.

  • avatar
    Happy_Endings

    Unless you plan on living at home and going to a commuter college, you don’t want to be the guy at college who owns a car. Everyone will be bumming rides off you. Keep the money, buy a bicycle, and bum rides off the guy who brought a car to college. Just look at Flounder in Animal House.

    Once you’ve graduated and are living our your own, splurge then and get yourself a car you would enjoy. After all, you only live once. Mortgage payments can wait. It will be impractical and stupid, but you won’t regret it.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    I wouldn’t say that an Integra or RSX costs any more to run than a Civic or a Prelude.

    Anyone living on/near a college campus knows that you need a safe place to store a car, at least if it’s nicer than a Sunfire. And heck, even if it’s a Sunfire, you probably want it in one piece to go on grocery runs (with or without leeching ‘buddies’).

    I’d love to have an SVX, but they get shaky (costly) over time. Sad.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Dude, you’re in college. You’re supposed to drive a POS. Why in the hell are you asking this question??

    Drive whatever will get you around. You’ve got a car that runs. Save your money for another day.

  • avatar
    John R

    There are still a fair amount low milage RSXs out there. And you can get them for a fair price because they’ve been out of production for some time now. If you want something like an RSX get an RSX.

    Short of that, Accord coupe or Civic (preferably Si) coupe. Celica GT-S is also a good buy if you can find them.

  • avatar
    Michal

    Buy an expensive car, certainly much more expensive then you should. You’re young only once and you don’t want to be seen in something grotesquely uncool. Then, after the loans, fees, and charges start piling up with increasing interest rates, refuse to pay them off and seek a bailout. That’s the American Way :-)

  • avatar
    escapenguin

    Get a nice, used, manual Prelude that hasn’t been abused. You’ll have just as much fun driving, they’re relatively easy to fix (lots of forums around), the interior is just as nice if not nicer, and it looks better too.

    Disclaimer: I own a ’98 fifth-gen, and I love it.

  • avatar
    V6

    i would consider a Protege5. cheap and with that upright wagonoid body it’ll have plenty of room for college life and be fun to drive.

    but i also think having a POS is fun. i got sick of car payments and so traded down to a 20 year old Maxima and it’s possibly my favourite car i’ve had and it’s really fun to drive. if your car’s been unreliable and you dont trust it, i’d maybe look for something cheap and (hopefully) more reliable to get through college (especially if you’re going to be roadtripping home etc) but otherwise i’d say just put up with your Sunfire till it dies

  • avatar
    don1967

    Get a nice, used, manual Prelude that hasn’t been abused.

    … and a nice blonde girlfriend named Bambi with a perfect SAT score :)

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I missed my first day of classes in college because my nine year old Acura Integra broke down and left me stranded on the side of the road. The sunroof was a nice touch while I was waiting for the tow truck.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Unless you plan on living at home and going to a commuter college, you don’t want to be the guy at college who owns a car. Everyone will be bumming rides off you. Keep the money, buy a bicycle, and bum rides off the guy who brought a car to college…

    Beat me to the punch. I had a large reliable car in college, courtesy of the parental units (Thanks Dad!). And yes, everybody wanted rides for beer, the airport, you name it. I got smart and charged for rides to/from home during the breaks. $30 per person (early 1980’s), 5 in the car, and parents providing the gas card. Bought my car stereo that way.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    I think the RSX is a terrible idea. The car is going to cost a decent amount and the insurance will be very high. Keeping your Sunfire is definitely the way to go. However, if you need to get another car, the mazda 3 or scion tc might be good new or slightly used. Looking older, something like a maxima or protege5 with a stick should be reliable, fun, and lower on insurance. For college, big american cars are good for carting friends around. If I were to do it again, an old crown vic cop car would been a great college/roadtrip car.

  • avatar
    dasko

    As a student here is my advice.

    If you really want to replace the sunfire and have the means to do so without ruining your life, do so.

    The RSX is a lot of fun. I have a Protege5 which is unbreakable and I love it. The interior is not up to RSX levels but its miles above the Sunfire.

    A cheaper way to get an RSX is the well done Korean knock off, a Hyundai Tiburon with a V6. Or the not as well done Scion TC.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Aren Cambre :
    May 16th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Um, dude, high school? Until you’re done with college, your job is completing an education.

    About all a luxury car will do is force you to work so hard for payments that you get bad grades or miss out on personal advancement opportunities, social experiences, or extracurricular leadership positions. These are life-enhancing events. Working for a payment is a pointless treadmill.

    You have several years before you’re in the workforce and financially stable. Who knows what the latest “new hotness” will be then?

    Drive the Sunfire until the wheels fall off. Cart goes after the horse.

    How true it is, some of us could be still trying to chase after a decent car all their life because of missed education.

  • avatar
    DarkSpork

    I can’t really give you crap for wanting a newer car because I’m only 20 and am making car payments (and have had a different vehicle for every year I’ve been driving). The nicest car at a young age like mine or yours is one that you aren’t making payments on, and that’s all I have for lecturing you, because that’s not what you asked.

    Comparable cars:
    1. Honda Civic Si (identical drive train to RSX-S, cheaper to insure)
    2. Acura TSX
    3. Acura Integra (very reliable, doesn’t have problems with the synchro in 3rd like a lot of the RSX-S and Civic Sis have.)
    4. Honda Prelude
    5. 97-00 Civic EX (they are pretty lightweight, therefore also pretty quick)

    I personally would steer away from the RSX, not because I don’t like them (I have a friend with a turbocharged RSX and its a hoot to drive), but because the insurance at least for me would be outrageous (I was quoted $280/month when I was single with a clean driving record, for comparison the Supercharged Cobalt SS would have been $185). If you need to get something nicer look at the Integra, Prelude, Civic EX.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Don’t know how far along high school you are. But when you eventually do go off to college I’d suggest getting a pre-owned 5 door hatchback. Here are my suggestions:

    1) Mazda3 5 door – Always a hoot to drive, very economical and spacious inside, plus it looks good (arguably better than the bob-tail sedan)

    2) Kia Spectra5 – Not as high quality as the Mazda3 but almost as fun to drive. If you’re really on a budget, this would be the 5 door to get (remember, the Spectra5 was one of the cars that started the Kia/Hyundai renaissance).

    3) Subaru WRX wagon – All the goodness and sporty flavor of the WRX….with the space and practicality of a wagon.

    Of course, if you MUST have a coupe:

    1) Acura RSX – Can’t go wrong with one of the last great Acuras to hit the road. The Type S can still hold its own against newer competitors.

    2) Honda Civic Si – If you get a better deal than the Acura RSX.

    3) Hyundai Tiburon – One of the underrated cars of its class. Good performance, great fuel mileage and the looks of a stubby fighter jet.

    4) Honda Accord Coupe – The 2003-2007 model are sporty, lightweight and have reasonably good performance. If you’re a stick driver, finding one equipped with the 6 speed manual may be a bit difficult, but if you find one in good condition GET IT!

  • avatar
    Wolf

    280$ a month ?!

    Reading the articles, I looked up car prices on ebay motors, and thought WE were stolen ! used car prices are way up here in france, except for some “rare” vehicles for you ( Golf/Rabbit III VR6, Golf/Rabbit 2 GTI/GTI16/G60/Rallye, every peugeot & citroen out there, …)

    but insurance ! 280$ a month here would be for a 12 year old owning an Audi S4 !

    To the TTAC Reader who asked the initial question,
    I’d like to have YOUR view on the subject, do you still want a RSX ? have you stopped searching ? have you seen “better” cars ?

  • avatar
    mtypex

    Yes, insurance is high on Hondas/Acuras.

    I’m still perplexed at what one has to do to an 9-year-old Integra to get it to break.

  • avatar
    escapenguin

    @don1967

    Ha! Good one. Made me laugh out loud. They really are hard to find in good shape. Every once in a while they pop up, though. A few weeks ago I noticed one at the Chevy dealership, relatively flawless minus some yellowing headlights, base with auto, and 60,000 miles. Dealer wanted ten thousand. It was in such good condition it almost outweighed the outrageous price. le sigh.

  • avatar

    get the best Crown Vic you can find, take only liability insurance, make sure it’s black, and if you find one with a 3rd head light sticking out of the A pillar your problems are solved….
    My high school car was a 12 year old Ford Cortina…..

  • avatar
    DarkSpork

    280$ a month ?!

    Reading the articles, I looked up car prices on ebay motors, and thought WE were stolen ! used car prices are way up here in france, except for some “rare” vehicles for you ( Golf/Rabbit III VR6, Golf/Rabbit 2 GTI/GTI16/G60/Rallye, every peugeot & citroen out there, …)

    but insurance ! 280$ a month here would be for a 12 year old owning an Audi S4 !”

    Well, I got that quote when I was 19. The RSX-S is more expensive to insure than many comparable cars due to high theft rate, number of young drivers who total them doing illegal/unsafe things in them. Its not a terribly fast car stock, but its based on statistics. For comparison, my Ford Ranger is costing me $108/month for full coverage. You said you are from France, are you accounting for the fact that the US dollar is weaker than the Euro?

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Couldn’t agree more with many others here, either keep the Sunfire or get rid of wheels altogether when in college. Isn’t the priority to graduate in 4 years and with little to no debt? Some of my best years in college where without a car or just having a motorcycle or an old cheap beater of a car. Focus on school, friends and babes. The “cool” car will NOT help you out with either of the above 3 focus areas.

    Get your degree, be debt free then go for a cool used sporty car.

    ’nuff said……

  • avatar
    npbheights

    mtypex said:

    I’m still perplexed at what one has to do to an 9-year-old Integra to get it to break.

    My first car when I was in high school (class of 1997) was a 1971 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. I never had one mechanical issue with it. My father got me a “school car” to drive to college and leave the Cadillac in the garage. Sent me a 1988 Acura Integra. Red, Black interior, sunroof, alloy wheels, about 70,000 miles or so. First day of school, I was getting off the highway and the car suddenly went dead. Would not start for anything. I believe it was the distributor among other things, but it ended up costing $500 or so to get back on the road. The car failed a few more times and cost several hundred more dollars, back when that was a lot of money. I brought it home, told my dad I did not want it and later my uncle ended up with the car. Towed his boat to boat ramp with it and eventually junked it I think.

    A few years later I ended up with a 1996 Honda Civic EX two door. Another one of my dad’s “school car” ideas. (mid nineties forest green metallic-like most of them) about 50K miles on it when I had it. Something happened with the belts on the motor where it either needed major engine work to fix or they could JB weld something to do with the belt pully and it was fine, but would be a big problem to change the timing belt or something. Had the mechanic glue it and put a for sale sign on it.

    After that he sent me a 1996 Avalon XLS. Nice car. Fully loaded, tan leather, alloys, sunroof, smoooooth and powerful V6, 27MPG every day of the week. Nooooo mechanical issues what so ever. Loved that car.

    The Integra and Civic were my last Hondas. I won’t judge the whole company on those two little junk boxes, I am sure the new stuff is nice, but I was not really impressed and I have not been even mildly interested in their stuff since.

  • avatar
    MikeyDee

    I love used Civics, but remember, the banks are not giving out loans for cars older than 2002. I bought my daughter a 1998 Civic, which was a great buy, but it was a cash sale.

  • avatar
    Wolf

    Well, I got that quote when I was 19. The RSX-S is more expensive to insure than many comparable cars due to high theft rate, number of young drivers who total them doing illegal/unsafe things in them. Its not a terribly fast car stock, but its based on statistics. For comparison, my Ford Ranger is costing me $108/month for full coverage. You said you are from France, are you accounting for the fact that the US dollar is weaker than the Euro?

    Yup, as I buy many thingies in USD.

    To get back to the start of the subject, I think there are a lot “fun” cars which can be bought when you’re in high school.

    Some euro-exemples :
    – Audi 200 Turbo Quattro | 180 HP | 500-1500 €
    – Passat GT G60 | 160 HP | 500-2000 €
    – Golf II GTI 16S | 139 HP | 800-4000 € (Match edition)
    – Golf I GTI | 112 HP | 600-3000 € (79′ models)
    – Peugeot 205 GTI | 130 HP | 1000-3500 €
    – Peugeot 309 GTI 16S | 150 HP | 2000-3000 €
    – Citroën ZX Volcane | 157 HP | 2000-5000 €
    – BMW 325i E30 | 172 HP | 1000-4000 €
    and a lot more … I do not know of any “gti’s” born in the USA, that’s truly a shame, light is sooo right.

  • avatar

    Acura Integra – its pretty much better than the RSX in every way, shape, and form – especially the suspension. The RSX actually downgraded from the double wishbones of the teggy to a shitty macpherson strut setup.

    The RSX gets some “better” motors, but unless we’re talking the RSX-S with the K20A2 (200 hp, VTEC), the B18B in the base Integra is actually a better motor than the K20A3 (160 hp) in the base RSX.

  • avatar
    beken

    When I was in college (dating myself), I bought a used Pontiac Astre (aka Chevy Vega). The Astre is the pre-cursor to the Sunbird and then the Sunfire. It was a godawful car, especially when my friends were driving Datsun 510s, Corolla GTS’, BMW 320i, Sciroccos etc. But it was cheap and easy to fix. An hour a week of tinkering with it kept it running until after I graduated and after a year of experience into a career, I was able to afford just about any car I wanted. I sold my college wheels that had over 120,000 miles on it. It was in decent running condition that somebody else actually paid me money for it. Like others here, I would suggest you conserve your money now until after you’re graduated and living on your own money (and not your parents’). Owning a car should be a responsibility and not an entitlement.

    Good luck to you.

  • avatar

    I had a co-worker at my last job who’d been with that company for 41 years when I started, 47 years now. His father worked as a tool maker at the same company for 62 years.

    What the company newsletter article doesn’t tell you is that the only reason Frank stuck around after his first summer is because he bought a car on credit. He’d been planning on going to college, but he had that car note to take care of, so he kept working.

    For 47 years.

    If you ask Frank now he’ll tell you that he regrets not having gone to college, but I’m not sure that matters.

    He was married a few years after starting work, had three children, now has several grandchildren, a home, a vacation camp, and new cars every 3 years, though he’s kept the same wife.

    He is also among the happiest people I’ve every worked with. He had a perpetually bright outlook. He knew everything about our business, and was great with customers, co-workers, superiors and assembly workers alike.

    Now I’m not saying that you would be better off going to college, getting a job or joining the service. I’m just saying that you have to be careful about committing your tomorrows for things you want today.

    There is nothing wrong with living your life the way you want to, just be sure that 1) You decide what you want to do, II) You don’t accidentally derail your plans with avoidable bad financial decisions and that C) You find happiness in living a good life no matter what path you choose.

    Frank didn’t do 1 or II, but he excelled at C.

    BTW – My old employer has now outsourced pretty much everything they do to other business units and vendors, both domestic and foreign. Frank is due to get laid off before he hits his 48th anniversary at the company.

  • avatar
    AlexD

    I bought my first car at the age of 28 – after completing all my studies. Do I regret not having one before? Not at all. I took the bus, split on car pooling, rented for road trips, rode a bike. Understandably, you may need wheels to get to campus – drive your beater or get a bike.

    You’ll come out one night after studying at the library and find your windows broken and beer in the back seat, so it’s best to be pragmatic here.

    Your priority is to study hard, get laid, save money to backpack in Europe and get laid there, then come back to graduate top of your class, trade school or whatever, then think about a nice ride.

  • avatar
    msrsx

    well speaking from experiance here i had a integra while i was in high school…great reliable car..and no maintence just the oil change ect. these cars hardly break down and if you like the rsx but want something cheaper with same performance try a GSR integra..there faster ( lighter body) and a good bang for your buck…anyhoo moving on when i gratuated high school and when into college i bought a used rsx for about 8,000 and it had about 60,xxx miles on it..leather interior everything was perfect. great on gas ( good thing if your comuting to school like me) but like everybody says..i got 3 475 dollar speeding tickets! its fun to drive ^_^( maybe a lil too much fun lol) and the insurance went from being 60 a month for my integra to about 400 (prob bc of the speeding tickets) but in the long run this wasnt worth it going into college i should have stuck with my integra..so do the smart thing and upgrade from the pos and get a integra if your looking for speed looks and handling ( and plus if your into moding cars like me then an integra is a easy one to work on..i did most of the work on both my rsx and integra my self)

    but do what makes you happy..im just giving you my 2 cents

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dal20402: Yep, in the ’21+ the outer seat portions are exactly the same.
  • JonBoy470: It is of course illegal to operate non-compliant vehicles on public roads, but the law, as written, also...
  • JonBoy470: These speed shops are operating without even the merest whiff of plausible deniability that parts vendors...
  • Carlson Fan: “Start saving, spring 2024 will probably be your first real opportunity.” Yep I’d say...
  • Carlson Fan: “I wanted to get my money’s worth out of the OEM tires, but when they’re done next year I may pick...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber