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Hey!! I still daily my 1996 Corolla but then it's a Corolla. Also your point is valid as I see less and less 90s cars on the road in the daily commute to work and back. 80s cars, well, I'd see very little of them making their way to work along side the rest of the fleet of modern 2000s+ stuff.
I still daily a 2000 LS400, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a car to buy. I just drive it still because it would be more expensive to get another car than to keep what I have. Every time I look for parts it's like 50/50 whether it'll be NLA. On top of that something like a 96 Corolla is just not going to fare well in a small overlap collision compared to something made in the last ~10 years. If I wanted a fun, mostly practical daily as a first car I would just get something like a Scion FR-S/BRZ/86, Civic Si, GTI, etc. Something reasonably good on fuel with a manual.
 

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As someone who recently became an SW20 owner I can tell you that you’re underestimating the difficulties. Assuming as a 15 year old you don’t have that much of a disposable income so you’re gonna be saving for a LONG time you buy the more expensive parts that you will likely need. Also, 3k-4K is not enough to get you a running SW20, at least in my area. Also, if you don’t have experience working on cars it’s gonna be an enormous deterrent when you start. I’ve been working on machines and what not since I was like 14 and as a 19 year old I still was not ready for the difficulty of working on that car. I love my MR2 but it’s a female dog to work on. Maybe try something front engine first. A Miata isn’t a bad choice and since you say your bother has one it could be fun to do them together. Like everyone said, a rare 30 year old car is hard to find parts for.
Yeah, listen to this post. It doesn't sound so bad until you're chasing down one of an endless number of seals that can leak oil on these cars. Or trying to figure out why your car is randomly stalling when you let off the gas. Or trying to properly bleed the coolant. Or trying to fix the electric power steering system. Or trying to diagnose a weird idle dip/waviness.
 

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Where I live, a $3-4K budget will only buy you a basket case.

On handling, being familiar with lift-off oversteer isn't the same as being familiar with feeling what the car is doing, and I can't convey that strongly enough. On old, balding tires, at a stop sign at the top of a hill trying to make a turn, an MR2 might ask you to say "hello" to that lamp post a few feet to your right. Even if the MR2 you get is somehow in fairly good shape for that price - which would take a near-miracle scenario that is incredibly unlikely - this could still be a problem. The MR2 has a razor thin margin for error at the limit, and while the handling limit is quite high, with all due respect, the moment a young driver - or any drive inexperienced with this kind of car - finds it, it likely will be by going over it. That's quite easy to do with a car on old or budget tires in the rain, or one with worn bushings and suspension that don't function healthily anymore. An MR2 is not as forgiving as a rear-front-engine or front-mid-engine RWD car, and if you do get in a wreck, the results likely won't be pretty, not just for the car, but from a human safety standpoint, and keep in mind you can't control other cars on the road, so it might not be your choice whether you're in one or not, and using it as a daily driver instead of a weekend toy only increases that risk.

As a daily for a first car on the initially mentioned budget, I don't see how it's feasible. $3-4K is not MR2 money, if one is talking the whole budget. That train left the station a long time ago. At that price, the car will likely need new tires, new suspension (possibly with new mounts, too), new bushings. Issues with seals and the distributor might be lurking, and heaven forbid you get into anything that involves ordering parts that take a week or more to show up, a luxury you can't often afford in a daily driver but which may become more frequent than desired in an MR2. MR2s aren't like Miatas or Civics, not only because most of the time the parts aren't readily available down the street at an auto parts store, but also because sometimes the parts are hard to find at all, even with an ever-increasing number of specialist stores online popping up. The more they age, the more such parts become a necessity and one plays the game of going through old systems in the car replacing one part after another, even if it's just a few hundred here and another few hundred there. It adds up. Even a fairly sound NA car at $3-4K could easily cost 2x as much within the first 5+ years, a large amount of which might be up front, and that could get even uglier if you're not doing the maintenance yourself, which can be a pain with some things on a mid-engine car. If you need to drop the engine, replace the rear strut mounts, etc., it's not exactly a walk in the park if trying to be a DIY mechanic.

My suggestion: Buy something else fun and affordable, save your money, and in 5-10 years or so, such a MR2 might be more feasible. Using one only as a weekend toy knocks down the annual cost a bit and the values on NA models are unlikely to hike nearly as much as the turbos - not that a price hike couldn't come in that time, certainly.

I know that's not the answer some people in this position might be looking to hear, but it's the truth and the truth can hurt. Sure, it's a unique car, but you know what's more fun than being unique over the long term? Having fun driving your car. A unique car can allow you to pose in the parking lot, but when you go for a drive, it doesn't matter what it is as long as it's fun. I own both a MR2 and a Miata, and while they are quite different from each other in some key ways, both are fun to drive, and while if I had to choose between the two I'd take the Toyota, for a fairly cheap daily driver that is easy to get parts for and makes one smile, the MX-5 is hard to argue withi.
 

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I almost forgot the obvious: Buying a 25+ year-old car as a daily driver on a limited budget is almost always a bad idea. The amount of maintenance required as the car continues aging goes up almost exponentially when it comes to replacing old rubber bit (seals, bushings, mounts, etc.).

I also forgot to add that If it's a manual - the most fun way to go - one will almost certainly need to service the transmission, too, particularly at that budget, and it likely won't be just the clutch, but syncros, too, if use and abuse doesn't also necessitate replacing the shifter fork, gears themselves, etc. A car at $3-4K will be quite high mileage, too, more than likely, and that only speeds up the aging process, further compounding the down-the-rabbit-hole journey of replacing old bits.
 

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You may be a little late to the party. New parts are hard to find for this car, even used parts are more fleeting than just a few years ago and many high mileage used parts are becoming overpriced. The mileage is usually high unless you've found a gem and their initial cost is going up as their "collect-ability" increases. It's also almost guaranteed that you will need to work on it in some way and replace a few things like suspension ($1K to $2K) or some engine maintenance (another $1K to $2K).

As a 15 year old in their first vehicle, the tendency for drop-throttle oversteer on this car may be too much of a temptation for a new driver. They handle great, but can be tricky at the limit.
Agree with Repete. This car for a 15yr old is dicey!
 

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Something not mentioned yet, and I dont know what its like at this point, but what about insurance, is it high on these?
At 38, I didnt really pay attention to my insurance costs when I got this, now with two cars and two motorcycles (one a sportbike) I just pay the monthly thing cause it doesnt seem too terrible.
But what about a 16 year old kid?
 

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Something not mentioned yet, and I dont know what its like at this point, but what about insurance, is it high on these?
At 38, I didnt really pay attention to my insurance costs when I got this, now with two cars and two motorcycles (one a sportbike) I just pay the monthly thing cause it doesnt seem too terrible.
But what about a 16 year old kid?
It's either low because the insurance company values the car at zero and will pay out basically zero when you total it, or they value appropriately and it's going to be crazy money.
 

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It's probably impossible to get comprehensive on a car that old, it'll mostly be super expensive because liability on a new male driver is expensive, no matter the car. The sport nature of the car won't help either.
 

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When I bought my first 2 as a youngin, I had a clean record and a couple years of driving experience- I think my premium had been lowered once already. At one point my 2 was >$200/mo with just liability, on my parents' policy, with multiple discounts applied.

These days my 2 spends more time being disassembled for tinkering than driving.
 

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Evaluating an SW20 today, I would not own one now - let alone have one as a first car. The challenges of getting one in good shape that wouldn't break the bank and then tastefully modifying it to what I want in a timely manner would be far greater than my will to do it.

I love these cars as much as the next guy, there aren't many who have experienced using it as a daily for 17+ years (and 4 years before that w/ my MK1 SC). But the key thing for me is it wasn't a struggle to get it where it is now, it was a pleasure. Its renewing & transformation was also fairly quick and more importantly, pretty much all of it was done while I was driving it. There was very little downtime. And for me, that's what a hobby should be: pleasurable with reasonably quick turnaround results, not a constant hunt heaped by frustration and more waiting, hunting, waiting.
 

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All excellent advice listed above. I’m much the same and agree that a MR2 should not be your first car or a DD. We have all done it but another decade has slipped by and moved the goal posts.

Jim
 

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My first car was a Fiat X1/9, so take anything I say with the understanding that I'm a bit of an idiot. And everything has pretty much been well covered, but I wanted to add a little more.

I TOTALLY get wanting an SW20 as a first car. If you get the cosmetics straight and especially if it's tastefully lowered, then you're going to have a really unique, good-looking car. Truly, there's nothing else like it on the road for the money. But a couple of things you should know: 1) Nobody is actually going to mistake it for a Ferrari, and 2) 99.9% of people will not give it a second look. So, I can't stress this enough: DO NOT GET ONE FOR EXTERNAL VALIDATION. In three years, I've had a handful of people get excited about my SW, but they've mostly been old fuckers my age who are just jazzed to see a decent one still on the road. Also I took it to a Cars & Coffee once, and it got a lot of casual approval there. Oh, and ONE TIME a young JDM chick in a lowered Civic gave me a thumbs up. But nobody else cares.

As for safety/driving: I drive my car like an old guy who doesn't want to replace the transmission, so I never go anywhere near the handling limits. I assume a young guy is going to want to carve some corners. Listen to the advice that's been given here. You need to know the limits and know how to recover if you start to push it too far. Autocross might be a good way to learn that, but it's also going to require money. Good tires, suspension all refreshed. Not cheap. If your SW comes with stock wheels, congrats, they're cool, but your tire options are severly limited.

Parts availability & cost: as others have said, this is an issue, especially if you compare it with Miatas, Civics, hot hatches etc. There are 'parts' available, but many (like alternators) are remanufactures, and you never know what you're getting. I'm on my second reman alternator. Of course, you could swap in a low-mileage 2GR with a new e153 and axles, and now you have an almost like-new, perfectly reliable car - but you're over 10K in now, you'll never get that back on resale, and you could still get sidelined when something like a brake booster or slave cylinder gets hard to find.

4th & 5th Gen 3SGTE swaps look super fun and cool, but parts are an issue for them too, and they seem to be fussy engines, based on threads here (could be wrong, and hope I am, as this is a swap I'd like to do someday). And again, not cheap for a 15-year-old.

I have an NA and as much as the lack of power is sometimes frustrating - you will get out-pulled in 3rd gear by the soccer mom in the Hyundai Tuscon next to you, who doesn't even realize you're trying to keep up - I've come to realize that it's probably the most practical way for me to keep enjoying the car.

I got into mine for $2000 so I was ahead of the game somewhat, and I don't have kids, we don't go out to eat or take big vacations, so in my personal situation, I can justify spending money to keep this thing running and make upgrades etc. But fact is, if I had chosen a Miata three years ago even at say a $5000 entry, I'd have what is probably an objectively better car (due to all wear items being replaced with OEM parts), one with cold A/C (forget about AC if it doesn't come working in the car. Just forget it), a huge OEM and aftermarket parts supply, and I'd still be no worse off than even financially - but in another ten years or so, I'd be well ahead, for sure.

So....I get it. Look around, and if you somehow find one in good shape for a low entry, then maybe take the plunge. But don't overextend yourself to do this. even if you think only an MR2 will make you happy, if you get something else, you're going to love it. Every car guy loves their first car. It's not the worst idea in the world to get one that loves you back a little.
 

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I think the MR2 would be an awesome first car! Just have another car on the side! :) And if you plan to work on the MR2 your self...prepare to do a lot of swearing and ranting and raving!!! LOL I have been working on MR2s for over 25 years now and I still want to jump off a bridge at times! :) With all that said...It's all worth it because these are awesome cars!
 

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JustineNC
"I TOTALLY get wanting an SW20 as a first car. If you get the cosmetics straight and especially if it's tastefully lowered, then you're going to have a really unique, good-looking car. Truly, there's nothing else like it on the road for the money. But a couple of things you should know: 1) Nobody is actually going to mistake it for a Ferrari, and 2) 99.9% of people will not give it a second look. So, I can't stress this enough: DO NOT GET ONE FOR EXTERNAL VALIDATION. In three years, I've had a handful of people get excited about my SW, but they've mostly been old fuckers my age who are just jazzed to see a decent one still on the road. Also I took it to a Cars & Coffee once, and it got a lot of casual approval there. Oh, and ONE TIME a young JDM chick in a lowered Civic gave me a thumbs up. But nobody else cares."

Really Justine??? I have kinda the opposite reaction from people when I pull one of my MR2s into a gas station. At least ever other time I pump gas some one will approach me to ask about my car. The last one was funny...The girl thought it was a new Toyota! Then I told her it was 30 years old! LOL It was freshly painted tho...
 

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Really Justine??? I have kinda the opposite reaction from people when I pull one of my MR2s into a gas station. At least ever other time I pump gas some one will approached me to ask about my car. The last one was funny...The girl thought it was a new Toyota! Then I told her it was 30 years old! LOL It was freshly painted tho...
Oh it was freshly painted? You should record a video on how to do that and NOT LOSE THE SD CARD! :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

Yeah I'm probably underplaying how much attention it gets. There's a kid in my neighborhood always out riding his skateboard who stops and stares every time I drive past, and yeah I've had some people ask about it at the gas station. I guess I'm just saying don't buy it just because of that.
 
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