A New Car Has a Warranty but Project Car Maintenance Pays for Itself

Sooner or later, everybody gets to the realization that it is time to buy a car. But, is a new car always the answer? Maybe not. Sometimes a used car will fill the need. But, for the adventurous, a project car is the answer. Why? Because the project car maintenance experience pays for itself.

You’ll learn every crevice of your car

Passenger front quarter view of a burgundy and gray 2005 Hyundai Tucson project car.
2005 Hyundai Tucson project car. | HJ Pizarro

A new car is great! It even has a warranty, which lends to peace of mind. A used car might have a warranty. A project car, however, will not have a warranty and may or may not have all its parts present. That’s part of the joy associated with it. The build, or rebuild and restoration. The experience that comes from fixing parts, ordering replacement parts, installing parts, modifying parts,… its all part of the thrilling ownership experience that helps you learn every crevice of your project vehicle. I’m not sarcastic here. I’m serious when I say that your project car’s maintenance helps you learn every crevice of it. 

You’ll learn troubleshooting skills and a better understanding of system interactions

What’s a project car without something to fix? Boring, that’s what. Part of the joy of putting a car back together is learning the system interactions. For example, many people may know that some cars have a spinning rod-like thingy underneath. But, a project car owner will tell you the spinning rod is a driveshaft, and it is very important. If it is not balanced correctly, there could be damage to universal joints, constant velocity joints, the rear end differential, and so on. Your engine could still make all the right noises, but the car may not go anywhere if the driveshaft is not taken care of. That’s what I mean by understanding system interactions. 

You’ll meet like-minded project car enthusiasts

Who else is going to know the challenges of swapping a Coyote engine into a Miata than another Miata owner that has done the same thing? People who work on project cars will typically find others online in forums with a similar interest or project. A great many friendships and skill-sharing have started this way. Maintenance becomes a little easier when there is another brother or sister in the same foxhole. 

You’ll have a project car story to tell

There is nothing quite like sitting down to enjoy your favorite beverage with your friends and telling them about the time you had to figure out what to do when you bent all the rods and cracked the block while crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington DC at rush hour. But the fun doesn’t end there because your friend that has his or her own project car will also share about the time they built the engine for their Corvette and quickly scored the piston chambers. That will quickly be followed by the story of yet another friend that had to fight off a junkyard cat to get that very rare piece off of a car in the salvage yard. You get the point. Project car maintenance tends to be linked with some of the best stories developed through the angst-of-the-moment and retold with humor.

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I said all that to say this, not everybody can afford a new car with a warranty. So, it’s okay to buy a used car. It’s also okay to buy a project car if the person is adventurous and is patient enough to learn the proper maintenance process. The end result of doing so will be the experience and skills gained, which some would say is more valuable than anything else. So, in essence, a project car can pay for itself in that manner.