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A silver Jeep Wrangler scrabbles up a rock face

Best First Project Cars to Build With Your Teen Driver

Buying a new car can be exciting, but for a young car enthusiast, buying a first project car can be even more exciting. Of course, there are a lot of important things to keep in mind when it comes to finding the perfect first project car, and it might be more obvious than you think.

Car enthusiasts start at all ages, but teenagers just getting their driver’s license for the first time are especially likely to be getting into cars. Whether they are interested in building their first car or just modifying one they’ve already purchased, the first project car someone has can set a surprising impact on their passion for the rest of their lives as car enthusiasts. But, there are a lot of different cars to pick from, especially on the used car market, and if you’re picking a trendy project car option like a nimble Mazda Miata, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Pick a car you’re passionate about

the engine bay of a private project hot wheels project car
The engine of the Hot Wheels Land Rover Defender | Joshua Maguire, Barcroft Media, Getty Images

There are so many project car options on the market, and everyone seems to have their own opinion on what the right — and certainly wrong — project cars are to buy. From muscle cars to JDM, there is a community for many types of project cars. Really, the most important factor to keep in mind when deciding on a project car is that you pick one that you are passionate about the car. Rebuilding and modifying is time-consuming and expensive, but most importantly, it takes a lot of work, all of which is nearly impossible to push through unless you are excited to get the project car done in the first place.

Consider the level of difficulty of the build compared to how much time, money, and energy you want to invest

Custom exhausts protrude from the side of David Jeffery’s ‘BellaRat’ ratrod | Kirk Pflaum, Barcroft Images, Getty Images

While passion is one major factor to consider, the level of difficulty you are willing to tackle is another. This idea should start before you begin looking at project cars, so you have time to consider what type of project car you are willing to take on. It is also important to keep in mind what parts of the car you are looking to work on. Do you want to rebuild a car that has no running mechanical components, or are you just looking to repair a vehicle cosmetically? Do you want to go through the process of having the car inspected if it has a branded title, as you will need to have this process completed before the title will be marked as ‘rebuilt’ and will be registerable.

Safety is of the utmost importance

The final thing to keep in mind when picking out a project car is to assess the damage and ensure you’re picking one that, at the end of the build, will be safe to drive. This not only means replacing and deployed airbags or damaged seatbelts, but it also means checking to ensure that the car is aligned properly and there is no frame damage or major structural damage that will prevent the vehicle from protecting you and passengers in case of a crash.

Really, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for what the best project car is, regardless of age or experience. That is part of what makes the automotive world and the community of custom cars so broad and unique — everyone has different interests and ideas. As long as you stay realistic and passionate about whatever car you’re working on, chances are it’ll make for great memories and hopefully turn into a car you will love for years to come.


Do You Really Want A Project Car?