I am seriously considering learning some auto repair knowledge. I don't want to use my good car as my experimental starter kit.

So can I buy a used car somewhere and have it towed home just for the purpose of self-study?

I am from Asia and am not familiar with the law here in the US. Can I purchase a car without buying any insurance?

What is the good place to start looking (Craiglist, Local auto store)?

  • Welcome to the site! This is a very subjective question and we try to stay with the facts. When opinions are the basis of the question it will be difficult to find any agreement. Can you reword you question to give more fact based responses? You can take the tour here and see how Stack Exchange works. mechanics.stackexchange.com/tour Again, welcome to the site. Cheers! Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 4:44
  • I do not know about the various insurance laws in particular states. Where I live, you cannot unless you show the vehicle is inoperable and prove it to the DMV. Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 4:55
  • I would ask, what is the reason why you are wanting to do this? Is it to save money or because you are wanting to start it as a hobby or you are eventually going into the field as a mechanic? etc... That would help us with the right answer to the question. Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 8:38
  • Saving money is the primary goal. I took my Buick Enclave to a Buick dealer last year to repair twice. The first time my battery was dead and they charged $65 labor to replace the battery. Then they replaced the catalytic converter for $900. The part itself was $600. The dealer's service is excellent. I don't deny that. But something like changing battery shouldn't be too hard and if I could do it on my own I can at least save the labor. I did not know that Advanced Auto Parts can change the battery for free as I never go to the auto part stores.
    – fhcat
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 16:38
  • As for the catalytic converter, I understand that they are expensive, but I am an experienced PC diyer and I know how the OEM parts business works in the computer world. My company just purchased a memory stick for my HP laptop for $300, but the same size aftermarket component on Newegg just costs $100. You wouldn't notice the difference unless you are a gamer. Maybe it is not the same case in the car world, but you never know. Also, if I have some basic diagnostic knowledge I can identify the problem myself and do some research to decide that whether something is necessary to be replaced.
    – fhcat
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 16:45

3 Answers 3


I think there are better ways to learn, rather than going into the expense of a used car, unless you get it for free. If you get a lemon you will end up getting even more frustrated because repairs open up more repairs. If you are really inexperienced, you might waste a lot of time getting into things that are over your head, like exhaust work without a blow torch.

Instead, I would encourage you to get with people who have more experience to start you in your learning, maybe helping other people work on their cars as an alternative.

Get a good basic set of tools (talk to experienced people on what you need), get a manual specific for your car, like a Haynes or Chilton, and start out doing the more simple tasks, like oil, filter changes, and tune ups. Don't start with an engine rebuild or trouble shoot electrical issues, unless you have a background with the latter.

Use forums, like this one to ask questions, watch you tube videos specific to the task you are wanting to accomplish, like Eric the Car Guy (read a manual first though on the task).

Get with an auto club if they have one for your car. I met a man who was a beginner with auto repairs and joined a club for Mazda Miata's. He was able to change a timing belt early on because he had over a dozen experienced people helping him at their monthly meetup and repair meeting. They would get together and just work on cars all day on a Saturday. Personally I really like this idea of getting together with others for help, if possible. My neighbor and I do this regularly, even if it's just to talk about how to fix something or borrow tools. I have another neighbor that likes Ford Mustangs and he and his racing friends regularly get together and work on cars.

To sum up, there is a lot to know and learn so you will have to invest time and money into it, but it will be a lot less than paying to have the work done. I just spent hundreds of dollars on emissions work for parts, but it would have been a lot more at a shop.

  • 2
    Indeed. There are many low risk modifications and tasks you can learn to perform on your current vehicle. Oil changes are a good start: you end up under the car looking at many important moving parts. The chat is also a great place to ask "is this a good idea?" before you dig too deep a hole. ;-)
    – Bob Cross
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 1:34
  • Totally agree and yes thank you for adding the in part about risk, which I left out. Getting into a repair that is over your head and having a car that can't run because all the parts are laying over the floor is a bad situation that you want to avoid! Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 18:58

Craiglist is good. You can find things on there for cheap. You can find away around the California insurance problem.

I think you should get fuel injected car that's enough to hook a scanner to so you can learn all about the error codes and troubleshooting the modern way.

Good luck!

  • "You can find away around the California insurance problem." How do you know? Can you be more specific? As it stands, just saying "you can find a way around", without actually explaining how to do so, can't be much help to the OP. Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 5:37
  • 1
    I should add that the car should be an OBD2 car, not any fuel injected car. I used to have an old 1989 Opel Vectra which was fuel injected and had a catalytic converter, but it was pre-OBD. I didn't have a scanner, so I used a hidden trick in the car which told the numeric trouble code by blinking the check engine light, if two pins in the diagnostic connector were short-circuited. Fuel injected? Yes. Modern troubleshooting? No.
    – juhist
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 18:15
  • As far as insurance goes, as long as the car is not driven you shouldn't need insurance (or registration or inspections). If buying from CL or the local classifieds, either have the seller drive the car over or have it towed. As long as you're not on a public motorway, the police won't have any reason to ask. If you're in a housing development, though, check with your HOA -- most of them have regulations regarding unused / unregistered vehicles (as well as working on them in your driveway).
    – TMN
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 17:44

You can go to an automotive store in your place to study from them. They are professional, it's better to learn from them than you learn it on your won. I think it's a good way!

  • This is a good place too. There is a plethora of knowledge in SE. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 16:14

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