These are sad times. Fewer and fewer folks out there are aware of what goes on underneath the hood of their car. This is despite the fact that they depend on these machines, not only to get them where they need to go but to do so safely and reliably. For a lot of drivers on the road, the inner-workings of their trusted vehicles are a black box.

So when someone shows interest in understanding the ways automobiles work – and a willingness to work on them – it’s an interest which ought to be encouraged at every turn. However, like many other subjects to master, the way in which the lessons are laid out makes a tremendous difference in whether or not a student grasps the knowledge and utilizes it to their advantage.

With that said, it’s critical for beginner mechanics to find a car to work on which possesses a great example of automobile engineering without being too complex to tinker and repair. For those looking for such an automobile, here are the best automakers to find one:

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SAAB

The Saab brand is synonymous with durability and design, like many European automotive brands.  However, unlike many other cars manufactured in Europe, Saabs tend to be easy to work on. Better yet, despite the brand’s woes, it’s still very possible to get quality Saab parts online at a good price. The availability and affordability of both genuine and aftermarket SAAB parts enables folks to fix virtually anything on their own. For the same reasons, novice mechanics can pretty easily extract and dissect the SAAB parts from these automobiles, giving them a better sense for effective car engineering. 

Volvo

The only other European make which has a reputation for relatively easy DIY repairs and maintenance is Volvo. Like Saab, early-model Volvos tend to be easier to work on than newer ones. This is probably a good thing, considering most folks aren’t looking to spend a great deal of money on a car intended to be used to learn about an automobile’s parts and systems. Also like Saab, genuine OEM Volvo parts are typically available online for a fair price and low shipping costs.

Honda

The nice thing about old Hondas for new mechanics is the sheer amount of aftermarket product available for repairs and upgrades. However, it’s a common mistake for beginner grease monkeys to only work on their Honda like it was going to be featured in the next Fast & Furious movie. Instead of focusing on making your old Civic glow like the Vegas strip, use the brilliant simplicity of this automaker’s rugged factory engine and transmission parts to study the nuances of cost-effective automobile engineering under the hood.

American Muscle

Classic American muscle cars are the quintessential automobile for beginning your journey as either a professional or hobbyist mechanic. Think “back to basics”: before we had the electrical and safety demands of today, the inner-workings of an automobile were a relatively easy thing to master. In addition, the American auto parts are big and the spaces wide, allowing far more flexibility of movement. The downside though is the parts for these classics aren’t stocked by the typical online or brick and mortar parts store; they’ll have to be tracked down and could likely cost a premium. However, getting an old Challenger or Chevelle roaring back to life seems worth the investment (and time!).

Most drivers have virtually no clue what’s happening when they turn the ignition and hit the gas. It’s a shame, but then again can you blame them considering the complexity of the modern car? To master the ins and outs of automobile engineering, seek cars from automakers which exemplify quality, but are also relatively easy to repair. Put in a little time, and you can be one of the few people who know what’s happening under the hood.