Is a Camaro a Good First Car? (6 Crucial Aspects +Camaro SS)

The Camaro is a purposeful muscle car in the right hands, but its capability and performance don’t meet a teen driver’s needs.

is the camaro a good first car

6 Reasons the Chevy Camaro Is an Unsuitable First Car

The Camaro only has a few first car pros but several cons.

#1 Powerful Beyond a Reasonable First Car

The regular Camaro has a four-cylinder engine that produces a healthy 275 horsepower capable of potent acceleration that potentially breeds unhealthy habits in eager teen drivers.

V6 and V8 powertrains are available in the higher trims, and they push the Chevy Camaro into the terrible first car territory.

The Corvette – another fast car by Chevrolet – typically comes with more powerful base trims and isn’t suitable for new drivers and enthusiasts.

Depending on the curb weight, below 200 horsepower is generally the ideal power for first cars (see comparisons later in the post).

#2 Unsuitable RWD Drivetrain

Sports cars typically adopt the rear-wheel-drive architecture, but it isn’t the ideal system for new drivers.

Fishtailing is more common among RWD vehicles, where the back-end steps out when power sent to the rear wheels exceeds the available grip.

An all-wheel-drive Camaro for added traction isn’t available, unfortunately.

New drivers should ideally drive front-wheel-drive cars.

#3 Poor fuel economy

Fuel efficiency is an essential measure in determining a good first car.

The standard Camaro with the four-cylinder engine achieves mid to low-20s mpg in combined city/highway driving.

Meanwhile, the higher-variant Camaro SS with its 455-hp V8 returns an average of 19 mpg.

The ZL1 is the most potent Camaro, with a supercharged V8 that pumps out 650 horsepower but can only get you a meager 16 mpg.

Camaros are muscles cars, and fuel economy is typically near the bottom of their design priorities.

#4 Atrocious Visibility

The Chevy Camaro is one of the worst cars in this aspect.

It is terribly difficult to see out with the enormous roof pillars and short side windows.

You’ll need to bend your neck to look at overhead traffic lights.

The high rear package shelf reduces your vision out the back window to a mere slit.

It is a severe first car drawback across the Camaro model years.

#5 Meagre Trunk and Cabin Storage

The cramped rear seats and limited headroom at the back effectively render the Camaro a two-seat car.

The Camaro’s trunk has the smallest volume compared to the competition, and its tiny opening and high liftover height further compromise practically.

If you take a Camaro on a road trip, you’ll probably store your bags or suitcases in the back seat.

Rivals such as the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang beat the Chevy Camaro in trunk space.

#6 Low Ground Clearance

A car with low ground clearance is unsuitable for a daily driver on city roads filled with speed humps.

Chevy Camaros have a ground clearance of only 4 inches unladen.

For comparison, a Honda Civic has 6.7 inches – significantly better if you don’t want the underside of your car to hurt each time you negotiate a hump or pothole.

(However) Chevy Camaro’s Positives

Although the shortcomings are significant for a first car, the Camaro has a couple of pluses worth mentioning:

  • Moderately expensive to maintain – averaging $585/year compared to midsize cars’ $526/year, according to RepairPal.
  • Top-notch braking performance – precise, reassuring, and easy to modulate.

A brand-new Camaro costs $1,910 to maintain over the initial five years and $7,015 for the first ten years.

For comparison, it is not significantly more expensive than one of the cheapest cars to maintain, the Toyota Corolla.

 5-yr Maint.10-yr Maint.
Toyota Corolla$1,110$4,087
Chevy Camaro$1,910$7,015
Jeep Gladiator$3,088$11,803
Camaro vs. Corolla vs. Gladiator maintenance cost.

When you factor in Camaro’s good reliability score (according to JD Power; see Camaro model years comparison below), the Chevy Camaro isn’t the worst car for a new driver in terms of ownership costs.

Still, plenty of better and cheaper first cars are available for the money.

Does the Chevrolet Camaro Hold Value?

The Camaro is one of the better performers in value retention.

Most brand-new cars average between 50% and 60% depreciation in the initial five years.

The Camaro holds its value well, with an above-average 40% depreciation after the first five years.

Its decade-mark depreciation is one of the best at approx. 62%, beating even the king of compacts, the Honda Civic.

 5-yr Depreciation10-yr Depreciation
Chevy Camaro40%62%
Honda Civic39%71%
Subaru WRX40%70%
Chevy Camaro40%62%
Dodge Challenger40%61%
Ford Mustang43%66%
Dodge Charger48%75%
BMW 3-Series55%78%
Chevy Camaro depreciation compared to other cars.

The slowing depreciation rate means getting a used Camaro is better than buying a new one.

That said, every used car is different, so verifying its conditions is crucial before deciding.

Insuring a Camaro for Teenagers

As expected, powerful sports and muscle cars are expensive to insure, especially for teenagers, due to the increased likelihood of accidents.

The Chevy Camaro is no different, although it is only moderately expensive to insure among segment rivals.

The MX-5 Miata, Ford Mustang, Subaru WRX, and Subaru BRZ are among the cheapest sports cars to insure – more affordable than the Camaro.

A Camaro’s full coverage costs $7,594/year for a 16-year-old driver, $7,064/year for a 17-year-old, and $6,584/year for an 18-year-old.

 Est. Insurance Cost
Full coverage insurance cost for Chevy Camaro.

The 1LT is the cheapest Camaro to insure, while the ZL1 is the most expensive.

However, insurance premiums vary significantly depending on your location.

The most expensive zip codes can be 3x the insurance cost of the cheapest, so take these figures only as a rough guide.

Request quotes from a few insurers for an accurate estimate.

Worst Year for the Camaro (If Any)

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Complaints: total reported problems (CarComplaints).
  • Recalls: NHTSA or manufacturer-initiated.
Model YearSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.ReliabilityComplaintsRecalls
2022 Camaro3.8/45/519/29/2282/100 
2021 Camaro3.8/45/519/29/2282/10043
2020 Camaro3.8/45/520/30/2384/10012
2019 Camaro3.8/4NA20/30/2380/1001
2018 Camaro3.8/45/522/31/2582/10061
2017 Camaro3.8/45/522/31/2579/100142
2016 Camaro3.8/4NA21/30/2480/100121
2015 CamaroNANA17/28/2081/100312
2014 CamaroNANA17/28/2083/100544
2013 CamaroNANA17/28/2083/100683
2012 CamaroNANA17/28/2084/100265
2011 CamaroNANA17/28/2085/100293
2010 CamaroNANA17/29/2187/1001003
Chevrolet Camaro model years comparison.

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is probably the worst Camaro for a first car with the most overall complaints.

Those complaints include engine problems (premature timing chain wear; engine dies while driving) and airbag issues (airbag lights keep coming on).

Note that V6 Camaros are the base model up to 2015, after which the four-cylinder engine became the standard trim.

The V6 Camaros with manual transmission return considerably less mpg than the newer and smaller i4s.

Chevy Camaro Compared with Better First Cars

Several sporty cars with less powerful engines, FWD or AWD, and higher fuel efficiency are attractive alternatives to the Chevy Camaro.

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (manual).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Chevy Camaro275-323 hp22$5853.8/45/5Poor
Subaru BRZ205-228 hp24$6723.8/4NAGood
Mazda Miata116-181 hp29$429NANAAverage
VW Golf GTI210-228 hp27$7913.8/45/5Good
Mazda 3 Turbo227 hp27$433+4/45/5Average
Honda Civic Si197-205 hp30$368+4/45/5Good
Honda Civic110-158 hp33$3684/45/5Good
Chevrolet Camaro comparison with better first cars.

If you don’t fancy the regular sedan body style for your first car, the Mazda Miata two-seat roadster is a compelling option.

It may have the same rear-wheel-drive system as the Camaro, but it has a less powerful four-cylinder engine that delivers an equally engaging drive.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of the most fuel-efficient sports cars and a superfun first car.

The Mazda 3 variant with a turbocharged engine introduced in 2021 produces 227 horsepower and sharp handling, making it a fun daily driver.

Crucially, the Mazda 3 is more fuel-efficient, cheaper to maintain, and comes with an all-wheel-drive system for extra traction, which the Camaro lacks.

The Honda Civic Si provides the best overall combination for an excellent sporty first car – high fuel efficiency, low maintenance cost, and an engaging drive.

Plus, the Civic Si has a more-practical four-door layout.

The base Honda Civic remains one of the best first cars for teenagers.

Is a Camaro SS a Good First Car?

The Camaro SS receives performance upgrades over the base model, which puts it firmly in the bad first car category:

  • Excessive horsepower – 455 hp compared to 275 hp in the base Camaro.
  • V8 engine – no teenager needs a thirsty V8 in their first car.
  • Abysmal fuel economy – 19 mpg combined is the best you can hope for in combined driving.
  • Low ground clearance – 4 inches; similar to the standard Camaro.

You should seriously consider getting a less potent first car.

Camaro SS Compared with Better First Cars

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (manual).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Chevy Camaro SS455 hp19NA3.8/45/5Poor
Mazda Miata116-181 hp29$429NANAAverage
Subaru WRX230-271 hp23$6824/45/5Good
Honda Civic Si197-205 hp30$368+4/45/5Good
Camaro SS comparison with better first cars.

If you want a vehicle in a stylish body style, the Mazda Miata is a significantly better first car than the Camaro SS; it has moderate horsepower output and excellent fuel economy for a sports car.

Alternatively, the four-door Honda Civic Si will ably serve your practical needs while maintaining an adequate driving enjoyment.

Camaro vs. Mustang as a First Car

Both offer coupe and convertible body styles and have comparable price, performance, and features.

So, which is the better choice?

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (manual).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Camaro (std)275 hp22$5853.8/45/5Poor
Camaro SS455 hp19NA3.8/45/5Poor
Mustang310 hp24$7093.8/45/5Average
Chevy Camaro vs. Ford Mustang for a first car.

Overall, the Ford Mustang edges the Chevy Camaro as the (slightly) better first car with higher fuel efficiency and improved visibility.

The Mustang is easier to see out than a Chevy Camaro or Dodge Challenger, owing to slimmer roof pillars and decent-sized windows – although a coupe can never have the visibility of a typical sedan.

Still, pony cars like the Camaro and Mustang aren’t suitable first cars.