This NSX FAQ entry has been migrated to the NSX Wiki -> http://www.nsxprime.com/wiki/Purchase_Process
What Should I Know When Buying A Used NSX?
The Right Attitude
While they're not the most common car in the world, there are a fair number of NSXs out there. Don't let "igottahavethisone" fever cloud your judgement. Look at the car with a critical eye. Buying a used sports car without really checking it out first can be a very expensive mistake.
Protect Yourself In A Private Sale
[DG - 98/12/10] A very simple way to handle the financial end of the deal is to make arrangements to wire transfer the funds to the seller's bank. Speak to an officer there and explain what you are doing, and that they are to release the funds to the seller when you authorize them to do (i.e., when the seller signs the title over to you). The transfer can occur almost immediately, generally costs you nothing, and is fully secure.
Before you do ANYTHING...Get the car's VIN number and run it through CarFax. I wouldn't bother doing ANYTHING else until I had a CarFax report. When a car like the NSX is damaged, it is often worth someone's effort to buy it as a salvage vehicle, rebuild it, and then sell it. Unfortunately the cars are not always advertised as salvaged vehicles. CarFax can be found on the web at www.carfax.com or by calling 1-888-4-CARFAX. Reports are only $19.50 online or $29.50 via phone.
Find out current the status of the car's title. Is it free and clear of any liens? Does the bank still hold it or is the car paid off?
Once you have a clean CarFax report (or have looked into any problems reported on the report and had them answered to your satisfaction), you can move on...
Do Some ResearchIf the car is a 1991 or 1992 model year, check to see if the transmission number is between J4A4-1003542 and J4A4-1005978. If so, it is in the range of cars which may be affected by a catastrophic transmission failure. Find out if the car has had it's transmission replaced. If so, it is fixed and you do not have to worry about it. If the transmission has not been replaced, it may not be bad and may never fail. If it does fail, and the miles are not unreasonably high, there is a good chance Acura will "goodwill" the repair at no cost. If they do not, however, the repair costs around $7000 total (a whole new transmission plus labor).
See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/transmission.htm for more information about this issue. Many people will simply not take the risk of having this fail and then hoping Acura will goodwill the repair, so this can be a deal breaker.
For a 1991 car, if the serial number is 002406 or lower there was a recall issued for
some coolant hoses (and water pump on a some of the cars). The serial number is the last
part of the VIN number. Any Acura dealer should be able to tell you if this recall work
has been completed for a given car. If the work has not been done, Acura will still do it
for free. Contact your dealer to set it up.
Get the service records from the previous owner. If there are missing records, Acura
will have records of any warranty or recall work done. Acura can also tell you where the
car was originally sold, so you may be able to call the dealership that sold the car and
find out some information. The CarFax report you got before you went any further (you DID
get it, didn't you?) will tell you everywhere the car has been registered. You can
probably call the Acura dealers in those areas and get some service history.
For a 1991 or 1992 car, find out if the power window regulators have been replaced after
1993. If not, they will probably fail at some point in the future due to a design flaw and
cost around $600 each to replace. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/PowerWindows.htm
for more information. Not a deal beaker, but you may want to negotiate the price down a
If the car has been modified, find out who did the work. An Acura dealer service center,
NSX-oriented shop like RM Racing, or well respected general performance shop are probably
all fine. Someone's buddy installing a twin turbo charger in his spare time is
probably NOT fine. Talk to whoever did the modifications to the car to see if they have
any input on the car's condition or history and to get a feel for how well they know the
It's generally a poor idea to buy a used car costing tens of thousands of dollars sight-unseen unless maybe you are working with a broker or dealer in whom you place a great amount trust. If the car you're thinking of buying is located far away, it's worth flying out to look at it. In many cases you can find another NSX owner through the mailing list who lives nearby and can do an initial inspection and test drive for you. That will help eliminate wasted trips to look at cars in poor condition. If you're not a "car person," bring someone who is along with you. They'll probably find things you would have missed.
In addition to everything below, it's also a good idea to have the car checked out by an NSX-certified mechanic at an Acura service center. It'll only cost $60-$80.
See the Used NSX Checklist for an itemized list of things to go over.
ExteriorDo not attempt to inspect the paint inside a dealer showroom, in a garage, or anywhere there is a lack of direct, very bright 100% white light. Inspect the paint in bright sunlight from both up close and from several yards away. Make sure the color is exactly the same between panels. Look for any paint drips, waviness, or roughness. The factory paint on these cars is very good; any of the above are indications of paint work. Inspect the paint again in direct sunlight towards sunset. If possible, also check it under BRIGHT fluorescent light. Also look for door dings and hail damage.
If the car has tens of thousands of miles on it, there should be some minor rock chips.
Even if they were touched up they should be visible upon close inspection. If a nose mask
was used, check around the side air intakes - they tend to attract rock chips. A car with
several tens of thousands of miles and absolutely no rock chips has probably had recent
Spray a little clean water on the car. If the car is properly waxed, the water will bead
right up. If the owner was really picky, water sprayed on parts of the painted surface
that are normally not exposed will also bead up. Such places include the door jam (where
the stickers are), the side of the pop-up headlights, underside of the hood, the
"gutters" along the side of the trunk seal, etc. Those areas will also be clean
if the owner is picky.
Check all the glass for scratches, chips, etc. Some "sand blasting" is normal
on the front windshield for a mid to high mile car. Excess glue around the edges of the
windshield or rear window probably means it has been replaced.
For any model year, check the front windshield molding to see if it's shrinking away
from the edges. Replacement is around $200 at the dealer.
For any model year, check the struts that hold up both the trunk lid and the engine
hatch glass. These struts tend to die after 4-5 years. Replacement is around $180 per pair
with labor, or an easy do-it-yourself job if you want to save $75 bucks.
Check out the engine compartment, beyond the surface stuff. Look down at the base of the
engine, near the exhaust manifold, under the air box, etc. Really well maintained cars
tend to have very clean engine compartments.
Make sure all the body panels line up correctly and evenly. If a panel is crooked,
uneven, or does not line up with the other panels, the car has probably been damaged and
fixed. Many people may be familiar with other hand-assembled cars (i.e. older Ferraris)
where variations are normal, but the NSX fit and finish from the factory is excellent and
the tolerances are tight. Your panels should all line up nicely.
Remove the tow hook cover on the front of the car and look at the tow hook. Does it look
like it's ever been used? If so, find out why.
Put the car on a lift and inspect the underside. It is common to lightly "bottom
out" such a low car occasionally if it's used as a daily driver, but there shouldn't
be anything more than light scrapes. If someone nailed a raised railroad crossing at full
speed, it should be obvious. If the tie-down hooks in the front are scraped, that's pretty
normal; but if they're bent, that's not a really good sign. Also look for any oil leaks or
leaking fluid from the brake system, cooling system, shocks, or transmission. Note that it
is NORMAL to see some original factory paint overspray underneath the car - it's on the
undercoating on both sides below the rocker panels. This is not evidence of repainting.
Check the tires. The fronts tend to wear faster on the inside edge, but wear should be
about even between the left and right tires. If not, it could be a minor alignment problem
or a more serious suspension problem (or even a bent frame).
Check the wheels for scratches. If the wheels are not factory, find out what offset they
are and whether or not they are hub-centric. You will need to talk to someone at a wheel
shop who really knows wheels to see if those sizes really fit the car correctly without
screwing up the suspension. The factory specs can be found at: http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/TireWheel/oemtirewheel.htm.
Also, if it has after-market wheels, find out if the factory wheels are included
with the car.
While you're checking out the wheels, look at the tires, rotors and brake pads too and see if they're in good shape or will need replacement soon.
InteriorIn general, really get in there and fiddle around with stuff. Push all the buttons, twist all the knobs, pull all the levers. Make sure the power windows work, make sure the stereo (and CD player if there is one) work, test all the lights, open and close the fuel filler door and glove box, honk the horn, check the rear defroster and power mirrors, etc.
Make sure you fit comfortably in the car, can adjust the steering wheel to your liking,
etc. Some taller people have headroom problems. For ideas on possible solutions to the
headroom problem, take a look at http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/Headroom.htm
For a low-mile car (under say 20,000 miles), check the wear on the drivers side left
bottom seat bolster. It shouldn't show much wear. Also check the brake pedal. It should
not show much wear either. If either one is worn, it is a warning sign that the car may
have more miles than are on the odometer. Do some more checking.
For any model year, check the sun visors. They have been known to split at the seams
when left in the hot sun on a regular basis for years. No big deal to replace them.
Check all the carpeting. Pull the floor mats and trunk mat out and check the carpeting
underneath. While you've got the trunk open, check the toolkit under the carpeting in the
trunk. If there are any empty spaces in the Styrofoam tray, there are missing parts of the
toolkit. Look for any moisture or musty odors in the trunk or any other part of the car
(there shouldn't be any!) - they could indicate a rainwater leak or flood-damaged car.
Check all the interior leather and vinyl for wear, cracks, or damage. It should be soft
and supple to the touch, not brittle.
Check the shocks. If you press down on a bumper corner, the car should bounce back
crisply and stop. It should NOT bounce. Be careful where you're pressing down; pushing too
hard on the sheet metal could dent it.
Check the seal of the windows. They should be tight. If you hear wind noise at speed,
the windows may not be aligned properly. If you run a hose on them, water should not leak
in (just let the water run out of the hose; almost any car's windows will leak if you use
your thumb to create a high pressure jet of water!).
If the seller claims the car hasn't been smoked in, check for cigarette ash, burn marks
or odor. Run a white cloth through the ashtray and see if there's any ash residue.
Try the OEM keyless entry and security systems. The OEM security should NOT be activated
when you unlock any door or the trunk with the key, but this is a fairly common failure.
For more information, see http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/antitheft.htm
Try any OEM accessories such as keyless entry or factory phone as well as any
after-market accessories such as an alarm or built-in radar detector.
Test DriveStart the car cold (hasn't been started overnight). It should start easily. Listen to the engine for a minute to make sure everything sounds OK. Hold a white towel in front of the exhaust for a minute. It should get a little sooty, but there shouldn't be oil shooting out of the exhaust. There shouldn't be any serious smoke.
After you start driving, the car should get up to normal operating temperature within a
few minutes of driving. If it takes a while (say 15 minutes), the thermostat that controls
the cooling system may be bad. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/SlowWarmup.htm
for more information.
Focus on the car - do not let the seller distract you. If the seller is along for the
test drive, don't talk to him. If he keeps talking, explain politely that you're trying to
concentrate on the car and ask he please be quiet. You can talk to hom all you want before
or after the test drive. Likewise, do not play the radio while you're doing the test drive
other than just to make sure it works and the CD player (if there is one) doesn't skip.
Once you've done that, turn the radio off. You're not out for a cruise, you're evaluating
a vehicle for purchase. Use the quiet to listen to the engine and for any "bad"
noises the car might make as you drive.
Check the clutch. Make it isn't slipping by accelerating hard through a couple gears and
watching the tachometer, then drop it to around 40 MPH, shift into 5th gear, and floor it
(keep watching the tachometer.) The engine should bog down (it's not good to do this on a
regular basis but won't hurt it for a minute to test the clutch). The tachomemter should
NOT climb out of relation to the speedometer or be jerky at all. If driven correctly the
clutch lasts a long time, but it is easy to slip the NSX clutch without noticing it. Many
people have burned clutches in 30,000 miles, sometimes even less. Also check for clutch
shudder. You will notice this as you accelerate from a stop. A little bit is normal. Too
much probably means the release bearing needs to be lubricated. This costs a few hundred
dollars in labor. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/clutch.htm
for more information. The clutch should work smoothly and there should be no grinding
between gears with the clutch fully disengaged (pushed down). Grinding could indicate a
clutch out of adjustment or bad synchros.
The steering should be very tight and responsive and should not pull to one side. On
cars without power steering it's a little heavy when stopped or driving slowly, but
lightens up and feels great once you're moving. The car should be ROCK SOLID, even at very
high speeds. Period. If it feels "floaty, " "twitchty," or
"vague" at any speed, something is wrong. Most likely it's something minor like
being out of alignment, but do NOT buy the car until it is fixed and feels rock solid at
high speed in case the problem is something more serious.
If there is any vibration in the steering wheel (other than from the road of course) at
any speed, there is most likely a wheel out of balance. But it could also be a bad or
damaged tire or a BENT wheel. Do not buy the car until the vibration is gone. If it's just
a wheel out of balance, it's cheap and easy for the seller to fix. If it's a bad tire or
wheel, it could cost hundreds.
Drive over some bumpy roads and listen for rattles (hopefully few or none) and
suspension noise (there should be none).
Make sure the AC works well. Ask the owner how often he used the AC. When not used on a
regular basis (every few weeks at least), the seals can start to dry out and you can end
up with a freon leak. AC problems can be expensive. Try the heat too!
At some point after the car has gotten really warmed up, stop for a couple minutes, shut
the car off, and then re-start it while it's still hot. Do the white cloth test on the
exhaust again (be careful - it's hot now!). While you're stopped, check the parking brake
Try the cruise control and all related buttons (on/off, accel, decel, resume).
The shifter should be smooth and quick. There should be no grinding, though it may be
difficult to engage 1st gear if you're going more than 10 MPH and do not rev-match the
shift. Make sure you try reverse too!
Do some hard braking. The car should stop smoothly. If there is shudder, the rotors are
warped. If it pulls to one side, there may be a sticking caliper piston, etc. The brakes
should not fade at all under reasonable street driving. A few 80-20 runs should heat them
up pretty well. Also, activate the ABS system a couple times and make sure it works OK.
ABS systems can be expensive to fix.
After the test drive, sniff around the engine compartment and make sure nothing is smells like it's burning (oil, for example.) Also, check the oil. If it's low or very dirty, there is a serious lack of attention to one of the most basic and crucial maintenance items, and the rest of the car has probably been neglected as well.