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Why Clean Inexpensive Used NSX’s Are Hard To Find

4 February 2000
Chicago IL
Yesterday I was discussing this topic with SJJ28, whose business is buying and selling high-end cars. We came to an interesting conclusion.

My observation, stated frequently here, has been (a) that a clean, well-maintained, moderate-mileage (say 25-50K miles) ’91-92 five-speed NSX ought to sell at retail for $32-34K, and that (b) the cars selling for $30K or less usually are very high miles and/or title problem and/or crash history and/or automatic transmission and/or poor condition.

The conclusion SJJ28 and I came to is that cars as described in group (a) rarely go through dealers. They usually change hands via private sale, either to friends or publicized through media for NSX enthusiasts such as the NSXprime Marketplace or the NSX e-mail lists.

We talked about why this is. Let’s take my own NSX as an example, as it’s probably fairly typical of the kind of car we’re talking about. (I am not interested in selling it at this time, so don’t make me an offer.) It’s a ’91 red/ivory five-speed, not in snap ring range, with 52K miles on it. It’s mostly stock; the only mods on the car are brake rotors, brake pads, and cooling ducts to the brakes, a Black Panther (Odyssey) battery, a battery charger, and a set of OEM 16”/17” wheels (I still have the originals). I consider it to be in excellent condition. What does that mean? I am fastidious about keeping it perfect, and as a result there are no known problems with the car. None. It has been religiously maintained. All maintenance has been done according to the maintenance schedule (except that the timing belt and water pump were done after eight years, but they WERE done). Synthetic motor oil changes every 3,750 miles. I had all the cooling system hoses replaced as a preventive a couple of years ago. I am about to replace the shocks; even though it rides okay, I feel as though it’s time to do this. The clutch was replaced at 38K miles with a new OEM clutch. There is a moderate amount of pitting on the front bumper consistent with that number of miles, but other than that, the finish is in outstanding condition (thanks to frequent, perfectionist detailing and always being garaged). The hood was replaced properly (after getting hit by flying debris on the highway) but no accidents otherwise. The interior is in outstanding condition, with no visible wear on the seats. The car has seen a fair number of track miles. I am the original owner and the title is clean.

Now, let’s talk about how much this car is worth.

If a dealer were selling it, you typically would not know anything about the history of the car. If someone knowledgeable were inspecting it, he would probably report those aspects above that are visible (condition of the finish and interior) but not necessarily know when anything was serviced or replaced. So it would probably be sold by a dealer for $32-34K. If I were selling it to a dealer, he would probably give me $27-29K for it.

However, let’s say that I decided to sell it on NSXprime or the e-mail lists. I would be able to provide the entire history of the car, as described above, and can produce receipts proving all the service that had been done. A buyer would also know, from the receipts and from discussing the car with me, just how much I cared about keeping the car perfect, and that I was familiar with proper NSX maintenance. To the buyer looking for a car that is this well-maintained, it is worth paying extra for such a car and for the peace of mind of knowing that there are no hidden problems. I could probably ask $36-37K for the car, and I could probably sell it for $34-36K.

Now you can start to see why there are so few “perfect” cars at dealers. Why would an NSX enthusiast sell his clean, well-maintained car to a dealer for $27-29K when he could get $34-36K for it in the NSX community?

The problem, as I see it, is that so many folks here keep looking around, expecting to find a car like this for under $30K, and all they find are “problem cars”. As Lud said, there is a reason that they sell for such a low price. If you are looking for a clean, well-maintained NSX, you can find one easily, but you'll have to pay a premium. Right now Doug in California (frisbee54 here – [email protected]) and Todd in Florida (Nsxotic – [email protected]) have such cars for sale, based on their descriptions (subject to an inspection that either would likely welcome from any serious buyer). And you can buy either one for somewhere around $34-36K, and get with it the peace of mind of knowing its history. That extra $5-8K over the lower-priced NSX's buys you not only the lower mileage and the proper maintenance history and the great condition of the car, but also the confidence that you will have by knowing that the car was taken care of as well as can be by the previous owner. It’s a much less risky purchase. Those who are shopping will have to decide whether it’s worth it to them to pay a premium price for a car like that. Just don’t expect to find that kind of car at a dealer, and especially not at a bargain-basement price.

[This message has been edited by nsxtasy (edited 01 March 2002).]
Wow, so true! Good post. I bought my car with no known history but I went completely through the motor changed timing belts, water pumps, hoses, fluids etc. but I like doing this kind of stuff so it didn't bother me, I learned more about the car as I was going through all of it.

But if this isn't your cup of tea it is worth the extra $5K-$8K to know the service records. I spent a little more than $4K doing it the way I did, but I also was willing to do it this way. Looking back I have no regets either, the car has been worth it.

Very nice post Ken! How true that owners who have mint condition cars would not sell it to the dealers but try to sell it themselves. I sold my '94 NSX back in Sept. of 2000 with only 5200 miles on it. I was in no rush to sell it so I waited until the right offer came by. I probably got $10K more for the car selling it privately than if I traded it in. You couldn't tell the car from new and it still smelled like a new car inside. I think owners on this forum take pride in their NSXs so it is probably a good bet most of us feel our NSXs are worth more than what any dealer would offer us. The moral of the story is that if you have a mint condition NSX you want to sell, you shouldn't worry about finding someone who would want to buy it at a price higher than what a dealer would offer.

'00 NSX-T, silverstone/blk, #252
Ken is right on. Finding a clean NSX is next to impossible for under 30K. Even one with higher miles. I have looked at quite a few cars, and most of of them have been far less than perfect.

I think finding a clean 91-92 for 33 is pretty realistic depending on mileage.

Anyway, it is for all the reasons that Ken mentioned that I realized, once again, that I cannot afford this car

NetViper -= 100% Stock EBP 2000 Civic Si =- Still looking to get an NSX, but at least I can live life at 8,000 RPM!
I agree with Ken on his post. It is very difficult to find a clean NSX from someone other than the original private owner. However, I think that it applies more directly to early model NSX's. Highline/Exotic dealers have good access to late model (97+) NSX's directly from American Honda. These are often pristine, one-owner, lease return cars. (And please don't bash lease cars. I've seen enough of every kind of car to know that it is the owner, not the method of ownership that determines how the car is treated) One downfall is that you still don't usually know the full maintenance and service history which is often also the case with private party vehicles that have ever changed hands. The rare instances where dealers end up with clean early model NSX's would be when a customer either has so much money he doesn't care how much he gets for it and would rather forego the hassle of seling it himself, or he got such a great deal on the car he was trading up to that he doesn't want to lose it. These cases are very uncommon. One common thought on these forums is to buy from private parties because dealers lie. Well, I hate to tell you guys this, but private parties lie like dogs, too. It's just harder to hold anything up against private parties in court and dealers have to be responsible for what they say as a business.

As with any large purchase,(house, car), have the proper inspections done by a respected professional that you trust and you should be ok. I am surprised at the amount of owners who THINK they have a pristine, no accident, etc. car, but often times it is anything but.

Out of the 200+ NSX's I've seen personally, I would say that only about 5 stand out in my memory as being "pristine" examples like what Ken and Todd's cars sound like. From my experience, 80-90% of NSX's have some sort of paintwork and about 50% have at least had a minor accident. I am talking about private party and dealer cars. I am not saying that this is representative of all the cars, but just from my experiences with NSX's.

So, yeah, for under $30k it is going to be damn hard to find a truly "clean" NSX. Just remember, you get what you pay for. If you can afford this kind of car, pay the extra amount and buy something like Todd or Ken's car if you really want a perfect example. If it is not that important to you and you would rather save $$$ now, than don't complain about it later.

BTW I think it's amazing that a 91 car that originally sold for $60+k is still worth mid 30's today!
I agree with ck that newer models don't necessarily fall into this pattern. That's partly because the newer models are in a higher price bracket to begin with. Also, they haven't been around as long, so there isn't that much maintenance to look at (no timing belt change) and they haven't had a chance to deteriorate much. I would think that there would be less difference in condition between a newer NSX that is well maintained and one that is not, than for an older NSX, where condition can vary widely.
I agree with ck on the late models as well. My car (1998 T), was a lease return that had originated and stayed in my local area.

The car had high mileage, but was kept very clean by an owner that obviously didn't smoke and obviously had a lot of cash.

Basically, the car is by no means perfect, but it is what you would expect from a NYC car with 50k miles (couple of bumper dings, some spoiler scrapes, some minor chips).

I got a fair deal from the dealer on my trade (tough selling a Vette these days), and I think I got a good deal on the car: $49k. With my car, the high miles (which don't bother me), auto tranny (which I wanted) and silver color (mandatory for me), were making it harder for the dealer to move the car, so he was willing to move a bit.
Out here in Socal- most 91/92's are going under 30 or right at it. I have seen some CLEAN ones that went for 28-29 in the last few months, but wasnt for me. THere is one black that is supposedly SUPER clean going for 27k that I have not looked at yet, from what the owner says it is a prisitne example, even with 90k- the hunt goes on...but I do agree 30k about min. on a good one..

93RX7TT-(4sale for NSX!)
95 Legend LS Coupe
89 Mazda MPV-Daily Beater
It is posible to get a good, no accident, totally clean title, second owner, 50k mile car for under 30k. I just did it a month ago. It is hard to believe that my car is 11 years old. It looks brand new.

The concepts stated in the above posts are true but there are other factors that effect what cars sell for.

1.The poor economic times are putting downward pressure on car prices.

2. Some NSXers are unaware of NSX Prime and not know of its outstanding site. The miss out on selling to other NSXers or their friends.

3. Some owners are looking for a quick sale and aren't concerned with a couple thousand dollars. They quite posabally are wealthy. As in my case, His 360 Modena was coming in and he wasn't concerend with getting top dollar, only a fair price. They way I look at it, we both won.
I find this an interesting post since I've had my car for sale now since December. So far I've had about 6 BS calls and 3 people seriously look at it and one who made an actual offer. I ended up not accepting the offer because I know if I wanted to replace it that I would not be able to find any clean, well maintained Targa with my current mileage and condition anywhere near the price proposed.

I honestly wish I could have accepted his offer because he was a really stand-up person. Unfortunately my car just didn't fit into his budget. I hope to see him here on the forum as an owner some time as I think he'd be a great person to get know. BTW he fit the typical NSXer: mid-40s and a professional.

Now on the other hand I've had some people inquiry about my car who slam it because it's an automatic, tell me it's over priced and that they've found ones cheaper in an attempt to get me to come down on the price. That's a pretty interesting approach.

So for those of you are searching this was my experience 2 1/2 years ago. You get exactly what you pay OR worse. I looked at 15 different NSXes over 6 months. Only 2 cars met my criteria after my initial carfax, dealer service investigation and paying for an NSX tech to inspect the cars. The first one was bought before I could get on a plane to pick it up. I called her to see if she would sell it to me. The answer was no. She had been on a search like me too for months. Unfortunately "she" is not a participant on any of the forums because of her job.

I own the second car and it was on the market for exactly 1 day. It was traded in on a new Lexus by someone I'm told who had so much money that actually his "people" took care of the transaction. It had 4200 miles on it and was 4 years old.

How did I find it? I watched the net like a hawk. Not just nsxprime but several car dealers web sites, carpoint, etc. I think I knew about every NSX on the market. It helped having a really motivated 17 year old too!

When I found it I did all the checks that I had done on the prior cars. When I had it delivered to the Acura dealer the service GM said you can pay me the $120 but we don't need to inspect that car as we know who's it was and we did all the maintenance. BTW the tech showed me how it was cleaner than the new one on the show room floor.

Yes every now and then someone is dumping a car because of some life crisis. I remember when I was around 12 my brother and I would always look in the paper to see if any Ferraris were for sale. We saw an add for a Dino for $1. We thought someone had screwed up the ad some how. Later that night on the news it was reported a lady got a Dino Ferrari in her divorce settlement. Just to piss off her ex she sold it for $1. Man what a lucky SOB! My brother and I keep looking for that $1 Ferrari. Hmm never found one but still looking. I read the Ferrari ad section every day I can. You just never know!

[This message has been edited by hejo (edited 01 March 2002).]
Originally posted by SCS2k:
You people might want to read this. I posted a nice NSX for sale on behalf of a friend and look at the ongoing battle it has caused.

NetViper should tell them how many cars he has looked at in the $30K price range and how many of them are in excellent condition.
Originally posted by hejo:
I remember when I was around 12 my brother and I would always look in the paper to see if any Ferraris were for sale. We saw an add for a Dino for $1. We thought someone had screwed up the ad some how. Later that night on the news it was reported a lady got a Dino Ferrari in her divorce settlement. Just to piss off her ex she sold it for $1. Man what a lucky SOB! My brother and I keep looking for that $1 Ferrari. Hmm never found one but still looking. I read the Ferrari ad section every day I can. You just never know!

That's an urban legend. It's often told about a Porsche also, with varying low dollar amounts. You can read more about it here. Like this one, urban legends are rarely true, but are often fun!

[This message has been edited by nsxtasy (edited 02 March 2002).]
Originally posted by hejo:
I find this an interesting post since I've had my car for sale now since December.

Hal's car is a slightly different situation because it's an automatic. Most NSX buyers would prefer a manual-transmission car. So this car is much more unusual than a five-speed. The following principles apply to any unusual NSX - whether it's one with lots of extensive mods, or one that's an unusual color (e.g. Midnight Pearl or Brooklands Green Pearl), or an automatic.

If you would like to buy an unusual car, it will be much more difficult to find. You may need to look through 50 or 100 NSX for sale listings in order to find one that meets your needs. Because of the limited selection, if you don't want to keep looking forever, you may have to settle for a car that doesn't meet part of your requirements. For example, if you're looking for a purple automatic, you may have to settle for a different color, or you may have to pay a higher price than you expect because the only one you can find has an owner asking for higher than market value. The alternative is to keep looking; you might eventually find the deal you want, or it might never happen.

If you would like to sell an unusual car, it will be difficult to find a buyer - unless you are willing to come down in price. You may have 50 or 100 people see your NSX for sale listing in order for one to consider buying it. Because of the limited appeal, if you don't want to keep it on the market forever, you may have to settle for a price that's less than you expect because the only buyer you can find (whether it's an individual or a dealer) is only willing to pay less than what you consider fair market value. A buyer may even "lowball" you thinking that you are desperate. The alternative is to keep it on the market indefinitely; if you have that luxury, you have a better chance of eventually finding a buyer willing to pay a price you consider acceptable; of course, you still have the option of selling it to a dealer for less than that at any time.

On either side of the equation, an unusual car limits your market; if you need to move fast, you won't get the deal you want, but if you can take your time, it may work out for you.
Gee Ken you're no fun at all. Okay it was for $50.
My whole point of that story was people are wishing for something that probably isn't going to happen.

However your next post
I think is not necessarily providing people with what I think is appropriate advice and information. It happens rarely that I disagree with you but I'm forced to speak up on this one.

"Unusual" is the wrong word. I think my situation is not unusual and neither is my NSX. Reading between the lines you make it sound as though my car and others with certain color combinations are undesireable! Frankly I disagree.

Since you like math... 696 automatics were sold between 91 and 98 out of 7421 total units. That's 9.4% or roughly 1 out every 10 original NSXes sold was an automatic. Roughly 75% of the NSXes sold were coupes and only 13 are 95 or newer. And 90% of those are 91-93 cars. So only 1 out 4 people own a Targa. Only 1 out 3 people own an NSX that's less than 8 years old. Want to know why a clean pre-95 is hard to find? It's easy 8 years or more of potential abuse and multiple owners.

Since some color combinations are also considered unusual let's see what they are:
Red/Black 34.42%
Red/Ivory 6.19%
Red/Tan 4.33%
Black/Black 23.62%
Black/Ivory 8.18%
Black/Tan 2.39%
S. Silver/Black 6.17%
S. Silver/Ivory 0.12%
White/Black 5.30%
White/Tan 0.69%
Green/Black 0.67%
Green/Tan 2.83%
Purple/Black 0.58%
Purple/Tan 0.59%
Yellow/Onyx 1.85%
Yellow/Camel 0.08%
Blue/Onyx 0.34%
Blue/Camel 0.42%
K. Silver/Onyx 1.27%

Looks like a lot of color combinations are unusual using your logic of 9.4% for automatics being unusual.

BTW did you know studies show roughly 5% of the population is strongly left-handed? How unusual is it being left-handed? Actually 22% of the population is mixed sided when measured through actual activities even though when asked they say they are left handed. Hmm?

So let's go back to my experience when I was trying to buy my NSX. When I started my search I originally looked at manuals and switched to the SportShifter only after I drove one. Out of 15 cars I looked at 13 were manuals and the last 2 were automatics. Only 1 manual was clean. Hmm less than 10%. Both SportShifters were clean. I tried to buy the first one but it was out side of my allocated budget range.

So using my experience it was unusual for me to find a clean manual but usual for me to find a clean automatic.

So I think my car is unique, rare, and exotic because it's an NSX. I think being an automatic makes even more so. Unusual because it's an automatic when compared to the rest of the data, No.

Personally I think more people should consider the SportShift especially if they are using it as a daily driver, not planning on tracking their car and want something clean. I'm glad I did and have no regrets.

And for the record the reasons I "was" selling my car were:
1. I'm hopefully moving south to the sunshine belt.
2. My wife had neck surgery from being rear-ened by an idiot. Now she doesn't enjoy riding in the NSX.
3. I'm becoming more interested in Shifter Kart racing.
4. My son is now in college and the primary reason I bought it in the first place was to spend time with him.

So no I don't have to sell my NSX. In fact I've ask Lud, Chris and Bill to remove my ad from their sites because I don't have time to deal with it right now. Karting will just wait.

[This message has been edited by hejo (edited 02 March 2002).]
Hi Hal,

Reading between the lines you make it sound as though my car and others with certain color combinations are undesireable!

Absolutely not true. This is your inference and is not implied by anything I have said. Fewer people desire it. That does not mean that it is undesirable, and in fact it is more desirable by that minority of potential buyers. In fact, I'm not sure why you even introduced that concept into this discussion.

You are taking the word "unusual" and considering it as a negative. I didn't, and don't.

What I said, and meant, was that certain cars have a more limited market. 9 percent of the NSX's sold have been automatics. And that is a very small slice of the NSX market. (How small? 9 percent.) That's probably an accurate reflection of the preferences of NSX owners; 9 percent prefer automatics, and 91 percent prefer manuals. There's nothing wrong with an automatic. I've never - in this post or any other - criticized getting an automatic NSX; it's a fine option for those who, for whatever reasons, prefer an automatic to a manual. I've said so before, and I'm sure the Forums Nazi can point us to those threads. I'm not sure why you have gotten so defensive and are looking for a negative where none was stated or implied.

However, my point was simply that, when you're looking at a smaller slice of the market, you may have to pay more and/or give somewhere else as a buyer, and you may have to accept less as a seller, unless you're willing to wait to find the right one. Simple as that.

"Unusual" is the wrong word. I think my situation is not unusual and neither is my NSX.

Your NSX is one that 91 percent of buyers do not prefer. That's a smaller part of the market.

Looks like a lot of color combinations are unusual using your logic of 9.4% for automatics being unusual.

That's correct. If you insist on buying a Midnight Pearl car, it will be harder to find. If you're selling a Midnight Pearl car, it may be harder to sell. Red NSX's and black NSX's are much more common and have a bigger market.

So I think my car is unique, rare, and exotic because it's an NSX.

So do I.

Unusual because it's an automatic when compared to the rest of the data, No.

Unusual because it represents fewer than 10 percent of NSX's, yes.

Again, these are strictly numbers. If you are looking for one of 800 cars instead of 8000 cars, you will have a smaller selection. If you are selling and you have a car that most buyers do not prefer, you have a smaller slice of the market. Just because most buyers prefer a manual transmission, doesn't mean that there aren't buyers who prefer an automatic. There are, even though they are a minority, and for them, YOUR car is the more desirable version. I think you do your car a disservice by introducing the concept here that something is wrong with your car simply because fewer people want that particular version.
Having recently acquired a '91 5sp in Nov, I thought I'd offer some comments about my own purchasing criteria .. mostly because I don't think it's the norm and therefore may be useful to those on the fringe.

I'm not independently wealthy so from the start I intended the car to be my daily driver and knew I'd have to settle for a 91/92. Therefore, I quickly concluded that paying a premium for pristine condition was probably not a good use of $$s but that paying extra for verifiably good mechanicals probably was.

On the topic of mileage, I think the conventional wisdom for early years would have been to go with a lower mileage unit although a number of posters to this forum have suggested that maintenance is tied just as much to time as it is to mileage and very low mileage is not synonymous with great mechanical condition.

I also noticed that the selling price seemed to drop once they got over 70-80K miles and ones over 100K seemed to be bargains. I presume that some of the reason was owners wanting to avoid the large cost of the 90K service but I suspect that many are just nervous about high mileage exotics because I suspect that's somewhat rare. However, there are also posts to this forum which suggest that, properly maintained, an NSX should be good for well above 100K.

So my search developed into a strategy of looking for something with about 90K miles (hopefully mostly highway) that had had the 90K service done. I wound up with a '91 with 91K of mostly highway miles and the current (second) owner had had the 90K done along with a new clutch by the one and only Mark B in Phoenix. I was lucky enough to even to talk to Mark on the phone about the car which is probably the biggest single reason I bought the car (especially when you consider that I bought the car, sight unseen, from 2000 miles away).

At the time, I was also considering 2 other '91s (one I saw in person) for less money but they either had unknown service histories or had had accidents/re-paints so I stuck to my strategy and paid more.

As it turns out, the car I bought was in excellent condition inside and out, which is what he claimed, but I know as a photographer that it's amazing the flaws that don't show up in a picture (even if it's done with an expensive camera) so my advice would be to not put a lot of stake in pictures you see on websites or get emailed.

So, in summary, I guess I'm just suggesting that people not eliminate the higher mileage cars too quickly as long as they've been well maintained. An added bonus is that you likely won't have to fight with as many other buyers driving up the price. You likely won't wind up with a show car but it will likely perform as well as the lower mileage ones and with the money you'll save, you'll be able to invest in some aftermarket show/go goodies.

91 Blk/Blk
What nsxtasy is saying makes perfect sense. Looking at the production numbers, you can easily see which combos were not popular. When the car is new, everything is selectable by the buyer, so the end tally of what was produced is a good indicator of what buyers wanted.

Once these cars hit the aftermarket, things get interesting. Inevitably, there will probably be someone looking for the "odd" combo. Since there are so few around of that combo, that car becomes quite valuable to the person who wants it.

This was exactly my case. I wanted a 97+ silver auto with a targa top. A new NSX would have been out of my pricerange, so I was really looking at a 97 or 98. There were a total of 8 cars in the US that qualified. Obviously, to me, a combo that was quite unpopular when new, carried a lot of value today and I couldnt be too choosy
Originally posted by spookyp:
I wanted a 97+ silver auto with a targa top.

Did you pick the one at Greenwich?

[This message has been edited by hejo (edited 02 March 2002).]