How to Buy a Used Sports Car

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How to Buy a Used Sports Car

Sports cars are considered status symbols for a reason: they tend to be a good deal more expensive than the average hatchback or saloon. The focus tends to be on power and performance rather than fuel efficiency and interior space. Buying used a sports car allows those that are faced with budgetary constraints to have the cars of their dreams. However, whether buying a trusty run-around or a flashy performance vehicle, the basics of used car buying remain the same.

When buying a used sports car, decide whether this is the right option, taking the costs of running and repair into account. Learn how to evaluate the cars on offer. Know what to research, what questions to ask the seller, what paperwork to request, how to check the vehicle history, and how to perform a physical inspection and test drive. It may be necessary to have the vehicle evaluated professionally or to enlist the aid of a more knowledgeable person when searching for the right used sports car. Used sports cars are available from used car dealers and private sellers, and are often listed online on eBay.

Is a Used Sports Car the Right Choice?

A few practical aspects of owning a used sports car should be considered before buying one. Sports cars are not practical family cars and do better as second or third vehicles. Drivers that need to transport more than two people, children, or even pets should think carefully before buying this type of car. Similarly, packing space is limited; the boot is far smaller than that of a saloon, so even errands that involve buying and transporting items can become difficult, depending on the type of sports car.

Although buying a used sports car removes most of the sting from the initial financial outlay, this is not the only cost to consider. Some sports cars have astronomical running costs. Higher performance and more power means higher fuel consumption. Parts may be difficult to source and expensive, and the cost of servicing is almost guaranteed to increase. In addition, the cost of road tax and insurance tends to be significantly higher.

Research Used Sports Cars

If owning a used sports car is a buyer's dream, the purchasing decision should be a well researched one. Firstly, researching specific makes and models provides a clear indication of the current market value and a fair asking price. It also demonstrates how much cars depreciate over time. Fortunately, used sports cars tend to keep their value fairly well because they are relatively popular.

Secondly, take the time to learn about common faults in particular makes and models and what to check when evaluating a car. For example, the Mercedes-Benz SLK tends to have faults with non-engine electrics or the onboard computer. The Mazda MX-5 is said to be prone to exterior trim faults; the BMW 1 Series has problems with the sunroof or electrics; and the Audi A4 is also said to have issues with non-engine electrics, as does the Honda S2000 and the BMW Z4. These sports cars are considered by some to be the most reliable models available. Other sports cars have different problems, which may be more serious.

Finally, contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to find out about the cost of road tax and start making enquiries about the costs of insurance.

Contact the Seller Before Inspecting a Used Sports Car

Buyers should learn as much as they can about advertised vehicles before making arrangements to view the car. Sellers should be asked a number of questions in order to establish whether the sports car is suitable. Find out how long the seller has owned the car, why he or she is selling it, and how many people owned it previously. Ask about the vehicle's condition, whether it has ever been in an accident or stolen, whether everything is in full working order, and the current mileage. Also enquire about damage or mechanical problems, whether it has been serviced or repaired recently, and when the next service is due. It is a good idea to establish the state of the tyres and other accessories because replacing these adds to the cost of the vehicle.

Check whether any finance is outstanding on the sports car. If so, the seller does not have the right to sell it and the lender can still demand payment. In addition, ask if the sports car has had a recent MOT, is taxed, and when the MOT and tax expire. Establish whether the car has a V5C registration certificate, also known as a logbook, and if the seller is in possession of the car's service history, old MOT certificates, and any other related documentation. Make note of the make, model, and year, the vehicle registration number, the tax disc details, and the MOT test number because these details are required when performing a vehicle history check.

Perform a Vehicle History Check

While the seller should be able to provide the information required, a vehicle history check shows up all of the details about a used sports car that are crucial when making an informed buying decision. This includes whether the car has ever been reported stolen, has been scrapped or written off, and whether any finance is outstanding. Several companies offer this service for a fee; the fee is well worth it to avoid problems in the future.

In addition, the age and identity of the car can be confirmed through the online vehicle enquiry service on the DVLA website. This check shows whether the MOT and tax are up to date, when the tax disc expires, and a number of other details.

Inspect a Used Sports Car

Never buy a used sports car without inspecting it physically. Some buyers may even ask for a professional evaluation for added peace of mind. Once the buyer is satisfied with the preliminary checks, the used sports car should be inspected. When buying from a private seller, always try to meet at the address that matches the car's logbook details. Do not pay a deposit before viewing and test driving the vehicle. The table below can be used as a checklist during the inspection.

Check

Details

Make and model specific faults

Use the research performed before viewing the car

Mileage

Reasonable amount of wear and tear for the car's age and mileage

Steering wheel, gearstick knob, seats, and pedals should not show excessive wear

For a manual odometer, check that barrels are aligned and have not been adjusted

Documentation

Original documents only

Logbook should have the "DVL" watermark and a serial number

Serial numbers from BG229501 to BG9999030 and BI2305501 to BI2800000 may indicate a stolen document

Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and engine number match the certificate

Paint finish

Different shades on the exterior could indicate repairs and a respray

Bubbling usually indicates rust

Check the wheel arches, window frames, and bumpers

Possible accident damage

Gaps between panels should be same width

Doors and boot should open and close without problems

Uneven wear on tyres could be from crash damage

Check for damage to the passenger side dashboard; may be caused by airbag deployment during an accident

Tyres

Check tread on fitted tyres and the spare wheel

Wear should be even

Uneven wear could indicate suspension or alignment issues

Engine

Check the vehicle identification number (VIN) for signs of tampering

Look for fluid leaks, including oil and water

Remove the oil dipstick, wipe, and check the oil; it should be golden and clear of debris

Check for a thick, white substance on top of engine and under the oil cap; could indicate head gasket failure

Check the brake fluid and engine coolant levels

Check the battery connectors and terminals for corrosion and wear

Check the tailpipe for grease residue; could indicate of compression problems

Interior

General condition of upholstery and fittings

Check features, such as window mechanisms, air conditioning, sunroof, adjustable seats, safety belts, fuel cap and bonnet release, are working

Check the Suspension
Never arrange to view a used sports car at night or in wet weather. Artificial light and rain can obscure some defects.

One of the things that sets a sports car apart from the average saloon is its suspension. While examining the exterior of the car, gently but firmly press down on all four corners of the vehicle and take note of the way that the car moves back to its usual height. The movement should be fluid and not too fast. Jerky or fast motions could be an indication that there is a problem with the suspension. The suspension should also be reasonably stiff and definitely stiffer than that of a non sports car.

Test Drive a Used Sports Car

The test drive is often the most important part of the used sports car evaluation. The driver should have adequate insurance, which should be in his or her possession before driving the car. Arrange with the seller to drive the sports car while the engine is cold because this gives a better indication of starting problems. Turn the steering wheel from one locking position to the other. It should move smoothly, without creating any noises, such as screeching or knocking.

It is best to drive for at least 15 minutes. Test the handbrake and the brakes. The handbrake should not allow the car to roll backwards or forwards when the clutch is let out a little bit. When braking, the vehicle should not pull to the left or right. Drive on a number of different surfaces to ensure that there are no squeaks and rattles and that the sports car handles as it should. There should be no difference in handling when turning in either direction. Include a trip on the motorway and ensure that all gears are tested. Changing gears should be smooth. There should be no play in the steering wheel; when it is turned, the car should respond.

Check whether the car accelerates and performs as it should. While it may be tempting to put it through its paces, stick to the speed limit and drive carefully. Sports cars tend to be more responsive than saloons and handle differently. Check for excessive exhaust smoke, and black or blue smoke. Dark smoke can be an indication of an oil leak or a problem with the head gasket.

Buying a Used Sports Car on eBay

eBay is the perfect place to find a used sports car. To search, enter a phrase, such as "used Lotus", into the search field, which is conveniently displayed on every page, to see the items available from sellers. Refine your search by choosing the most appropriate category and sports car features. For more control over your search, use the advanced search function. Always evaluate the item and the seller before buying on eBay.

Evaluating the Item and the Seller

eBay simplifies learning about items and sellers; all of the information that you need to do this can be found on the item listing page, which is accessed by clicking on an individual listing. Look here for the full item description, photos of the sports car, buying and payment options, and the seller's feedback information. Choose local sellers to make inspecting the car and test driving it easy. Sellers can be contacted via the "Ask a question" link.

On the item listing page, click on the number next to the seller's username to view his or her seller feedback information. At the conclusion of each transaction, buyers leave feedback for sellers about their products and customer service. Use this information, taking the number and type of products sold previously into account, when making your mind up about a seller.

Conclusion

Buying a used sports car is exciting, but it is best to make an informed decision about the vehicle chosen. Be careful of throwing caution to the wind and buying a car that looks good before inspecting it; this could be a costly mistake. Ensure that the dealer is entitled to sell the car by checking the car's documentation and the seller's identity. Ask about aspects such as the car's ownership history, condition, and mileage before making arrangements to view it.

Inspect the interior, exterior, and engine of the car physically. Ask a friend with an excellent knowledge of cars to come along, or consult a mechanic. Always test drive a used sports car before buying it, arrange insurance, and stick to the speed limit. Pay attention to how the car feels and handles when driving it and listen for strange sounds from the engine, body, and suspension. If maintenance or repairs are required, factor these costs into the buying price. eBay sellers offer a wide selection of used sports cars, making it easy to find the perfect car whatever the owner's needs and budget.

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