Car Buying

Used Sports Cars: What Should You Look For?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

If you're interested in buying a used car, it's safe to assume that you'll follow the usual routine: go for a test drive, take it in for a mechanical inspection, and run a vehicle-history report. But if you're interested in buying a used sports car, we think you should be a lot more thorough. In our latest article, we're taking a look at exactly why used sports cars are different from other used cars and what additional steps you should take before buying one.

Why Is a Sports Car Different?

Although sports cars have many similarities to normal cars, the main difference is how they're used. While some may be used for conventional purposes, such as commuting or running errands, many sports cars are used by drivers who take them to racetracks, autocrosses and other competitive events. That means additional wear on the cars and, potentially, additional issues you wouldn't have with a normal car.

Additionally, sports cars are often more expensive to fix than normal cars. They tend to use specialized parts, which are harder to find and pricier to buy. For instance, while the Honda Civic and CR-V may share items such as their powertrain, switchgear and various mechanical components, it's unlikely that the Chevrolet Corvette shares much with other Chevrolet products. The result is that the Corvette's unique parts probably cost more because they're made in a lower volume and for just one vehicle.

What Should You Look For?

When it comes to buying a used sports car, the primary item we'd consider differently from a normal car is track use. Look for signs of unusual wear on the tires, premature suspension wear and track-ready modifications such as a tow hook mounted on the outside, lightweight wheels, slick tires and a rear wing.

We'd also look for modifications. Many drivers modify their cars to add power and improve handling, then try and return the car to its original form before selling it. But these modifications may have already impacted the car's long-term reliability; more power may be too much stress on an engine, for example, while handling improvements may result in suspension problems down the line.

Additionally, we'd make sure to get a more thorough mechanical inspection than we would with a normal car. We'd also try to take the car to a specialist mechanic, rather than a general automotive repair shop. For instance, we'd be sure to take a Corvette to a Chevy dealer and a Honda S2000 to someone who specializes in the brand's high-revving VTEC powerplants. The reason for this is that specialist mechanics are more familiar with the unique cars they normally work on. They're more likely to spot mechanical issues, modifications, signs of accident history and previous track use.

Our Take

If you're buying a used sports car, proceed with caution. Sports cars are often owned by car enthusiasts, which means that they may be taken care of better than a normal car. But car enthusiasts are also more likely to modify their cars and drive them hard. Follow our tips, and you should have no trouble buying an excellent used sports car that won't give you too many troubles down the line.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Used Sports Cars: What Should You Look For? - Autotrader