Buying a used sports car requires drivers to do their research and approach cars with care. Sports cars by their nature are bought to be driven in a spirited fashion and so it follows that many used examples will have led hard lives. Knowing what telltale signs to look out for is important. And knowing which cars are any good in the first place – it’s all too easy to to let the heart rule the head with a sports car – means doing your homework. Fortunately, Green Flag is here to help.
We’ve turned to motoring expert James Foxall. Every week, he advises drivers on how to cut the cost of buying and running their car in the Daily Telegraph’s motoring section. Here he names three of the very best used sportscars, each of which delivers a very different two-seat experience for £10,000.
BEST VALUE ROADSTER: Mazda MX-5
Now 25 years old and in its third generation, the MX-5 is the world’s best-selling two seater sports car. Justifiably so too. It was designed to evoke the spirit of British sports cars from the 1960s with modern day functionality and reliability. It still does exactly what Mazda set out to achieve which makes it a brilliant handling sport scar that’s reliable and practical enough to be used every day. There are three generations to choose from, but for most drivers, the current, third version of the MX-5 is the most rounded car that is both fun and practical to live with.
Mazda MX-5: Few compromises
Jeremy Clarkson once declared the MX-5 ‘perfect’ and added: “The only reason I’m giving it five stars is because I can’t give it 14.” He has a point. With its engine in the front, rear-wheel drive and all mod cons such as air-conditioning and ABS anti-lock brakes the MX-5 has very few compromises. You could argue it’s a bit noisy but the Roadster Coupe model – with its electric folding hard top – addresses some of that for drivers who intend to travel further than their closest stretch of winding road, and makes it more secure for on-street parking.
Mazda MX-5: Plenty of used choice
The third generation MX-5 comes with a choice of 1.8 and 2.0-litre engines. Which you prefer is down to taste. The 2.0-litre offers more performance; I feel the 1.8 suits the car better because you have to work it harder. You can buy older MX-5s for anything from a few hundred quid upwards and there are literally thousands for sale. However, a good example is a 2007 07-reg hard-top Roadster Coupe model with 26,000 miles for £10,000. Alternatively, for the same cost, there was a 10,000-mile 1.8 convertible model from 2010 on a 60-plate, so as you can see, it’s well worth shopping around.
MOST FUN SPORTS CAR: Porsche Boxster
While you must budget carefully for the running costs of a car with a Porsche badge, the Boxster is as cheap as they come. The smallest car currently sporting the famous German firm’s badge, it combines Porsche character with the performance of its six-cylinder engines, plus a degree of practicality (for a two-seater) and slightly lower running costs than a 911.
Porsche Boxster: Beautiful balance
With near perfect 50-50 fore and aft weight distribution and beautifully weighted steering, the mid-engined Boxster is a joy to drive. It’s also easy to live with thanks to solid Porsche build quality, an electrically folding soft top and the advantage of two boots – one in the nose and one behind the engine. For our notional budget, we’ll be looking at 2.7 or 3.2-litre engines which offer ample if not breathtaking performance, reasonable economy and above all else a unique sound that makes it a proper Porsche. The 3.2 is the one for drivers who crave performance, the 2.7 is something of a bargain as it’s often overlooked.
Porsche Boxster: Watch the kit list
Ever since its launch the Boxster has been among the best at holding onto its value. As with any performance car, it pays to buy the best condition you can afford and to ensure it’s got as much service history and accompanying itemised invoices as possible. For our £10,000 we saw a 2003 53-reg 2.7 model with 50,000 miles and a 66,000-mile 3.2 that was the same age. One thing worth noting: pay particular attention to the specification. Porsche is famously stingy with standard equipment so the price of the car may will be driven by what kit it comes with.
BEST SPORTS CAR FOR CRUISING: Mercedes SL
Mercedes has been building the SL sportscar car for 60 years. Now into its sixth generation, it is a grand tourer par excellence, and features an electrically-powered folding hard roof that makes it refined and secure. This is no wind-in-the-hair tearaway sports car, it’s better known for the hushed refinement that shields drivers’ hairdos from the elements. The version we’re looking at for our £10,000 is the fifth generation.
Mercedes SL: Refined and well built
Let’s be clear: the two seater Merc isn’t a car for drivers who like to drive like the Stig. It is a supremely comfortable cruising machine. The engine choice ranges from a relatively thirsty 3.7-litre six cylinder through V8s to the dipsomaniac 6.0-litre V12 in the SL65 AMG version. All have been built to last with cabins that are as robust as they are attractive. The boot is big enough for two people’s luggage when the roof’s up but its space is reduced dramatically when the top’s down.
Mercedes SL: Complicated luxury
These cars are built to take high mileage, but they do need a full service history to endure, ideally from a Mercedes-franchise, as dealers addressed certain issues that afflicted the SL. We found a 2003 03-reg SL500 with a year’s MOT and sat nav for £9490. Reassuringly it had a full service history and all accompanying paperwork, something that’s vital on a complicated and expensive-to-fix model like this. There was also a 2004 80,500-mile SL350 on a 54-plate that was on sale for £9250. No Mercedes SL will be cheap to run, but you do get a high quality luxury grand tourer for your money.