We receive regular inquiries about buying and selling Miatas. Many of the questions can be answered by searching the web, while others are unique to a certain car, Here are some tips and web resources to help sell or buy a Miata, especially the older models.
First, you should realize that Miatas are niche cars. They appeal to certain buyers for specific reasons - as a weekend escape, a track car, or even a fun daily driver. Each of these buyers will be looking for a very different car. Keep this in mind and it will help focus your buying or selling experience.
Miatas come in four generations: NA (1990-1997), NB (1998-2005), NC (2006-2015), and ND (2016+). Wikipedia has several articles on the various generations. Each has its champions and detractors, and the different models fall in and out of favor over time. Here's a video that compares the models. Whatever model, they are all fun-to-drive, reliable, and inexpensive.
Within each generation there were minor mechanical and cosmetic changes, trim levels and option packages. Because of the niche and collector appeal of Miatas, it's important to know the details of the car you are buying or selling.
Description: In addition to the year, engine/transmission, and interior/exterior colors, you need to know trim level (Grand Touring, Sport, Club, etc.), and options (CD changer, anti-theft, traction control, turbo). Enter the VIN, and Monroney Labels can print a copy of the original window sticker for under $10.
Aftermarket accessories aren't always a plus. A new radio or better floor mats might add a little interest (but not value), but that subwoffer or flashy paint job may actually decrease the value. On the other hand, racing mods can significantly increase the value for the right buyer.
Pictures: Do I really need to say that good photos are a must? Shoot several outdoor shots of the car from different angles. An attractive uncluttered background in open shade or on a cloudy day works best. Shoot several interior shots and maybe a couple of the engine bay. Show important details, both good and bad! Certainly show off the nice wheels, but also that ugly scratch, torn seat, or rust spot. You might as well address this up front and avoid wasting everyone's time.
Price: Edmonds, Kelley, and NADA bluebooks give price ranges for dealer and private sales in your area. However, the price ranges are wide and more suited to newer mass-market vehicles. AutoTrader and CarGurus show actual market listings for vehicles in your area. Miatas sold on Bringatrailer (don't let that name scare you) typically bring a higher price than those listed in the resources above, but you are likely selling to out-of-state buyers. Prices fluctuate by model, options, mileage, condition, etc. so use these prices as a guide only. Expect the final price to be determined by the buyer and seller's motivations.
Condition: Mechanical problems and body/interior damage can drop the price thousands. If you are selling, look at your car with a critical eye. Fix things that are easy (foggy headlights, worn mats, dull paint and plastic, dirty engine bay). Fix mechanical items like loose hardware, a bad battery, brakes and maybe even tires. For pre-2006 models it's important to document timing belt replacements. For a buyer, replacing the convertible top will be a major undertaking. Buyers should always check under the car for rust or frame repairs. A mechanic's evaluation is well worth the cost for non-technical buyers. Detailed maintenance records lend credibility to the seller.
Carfax reports detail buy/sell transactions accidents, mileage, recalls, etc. They aren't always complete (especially for accidents) but are worth the $40 if you are serious about buying or selling. Vehiclehistory.com provides similar but more limited reports for free. For accidents and significant mechanical or cosmetic problems be prepared to adjust the pricing for the repair cost and the hassle of completing the repairs. Above all, be honest with yourself and the buyer/seller!
Mileage: There are a lot of low mileage Miatas. It is fairly common to see twenty year old cars with under 50,000 miles. Were those daily driver city miles, fun cruises, or track miles? Use the mileage as just another piece of information, not the deciding factor. Miatas are very reliable.
Showing: These comments hold for any car sale, but I'll mention them briefly. Just like a house, think about curb appeal and safety. Thoroughly clean the interior, touch-up and wax the exterior, and don't forget the wheels. If you show the car at home, park the car out of the garage and close the garage door. Here are a few other tips about safety. Finally, a clean title (seller) and secure funds (buyer) are needed to close the deal. Meet at a bank - this is a time to be careful and thorough.
I hope this helps. If you are planning to sell your Miata, think again! If you buy a Miata, join us at Peak To Peak Miata Club for car-talk, friends, and FUN!