Now that you know you can afford a pre-owned supercar, you have a known budget you are willing to spend and you have decided on the configuration type, it's time to narrow down the list of makes and models that fit your parameters.
This is both the most fun part of your quest, as well as the most research-intensive.
Now that you know you can afford a pre-owned supercar, you have a known budget you are willing to spend and you have decided on the configuration type (engine, seating, transmission, and so on), it's time to narrow down the list of makes and models that fit your parameters.
There are many supercar manufacturers, some of which straddle the line between exotic sports car and high luxury vehicle. For instance, where should one place Mercedes-Benz? Most will agree that MB is overall a high-luxury brand, but some of its V12 biturbo offerings definitely push those models into the exotic category. And what about Porsche? Again, it depends on the model: a Boxter is probably considered a sports car while, say, a GT3 is definitely an exotic.
Don't be fooled by labels and go after any make and model that fits the criteria you have set at the end of our previous step. At this point don't worry about brands or categories: your job is to assemble a viable list of candidate vehicles.
“Two main factors should be evaluated initially in order to make the smartest (not the most emotional) decision: depreciation curve and maintenance costs”
Finding Your Perfect Supercar
At this point, for the sake of making an example, we will assume you have assembled the following list of potential vehicles you selected according to your own criteria. Let us assume you live in a mid-Atlantic state where the weather is forgiving and snow is an occasional event, have a $70,000 budget, are looking for a front-engine GT, 2+2 seating, manual transmission, rear wheel drive, preferably Italian (although that's not a must-have), to drive as a second vehicle to enjoy with your family as frequently as weather conditions allow.
Having researched your sources and thanks to the answers and feedback received from the forums on this site you have compiled the following list of candidates:
1) Ferrari 400/412
2) Ferrari 456GT
3) Aston Martin DB7
4) Aston Martin DB9
All four vehicles look equally appealing at least on paper. Which one should you choose? The short answer is: whichever makes you heart beat fastest when your are think about it. But in truth there are many additional important bits of wisdom that can make a huge difference during your supercar ownership. Striking a smart balance between impulsive desire and the characteristics of each car is definitely the wisest decision. Let's look at it more closely.
Exotic car owners often forego the pleasure of driving their cars extensively in order to prevent the accumulation of mileage. Doing so allows them to keep the depreciation of their vehicle to a minimum so that, the thinking goes, they will be able to resell it for top dollars. This is why one often finds 10-15 year-old (or older!) Ferraris with just a few thousand miles on the odometer. So much so that among supercar owners it is tacitly understood that a Ferrari with 40,000 miles or above is a high-mileage vehicle. Anyone with a miser understanding of automotive knows that no vehicle with 40,000 miles – be it a Ferrari or otherwise – can be considered high-mileage, but we should be very grateful that these urban legends do exist for they allow The Rest of Us to snatch perfectly good exotics with unbelievably reasonable mileage for a fraction of their original price.
This leads us to the main two factors that should be evaluated at this point in order to make the smartest (not the most emotional) decision: depreciation curve and maintenance costs.
In a nutshell this value tells you whether you are buying at or near the bottom of the vehicle's depreciation at this point in its cycle. Buying at the bottom of the curve allow one to get the most car for the money – at least theoretically. Keep in mind that defining the bottom value of a model is more art than science.
Oceans of ink have been poured while writing on this topic: even so few agree on what constitutes a model's floor value. Take, for instance, the Ferrari Testarossa: it was only a few years ago that these cars used to sell around $50,000, depending on mileage, condition, etc. Then a spike in their value saw their average sale price rise to around $150,000 and now that the bubble has exploded their price seem to be coming back to earth with many of them selling around $100,000 or lower. As you can see the bottom of a vehicle's depreciation curve can be a moving target.
There are research tools available that can lend a hand when determining past value and future trend of a supercar model: Hagerty is a good tool for historical values and future trends although their “current value” figures are often wildly mis-estimated. Another tool, though imperfect and very short-term in nature, is eBay Motors: look for a specific make/model then select “Sold Listings” near the bottom of the left column. A series of results will appear showing values for sales occurred on eBay Motors in the past few months.
In summary, when looking for a pre-owned supercar the smartest financial decision is to go for a model that is at or near the bottom of the depreciation curve. But, as we all know, the financial aspect of this entire project is only one angle among many.
Any supercar is a delicate machine that needs to be maintained to function properly. Among the items that can potentially be postponed or overlooked in a pre-owned supercar maintenance shouldn't one of them. For this reason it's very important that one be aware of a vehicle's maintenance requirements and associated costs.
Maintenance requirements vary greatly from brand to brand as well as between models from the same brand. For instance some Ferraris will require the time belt(s) to be replaced every 30,000 miles or 5 years (more on this topic in a subsequent article) by removing the power plant from the engine bay, replacing the needed parts and reinstalling it. Needless to say, that can be a pretty expensive service. Other Ferrari models still call for their belts to be replaced at the same intervals but don't need to have the engine pulled to do so. Yet other, more recent, Ferraris don't use timing belts at all.
Maintenance schedules are available online and any mildly-skilled internet researcher should be able to find what they are looking for. An even quicker way to obtain that information is to ask on this forum or simply pick up the phone and call the nearest dealer for the selected brand: Service Departments are more helpful in these cases than one thinks.
Once you learn the maintenance needs of your target supercar(s) try figuring out a ballpark figure of how much maintenance will cost you, based on how you intend to use your vehicle. So, if the belt service on a Ferrari needs to be done every 30,000 miles, costs approximately $3000 at your trusted shop (more on this later) and you plan to drive it 10,000 or so each year, then you can do the math yourself. Don't forget to add the cost of fluids, tires, etc.
As you can see, researching maintenance requirements in the early stages of making a model selection is crucial, for maintaining a supercar is perhaps the largest expenditure that one will encounter. Considering that we are learning how to buy a supercar on a budget, it is assumed that one's access to money is indeed limited.
“Which one should you choose? The short answer is: whichever makes you heart beat fastest when your are think about it. But in truth there are many additional important bits of wisdom that can make a huge difference during your supercar ownership.”
So, in the end, how do we apply the lessons learned about depreciation curve and maintenance costs to the four vehicles listed above? Let's see vehicle by vehicle:
1) Ferrari 400/412: hit the bottom of the depreciation curve years ago and have since rebounded a bit. Indeed, these vehicles are sought after and tend to be more expensive than most vehicles from that same era. Few of them are available for sale (these models were never officially imported in the US), which makes them more desirable for their rarity. These are old cars and parts availability could be an issue. Engine has timing chain. Maintenance calls for valve adjustments every 12,000 miles but doesn't require an engine-out service.
2) Ferrari 456GT: this model is currently at the bottom of the depreciation curve. Some speculate their value may rise in the future but the market isn't yet bearing that out. Parts availability is acceptable, with many parts actually cross-referenced across other brands (more on this in a subsequent article). Maintenance requires valve adjustments every 15,000 miles and timing belts at 30,000 miles or 5 years and doesn't require an engine-out service.
3) Aston Martin DB7: while this model may not have hit the bottom of its depreciation curve yet it is selling for a fraction of its original price. Lots of them available on the used market. Parts availability isn't an issue. Maintenance calls for fluid service every six months. No timing belts or engine-out service needed.
4) Aston Martin DB9: much like the DB7 the DB9 hasn't probably yet hit the bottom of the depreciation curve but is available used at interesting prices. Manual transmission DB9s sell for a premium and are comparatively harder to find one the pre-owned market. Maintenance calls for fluid service every six months. No timing belts or engine-out service needed.
Phew, that was a lot of stuff: loading up with information - knowledge is power. Up next: Locate Your Next Supercar. .