Now that you know what makes and models you are looking for it's time to start the hunt!
Oh, wait: where does one actually find these cars? Good question!
First off we need to clarify one very important parameter for your hunt: as we briefly touched upon in a previous guide, the best value for the money is found with supercars that have 40000 or more miles on the odometer. The mileage vs. price vs. age sweet spot varies depending on make and model, but most exotics with less than 40000 will sell at proportionally higher prices than vehicles with more miles. Mechanically any supercar with 40000 (or 45000 or 50000...) miles is still in its prime, though the first-owner and collector market has created the myth that these are indeed high-mile vehicles and as such they need to be avoided. Great, let them perpetuate this nonsense so that The Rest of Us can scoop up perfectly good exotics at low prices!
Then there is the topic of age. For instance, is a 15 year-old car going to be a heap of trouble? In the case of older supercars one should also understand that, say, 20 year-old cars (or older) that are being sold with, say, 20,000 miles are likely to suffer from issues that are actually caused by not having been driven more – such as, for instance, faulty gaskets, inoperative A/C, delayed or neglected maintenance and so on. Not only, but even if the engine is in good working order we shouldn't forget that the car interior is just as likely to need attention.
“Perfection shouldn't be expected. In any case most of those issues can be rectified for far less money than you expect”
In summary, finding a 15 or 20 year-old supercar with only 20,000 miles is no guarantee that it will be any more problem-free than one with 40,000 miles that has been regularly driven and maintained (the latter being the key). However exotics often have quirks and special needs that differ from the regular maintenance associated with utilitarian vehicles. Because of their edgy nature each supercar has its own weak spots that need to be researched and verified before the purchase. But don't worry: even if some of these items don't check out with a particular vehicle there are ways to go about fixing them that don't require huge amounts of money. But that's where you need to know how to proceed.
What we have learned so far in this piece is is that finding your supercar isn't a matter of locating a time capsule: most likely the exotic you are going to buy will have some blemishes, either aesthetic, mechanical – or both. And that's OK: remember you are buying a car whose MSRP was originally likely more than double, if not three times, what you are paying for it now. Perfection shouldn't be expected. In any case most of those issues can be rectified for far less money than you expect – as we will discuss later.
Let's see: now we know what make/models we are looking for, with no less than 40000 miles (higher is usually better in terms of value), for the amount you have budgeted based on your own access to funding as well as knowledge of the depreciation curve and historical values. Not bad: that's a lot of information to start with! So, back to the original question: where does one actually find these cars?
Higher-mileage supercars aren't usually found at their respective brand dealerships. In other words, a Lamborghini dealership will very rarely carry a 40000-mile, 15 year-old Lamborghini as the typical American buyer is pre-programmed to see them as lesser cars. Brand dealerships much prefer to sell newer cars also because doing so generates the highest profit for them.
By and large higher-mileage exotics will be found from:
- individual sellers
- independent used car dealers who acquire them at auction mainstream
- car dealers who take them as trade-ins toward one of their new vehicles
- boutique pre-owned car dealers who specialize in high-end sports/exotic cars
In the first three cases these cars are very often advertised on internet sites like autotrader, cars.com and eBay Motors, Craigslist, more rarely on Bring a Trailer. Make no mistake: the first three sites mentioned are not exactly places catering to the discerning buyer. Frequently cars will be misrepresented as being in better conditions than they are, and just as often descriptions will omit important items such as accidents, mechanical failures and so on. Even so one quickly develops a sense for the quality of the vehicle also based on the post description, narrative, pictures, etc. For instance, grossly misspelled ads with uncertain narrative and cloudy cell phone pictures usually don't bode well for the quality of the vehicle being sold – or for that of the seller. They wouldn't bode well for a used Chevy Cavalier and far less for any pre-owned supercar. We recommend you have daily alerts sent out to your email address based on the parameters you select: year range, make, model, transmission type, mileage and so on.
Don't forget to open your search to be on a nationwide scale, for Murphy's Law states that the vehicle that best fits your needs will invariably pop up in the corner of the nation that is farthest away from you! For the quality of these vehicles isn't always as advertised, be prepared to view in person cars that may pop up in your vicinity, but be more careful when vehicles come up that may require an out-of-state trip – even worse if by air.
Other helpful locations for this types of cars are dedicated internet boards such as, for instance, FerrariChat, 6speedonline, and Ferrari Club of America (the latter requires membership). Be sure to check each daily, as cars are posted and sold often within a short time span.
In the case of boutique pre-owned car dealers their cars are generally advertised on their own websites as well as at times on niche forums like FerrariChat and similar. One of such dealers that comes to mind is, for instance, Yellow Compass Group but many others use the same business model. In general you should expect to pay a premium when using these dealers (that's how they make their profit), but the reverse side of the coin is that they can find higher-mileage supercars for you that would otherwise be very difficult to locate. More often than not, however, these dealers will not stock all the cars they are selling but work out of their Rolodex – as it were – knowing who is looking to sell and pairing customers up based on demand. With this type of fast-moving dealers personal contact by telephone is a must and moving quickly when the right opportunity presents itself is highly recommended.
So there you have it: now not only do you know what you are looking for but also where to look for it. Next: what to do once you think you found a strong candidate car.