Fair Market Value
By definition, fair market value is whatever someone is willing to pay. Many people seem to confuse market value with the value of a car to them personally. Additionally, some “dreamers” look for the lowest price they can find regardless of not knowing the condition of the car, whether it is an auction price, whether the car is on the other side of the country, whether the car may have been a crash repair, etc. and then expect the same price on a nice car from every private seller they talk to.
General NSX Pricing Guide
Keep several things in mind when you view this table.
- This is just a general guide, not a bible. There will always be exceptions that do not fit in any chart. A really poor condition late model NSX may sell for much less, while a mint car with many expensive performance modifications may sell for a lot more. Such cars are so rare that they have to be dealt with individually.
- You may need to adjust for other factors such as location, an extraordinarily high or low number of miles compared to condition, condition better or worse than expected for age and miles, crash repair, etc.
- This is based on US cars only. Pricing in other countries varies even after you convert currencies.
|Under $20,000||F, X||F, X||F, X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|$20,000 – $25,000||D, F||D, F||D, F||F, X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|$25,000 – $30,000||C, D||C, D||C, D||D, F||F, X||F, X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|$30,000 – $35,000||A, B||A, B||A, B||B, C||C, D||C, D||F, X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|$35,000 – $40,000||A+||A+||A+, A||A, B||B, C||B, C||D, F||D, F||F, X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|$40,000 – $45,000||–||–||–||A+||A, B||A, B||C, D||C, D||C, D||F, X||F, X||X||X||X||X|
|$45,000 – $50,000||–||–||–||–||A+||A+||B, A||B, A||B, A||D, F||D, F||F, X||X||X||X|
|$50,000 – $55,000||–||–||–||–||–||–||A+||A+||A+||B, C||B, C||D, F||X||X||X|
|$55,000 – $60,000||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||A, B||A, B||C, D||F, X||X||X|
|$60,000 – $65,000||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||A+||A+||A, B||D, F||F, X||F, X|
|$65,000 – $70,000||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||A+||B, C||D, F||D, F|
|$70,000 – $75,000||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||A+, A||A, B, C||A, B, C|
|A+||Perfect in every way. Like it just came out of a museum. Very low miles. Fully documented.|
|A||Excellent condition across the board. Very well maintained, low miles. No deferred maintenance.|
|B||Very good condition. Average to lower miles. Little or no deferred maintenance.|
|C||Average condition and average to higher miles. Shows wear. May have some deferred maintenance.|
|D||Below average condition and/or high to very high miles. Needs some attention. Shows considerable wear. Lack of maintenance.|
|F||Very poor condition, needs serious attention and/or has serious issues|
|X||Salvage and/or very major issues|
|–||Not generally applicable|
|Note: For an NSX, “average” mileage is roughly as follows: Low = 2,500/year – Average = 5,000/year – High = 10,000/year|
What Affects Used NSX Prices?
Condition is absolutely the most important factor in determining the market value of a used NSX. It is common to see a $5,000 – $10,000 variation between two otherwise comparable NSXs because one is in excellent condition and another is not. The condition is a combination of several things:
- Paint – A car that has been used as a daily driver and parked outside for 10 years is just not going to have very good paint compared to one that has been garaged and used as a fair-weather weekend pleasure car. Poor paint work also devalues the car. Some buyers are turned off by any paint work at all, but the reality is that a car with good paint work is fine.
- Body – Much more important than paint is any accident history that resulted in body work. The aluminum frame can be very difficult and expensive to fix correctly, and as a result there are many poorly repaired early model NSXs out there. These cars often handle poorly and will not provide proper protection in the event of an accident. A car with a salvage title can be very hard to sell, and is worth far less than any comparable NSX without a salvage history.
- Mechanical – Is it up to date on all maintenance and service? Are there maintenance records? Are there any outstanding issues? Maintenance items can impact price considerably, so adjust your expectations appropriately.
- Interior – Most people do not want to buy a car like the NSX if the interior is in poor condition..
The NSX holds up very well with high miles, but the fact is that even a well maintained 150,000 mile car is just not going to be in as good condition as one with 15,000 miles. As a result, mileage does affect price, though the only really dramatic price difference is for extremely low mile NSXs, say under 20,000 for a 10 year old model. These cars always command a premium as resale. A 1991 with under 15,000 miles in mint condition may sell for over $40,000, while a 1991 with 150,000 miles will probably go for close to half that even if it is otherwise in good condition.
As you can see from the table above, the model year on average takes a little drop when the original factory warranty runs out. If a car has a good extended warranty (emphasis on “good”), and the warranty is transferable, that usually ads some value to a car that would otherwise be out of warranty.
Prices for cars like the NSX tend to vary by 10% or more in different parts of the country. In general the southwestern and south central US seem to have lower prices and the Midwest and east coast seem to have higher prices.
Need To Sell
If someone needs to sell a car quickly, they will often take considerably less for it. If someone is in no particular hurry to sell and has a nice car, they will usually wait for someone willing to pay a little more for a nicer car.
Manual Transmission – This is the more desirable transmission, with the 6-speed (1997-2005)
being more desirable than the earlier 5-speed (1991-1996). The manual transmission isn’t inherently “better” than the automatic transmission, but most buyers prefer the manual because the manual transmission cars are tuned to deliver more horsepower, and beginning in 1997 manual transmission equipped cars have an additional .2 liters of displacement that was never available with the automatic transmission car.
Automatic Transmission – The automatic transmission was offered in two forms – the earlier 4-speed automatic and the later “Sportshift” (paddleshift) automatic. (Anecdotal evidence indicates that the earlier automatic transmission is the more reliable of the two.) All automatic transmission NSXes, regardless of model year, have the 3.0 liter V-6 engine and are detuned to 252 horsepower to reduce strain on the transmission. For this reason, it can be more difficult to find a buyer for an automatic NSX. Thus the presence of an automatic transmission reduces the value of the car. As a result, some sellers will discount the price on an automatic NSX in order to expedite the sale. This is good news for anyone looking to buy an automatic, but you should not buy an automatic if you really want a manual transmission and the additional horsepower, just because you can save money. Conversely, you should not buy a manual transmission car if you really want an automatic and would be perfectly satisfied with 252 horsepower and the convenience of the automatic transmission. Buy what you really want without regard to what anyone else thinks.
“Snap Ring” Range Transmissions – In short, because of a manufacturing problem, some ’91 and ’92 cars MAY have a transmission problem waiting to happen. There are two ways to approach this. First is to wait until it fails and fix it. The other is to fix it before it fails, but until it fails you never really know if it is going to fail. See the FAQ entry under Troubleshooting / Transmission for a full description of this problem and the options for fixing it before or after the fact. As relates to pricing, if a car’s transmission is in the range for this problem, it is pretty common to reduce the price by around $1500 – $2000 from what it would otherwise would have been. The buyer can then use that money to fix the problem either before or after it fails, if it ever does fail.
All early (1991-1994) manual transmission equipped NSXes were offered without power steering. Electronic power steering becoming standard on all cars regardless of transmission beginning in 1995. All automatic transmission equipped NSXes regardless of year were equipped with electronic power steering. The presence of power steering is generally considered as being more desirable to a potential buyer.
A particular color does not inherently devalue the car, but some colors are much more popular than others and thus some sellers of less popular colors will discount the car in order to expedite the sale. Similarly, some colors are very popular and if the seller is willing to wait for the right buyer they can actually bring a premium. Less popular colors are Midnight Pearl, Brooklands Green, and maybe some of the darker silvers. More popular colors are Sebring silver, Monte Carlo Blue and Spa Yellow. White is also desirable by many people because of its rarity and the fact that Type-R NSXs sold in Japan are white in color. Red and black are actually the most popular, but there are so many red and black NSXs that they do not command a premium at resale. Do not get overly worked up over color – buy the color you want. The fact is that there are many people who absolutely love Brooklands Green and spend months searching for just the right Brooklands Green car, and likewise there are people who hate silver or yellow. The issue of color choice is not unique to the NSX and in fact affects all cars in a similar fashion.
How Do Modifications Affect Price?
The most important thing to realize about modifications is: The more heavily modified the car, the smaller the group of potential buyers. It is easy to sell a car with headers and exhaust, but difficult to sell one with a custom high-boost turbo setup with complicated fuel management and a huge custom stereo system. A big part of the problem is that if the buyer wants to finance the car, the lender will only lend towards the value of the car itself, not the modifications. This is a good part of the reason it can take longer to sell a car with modifications – you need a buyer who has more money and an interest in the modifications. The second issue is that there are just fewer people interested in a very heavily modified car. This does not mean the car is worth less, but the seller may need to be willing to wait longer to find the right buyer. If not, they may consider discounting the car in order to sell it quickly.
In general, approximately 50% of the “street price” of the more popular modifications such as intake, headers, exhaust, supercharger, big brake kit, etc. Note that this is only 50% of the street price of the parts – labor is not included.
More “personalized” modifications such as wheels, custom stereo system, body kits, or any changes to the interior, are usually a loss as resale. If possible it is usually better to return those areas of the car to stock and try to sell such aftermarket parts separately.
The Problem With Mainstream Price Guides
Pricing guides are in the business of selling pricing guides. They focus on the mainstream used car market, and while they may list specialty cars, they are usually wildly inaccurate on that small specialty percentage of the used car market. On the same model year NSX there can be a $10,000 price difference between say NADA and Black Book. The reason there are many different guides is that different people use them for different purposes. Kelly Blue Book retail pricing, for example, tends to be high so sellers like to quote it when selling a car. NADA wholesale prices tend to be low, so dealers like to use it to lowball customers on their trade-in value.
Mainstream pricing guides do not work well for determining true market value of very low production specialty cars such as the NSX. The two most commonly noted are Edmunds (www.edmunds.com) and Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com). They use standard depreciation formulas and as a result their prices are way out of line with the true market prices for used NSXs.
NADA sends a questionnaire to thousands of dealers every month. Then the dealers are supposed to write down what they have sold cars for. They could write anything down, and most dealers throw the form away – filling the form out doesn’t make them any more money, so why do it? Dealers themselves rarely use NADA guides other than to lowball a trade-in value.
The Black Book is another story. Black Book, from the National Auto Research Division of Hearst Business Media Corporation, makes money by selling dealers a $500/year membership. There are still two problems with using the Black Book to price an NSX:
- The Black Book works strictly off auction values. NSXs at auction are, on average, in much worse condition than those for private sale, which results in lower prices. More importantly, since the NSX is a specialty vehicle, a dealer knows they are probably going to have a harder time moving it out of inventory. So they will only bid on it if they think there is a lot of profit left between their bid price and what they think they can sell it for. This keeps auction prices artificially low compared to the retail and private party sale prices.
- The number of NSXs moving through auction is too small to be a statistically relevant source of data, particularly for the later model year cars where perhaps only one or two a month go through auction nation-wide.
Dealer and Online Auction Prices
People who try to use dealer auction or eBay auction prices to figure out how much they should pay end up becoming very frustrated. Those prices are thousands of dollars less than a nice NSX for sale from a private party. The prospective buyer then thinks many private sellers are asking too much, while the private sellers consider their offers to be ridiculously low. There are many reasons these dealer and auction prices are not anything like an actual private party sale price:
Dealer Auctions – Dealers buy cars at auction for the purpose of reselling them to make a profit. The faster they can turn over their inventory, the more money they make. An uncommon specialty car like the NSX is harder to sell than a high-demand car such as a C5 Corvette or a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Therefore a dealer is only going to bid on an NSX at auction if they can get it for an extremely good price so they can either sell it at a low price to help move it more quickly, or get a bigger profit to make the slower sale worth while. Sports cars at auction are also much more likely to have led a rough life, be crashed-and-repaired, or have other “issues.” There are no maintenance records. All these things drive dealer auction prices way down.
Online Auctions – Online auctions are a flawed source of information for sale prices for many reasons. A few of the key points:
- A disproportionate number of high-end cars on eBay have problems which are not disclosed. This scares many people away from all the cars.
- There are a considerable number of fraudulent listings, and when a legitimate seller does list a car, they are often flooded by scammers posing as buyers. This scares some people away from using online auction.
- Online auctions are viewed by many as simply another venue for listing and finding cars for sale. Many cars listed in online auctions are later sold outside the auction service to buyers who found the car through the auction. Thus the sale price is never recorded by the auction service.
- Most potential bidders live too far away to inspect the car before placing a bid. Not many people will commit to buying an expensive sports car sight-unseen from someone they don’t know.
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