Purchase Process

What Should I Know When Buying A Used NSX?

The Right Attitude

While they’re not the most common car in the world, there are a fair number of NSXs out there. Don’t let “I-gotta-have-this-one” fever cloud your judgment. Look at the car with a critical eye. Buying a used sports car without really checking it out first can be a very expensive mistake.

Protect Yourself In A Private Sale

A very simple way to handle the financial end of the deal is to make arrangements to wire transfer the funds to the seller’s bank (not to the seller’s bank account – to the bank itself). Speak to an bank officer there and explain what you are doing, and that they are to release the funds to the seller when you authorize them to do (i.e., when the seller signs the title over to you). The transfer can occur almost immediately, generally costs you nothing, and is secure. Make sure you get the bank contact information from a trusted source (such as looking up the branch on the bank’s website) – a fake seller could give you bogus contact information and you could end up wiring money to some third world country.

Vehicle History

Title History Report: Get the car’s VIN number and run a title history report. When a car like the NSX is damaged, it is often worth someone’s effort to buy it as a salvage vehicle, rebuild it, and then sell it. Unfortunately the cars are not always advertised as salvaged vehicles. The most known consumer title history companies are CarFax and Autocheck.
NSX Prime Message Forums: You can also search on the NSX Prime Forums for the VIN number. The history of many cars is fairly well documented in previous message threads.
NSX Prime Totaled VIN List: Also, check the Totaled NSX VIN List. If the VIN is on the list, you are looking at a car that was issued a salvage/rebuilt title at some point in the past. The list is far from comprehensive though, so not seeing the VIN here is certainly no guarantee that it hasn’t been totaled.
Find out current the status of the car’s title. Is it free and clear of any liens? Does the bank still hold the title or does the seller own it free and clear?
Once you are comfortable with the vehicle history and title status (or have looked into any problems reported on the report and had them answered to your satisfaction), you can move on…

Do Some Research

If the car is a 1991 or 1992 model year, check to see if the transmission number is between J4A4-1003542 and J4A4-1005978. If so, it is in the range of cars which may be affected by a catastrophic transmission failure. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/transmission.htm for more information about this issue.
For a 1991 car, if the serial number is 002406 or lower there was a recall issued for some coolant hoses (and water pump on a some of the cars). The serial number is the last part of the VIN number. Any Acura dealer should be able to tell you if this recall work has been completed for a given car. If the work has not been done, Acura will still do it for free. Contact your dealer to set it up. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/CoolingHoseRecall.htm for more information. Definitely not a deal breaker, but if a previous owner was ignoring recall notices, you may want to check the car extra carefully as they may not have been very meticulous with the rest of the car’s maintenance either.
Get the service records from the previous owner. If there are missing records, Acura will have records of any warranty or recall work done. Acura can also tell you where the car was originally sold, so you may be able to call the dealership that sold the car and find out some information. The title history report you got before you went any further (you DID get it, didn’t you?) will tell you everywhere the car has been registered. You can probably call the Acura dealers in those areas and get some service history.
For a 1991 or 1992 car, find out if the power window regulators have been replaced after 1993. If not, they will probably fail at some point in the future due to a design flaw and cost around $600 each to replace. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/windows.htm for more information. Not a deal beaker, but you may want to negotiate the price down a little.
If the car has been modified, find out who did the work. An Acura dealer service center, NSX-oriented shop, or well respected general performance shop are probably all fine. Someone’s buddy installing a turbo system in his spare time is something you will want to investigate further. Talk to whoever did the modifications to the car to see if they have any input on the car’s condition or history and to get a feel for how well they know the car.


It’s generally a poor idea to buy a used car costing tens of thousands of dollars sight-unseen, unless maybe you are working with a broker or dealer in whom you place a great amount trust. If the car you’re thinking of buying is located far away, it’s worth flying out to look at it. In many cases you can find another NSX owner through the NSX Message Forums who lives nearby and can do an initial inspection and test drive for you. That will help eliminate wasted trips to look at cars in poor condition. If you’re not a “car person,” bring someone who is along with you. They’ll probably find things you would have missed.
In addition to everything below, it’s also a good idea to have the car checked out by a mechanic who sees NSXs regularly. It will only cost an hour or two of labor.
See the Used NSX Checklist for an itemized list of things to go over.


Make sure all the body panels line up correctly and evenly. If a panel is crooked, uneven, or does not line up with the other panels, the car has probably been damaged and poorly repaired. Many people may be familiar with other hand-assembled cars (i.e. older Ferraris) where variations are normal, but the NSX fit and finish from the factory is excellent and the tolerances are tight. The panels should all line up nicely, gaps should be even, and seams should be flush with the adjacent panels.
Do not attempt to inspect the paint inside a dealer showroom, in a garage, or anywhere there is a lack of direct, very bright 100% white light. Inspect the paint in bright sunlight from both up close and from several yards away. Make sure the color is exactly the same between panels. Look for any paint drips, waviness, or roughness. The factory paint on these cars is very good; any of the above are indications of paint work. Inspect the paint again in direct sunlight towards sunset. Also check it under BRIGHT fluorescent light – this type of lighting makes many flaws readily visible. Also look for door dings and hail damage.
If the car has tens of thousands of miles on it, there should be some minor rock chips. Even if they were touched up they should be visible upon close inspection. If a nose mask was used, check around the side air intakes – they tend to attract rock chips. A car with several tens of thousands of miles and absolutely no rock chips has probably had recent paint work.
Spray a little clean water on the car. If the car is properly waxed, the water will bead right up. If the owner was really picky, water sprayed on parts of the painted surface that are normally not exposed will also bead up. Such places include the door jam (where the stickers are), the side of the pop-up headlights, underside of the hood, the “gutters” along the side of the trunk seal, etc. Those areas will also be clean if the owner is picky.
Check all the glass for scratches, chips, etc. Some “sand blasting” is normal on the front windshield for a mid to high mile car. Excess glue around the edges of the windshield or rear window probably means it has been replaced.
For any model year, check the front windshield molding to see if it’s shrinking away from the edges. Replacement is around $200 at the dealer.
For any model year, check the struts that hold up both the trunk lid and the engine hatch glass. These struts tend to die after 4-5 years. Replacement is around $180 per pair with labor, or an easy do-it-yourself job if you want to save $75 bucks.
Check out the engine compartment, beyond the surface stuff. Look down at the base of the engine, near the exhaust manifold, under the air box, etc. Really well maintained cars tend to have very clean engine compartments.
Remove the tow hook cover on the front of the car and look at the tow hook. Does it look like it’s ever been used? If so, find out why.
Put the car on a lift and inspect the underside. It is common to lightly “bottom out” such a low car occasionally if it’s used as a daily driver, but there shouldn’t be anything more than light scrapes. If someone nailed a raised railroad crossing at full speed, it should be obvious. If the tie-down hooks in the front are scraped, that’s pretty normal; but if they’re bent, that’s not a really good sign. Also look for any oil leaks or leaking fluid from the brake system, cooling system, shocks, or transmission. Note that it is NORMAL to see some original factory paint overspray underneath the car – it’s on the undercoating on both sides below the rocker panels. This is not evidence of repainting.
Check the tires. The fronts tend to wear faster on the inside edge, but wear should be about even between the left and right tires. If not, it could be a minor alignment problem or a more serious suspension problem (or even a bent frame).
Check the wheels for scratches. If the wheels are not factory, find out what offset they are and whether or not they are hub-centric. You will need to talk to someone at a wheel shop who really knows wheels to see if those sizes really fit the car correctly without screwing up the suspension. The factory specs can be found at: http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/TireWheel/wheeltech.htm. Also, if it has after-market wheels, find out if the factory wheels are included with the car.
While you’re checking out the wheels, look at the tires, rotors and brake pads too and see if they’re in good shape or will need replacement soon.


In general, really get in there and fiddle around with stuff. Push all the buttons, twist all the knobs, pull all the levers. Make sure the power windows work, make sure the stereo (and CD player if there is one) work, test all the lights, open and close the fuel filler door and glove box, honk the horn, check the rear defroster and power mirrors, etc.
Make sure you fit comfortably in the car, can adjust the steering wheel to your liking, etc. Some taller people have headroom problems. For ideas on possible solutions to the headroom problem, take a look at http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/Headroom.htm
For a low-mile car (under say 20,000 miles), check the wear on the drivers side left bottom seat bolster. It shouldn’t show much wear. Also check the brake pedal. It should not show much wear either. If either one is worn, it is a warning sign that the car may have more miles than are on the odometer. Do some more checking.
For any model year, check the sun visors. They have been known to split at the seams when left in the hot sun on a regular basis for years. No big deal to replace them. OEM replacement cost is over $100 each.
For mid-to-later model cars, check the rear view mirror. There was a manufacturing problem with them and the silver backing can tend to degrade leaving “smokey” spots. OEM replacement part is over $100.
Check all the carpeting. Pull the floor mats and trunk mat out and check the carpeting underneath. While you’ve got the trunk open, check the toolkit under the carpeting in the trunk. If there are any empty spaces in the Styrofoam tray, there are missing parts of the toolkit. Look for any moisture or musty odors in the trunk or any other part of the car (there shouldn’t be any!) – they could indicate a rainwater leak or flood-damaged car.
Check all the interior leather and vinyl for wear, cracks, or damage. It should be soft and supple to the touch, not brittle.
Check the shocks. If you press down on a bumper corner, the car should bounce back crisply and stop. It should NOT bounce. Be careful where you’re pressing down; pushing too hard on the sheet metal could dent it.
Check the seal of the windows. They should be tight. If you hear wind noise at speed, the windows may not be aligned properly. If you run a hose on them, water should not leak in (just let the water run out of the hose; almost any car’s windows will leak if you use your thumb to create a high pressure jet of water!).
If the seller claims the car hasn’t been smoked in, check for cigarette ash, burn marks or odor. Run a white cloth through the ashtray and see if there’s any ash residue.
Try the OEM keyless entry and security systems. The OEM security should NOT be activated when you unlock any door or the trunk with the key, but this is a fairly common failure. For more information, see http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/antitheft.htm
Try any OEM accessories such as keyless entry or factory phone as well as any after-market accessories such as an alarm or built-in radar detector.

Test Drive

Start the car cold (hasn’t been started overnight). It should start easily. Listen to the engine for a minute to make sure everything sounds OK. Hold a white towel in front of the exhaust for a minute. It should get a little sooty, but there shouldn’t be oil shooting out of the exhaust. There shouldn’t be any serious smoke.
After you start driving, the car should get up to normal operating temperature within a few minutes of driving. If it takes a while (say 15 minutes), the thermostat that controls the cooling system may be bad. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/SlowWarmup.htm for more information.
Focus on the car – do not let the seller distract you. If the seller is along for the test drive, don’t talk to him. If he keeps talking, explain politely that you’re trying to concentrate on the car and ask he please be quiet. You can talk to him all you want before or after the test drive. Likewise, do not play the radio while you’re doing the test drive other than just to make sure it works and the CD player (if there is one) doesn’t skip. Once you’ve done that, turn the radio off. You’re not out for a cruise, you’re evaluating a vehicle for purchase. Use the quiet to listen to the engine and for any “bad” noises the car might make as you drive.
Check the clutch. Make it isn’t slipping by accelerating hard through a couple gears and watching the tachometer, then drop it to around 40 MPH, shift into 5th gear, and floor it (keep watching the tachometer.) The engine should bog down (it’s not good to do this on a regular basis but won’t hurt it for a minute to test the clutch). The tachomemter should NOT climb out of relation to the speedometer or be jerky at all. If driven correctly the clutch lasts a long time, but it is easy to slip the NSX clutch without noticing it. Many people have burned clutches in 30,000 miles, sometimes even less. Also check for clutch shudder. You will notice this as you accelerate from a stop. A little bit is normal. Too much probably means the release bearing needs to be lubricated. This costs a few hundred dollars in labor. See http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/clutch.htm for more information. The clutch should work smoothly and there should be no grinding between gears with the clutch fully disengaged (pushed down). Grinding could indicate a clutch out of adjustment or bad synchros.
The steering should be very tight and responsive and should not pull to one side. On cars without power steering it’s a little heavy when stopped or driving slowly, but lightens up and feels great once you’re moving. The car should be ROCK SOLID, even at very high speeds. Period. If it feels “floaty, ” “twitchty,” or “vague” at any speed, something is wrong. Most likely it’s something minor like being out of alignment, but do NOT buy the car until it is fixed and feels rock solid at high speed in case the problem is something more serious.
If there is any vibration in the steering wheel (other than from the road of course) at any speed, there is most likely a wheel out of balance. But it could also be a bad or damaged tire or a BENT wheel. Do not buy the car until the vibration is gone. If it’s just a wheel out of balance, it’s cheap and easy for the seller to fix. If it’s a bad tire or wheel, it could cost hundreds.
Drive over some bumpy roads and listen for rattles (hopefully few or none) and suspension noise (there should be none).
Make sure the AC works well. Ask the owner how often he used the AC. When not used on a regular basis (every few weeks at least), the seals can start to dry out and you can end up with a freon leak. AC problems can be expensive. Try the heat too!
At some point after the car has gotten really warmed up, stop for a couple minutes, shut the car off, and then re-start it while it’s still hot. Do the white cloth test on the exhaust again (be careful – it’s hot now!). While you’re stopped, check the parking brake too.
Try the cruise control and all related buttons (on/off, accel, decel, resume).
The shifter should be smooth and quick. There should be no grinding, though it may be difficult to engage 1st gear if you’re going more than 10 MPH and do not rev-match the shift. Make sure you try reverse too!
Do some hard braking. The car should stop smoothly. If there is shudder, the rotors are warped. If it pulls to one side, there may be a sticking caliper piston, etc. The brakes should not fade at all under reasonable street driving. A few 80-20 runs should heat them up pretty well. Also, activate the ABS system a couple times and make sure it works OK. ABS systems can be expensive to fix.
After the test drive, sniff around the engine compartment and make sure nothing is smells like it’s burning (oil, for example.) Also, check the oil. If it’s low or very dirty, there is a serious lack of attention to one of the most basic and crucial maintenance items, and the rest of the car has probably been neglected as well.
Buy, Sell, Ship and Store