What is a supercar? Are supercars worth the money? Used, older supercars, are they a smart buy?
Some questions I've fielded lately, and I want go over them.What is a supercar?
This has been a hot-button topic where I work, and in simplest terms it comes down to 3 criteria; exclusivity, performance, and styling or "poster appeal" (though not exactly beauty).
Some cars hit one or two of those areas, but not all 3. Like the Viper, Corvette ZR1, BMW M5, and Shelby GT500. They're plentiful, or not quite eye-catching enough. One I'm also going to throw in is very controversial, the base Lamborghini Gallardo. What?!?
Yes, the Gallardo. While it has the performance, the pedigree, and the looks (arguably), they've made ~12k of them. Also, although it isn't a huge factor, they depreciate faster than a half-eaten Big Mac. The only car, that I know of, that's worse is the Maserati Quattroporte (which loses 70% in the first 48 months).
Did you know you can get a "no stories" stock AWD Gallardo, that's less than 10 y/o, for <$80k? In fact, there are so many of them for sale on the used market that there's an actual glut (casually searching I found >340 for sale in the USA). As a test, I tentatively offered a guy 65k for a 2005 coupe and he replied with "in cash?". The same thing happened recently for a 2008 spyder for 85k (I'm still considering that one, she's a beauty with 25k miles). An exception is special editions. Although there are many of them, they're only spit out in numbers of 10-20, so they hold up fairly well. Comically, the Audi R8, that's based on the small Lambo, is more stable. See if you can figure that one out. It's the same issue with the NSX, it fits in most ways, but they did make 20k of them. So, it's a sports car, not a supercar. Widely available != super.
Anyhow, I digress. Performance. I grew up in an area where you take an X or Fox-body heap, add 5 grand, and you have an 11 second car. Put in a few thousand more and it could handle too. It's not a big deal, power is cheap and cornering isn't much either. So an Italian that can break 13 secs in the quarter, and do 0-60 in less than 4, doesn't raise an eyebrow around here, we have pickups that can do that. Sexy, rare, and fast, that's where it's at. Never fear, there are some great American supercars being built, unfortunately they're almost never built by the Big 3 (the Ford GT being the major exception). You have to shop Mosler, Saleen, Falcon, and SSC. (Not Hennessey, however. Anyone can chop up a Lotus Elise and stuff a TT V8 into it. $1.2M for that? LOL! Very funny, John.)
Are they worth the money? As a financial investment? No. Hell no. Sure, some might hold their value fairly well, but these aren't potential Ferrari 250s, never assume that they'll go up in value. They're toys. In that capacity, they're exciting and worthwhile, but only as diversions. If you have the disposable income and want something cool that catches attention, they do that better than just about anything else. When I'm driving one I get honks, thumbs-ups, and engine revs at every light. They're fun. If you buy such a car and lock it away in a vault and spend your quality time rubbing it with a cloth diaper, you're doing it wrong. They're meant to be taken out and enjoyed.
Used supercars, are they worth it? The general consensus is "no", but I'm going to buck that trend. Some are, some aren't. More recent examples, those built in the last 10 years or so, are much more reliable and practical than the ones of old. We bought a Ferrari 360 and it's been a peach; quick, pretty, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive to buy and maintain. Avoid anything from the late-70s through early-90s, unless you just want a neat-looking money pit.
Check service records and receipts, have the car thoroughly inspected (or make sure it was inspected by a neutral 3rd party), ask lots of questions, and don't assume that low mileage means it's been pampered or is like-new. If you do your due diligence you can come away with a good value.
The McLaren 12C is weird. It's rare, very pretty, crazy fast, and more advanced than anything else on the road. But, it's also economical, safe, mild-mannered, and as comfortable as a Bentley. Should cars like these be so easy to live with? Personally, I say absolutely
. This is what super/hypercars are becoming. Increased efficiency standards and higher expectations with regards to comfort and durability are changing the playing field. Even the Ferrari 458 is a relatively docile beast, unless you poke it with a sharp stick. Interestingly enough, the car that we have that's closest to the McLaren is the juiced-up NSX. Speed? Close enough as makes no difference. Handling? Very close. Ride? The 12C is better but the NSX isn't bad at all. I can tick down all the boxes and there isn't a $200k difference between them, not by anyone's practical evaluation. If you want a mid-engined monster on a budget, find a nice NSX, pay a guy a decent sum for turbos and upgrades, and you'll have it, in spades. The mystique is missing, though, and no amount of tuning can add that.