Buying a car Top 10 sports car buying tips
- How to choose the best sports car - one that will be fun to drive yet reliable
- How to make the right decisions about specification
- Making sure you pick the right car for you
Everyone should own a sports car at least once in their lifetime. For the sheer joy of driving, nothing can beat the power, precision and agility of a sports car. High-performance supercars may be a daunting prospect - both to drive and to own - but there are plenty of more mild-mannered and wallet-friendly sports cars out there.
Our top 10 tips for buying a sports car will help you decide which model best suits your needs.
For more advice, check out our free Buying a car advice guides for all you need to know.
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Coupe or convertible? Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe is both
1. Convertible or coupe?
Many sports cars are offered in two distinct body styles: closed-roof coupe, or open-roof convertible. Which one you go for is obviously a matter of taste, but sun-lovers should beware that vehicle security isn't generally as good, and often refinement is compromised with a soft top.
If you want to drive with the roof down, one solution might be to choose a convertible with a solid metal roof, such as a BMW Z4, Volkswagen Eos, Peugeot 308 CC or Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe. However, many of these are much worse in terms of luggage capacity than a soft top, as the folding hard top often eats into boot space.
2. Will a sports car suit your lifestyle?
This is a crucial question. If you ever need to use your car to go shopping or for transporting more than two people, a sports car almost certainly won't fit the bill. If you're buying it as a second or even third car, a sports car makes much more sense.
Consider all the practical issues of owning a sports car before taking the plunge: boot space, entry/exit to the cabin, interior space, visibility, driving position and seat comfort. If you've only ever owned a 'normal' car, all these aspects can be very, very different to what you're used to.
Some people also find the sheer power and performance of sports cars off-putting, and they're often noisy animals - so make sure you can live with the more extreme nature of some sports cars before you buy.
3. Make sure you can afford it
Sports cars are expensive animals. Not only are they pricey to buy, but running costs can also be astronomical. Fuel consumption, servicing, parts and, in particular, insurance costs are often much higher than 'regular' cars.
The one piece of good news for sports car owners is depreciation (loss of value). Second-hand buyers love sports cars, so they tend to keep their value well. Our advice is to do all your sums carefully before you buy - check out our guide to running costs to help you work it out.
Five-star performer: BMW 1 Series M Coupe
4. Best sports cars for performance
Sports cars are all about fun. If you want to experience the ultimate in power and handling, these are the cars we've tested that offer the best ultimate performance, with five-star ratings for both performance and handling: Audi R8, Audi S5 coupe, Audi TT, BMW 1 Series M Coupe, BMW M3, BMW 6 Series, Mercedes-Benz SL, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Mercedes-Benz E-class coupe, Mercedes-Benz SLS, Nissan GT-R, Porsche Boxster and Porsche 911.
5. Choose your spec carefully
Used values for sports cars are very sensitive to the correct specification. Certain engine/gearbox combinations and trim levels are more favoured than others in the marketplace. For example, choose an Audi A5 coupe with a 3.2 FSI engine and it'll be worth only around 39% of its list price after three years and 36,000 miles. Go for the S5 model (only a few thousand pounds more expensive) and it will keep a much healthier 50% of its value.
Check out our car valuations page to find out how much your choice of car is really worth.
Choosing the right options is also crucial. Sports car values are very sensitive to colour, decent alloy wheels are essential and leather trim will be expected by many purchasers.
6. Are sports cars fragile?
The best sports cars feel like thoroughbred racehorses - but unfortunately, some seem to be just as highly-strung and fragile. For instance, here are a couple of (perhaps surprising) examples of sports cars with a less-than-perfect record in the latest Which? Car survey: the Porsche Boxster and Volkswagen Eos.
Check out the latest 2011 Which? Car Survey for the full story of owners' experiences with their cars.
Best Buy: Volkswagen Scirocco
7. Best budget sports cars
Not all sports cars are expensive. If you're looking to maximise your fun but minimise your outlay, all the following can cost less than £20,000 new: Honda CR-Z, Hyundai Veloster, Mazda MX-5, MG TF, Mini Convertible, Peugeot 207 CC, Renault Wind and Volkswagen Scirocco.
8. Sharpen up your skills
To make the most of your new sports car, it may pay to brush up on your driving skills. No driver is perfect, and you never stop learning. Check out our guide to advanced driving courses for more information.
Many sports car owners also choose to participate in track days in their own cars at organised events on one of the UK's many circuits. However, make sure you have adequate car insurance cover if you're thinking of doing this - most policies exclude driving on racing circuits.
Nissan GT-R is four-wheel drive
9. Pull or push?
More sports cars are rear-wheel drive than any other category of car. That's because engineers favour sending the drive to the rear wheels as the best way to achieve the sharpest possible handling and steering.
However, driving a rear-wheel-drive car requires more skill than something with front-wheel drive. You're more likely to encounter oversteer, where the rear end of the car starts to swing around at the limit of grip, which requires experience to correct. Driving in slippery and snowy conditions is also much trickier. Most modern sports cars have sophisticated stability control systems (ESC), though, so don't get over-concerned about this, although if you're buying a used sports car, it pays to look for one with ESC fitted.
'Friendlier' front-wheel drive sports cars include the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, Honda CR-Z, Mini Coupe, Peugeot RCZ, Renault Wind, Volvo C70, Volkswagen Scirocco and Audi TT. The Audi is also available with four-wheel drive, as are the Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911.
10. Choose an 'on-trend' sports car
No class of car is as sensitive to changing fashions as sports cars. It's a very faddish and fickle market, so choose carefully. If you choose 'yesterday's' car, you could find it hard to sell on, or worth a lot less than you thought. As a rule of thumb, a car that's only been out for a year or two will keep its value and be easier to sell than an older model. Hot tips at the moment include the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, the new Mercedes-Benz SLK, Mercedes-Benz E-class convertible and Mini Coupe.
If you know which car you're interested in, Which? members can read the Which? Car review of the model to get an unbiased, in-depth report and full test scores.Money Helpline, who can help you find the best finance deal for your next car.