8 Used Sports Cars You Should Avoid Buying at All Costs

Are The The Most Reliable Used Sports Cars? Not At All…!

Updated November 8, 2018

Buying a sports or performance car doesn’t have to be that great of a hit on the budget. Japanese imports are affordable, reliable and usually rather good in performance part as well. They aren’t your only option, however. Although luxury brands like Cadillac, Lexus, Acura and their German counterparts cost a lot, shopping for a used car gives us the opportunity to come out on the better side of the bargain.

But how reliable are they actually? Especially after taking their age into equation. While every car demands some repairs here and there, some of them are known to do that on a regular basis. Sports and performance cars are somewhat unique in that respect, so they usually require more attention than others. That’s another potential pitfall when buying a used sports car. You never know who drove it before you and how they treated the car. While that’s something we can’t help you with, here’s something we can do for you. The list of cars and their model year runs you should probably avoid given their reputation and set of well documented issues.

Related read: 15 used pickups you should avoid at all costs, 15 used SUVs and crossovers you should avoid buying at all costs.

Worst Sports Cars To Buy

“What Sports Car Should I Buy?” – None Of These!

Acura TL Automatic

Year: 2003

Although the Acura TL suffers from “standard” Honda transmission issues, it seems that 2003 is the worst year by far. Whether it’s the conventional 225-hp 3.2L V6 or 260-hp Type-S model, TL’s 4-speed automatic simply doesn’t match the overall quality of the car itself. It can happen after 50k miles or anywhere deep in 100k’s, but you can bet it’ll happen. The transmission failure, that is. Poor transmission design on Honda’s part lead to improper fluid flow, which in turn lead to transmission overheat. Add time and wear into that equation, and you’ll easily figure out why 2003 TL’s auto trans usually ended its journey long before it was supposed to. If used Acura TL is on your radar, better avoid 2003 models. Or better yet, buy one with the manual. It’s a performance car after all, and tall gear ratio of TL’s automatic doesn’t help it perform better either.

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Acura TL

Honda Prelude 5th Gen Automatic

Years: 1996-2001

In an inexcusable fashion, Honda’s entire fifth generation Prelude with 4-speed auto is a car to avoid. Even some 5-speed manual owners report sort of a grind when going into fifth, but that’s more of an annoyance than a problem, and it’s mostly limited to 1997-1999 models. Auto, though, is poorly executed and should fall apart unless meticulously maintained. Needless to say, you can never really know what level of commitment to maintenance did the previous owner(s) apply, if buying used. So, if fifth generation Honda Prelude is your sports car of choice – and there’s nothing wrong with that for it’s one fine car – stick to the manual.

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Honda Prelude

Mazda RX-8

Years: 2004-2005

The Mazda RX-8 never really garnered the cult following of its predecessor the RX-7, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad sports car. To the contrary. However, rotary engine is an acquired taste. 1.3L Wankel with more than 200 horsepower will give you plenty of cheers, but it also demands sacrifices. It burns through both oil and fuel, and it requires attention to detail when it comes to maintenance. Engine rotors tend to wear down if not cared for properly, and by care I mean often check-ups on compression levels (apart from keeping oil levels in line). Mazda US even extended the warranty for all 2004-2008 models to 8 years or 100,000 miles.

As it happens, air and fuel mixture from within the engine tend to leak from one combustion chamber into another. That lowers compression and, in turn reduces engine’s efficiency. That leads to paradoxical situations where Mazda RX-8 starts up when cold, but not when warmed up. 2004 and 2005 year models tend to be the ones that are more prone to this issue, but others will be too if not cared for properly. So, yet again, it falls down to whom you’re buying your used car from. Only buy ’04 or ’05 Mazda RX-8 from someone you know understands these engines and used to provide good care for them.

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Mazda RX-8

Mitsubishi Eclipse Automatic

Year: 2001

Like most sports cars, the Mitsubishi Eclipse too has some issues with the auto trans. Doing some digging, you’ll bump into numerous reports about third generation Eclipse’s automatic transmission. 2001 year models seem to suffer the most from it. The problem is, 4-speed automatic has a manufacturing defect. Or rather one small part of it has. Wave cushion spring located in the transmission often breaks down causing catastrophic transmission failure. This fragile two coil piece propels itself through the filter and into the pump gear after breaking. It then causes the pump gear to break which immediately shuts off all of the Eclipse’s gears – both forwards and backwards. To make things even worse, it all happens on relatively low mileage. To cut the long story short, if third generation Eclipse is your car of choice, you’ll likely want to ask if the car had suffered from one such breakdown before. If it hasn’t, you can bet that’ll happen to you.

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Mitsubishi Eclipse

Nissan 370Z

Years: 2009-2010

Nissan didn’t exactly choose a good time to present their newest Z car with the recession hype and all. That, however, was by far the the most meaningless of its issues. The Nissan 370Z suffered from the faulty steering lock column straightaway. 2009 and early 2010 models would either leave you stranded somewhere on the road or fail to start if you were more lucky. It’s better to to be let down by your car while at home, right? Although Nissan recalled some of them, many VIN’s have been left out of the recall. You probably know what that means. Either check the VIN and call Nissan straightaway to check if 370Z you’re hunting was the subject of a recall, or avoid early 370Z’s altogether. 2012 models and newer are completely steering lock-free which pretty much sums up the system’s fragile nature.

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Nissan 370Z

Pontiac Solstice

Years: 2006-2007

It took almost a decade before GM finally recalled over 1.6 million vehicles for defective ignition switch back in 2014. Part of that recall was 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice. Faulty ignition switch could have been pulled out of its socket by a heavy keychain (go figure) which lead to some serious safety hazards like disabled airbags and loss of power to all electrical systems. In other words, your car quickly became a deathbox prone to all manner of accidents. The same thing happened with ignition switch in case of an accident. Needless to say, airbags and electronic safety systems would have come in handy had they worked in those situations. GM’s faulty ignition switch found in Pontiac Solstice among other cars has lead to 13 documented deaths over the years. Before buying ’06 or ’07 Solstice, you’d better check if the issue had been addressed. Better safe than sorry (or worse).

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Pontiac Solstice

Porsche M96 Engines

Years: 2000-2005

All Porsche models with M96 engines including Boxters, Caymans and 911’s have the same well documented defect – the intermediate shaft bearing or the IMS. Both M96 and M97 engines had had this part, but 1997-1999 models used dual-row ball-bearing, while latter 2006-2008 models had reinforced single-row bearings with the same load capacity of the early models. This leaves 2000 through 2005 models – excluding some 2000 and 2001 models with the older bearing design – as defective.

So, what actually happens inside the Porsche M96 engine? The IMS of the M96 engine is located just below the crankshaft carrier, and connected to it by chain. Since there are no internal oil passages which would grease the IMS with pressurized engine oil, it had to rely on its own internal grease. Needless to say, that grease would dry up after prolonged engine run, causing the IMS to break down and, in turn cause catastrophic damage to the engine, leaving complete engine rebuild or swap as your only options. And Porsche engines aren’t that cheap either. Although 2000-2005 single-row bearing models have as much as 10% failure rate, all 1997-2008 M96 and M97 Porsche engine-fitted models can experience the IMS seizure. Even worse, 2006-2008 models have no means of addressing the issue without disassembling the engine entirely due to revised design which doesn’t allow the access to the IMS otherwise. I’m not saying “don’t buy a Porsche,” but I am just saying “be advised if you do.”

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Porsche M96

Toyota Celica GT-S

Years: 2000-2001

Toyotas are generally well-designed and reliable cars, but that doesn’t mean they’re faultless. Take seventh generation performance model Celica GT-S, for instance. It isn’t necessarily a bad car, but it tends to be sluggish and hesitate when accelerating. These are more annoyances than problems, but they happen to many Celica owners, and like every annoyance, they too can become unbearable after a while. 2000 and 2001 GT-S models seem to suffer the most. Sometimes new oil pump and filter do the trick and sometimes it’s the EVAP system that causes problems. Whichever the case, problems often come back to haunt the Celica owners after a while. Never a dull moment with 2000 and 2001 Toyota Celica GT-S.

Worst Sports Cars To Buy - Toyota Celica GT-S


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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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