Tips for Buying Exotic Cars

Porsche DE 0171 - Tips for Buying Exotic CarsThough few would admit it, sometimes the process of buying an exotic car can be more exciting and fun than the actual ownership experience. For a few months, all of your options are open, and considering any new possibility means blissfully imagining what it would be like behind its wheel.

Of course you will not be happy if all you do is dream, but the buying journey for an exotic car is filled with late nights staring at spec sheets, listening to audio of V10s purr and pouring through forums. And unlike owning a car, there are few wrong decisions you can make when window shopping.

Yet, the exotic car-buying process has a purpose, and all flights of fancy should be tempered by reality once you have your options narrowed down. In that light, here is a brief guide to help your buying journey culminate in a satisfying purchase and a happy ownership experience for years to come.

Dive Deep Into Exotic Car Buying Knowledge

Chances are good that you have already begun researching your exotic car. Go with that instinct! Even looking at cars beyond your budget can give you a helpful frame of reference later on.

Once you start considering a few makes and/or models seriously, you will want to become an expert on each and every one. Learn what options can make or break the driving experience. Find out if the special edition is better for the track or just all frills. Definitely look around on forums like to see what owners have to say—positives and negatives. These talking points can color your thought process later on as you consider your options, even if it just means realizing you should take them with a giant grain of salt.

Four talking points to hone in on are:

  • Common issues and which models they affect
  • More general quirks, such as how the 2010 Gallardo LP560-4 was only made in a Spyder version
  • Talk of models and trims that appreciate more than others
  • General maintenance issues that add up to hefty yearly sums

Leave No Stone Unturned

lotusatspeed1 - Tips for Buying Exotic CarsAt this point, do not rule out anything even if runs contrary to “common wisdom.” You are looking for a vehicle that suits your needs, both practical and aesthetic. Just because people insist that air-cooled 911s are better, for instance, doe not mean you will not personally get a better experience out of a 996 or 997.

Similarly, do not overlook options that people talk trash about. A $50k Lotus Esprit might be the perfect starter for you, even if it is not considered a “true exotic.”

Always keep in mind how you intend to use the vehicle. As an example, a Porsche 911 GT3 may be better-suited for occasional track runs than an everyday driver compared to a Turbo or S, and the image-boost of a Diablo may not be preferable to the comfort and less-finicky owner experience of a more-modern vehicle like a 488.

Recognize the Difference from the Usual Car-Buying Process

Exotic car dealers know their market, and they know that high-pressure tactics will not fly with people financially savvy enough to afford their stock. As such, an exotic car sales rep is much more of your ally in the process and willing to negotiate on your behalf to get the car you want as opposed to the car they want to put you in.

This altruism is not a hard and fast rule, but places like Merit Partners exist that go far out of their way to find vehicles their customers are interested in and guide them through the process in good faith. Do your own research, but see if you can get an experienced pro working on your behalf at the same time.

Quick Pro Tip: Exotic dealerships and private sellers often base their low-threshold price on Manheim auctions listings and bump up around $5,000 – $10,000. If you want to price a model and options, ask for people on forums with a Manheim account for the listed price, and some will gladly oblige.

Become a Detective

When you are starting to consider if specific vehicle listings are worth your while, you will want to go into full Sherlock mode trying to dig up any dirt you can. Look through CARFAX reports and service records, and ask the seller lots of questions.

Red flags include:

  • Services by unauthorized shops
  • Non-scheduled service for recurring issues
  • The installation of any aftermarket parts, and who performed the install
  • An excess of service records in general
  • Skipped scheduled maintenance or annual servicing
  • Any paintwork other than to touching up the bumpers
  • Service regarding known model or year issues with high repair costs

Never be afraid to seem pushy, and never hesitate to walk away from a deal if your gut feels wrong about it. You may feel as if you missed out on what could have been a great deal, but you will feel a whole lot worse if you buy what amounts to a lemon.

Also, always have a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection performed by a mechanic experienced with the model you’re looking for.

The Most Important Tip for How to Buy Your First Exotic Car: Have Fun!

A bit of anxiety is common in any business transaction, but if you find yourself becoming miserable in the middle of the buying process, then it is time to take a step back. Serial exotic car owner and Cannonball Run record-holder Ed Bolian put it best:

“At the end of the day, it is important not to overthink the process. This is a recreational purchase and something that should only add to your life. Becoming overly obsessed with residual values and trade figures will only lead to you becoming disillusioned with the whole idea at some point. Being educated and having the right people in your corner can make this vice much more enjoyable and affordable.”

One great way to have fun and narrow your exotic options at the same time is to try several of the best at our exotic car test drive experience, where you can cut loose and put different models like the F430, Huracan and GT3 to a true test. We hope to see you at the track!


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