By on September 8, 2011

What would be your ideal car? Would you like to have the best of the best? A car that offers all the power and luxury an enthusiast could ever desire?

Or are your tastes a bit simpler? An amply powered but safe utility vehicle that will let you do all your work without a hint of regret about scratches or four figured maintenance bills.

This ‘ideal car’ question yields a thousand shades of gray in practice. Take this Mazda MX-5 for instance.

Rent: I know that renting a 2nd gen Miata could be like blindly pressing buttons on Jack Kevorkian’s death machine. Abuse is rampant with rentals.

But maybe not. This generation MX-5 is as tough as nails and if you find the right customers who would pay… say $59 a day…  you may have a profitable undertaking.

Of course you would have to find ‘responsible’ customers. That’s the hard part. If you lived in a tourist community for the well-to-do it could work. Maine, Cape Cod, rural Montana. There are plenty of folks who would be happy to rent a nice convertible for a long weekend and pay well for the privilege. But those people aren’t typically found in Paulding County, Georgia. So renting won’t do.

Lease: On the lower end of automotive retail ($5000 or less) you try to get at least 25% of the purchase price as the down payment. That would make this Miata a $1000 down vehicle. Payments would be anywhere from $65 to $75 a week for 24 to 30 months.

That sounds like a lot. Until you realize that you’re giving someone who already cost a business thousands of dollars your car. At a $1000 down payment I am underwater by three grand. If the customer doesn’t pay, rags the vehicle out, gets into an accident without full coverage insurance, or just absconds with it… I’m screwed.

There is a lot of risk in this business. About a third of buy-here-pay-here don’t work out. Although I have an 85% success rate (which is outstanding), I can and have just as easily lost my keyster on a vehicle I finance.

The only guarantee you have as a dealer who ‘totes the note’ is risk. So you need to make sure your financial return can make up for it.

Sell: There are other risks associated with a convertible in particular. Can you sell it? A Miata is one of the more popular vehicles in the used car market. But given that we’re headed towards winter time, retailing this car may not be an easy thing.

I would likely sell it for around $5995. I bought a clean car at average wholesale. So if I’m a little price aggressive I will likely sell the car that much quicker. At 120k and the touring package I’m sure this Miata would be on the short list for a lot of buyers

Keep: What? Who me? If I were not in this business I would consider it. Every family deserves at least one fun little two seater so that the husband or wife can get away from the hassles of daily life.

So would a Miata be more fun than say.. my 2001 Honda Insight?   

Yes. It would. I am a frugal fellow. But I also like to have my (Indian) pennies rapidly appreciate and raid the clearance rack of the nearby organic supermarket if I can get away with it. A Miata yields half the mileage of the Insight around town. The return though can come through the winding one lane roads of the Georgia mountains. I do a lot of driving.

It’s hard to beat a car that offers the pure, simple fun of a Miata. So…

Should I start a rental program for the well-to-do?

Finance the vehicle to a soul seeking hedonistic fun and creditworthy redemption?

Sell the vehicle in a mano-a-mano battle against father time and cold weather?

Or keep it and reward myself for buying the right car in a tough market?

What says you?

(NOTE: Please avoid the ‘name’ semantics of this article. I know that the manufacturer calls it an MX-5 while certain enthusiasts still call it a Miata. I prefer Miata. Why? I love the Miata name and wish Mazda hadn’t acronym-ed and numericded themselves into anonymity. Great cars with limited dealer networks need names.)

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56 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1999 Mazda MX-5...”

  • avatar

    At 120K you’re due for a new timing belt. That’s at least 250 dollars, and more if you do it right and get the pulleys and water pump, and hoses replaced. You can also keep the car through the ‘winter’ in Georgia, and see if you get tired of the car just as May rolls around. Then you can sell it for top dollar.

    Mine’s a 96, and I may just keep it till I die.

    • 0 avatar


      Moss Motors:
      Timing Belt: $68.95
      Idler Pulley: $34.95
      Tensioner (pulley and spring): $34.95
      Water Pump: $109.95

      2-3 hours of pure wrenching delight: priceless

  • avatar

    The weather just turned today here on the west central Florida coast – mild with low humidity and temps in the high-70s/low-80s. Also known as perfect convertible weather. Hence why I drove home a Solara ragtop last night.

    I’d sell this Miata. In fact, I wish I could sell that Miata. Every Miata I manage to get flies out of here in ~2 weeks tops, regardless of age or condition.

  • avatar

    Let Skippy drive it.

  • avatar

    Reward yourself. Keep it.

    • 0 avatar

      God help me, I am on my FOURTH Miata!!! Didn’t mean it to happen; just happened. Two 1991s, one 1994 and my present Bay Area Commuter Car, a 1999 Miata. Find an excuse to keep the car. My Niner-Niner is an ancient brute with 105K on her (Emerald Green)with a new top courtesy the theft who broke in the dealership’s lot to steal the factory radio—Bought the car for $4.6K and she runs flawlessly—about 86% of what a NC 2011 testdrives.

      WHY KEEP THE CAR? To hell and back reliability!!! Add gas & oil and air and change all your fluids & belts and that it…it’ll run forever.I’ve never known a Miata towed…for mechanical reasons.

      WHY KEEP THE CAR? Wall to Wall SMILES. Every day, I get waves on the freeway and high fives at the gas pump. Driving around with the top down is like Dolly Pardon going topless—you will get noticed!!! Its hard to have a frown driving a Miata Around.

      WHY KEEP THE CAR? A mechanic’s wet dream. A dogbone wrench, a couple of allen wrenches and 10mm,12mm & 13mm sockets and you in business. I like people timing me to replace alternators on Miatas. If the bolts are greased with anti-seize gel, I can slap one in/out and have the car humming in less than THREE MINUTES!!!Mine has the Torson II LSD diff and man, what a difference that makes taking curves on Highway 1 at 80mph…you just float dreamlike. “What can I say? “RIDER & HORSE ARE ONE!!!”

      WHY KEEP THE CAR? That pesky Check Engine Light goes on? Disconnect the Negative terminal, stomp on the brake pedal for 30 seconds, reconnect the Negative terminal and bye bye check light!!! Learned that trick on the internet. Ford will charge you $80.00 to make their light go away—See, I just saved you money!!!

  • avatar

    But given that we’re headed towards winter time, retailing this car may not be an easy thing.

    Geeze, what constitutes “winter” in Georgia? Having to wear sleeves in the evening? I’ve run top down in North Bay in February. In a Sebring. And I liked it.

    Keep it and enjoy the drive. Sell it in summer if you must.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      People in the South have a different definition of winter than Northerners. I accused my grandmother of getting soft after living in Ohio her whole life, she moved to Florida and started complaining about 55 degrees F being too cold.

      • 0 avatar

        The last night I spent in Atlanta, I awoke to find the door locks of my BMW frozen. Parts of Georgia have the same sort of weather as any eastern seaboard state as far north as New York city. Some extremes may be milder, but the potential is there to be unpleasantly hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter, and vulgarly humid year round. After working my way into my frozen car in Atlanta, I drove to Palm Beach, Florida. There, it was 60 degrees hotter than in Atlanta the same day. 60 degrees.

    • 0 avatar

      Winter in Georgia varies a bit. I lived by the airport in Atlanta, we stayed warmer than the northern suburbs year round. Not by a whole lot, but enough. In the dead of winter (February sucks no matter where you live in the Northern Hemisphere) overnight temps get down into the low 20’s. The days can be pretty pleasant though.

      I have a favorite picture of me and my kids from about 20 years ago. It was February and I had a week day off, so I took them to the playground we had in Forest Park, GA. I was dressed like a typical Yankee in 40 degree F weather, a jacket, no gloves, no problem. I loaded trucks dressed like that for years. I don’t wear hats, unless we’re sub zero temps.

      A photographer from the local newspaper was out taking pix and came over to me and the girls and asked if I minded if she photographed us. I was OK with it. A week later, we were on the front page. One of my kids was asking me something in the photo, but the paper came up with their own caption: Daddy, where’s your hat?

      My daughters are now grown, but that’s still a running joke between the three of us…

  • avatar

    $59.00 a day? Are you kidding? I can (and have) rented the cheapest econobox and was upgraded to a Buick for free at $22.00 a day! If you can find a sucker – er, “customer” to pay that, more power to you!

  • avatar

    Sell. To Blake Z. Rong.

  • avatar

    Keep it until Spring.

    • 0 avatar


      Then, re-evaluate the choices. Meanwhile, get the belt and pump changed.

      You won’t get anyone paying top dollar right now in any of the three scenarios. I tried selling my 99 NB starting in March and didn’t get any real bites until the rain stopped for good. I did get $500 over private seller KBB value, though. The buyer saw all of the junk out there, then jumped at mine.

      • 0 avatar

        I paid dearly for my dream used Miata from VERY slim pickings in 2009 on Minneapolis Craigslist. For some reason this year, there are (no kidding) about FOUR TIMES as many out there. And prices have fallen.

        At least in this city, they’re not moving like they used to.

  • avatar

    I won’t get into name semantics (l prefer the Miata name too), but your photo is of a 2001-2005 post-facelift Miata.

  • avatar

    Slap it around and call it Susan. I think it would like that.

    As I have told my friends numerous times, “a car is the perfect woman you can put your foot in her a$$, and beat the heck out of her without being arrested for abuse.”

    Ladies, I’m not a pig (and don’t think of women that way), but have always thought this was funny.

    • 0 avatar

      The mere fact that you find this funny is disturbing enough.

    • 0 avatar

      Okay. Maybe the joke is a little crude, but the logic is solid.

      My thought is, and this is where I came up with this, is that when you experience a moment where you’re in the middle of any argument and noticing you’re getting hot under the collar which is better: taking it out on the other person (in my case a woman since I’m male), or taking it out on a car (the worst that will happen here is that the car will decide it hates you and stop working)? Because, let’s be honest, we can all get hot under the collar sometimes.

      I grew up in a house where my dad had a pretty acid tongue and know that I have this tendency. When I realize that I’m getting a little out of hand I go for a little drive and can sometime ring it out just to release some aggression. It’s far better than wrecking another person’s life. This, although probably poorly explained, is my logic behind the joke.

      I have many good friends that are women and would never think of them in a way that would allow me to, in good conscience, hurt them in any way.

    • 0 avatar

      well, actually, u might just be a pig.

  • avatar

    I vote keep, simply because these are great cars and I want one.

  • avatar

    Keep it. I bought one 18 months ago ( ’90, MT, 66,000 mi. ) for $3800 and it’s the best car purchase I’ve made — even considering I live in the snow/salt belt and only drive it 7-8 months a year.

  • avatar

    keep it, and stick an LSx motor & T56 into it

  • avatar

    Keep it. OK, I’m projecting here. I’ll readily admit that I’d love to have one and can’t have one because my wife hates them. She hates them because the now-dead-of-AIDS satanist child-molester minister of her Episcopal church had one.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, sheesh. Does she have to avoid eating food because the evil minister ate food???! Or live in a yurt since he lived in a house (I’m presuming)? Maybe Steve should sell the thing to you, although I want him to keep it and have a blast with it.

  • avatar

    I don’t know. Do whatever contributes to maximizing your utility. Which means that if you can’t get a really good deal renting, leasing, or selling it, you should keep it.

    I know. I’m not very helpful. Well, keep it then. I’d want to keep it.

  • avatar

    My experience with Miatas is that they are remarkably abuse-tolerant. Lots of RX7/929 parts in there with way less weight and power to deal with than they’re used to, and not much electrical complication.

    Rent it out; it will cost no more to keep in service than a Protege.

  • avatar

    “An amply powered but safe utility vehicle that will let you do all your work without a hint of regret about scratches or four figured maintenance bills.”

    Sums it up for me. Oh, and 30 mpg.


  • avatar

    Hello all!
    Ive been a Mazda dealer Master Tech for 30 years, have a ’99 Miata, and work on Miatas every day.

    Here is the deal: I’ve NEVER met an unhappy Miata owner, but have met many people who were missing the Miata they sold.
    The ’99 and ’00, to me, are the best of the Miatas. I prefer the shape over the ’06 and later cars, although I do like the retractable hardtop.
    I Like the black instrument faces over the ’01 and later Miata white faces, and I like the lower seatbacks of the ’99 and ’00 also.
    Not too thrilled with the variable intake valve timing setup on the ’01 and later, nor the extra weight of those Miatas, but they are better braced underneath. My personal preference speaking here, and I prefer the normally aspirated Miatas over the Mazdaspeed turbo cars. The 5-speed transmissions shifted smoother than the early 6-speed gearboxes as well.
    And yes, timing
    belt/water pump replacement every 60K miles is good insurance, but if you really want to make your stock ’99-’05 Miata come alive–ADJUST THE VALVES.
    There is no bad Miata, they are all good, fun, low-maintenance cars with excellent gas mileage and easy to work on.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second all that. Our 2007 could use a 6th gear, though; at 65 mph, it’s turning 3,200 rpm and is on the verge of getting on your nerves after a while.

    • 0 avatar

      Well said! And the best part? You can still buy one from 1992 or so for maybe $3000 with plenty of life left in it. Less than you’ll pay for a year of therapy while learning how to relax. There are no Miatas or motorcycles parked outside the psychiatrist’s.

      I feel a deep, deep satisfaction every time I walk up to my 2002.

      Yeah, Miata fanboy.

  • avatar

    The weather just turned to the better side of perfect for this car here in Il. I’d probably keep it until next spring and sell it when the demand is higher for that type of car if it were up here.

  • avatar

    Crush it, Crush It I Say! Miatas are Worthless, Useless, Hateful, Sinful, Wretched, Despicable cars which should be wiped from the Slate of Time Itself for possessing the most deplorable design-flaw ever afflicted upon the modern consumer….

    ….I can’t properly fit in one. ;_;

  • avatar

    I have a 2006 MX-5, and my only regret is that I don’t have a three car garage so I could get a first generation Miata to park next to it. I would love to get another car with manual steering. Do any experts here know whether all the NA Miatas had non-powered steering?

  • avatar

    From what I remember, the Miata Base didnt come with p/s. The base had steel tims, non-power mirrors and windows. The “A” package cars could be had without P/S.

  • avatar

    Heck if you can really get $5995 for a 12yo Miata with 120k miles, then I think I would sell it. I know you keep saying used cars are expensive right now, but in this case I have to go against that logic… PRACTICAL, low mileage used cars are hard to find and expensive, Miatas dont seem to be too hard to find for a good price.

    That being said, if you CANT get $5995 for it, then keep it for yourself and sell the Insight, which will no doubt be worth a lot in today’s market.

  • avatar

    Keep it! It is a great little ride. A lot of fun with the top down if you can fit in it. Will hold its value. Easy to work on and cheap to keep running, if you do the work yourself. I put this one in the same fun category as the TR-3 and TR-4. Sold both of them for more than I paid for them at an estate sale.

  • avatar

    Highdesertcat, I dont see too many people that dont fit into a Miata, but more that havent mastered the trick of just getting into the car in the 1st place.
    You just sit down 1st with your legs outside the car, then swivel your legs into place.
    As a driver’s car, once your actually in and behind the wheel, there’s plenty of room.
    6’1″, 210, I never feel cramped in my ’99.

    • 0 avatar

      LOL Terry! I no longer bend well around the middle and my bones and joints creak when I try to swivel. Hell, my bones and joints creak when I sit down or get up from normal chairs, much more so from a seat ten inches above the ground.

      That’s why I sold my TR-3 and TR-4 to people who still could get in and out of them without doing damage to their skeletal system and sacroiliac.

      I needed to see a chiropractor every time I climbed out of my old ‘Vette. I’ll leave these jewels for the younger guys and gals, thank you. But they sure were great fun in my younger days.

      • 0 avatar

        LOL, understood! We had a tech years ago that tore the cartilage in his knee getting in and out of the 2nd generation RX-7s.
        But I still enjoy my Miata, and I’m used to getting in and out of these things every day at work.
        The uninitated put a foot into the car and try to slide behind the wheel, only to get locked into limbo, get a leg cramp, and swear never to get into a Miata again.
        BTW…back in the day I LOVED a British Racing Green Triumph TR-6, and especially the GT-6+.

  • avatar

    Allow me to try this again. I was properly taken to task for making a rather crude joke and am not going to attempt to defend it again, except to say that sometimes things come out before I’ve had a chance to properly think it over. All I can say is that “good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

    Now, onto the car. Keep it and drive it until you get bored, or it falls apart. You only get a cool car like this infrequently, and it looks like it would be a super fun car. I wouldn’t survive in your business because I would end up keeping more cars than I sold.

  • avatar

    Go ahead and sell it. There’s people out there who wait till the end of convertible season to scoop up a deal on one to enjoy for what’s left in the season and to look forward to next year.

    But what I’m really interested in is a full report on the 2001 Insight. Can you give me a review?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Sorry I’m so late to the party.

    Keep it. Seriously. I just got back from an inspirational ride through the wooded, curving outer rings of the Houston region. Near full-moon, top down, and my 9-3 Aero playing beautifully. Life was grand for that two hours….

    Why not treat yourself?

  • avatar

    Steve, do you still have the Intrepid??? How do I contact you?

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