For much less than a new one.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best sports car available today. Full stop. It offers the same delightful roadster experience found in a variety of old school sports cars without any of the cumbersome reliability troubles or impracticality. There are plenty of more expensive performance cars (and more than a handful of minivans) that outpace the Miata in a straight line. But when it comes to cornering, the Miata produces the biggest smiles.
It's difficult to argue with the Miata's greatness (though some people still like to try) but we can agree that not everyone can afford its $26,580 base price. If you go for the Club trim with the Recaro seats and BBS wheels, you are likely to spend almost $35,000. That's a lot of money to spend on a Miata but we think now is a great time to purchase a used one.
It's the best sports car around. That's the simple answer. Few modern cars match the level of driving enjoyment found in the Miata and the few that do cost more than twice as much. Mazda updated the ND generation Miata with a new engine a few years ago, increasing the performance and enjoyment factor even more. While we love the updated ND2 Miata, the ND1 cars with the less powerful engine are much more affordable on the used market. Mazda refreshed the Miata for the 2019 model year, so we will focus on model years 2016-2018. The hardtop Miata RF model is also great for people who plan to drive long distances but we are going to stick to recommending the original soft-top model.
A new Miata costs over $26,000 and the one you want with all of the performance goodies costs around $35,000. But we found used ND1 Sport examples starting at around $14,000 with Club and Grand Touring models also available for under $16,000 with less than 50,000 miles on the clock.
Finding a Club model with the BBS wheels isn't too difficult but Mazda didn't add the excellent Recaro seats as an option until the 2018 model year. The cheapest example we could find with both BBS wheels and the Recaros was priced at just under $23,000 with 13,000 miles. Considering that a new model equipped this way would cost around $35,000, this seems like a fair price.
Prior to upgrading the engine to produce 181 horsepower with an S2000-like 7,500 rpm redline, the Miata's 2.0-liter SkyActive-G engine produced 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. This may not sound like a lot but remember, the car weighs less than 2,400 pounds. After driving the ND2 car, you may not want to drive the pre-updated car but in a void, the ND1 is still plenty of fun. It will get from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds even though straight-line speed isn't its forte and the steering feedback is world-class.
Buyers can choose from either a six-speed manual or, dare we mention it, a six-speed automatic. Don't buy the automatic, please. If you do get a Miata with the BBS wheels, it also adds Brembo brakes. The Club cars also get a limited-slip differential and stiffer Bilstein shocks.
Not much has changed in the Miata's cabin since the ND generation was introduced, which means you won't be missing out on much by buying a used example. The ND was a massive step up over the NC with more modern technology such as standard Bluetooth connectivity and available features such as navigation. There are also available safety technologies like blind spot monitoring though pre-2018 models lack a backup camera.
Miata is always the answer when people ask us what affordable sports car they should shop for. However, affordability is subjective which is why a used Miata can often be the answer people forget to consider. If you don't have $35,000 to spend on a well-equipped Miata or simply think that's an outrageous amount to spend on a car with less than 200 hp, just look for a used example. We promise you won't be disappointed.