Owners are keeping their vehicles longer than ever before, including sports cars.
In fact, people are holding onto their cars at least 7 years on average, and that number’s rising. As build quality and overall reliability generally improve, people aren’t trading up as often as they used to. While that’s a trend across the whole industry, what about sports cars? iSeeCars.com analyzed 750,000 cars to determine which models people kept for 15 years or more. To that end, these are the top 11 sports cars that stick with their original owners.
Among all sports cars, 3.6 percent of all original owners keep them 15 years or longer. This list breaks down the the models that are around that average, as well as a few that comfortably pass that 3.6 percent mark.
11) Acura NSX: 2.7%
The first sports car on this list actually falls below the 3.6 percent overall average. Nonetheless, 2.7 percent of Acura NSX owners held onto their cars for at least fifteen years. That’s 0.7 times the average figure. Mind you, we’re talking about the previous NSX here: the one Ayrton Senna helped develop.
Acura’s original NSX had a reputation as a more “user-friendly” mid-engine sports car. That approach endeared it to owners, as the car — badged as a Honda overseas — sold more than 1,000 examples during its first three years in production. As sales dwindled over the years, those who did buy the car evidently held onto them for quite awhile. We’ll see if the new NSX can replicate that trend in the coming years.
10) BMW M3: 2.9%
You all seem to like your BMW M3s as well. According to the iSeeCars study, 2.9 percent of you held onto your M3s 15 years or longer. That’s 0.8 times the average figure of 3.6 percent. It’s easy to see why it fell on this list now: We were in the middle of the E46 M3’s production run.
Enthusiasts consider this the “perfect” M3. The last pure model, before BMW switched over to exclusively offering a V8 engine over the tried-and-true straight six. The previous E36 is getting pretty long in the tooth now, and the original E30 is massively expensive by comparison. Built from 2000 to 2006, the E46 is still fairly fresh, and may well appreciate in value over the years. Owners seem to know that, and that may be why they’re holding onto their M3s for over 15 years.
9) Porsche 911: 3.0%
The 996-generation Porsche 911 is one of the most contentious versions of the brand’s iconic sports car. Apart from being the first water-cooled 911, the styling really set it apart from any 911 before or since. That’s to say nothing of the intermediate shaft bearing issue that plagued 996 models. So much so, that Porsche agreed to compensate owners who experienced an IMS bearing failure within the first ten years or 130,000 miles of the car’s life.
Styling and IMS bearing issues aside, the 996 Porsche 911 is one of the more affordable ways to 911 ownership. Sites like Bring A Trailer report sales in the $15,000 – $30,000 range. Compare that to the 993, which goes more in the $25,000 – $80,000 spectrum. Or a new one, which starts at more than $90,000.
8) Mercedes-Benz SL-Class: 3.2%
The Mercedes SL has been around forever. The original 300SL from 1954 kicked off the brand’s reputation for building world-beating sports cars. Even now, folks who buy SLs tend to hang onto them. 3.2 percent of owners hang onto the cars 15 years or longer, 0.8 times the average figure.
At that 15-year mark, we’re in the fifth-generation of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. Built between 2002 and 2011, this generation housed everything from a 3.7-liter, 245 horsepower V6 all the way up to a massive 6.0-liter, 604 horsepower V12. Along those lines, there’s literally an SL for everyone, and that wide range ensured folks who bought their own held onto it for quite awhile.
7) Chevrolet Corvette: 3.2%
Odds are we all know someone who owns or has owned a Chevy Corvette. It’s America’s sports car, in production since 1953. 3.2 percent of Corvette owners keep their cars 15 years or longer — very near the 3.6 percent average figure.
Here, we’re in the C5 generation, built from 1997 to 2004. You know what was cool about this generation? It was the last Corvette with pop-up headlights.
6) Audi S4: 3.5%
The Audi S4 is another popular car on this list, as 3.5 percent of owners keep their car for 15 years or longer. That’s just below the average. Packing a 4.2-liter V8, the S4 is a cut above the standard A4, but you wouldn’t really know it unless you could spot the clues, like bigger wheels.
The fifteen-year mark from today’s S4 model is the third-generation S4, which debuted in 2003. Later, fourth-generation models still used a 4.2-liter V8, and it was still classified internally as the Typ 8E model. The main differences are cosmetic, namely the softer, more rounded headlight and taillight design.
5) Ford Mustang: 3.6%
The Ford Mustang is one of those American institutions. You know the ones I’m talking about. Like the Chevy Camaro and Corvette, folks tend to keep their Mustangs for awhile. In fact, 3.6 percent of owners kept their cars 15 years or longer, right in line with the average.
Here, we’re talking about the fourth-generation Mustang, which packed a 4.6-liter Modular V8 in GT form. Ford’s “New Edge” design language sharpened the Mustang up from the softer, third-generation model built through the 1990s. In 2005, Ford radically changed the car’s design to throw in some retro styling from the original Mustang.
4) BMW M5: 3.6%
Also sitting at 3.6 percent, owners tend to hang onto their M5s for awhile. It makes sense — the BMW M5 isn’t exactly a cheap car to buy from the outset. In its E60 generation, you also got an amazing naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V10 engine. That’s a unique feature among M5s, as all other models have housed either a straight-six or a V8.
In the U.S., you could also buy the M5 with a six-speed manual transmission. That saved us the horrors of the SMG gearbox that, for many, ruined the M5 ownership experience. It’s a gearbox to avoid if you’re looking to buy a used M5.
3) Chevrolet Camaro: 4.2%
While the Mustang may be more popular in terms of sales, the Camaro sticks with its original owner at higher rates. 4.2 percent keep their Camaros for at least 15 years — many more than the 3.6 percent who hold onto Mustangs.
Prior to the current fifth and sixth-generation models, the last Camaro rolled off the line in 2002. The fourth-generation Camaro debuted in 1993, while 1998 and newer models switched over to the LS1 V8 also used in the Corvette.
2) Audi TT: 5.1%
Yep, it’s another Audi. At 1.4 times the average rate, 5.1 percent of TT owners held onto their cars for at least 15 years. The TT was a different sort of animal for the brand, and many praised its design, both inside and out. The TT is based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf, but this car offers up a different sort of characters.
Most first-generation TTs, built between 1998 and 2006, housed a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine. However, you could get later models with a 3.2-liter VR6, which gave the diminutive sports car some go to match the show. Later models adopted more aggressive, serious styling, turning the TT into a sports car brand of its own.
1) Mazda MX-5 Miata: 6.1%
No real surprises here. Even setting aside the “Miata is life” crowd, Mazda’s small sports car has remained popular throughout its 30-year lifespan. So much so, that 6.1 percent of owners have kept their cars for more than 15 years. That’s 1.7 times the average figure.
Over the years, the formula for the Miata hasn’t changed much. It lost its pop-up headlamps in 1998 with the second generation, but it’s always maintained the same formula. Front engine, rear-wheel drive with a small stature and nimble chassis. They’re also affordable, which lowered the barrier to entry for many current owners.