When In The World Did NA Mazda MX-5 Miata Prices Get So High?

I really miss my 1992 Mazda MX-5 Miata, like a lot. Curiosity got the best of me recently and I went looking for how much a good NA Miata would cost. You can imagine my surprise after seeing how high prices for the classic sports car have risen. And for the life of me, I can’t see why people are willing to pay that much for the car.

Back on February 9, 1989, Mazda took the wraps off of MX-5 Miata at the Chicago Auto Show. The vehicle took a lot of inspiration from classic British roadsters for its design and driving philosophy. A lot of the car’s components were new for Mazda, as the automaker wasn’t well versed in making compact, rear-wheel-drive roadsters.

Clearly, the brand did a heck of a job, as the roadster was one of the most-affordable and enjoyable sports cars on the road when it came out. Fast forward 28 years to today and the NA Miata is still one of the best used options on the market.

Anyone that’s gotten behind the wheel of the original Miata will know why the machine has continued to be a go-to choice that’s survived time. I mean, Mazda’s built 1 million units of the freaking thing.

Mazda NA MX-5 Miata

The earlier models – pre ’94 – came with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing just 116 horsepower. While that’s laughable by today’s standards, it was more than enough to have a good time. For the 1994 model year, the sports car benefited from a 1.8-liter engine, but power only grew to 128 hp. Still, that’s nothing compared to modern sports cars.

The thing about the NA Miata is that it was never meant to set any records in a straight line. It was about driver enjoyment, driver involvement, and having something that was easy to work on when things went wrong. Not that a lot did go wrong, as the sports cars were incredibly reliable.

I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’ve owned a Miata before, so much so that I’m sure some of you think I’m a broken record. But there’s something special about the NA Miata. The sports cars with the 1.6-liter engine were hilariously slow, but that just pushed you to take a corner faster.

Shifting between gears was short and precise and because of the car’s lack of power, you were constantly shifting, rowing through all of the gears to keep the engine at the top of the rev range. Once there, everything started to hum and buzz, at least in my example, which made me just want to go faster.

You can’t get that kind of feeling in any other car, but I still don’t understand why people are willing to shell out a lot of money for what looks like well-loved examples. The NA Miata’s a fantastic car, one that every enthusiast should own at one point in his or her lifetime. But prices have become absurd.

A few years ago, I bought my pretty-beat-up ’92 Miata with 150K miles on the clock for $1,800. After a quick search on eBay, the most affordable sports car with a manual gearbox is a ’92 with 207,338 miles on the clock that’s selling for $4,950. While that example looks to be in excellent condition, it’s a 26-year old car with over 200K miles on it. A few years ago, that would’ve cost around $2,500.

That’s not the craziest thing, though, as prices on eBay go all the way up to $14,995 for a ’97 with 79,786 miles. With a budget of $15,000, you can get much better cars and that’s coming from someone that loves the Miata.

Things are the same on everyone’s favorite auction site, Bring a Trailer. Low-mileage examples are going for $6,988, while one with just 36,000 miles sold for $8,000.

They day I handed the keys over to the new buyer I knew I would regret the decision. Not because of how high prices have gotten now, but because I was letting go of a good car. I’m definitely going to buy another one down the road, but I won’t be spending a lick over $5,000.

If you’ve wanted to own a NA Miata, now’s a good time to purchase one, as prices will only continue to rise. But scour your local Craigslist ads because there are some good deals to be had out there. Seriously, though, please don’t pay more than $7,000 for a NA Miata, it’s kind of a crazy price.

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  • Christian

    Because the answer is always Miata..

    • Steve Lowry

      Right idea, wrong acronym.

  • Adilos Nave

    Remember having a poster on my wall growing up that compared how many days it would take for a person to earn enough money to buy a 1989 Miata based on their profession. Think the starting price was $13,800 back then. Only 13 years old back then, this was a dream car. Even got the designer (supposed, at least) to sign a picture of the Miata for me. Think his last name was Gates. Anyone know if that sounds right?

    • thunder bolt

      yes, it was $13,800, but there was a very high demand back then too, so the mark up was around 100%-150%. 1989-1990 were the good years for Japanese sport cars, Miata, NSX, MR2, 300zx were all newly introduced or re-designed, and they all looked good, still do.

  • Eric Woodward

    I agree that NA prices have risen a bit compared to a couple years ago, but Craigslist still provides several examples in the $1,700-$3,500 range that seem sensible.

    I think that Ebay / BAT / Autotrader and other sites just aren’t geared towards cheap car sales, so the examples seen there seem overinflated or are rarer examples.

  • Karter Harmon-Wilkening

    I know how you feel – I sold my 95 Miata a few years ago and have regretted it ever since. I just didn’t have the time and space in my life anymore for my real car and my toy car.

  • Keith Andes

    There is a LOT of price vairance in the market for these cars right now. If you’re a buyer, please read!

    The price can be a little higher for a nice one because this is an enthusiasts car, so there are buyers out there who are willing to shell out an extra dime for a nice one. But, the fact is, as said in the article.. this is an old, cheap car. Its one of the highest volume sports cars out there.

    BUYERS who want to buy cheap, be patient. I wouldn’t pay $4500 for one with over 200k miles. but if the seller has a nice one, and can wait for the right buyer to come along, they’ll get it.

    For context, I bought a 1993 with 123k miles for $2600 and it’s an original owner car that’s been garaged since day 1.

    I passed up on two or three nice examples that were in the $4k range, near 100k miles.

  • brn

    Overall the price of certain 90’s vehicles has become excessive. The Miata falls right into that category.

  • smartacus

    because nobody makes an

    affordable rwd 2nd car anymoe!
    MR2 Spyder stopped depreciating too.

    • Mk3 MR-S has been rising too, It’s become poor man’s Lotus.

  • Richard Alexander

    We are in the late stages of a massive economic bubble. Student of business history will recognize the supernatural appreciation of collectibles as classic late stage economic cycle activity.

    • Dr Strangefingger

      You said it! There’s a time to buy collectibles, and a time to sell. The sellers right now are the smart ones. Just give it time and wait for the prices to come to you… not smart to panic and chase.

  • Classic supply and demand, more MX-5 get trashed and the popularity is rising. Can anyone remember when you can get 205 GTI for cheap?

  • Tumbi Mtika

    Lucky for me, the MR2 exists.

    (I still love the Miata, though)

  • Miknik

    Naturally they shot up shortly after I sold my pristine red late 1,8 (with a factory LSD) to my neighbor, so not only was I an idiot in choosing the timing, but also I get to see the car regularly as a reminder of my great decision.

  • Scherpereel Clement

    I’m actually looking for a MX5 NA in France and boy those prices are quite impressive !
    If you want a relatively low milage (100K miles) you’re up to 6K euro (around 7k$) but if you want something to work on it you (like 200K miles) it’s still 3 to 4k euro ! Insane !
    Hope I find a nice and clean model.

    • max spring

      I have owned a Na in Aussie since new $ 34000 AUS , knocked up 346 000 klm [ not miles ] just did a total rebuild , but I brought the exact same red na in France [ where it lives ] around 8 yrs ago and paid 8400 euro [ 70000 miles then now has 76000 ] only drive it occasionally when I am there , best car ever .

  • R55

    They hit rock bottom – you can pick one up in the UK for less than £500, the price can only go one way after that.

  • Puddingpopper

    Maybe one day my clean NAmiata will get me into the aircooled 911 of my nightmares

  • TristansAdventures

    I have a fully restored 1995 that is mint inside and out. I spent a full year cleaning it up. The engine and interior looks brand new as well as the body. My car has 117K Miles. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cca47bf7bb91dcf5ea30bb27bca761667924d5da6c616493ebb2427c8fed388b.jpg

    • TristansAdventures

      the only modifications is a lowering. Side diffusers, tsi and airdam otherwise the cars stock.

  • Jinno Louie

    Better get over it. Biggie fries at Macdonalds is $1.89. Egg McMuffin with sausage is $3.00. Most people out there know a good thing when they see it. The Mazda MX-5 is one of those things.

  • Russian Under Your Bed

    They got so expense when people wrecked a lot or parted out good cars for a quick buck. Others rusted up North. You can still find them for under 2500. Condition? It’s going to be beat up. You can even find them for 1200. Cars reach a certain age and they fall in with a couple of groups of owners. 1. The ones that didn’t take care of them like college kids beating the tar out of it. 2. Well kept ones. The people in Group two typically have means and could not care less if they sell the car for seven or eight thousand in a month or three years. They don’t need the money. So unless you find someone that needs the space? They don’t need your 5k for a decent one. Know a guy now with a NC automatic, he wants too much for. He’s got money and will sell it when it sells, like he always does.

    Funny you mentioned $5000. That’s exactly what I paid for a ’95 in 2002. Guy had a KBB print out on the glass that said something like $9000. I said great this guy must be nuts but called him and he said $5000. So make an offer if someone ask too much. Tell them to give you a call if they change their mind. Depending on your area there’s a good chance you could get a call as most people can’t drive a stick and want a macho man truck.

    Bring a Trailer crowd is a bad place to look in my opinion. Too many people saying it’s worth 17,000! What dent? I don’t see any rust! What crushed frame rail in pic 119? Seems three quarters of those people are wearing rose colored glasses. Statements like a Florida car is suppose to have rust cause it’s humid. Whatever. I’m in the South and my car had maybe 10% as much suspension rust as their commenters concours car. Personally I think a lot of those cars have funny miles and many of the people impressed may be trying to push up prices of their own cars. How can my 245k NA that has been driven in the rain hundreds of times have a fraction of the rust of their 12 to 36k cars. Something other than the price doesn’t add up. But hey the price of everything has shot up. Normal 60s Mustangs, 300z, Fox body Mustangs, 240sx, MR2 Mk1, ect. Everything that isn’t high is worn out and beat up.

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