Buying a car with rust

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Today I'm going to look at an NA Miata, decently priced, with just over 100,000 miles. Like nearly all NA Miatas that even so much as resided in a state that uses road salt, this one has some rocker panel rust. I cannot tell how bad from the pictures, but I will see in person later. For the price range that I'm looking in for my area (~$3,300), some rust is to be expected for these cars. If structurally the car is fine, and I really don't care about this car looking amazing (will just be a 3 seasons weekend funmobile), is rust that big of a deal? I'm very handy with repairs, and I also have a friend who works with welding and sheetmetal for a living. So I may fix it. Anything else I should look for when it comes to tracking future rust? Also mods, please feel free to move this thread if you deem appropriate. I didn't really know where to put this one grin2
 
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Normally I'd say "no" but... If it's not bad then its likely not to get worse with winter garaging. Assuming you take steps to stop the rust. Can you bring a jack and jack stands and lift the car up, and really get under to inspect? Are you familiar with inspection laws for your state? I'm assuming you'd need to fix the rockers to pass, assuming they get holes.
 
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Rust and climate are timers. Just make sure your combination gives you enough time to enjoy your investment rather than planning to "fix it all". When you're done are you planning on reselling it or calling the local re-cycling tow truck service? At least you can have fun putting the gas pedal down to the floor with not much to lose.
 
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Why bother? Buy a rust free example and go pick it up. Make a vacation out of it. I saw one for $2900 on ebay. Florida car.1996 I think.
 
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Find a miata specific board and search it for rust pictures. This will give you a better feel for what to look for. And yes bring jack stands and crawl around underneath-- it's such a low car you'll miss a lot just looking from the sides.
 
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Originally Posted By: rshaw125
Why bother? Buy a rust free example and go pick it up. Make a vacation out of it. I saw one for $2900 on ebay. Florida car.1996 I think.
I wondered about that, but figured I'd lose at least a week of vacation doing that, plus a grand to fly, grand in hotels and food... Sure, if there is a will there is a way. But it's not like you can just drive a few states over for $20. That can bump up the cost to buy drastically.
 
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I'm with rshaw125, why buy a rusty car when the internet makes it so much easier to buy at a distance? There is less opportunity for inspection, but with Carfax you can be fairly certain where the car spent its time. Find one that has lived (not just for sale) in a rust free state and buy a plane ticket or bus ticket and go get it. To me fixing mechanical issues is better than fixing rust issues. With a car that old, you're likely to have mechanical issues on a used one even if it is local and you can inspect it. I typically try to find what the common issues are with that model of car and just assume I'll have to fix/replace those things and bake it into the budget for buying a used car. Rust often happens in structurally significant areas as well. Cutting and welding in new metal won't necessarily make it as strong as it once was. Skip the rust if you ask me.
 
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Originally Posted By: supton
Originally Posted By: rshaw125
Why bother? Buy a rust free example and go pick it up. Make a vacation out of it. I saw one for $2900 on ebay. Florida car.1996 I think.
I wondered about that, but figured I'd lose at least a week of vacation doing that, plus a grand to fly, grand in hotels and food... Sure, if there is a will there is a way. But it's not like you can just drive a few states over for $20. That can bump up the cost to buy drastically.
I picked out my 2003 Suburban last fall online. Called and worked a deal on a Wed./Thur. over the phone. Bought a $500 plane ticket to Knoxville, TN and reserved a $50 hotel room next to the Airport. Flew down Friday after work, bought the car at 8:00 a.m. at the hotel (delivered to me), drove back to MI and was home Sat. night plus the cost of gas (quite a bit with an 8.1L Suburban, not so much in a Miata). That plus a few McDonalds meals and I was good to go. I'd rather spend $6-700 in buying one out of state than spend all the time and money fixing rust that will never be as long lived or as strong as a car that started rust free.
 
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Originally Posted By: eljefino
Find a miata specific board and search it for rust pictures. This will give you a better feel for what to look for. And yes bring jack stands and crawl around underneath-- it's such a low car you'll miss a lot just looking from the sides.
+1 Being a convertible, the rockers are a little more important than on a normal beater.
 
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Take your wife/girlfriend and make a nice vaca out of it. Plenty of rust free examples here in NC. I imagine it would be worth even more up North.
 
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Unless you are flying first class, you can fly almost anywhere in the continental US for $500 or under. Second, you fly out on a Friday night or early Saturday. You have the remainder of the weekend to fly. You could take Friday and/or Monday off, so it's only two days of work, not a week. Can almost drive anywhere in the US in 3-4 days. Maybe $200 in hotels. So it could probably done for under $1000. That sure beats bodywork on a rust bucket.
Originally Posted By: supton
Originally Posted By: rshaw125
Why bother? Buy a rust free example and go pick it up. Make a vacation out of it. I saw one for $2900 on ebay. Florida car.1996 I think.
I wondered about that, but figured I'd lose at least a week of vacation doing that, plus a grand to fly, grand in hotels and food... Sure, if there is a will there is a way. But it's not like you can just drive a few states over for $20. That can bump up the cost to buy drastically.
 
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Still trusting the previous owner to not be lying about vehicle problems. And that it's good enough to drive 1,000 plus miles home. Seems like rather high risk to me. I figure, I can't buy a vehicle w/o test driving it first, and crawling all under it, and being able to say "nope" if it's not as represented. I'd rather go in debt and buy new/nearly new; or buy a rust bucket with the knowledge it will only make it a couple of years before I pitch it (and pay a figure accordingly). Spending a grand to go get a $5k beat up car that doesn't have rust but may have all sorts of gremlins... Just not my cup of tea, I guess. Maybe for something nearly new, still under warranty. Or something I was going to fix up no matter what.
 
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Why would someone buy a new Miata and then use it as a four season car? Anyways, rust=cancer. The stuff you see is only the end result of a long chemical process that likely effects other parts as well. Stay away, the $3300 you spend now might just be the beginning. Even for a toy, who needs to deal with this?
 
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Originally Posted By: supton
Still trusting the previous owner to not be lying about vehicle problems. And that it's good enough to drive 1,000 plus miles home. Seems like rather high risk to me. I figure, I can't buy a vehicle w/o test driving it first, and crawling all under it, and being able to say "nope" if it's not as represented. I'd rather go in debt and buy new/nearly new; or buy a rust bucket with the knowledge it will only make it a couple of years before I pitch it (and pay a figure accordingly). Spending a grand to go get a $5k beat up car that doesn't have rust but may have all sorts of gremlins... Just not my cup of tea, I guess. Maybe for something nearly new, still under warranty. Or something I was going to fix up no matter what.
For a fun summer car though, I think it pays to just get a rust free one, then you zip around for a few years, add a part or two and then sell it for what you paid. Also I think I would have a back up car or two to look at if I'm flying to buy a car. Also for a car like a Miata atleast, it should be pretty easy to evaluate the owner with a phone call too.
 
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Don't. I purchased a used car(07 MDX) 3 years ago at auction price. Clean car fax but latter noticed a door skin was replaced(OEM no less). Terrible prep job and its rotting along the sill.
 
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Originally Posted By: Noey
Why would someone buy a new Miata and then use it as a four season car? Anyways, rust=cancer. The stuff you see is only the end result of a long chemical process that likely effects other parts as well. Stay away, the $3300 you spend now might just be the beginning. Even for a toy, who needs to deal with this?
My neighbor does. Blizzack winter tires it goes perfectly fine if not safer than any all-season equipped vehicle once moving.
 

Klutch9

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Originally Posted By: rjundi
Originally Posted By: Noey
Why would someone buy a new Miata and then use it as a four season car? Anyways, rust=cancer. The stuff you see is only the end result of a long chemical process that likely effects other parts as well. Stay away, the $3300 you spend now might just be the beginning. Even for a toy, who needs to deal with this?
My neighbor does. Blizzack winter tires it goes perfectly fine if not safer than any all-season equipped vehicle once moving.
Remember guys, I mentioned that this car will NOT be used in the winter. It will be stored in a garage. Keep in mind too that almost all Miatas of this vintage have rust around here. Even most NB Miatas around here have rust, and those go for even more money. Mint, garaged NAs go for a ton of money around here. Pretty much any used NA is GOING to have rust.
 
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If you want one that badly, go get one that's rust-free. That's what I'd do. Battling rust while you could be out driving it really stinks, especially for a "fun" car.
 
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