19 November 2013

Mazda Miata turns 25: First gen prices are still attractive (for now)

This is bound to send a shudder up the spine of any 40-something—the Mazda Miata turns 25 next year. It seems like the first spy shots turned up in Road & Track a few years ago. But the fact of the matter is that the Miata predates social media by about 18 years, and widespread use of the Internet by five or six years. In those days, you really did get your first look at significant new cars like the Miata in the buff magazines.

Fast-forward 25 years and the Miata has a lot of mileage on it. Several generations, more power, complications like a retractable hardtop and lots more weight make many of us pine for the simplicity of the car that bowed as a 1990 model in the fall of 1989. Those who have never driven one dismiss it as merely “cute.” Those who know a thing or two about driving recognize that it’s one of the sharpest drivers’ cars since the Lotus Elan that Mazda designers so wisely cribbed from.

Happily, to the collector car market, early Miatas are still just used cars to which the unkind rules of depreciation still apply. But probably not for long. Rich Pennington (www.miatasportscars.com) may be one of the only dealers in the U.S. specializing in first-generation Miatas (1990-97). “They look, sound and feel like a sports car. They’re bouncy, simple, low to the ground and you can put the top up with one hand. It carries on from the MG and Austin-Healey and Triumphs of the ’60s, except they start and they’re really nice on the inside, with A/C and heat that work. I genuinely like the style of car.”

Pennington started out as a VW dealer almost 50 years ago. “It’s the first car that I felt had some of the same qualities as the VW Beetle. Plus, they’re bullet-proof, with 300,000-mile engines and — with the exception of the white cars — good quality factory paint.”  Nice examples of first-generation cars can still be found on eBay Motors for around $4,000. We’d wager that in 10 years or so, we’ll all be saying “coulda, shoulda, woulda.”

44 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Doug Casidy Tampa, Florida November 27, 2013 at 13:40
    Our '97 is a great driver. Good mileage and we can have the top down most of the year.
  • 2
    Rich Somers NY November 27, 2013 at 16:49
    You may be right - some of the early cars may become future collectable cars. My 1994 Laguna Blue R package was produced in very limited numbers. I assume that the limited edition versions may appreciate first.
  • 3
    Don Agnew South Georgia November 27, 2013 at 17:13
    I have two Miatas; a 2011 retractable, and a 1993 Monster conversion. The '11 car is a wonderful, great gas mileage, retractable hardtop, comfortable dream. The Monster is a very low key Beast! To me it's more comfortable than the '11, and cops don't even see it. It even gets acceptable gas mileage, if I keep my foot out of it......The only thing that would be better would be if the Monster had a retractable hardtop! I LOVE both cars.
  • 4
    Joe Princeton NJ area November 27, 2013 at 17:51
    I have a spotless, silver 91 with less than 17K since new. What a car! Summer car only. Been rained on 2X. Just put on new tires after 22 years. Bullet proof so far. No repairs except plug wires. Can't beat it on the local country roads.
  • 5
    Tim Blackburn Springfield OH November 27, 2013 at 19:11
    We bought a '92 with a hardtop this year w/ only 27k miles.....paid $5k for it needing a few fixes. Exhaust, a couple relays, etc. It's my 2nd Miata (95). I've had big Healeys , a Fiat spider, a Boxster, etc.....It's just like the Fiat or an MG or Healey, but everything works! I've had to reacquaint myself with the potential for oversteer.....
  • 6
    Fred Harmsen Kingston, Ontario Canada November 27, 2013 at 22:48
    Well it carries on from the MG and Austin-Healey but being 6'5" I fit into an MGB with lots of room.The Miata is toooo small or I would of bought one years ago . I could always get the sledge hammer out I guess.
  • 7
    Mike Salerno Florida November 28, 2013 at 06:52
    As a proud owner of 2 Mercury Capris, a 1991 & 1993, I feel the same way about the Capris. The Capri & Miata have the same bullet proof engine in which parts are available. In a few years, some people will be saying "coulda, shoulda, woulda".
  • 8
    Jon Illinois November 28, 2013 at 08:33
    Bought my 90 Miata (#309) in 1993 used with 36,000mi on the odometer for 10K. Added the Jackson Racing Sport modifications (all but the supercharger) and have had 20 years and 50,000 miles of fun. Nothing puts a smile on my face quicker than taking it out on a nice day with the top down and running through the gears. Definitely one of the best automotive buys. You can't have more fun in any other automobile at any price.
  • 9
    JIM GNOZZIO NewPort NC November 29, 2013 at 13:14
  • 10
    tim smith decaturville, tn November 29, 2013 at 09:10
    i have owned alot of first gen miatas, they are a fun street car, but in sanctioning bodys like scca, nasa, solo cross, and other various venues for racing, they are one of the best starting points to competitive racing. i race my miatas in sccs spec class as well as fp, no other racing like it in my opinion. just a great car all around!
  • 11
    felix daoust United States January 6, 2014 at 13:31
    On my 7th Miata, and you're correct, the NA (first generation) is a TRUE sports car. I've had later generation models also, but sold them to get more NAs!
  • 12
    George Vancouver Island January 17, 2014 at 21:37
    My is a 1990 "California" version : heating/ air conditioning, heated seats, air bags, leather seats, blue original color, 67,000 miles, excellent condition and engine. I had a Sprite and a Triumph , A Mgb, but my Miata is the winner! It's the best real "sports car".
  • 13
    J.R. Ontario February 16, 2014 at 13:32
    I had a 1990 for ten years and it was mint , now i have 2001. Got it from an old lady 54Ks on it .It is the sports edition with the aggressive look and of course red with the leather interior, just love this cars and i,m getting one more soon.
  • 14
    Hank Nawth Carolina April 9, 2014 at 11:50
    I've had my highly modified '99 since new. A pure joy toy that never sees the top up so strictly a sunny day plaything. I'm running out of things to modify on it but still love to turn a wrench since it's one of the only cars out there that don't require a college engineering degree and an O Scope to work on. Absolutely love it..bullet proof even with a blower and the most fun in the twists of anything out there. Wouldn't trade it for anything else I could afford.
  • 15
    Denny Georgia April 27, 2014 at 12:06
    We are the proud owners of the first 1990 red automatic Miata with the removable hardtop ever delivered to Houston. Our car has 69k mikes and always garaged. Orginial everything and looks better than ever. We collect cars and the Miata will be a collectors car based on the great styling, bulletproof design and the curb sex appeal. Everytime people asks if we want to sell, we cannot bring ourselves to do it based on current pricing. Rich is right, enjoy your car, it is going to be money in the bank. Besides, it doesn't take up a lot of room for a car this much fun......
  • 16
    Marty Stillwater, Mn. June 5, 2014 at 20:13
    Sold my '69 MGB for parts and cried, vowing to someday own another sports car. For 10 years now I have owned my 1990 red Miata, and when I am driving ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD.
  • 17
    trey portland June 23, 2014 at 05:31
    1996 mx 5 32K black. garaged one owner never wreaked wants 7K. that seems high but it is perfect.
  • 18
    trey portland June 23, 2014 at 06:03
    1996 mx 5 32K black. garaged one owner never wreaked wants 7K. that seems high but it is perfect.
  • 19
    Dennis (the Menace) Denver CO July 13, 2014 at 10:00
    I've had my 1990 since 1996, second owner, red with all the options including hardtop, power everything with cruise, limited slip, etc. Love the car and get lots of attention wherever we go, and 30mpg to boot on regular gas. I agree, give it another 10 years or so and we'll all be saying coulda, woulda, shoulda...
  • 20
    Celest Trenton, Ontario July 15, 2014 at 00:12
    I have owned by 1990 Miata since 1993 when I bought it with 3000kms on it. I have loved it from day 1. I have often thought I should sell it, until summer comes, the roof goes down and I remember how much I love this car!! So happy to see others have respect for this lovely gem. I'm emotionally attached now, I couldn't think of selling it!
  • 21
    Phil Pa August 20, 2014 at 08:59
    I have owned my1990 Miata for 16 years now. I purchased it used with 40k miles and now it has 113k. My wife and I have enjoyed cruising the country side in our little red sports car. I replaced the timing belt 2 years ago and the clutch just last month. I like the fact that the Miata's are very low maintanence vehicles. I purchased a new Fiat Arbarth earlier this year ( fun car too) and contemplated trading in my Miata. When the Fiat dealer offered me $4,000 for my car, site unseen, that's when I knew I would keep my little red sports car. So I'm putting a new top on next week then headed out for a several day adventure through the Pennsylvania country side this fall. I will always be a Miataholic!!!!
  • 22
    rbarrwest Austin, TX October 14, 2014 at 12:54
    I have had my '90 since I bought it new in December of '89. Has 115000 miles on it and still looks brand new. No rust, paint in great shape, no dings. Replaced the engine at 100,00 miles with one out of a '92 with 40,000 miles due to the infamous crankshaft problem. Other than that I had to replace the original radio and the top and that's it other than routine maintenance and tires. Still drives like new. Just got my 25th Anniversary Edition Miata and guess what? The '90 is more fun.
  • 23
    teri Gainesville,va October 21, 2014 at 17:30
    Thinking of selling my Mazda Miata, it's in good shape except for an indoor panel needs to be replaced. Anyone have any idea what I could get for it?
  • 24
    Jerry Wayne Hot Springs Village, AR November 3, 2014 at 10:51
    I have a 1990 red Miata with hard top and all the extras. I'm putting it up for sale for $12,000. Has only 8600 miles prime condition.
  • 25
    Ed Columbus, OH June 3, 2015 at 20:19
    I,ve owned 3 Triumphs in the past and then a '95 Miata. Sold the Miata and recently . Found myself missing the Miata and bought a '94 Miata with only 26K mils on it, which I don't plan to sell. IMHO Cs and Ds don't compare. The NA is the pick of the litter.
  • 26
    Bill Soo Mich. June 22, 2015 at 16:16
    I bought a 90' new red with power, AC, and limited slip, and love it. Currently 38,000. Every time consider selling it, primarily to free up garage space, I quickly renege finding I can't seem to part with this automobile.
  • 27
    Kelly Smith Wilmington NC July 8, 2015 at 16:08
    Just purchased a 93 Red with Tan Leather model a couple of weeks ago. 106,000 miles...great shape. More fun to drive than the law should allow. I have been driving "transportation" for the last 25 years...this is just plain fun!
  • 28
    Paul Leonard Los Angeles August 18, 2015 at 22:53
    These are at the lowest point right now , the NA models go for 1-2k with minor problems in so cal (often better than the 3k cars that have just one huge issue). But owning a 90 I would never pay more than 3k for the car, it's going to be just a used car like a vw or 914. Not badly depreciated, but no winner.
  • 29
    Murray shane Citrus Heights ,ca January 5, 2016 at 01:21
    I have a red 1996 Miata that I just love. My dream Miata is a 1992 yellow one. After looking for 4 years for a really nice original one I just bought one (all original). Low and behold I came across another yellow 1992 all original one with the hard top sooooo....I now have 3 Miatas and am in heaven. But I am looking for a black with the red leather interior. It just doesn't get any better👍
  • 30
    Murray Shane Citrus Heights, Ca January 5, 2016 at 01:52
    I have owned a red 1996 Miata for several years now and have loved it since day one. It is nicely customized and is a blast to drive. My dream car is a yellow 1992 Miata but as rare as they are I have been looking for a nice original for some time now. Low and behold I found one two weeks ago and snapped it up. Well here we are two weeks later and another one pops up with the hardtop equally original. Weelllllll. Just couldn't resist. Now I have the two yellow ones with 70k miles each and the red 96 with 105k. I guess threes a charm, but now I'm on the hunt for that beautiful black with red leather 1993 Miata. NA Miatas forever. I just can't resist a nice NA with a rare color combo.
  • 31
    Pansy Gould Nova Scotia ,Canada January 19, 2016 at 17:40
    I have a white /tan top ,leather seats 1996 Miata MX5 convertible . Very good condition with 45323 mileage. I want to trade it in but would like to know if the year is going to make it more valuable . Any one care to comment
  • 32
    George F Sarnia Ontario Canada February 10, 2016 at 22:25
    I bought my 1990 Miata in February 1990 and still own it. At 6 ft and 69 years young, my wife ask me how long I am still going to drive it, my answer is as long as I can still get in and out of it. The grandchildren are lined up it over. In live in snow country is it gets driven from the middle of April to the middle on November. Only has some 65k kms. I was heavy into the Miata events so the car has a lot of performance and appearance modification. LOVE THE FIRST DRIVE IN THE SPRING.
  • 33
    Glen Australia February 14, 2016 at 00:32
  • 34
    Vesa East Sussex United kingdom March 21, 2016 at 18:51
    Mine is a 1990 eunos roadster 1.6 original Japanese imported into the uk in 2000. 100127 miles on the clock . I drove the car to Spain and back to UK in May 2015 , put about 5000 miles on the car on the road trip and it was flawless no problems ! Amazing car never let's me down. Here in Europe they are branded Mx5 MK1 UK spec or the what I call the "real one" eunos roadsters Japanese spec which I preferred because the car is a Japanese creation. My eunos roadster has aluminium doors also which is cool along with the standard aluminium hood, I have heard some cars made for the Japanese market had aluminium doors also I'm keeping my car for life as I really Love it my eunos roadster or miatas in north America.
  • 35
    Bob Wenten California Bay Area March 24, 2016 at 13:51
    My first Miata was a 95, which I had for about 6 years and then sold to get a 2002 SE with Laser Blue Metalllic paint that was an internet order only option in Fall 2001. I bought it in 2005 with 16,000 miles on it, in fine shape. It's still in my garage and gets used some, mostly for fun, and now has 48,000 miles. There was never a single moment when I regretted my choice to buy a Miata, because there really is nothing else on the road that delivers the whole package the way the Miata does. Sometimes someone will ask me if there isn't some other car I'd rather have, and the final answer is still "No". This is my car.
  • 36
    Rich Sherry Wilmington, DE April 7, 2016 at 16:10
    I'm the original owner of a '90 Red package B w/ removable hardtop. 47K miles, of which I've enjoyed every one! Previous 911 Carrera 4 owner, but the Miata always brings a grin to my face. Hoping for appreciation, but don't know if I can ever part with it.
  • 37
    Guy CHCH ,NZ April 22, 2016 at 21:16
    Hi I've got a red 1990'MX 5, with 7000kms on the clock, like a new car. Any ideas on value? Thank you in anticipation.
  • 38
    william Simmons Florida June 2, 2016 at 11:40
    I've a 91 sharp car tricked out and in fine shape , want to find classic insurance for it , it's 25 years old and I only drive it when I want to feel 50 again turned 71 yesterday , it has been a great experience owning this car .250.000 original engine
  • 39
    Kenny L. Louisiana July 28, 2016 at 19:59
    I own a 2000SE with matching hardtop. It's a daily driver and weekend cruiser. Best roadster ever built in my opinion. Dollar for dollar best convertible ever put on the market. The 2000 SE's are already hard to come by in good condition. I've seen some low mileage ones go for over 14k without hardtop recently. I've been offered 10k for mine last month at a car show locally but couldn't let it go yet.
  • 40
    Ed Coster New Jersey October 30, 2016 at 20:12
    We bought our 1990 vintage year, when they only made them in red, white and blue (ours.) engine looks like it just came off the showroom floor. The best sportscar ever made. Still handles like a new model.
  • 41
    aila erman St petersburg, FL December 18, 2016 at 09:54
    I have had a ’90 Miata since it was born...5 speed, repainted British racing green. Perfect tan top with glass window. Transmission needs replacement. 79,800 miles. I am now 75, time to reluctantly sell...pls make offer ASAP. Best offer takes it.
  • 42
    walt urbanek new jersey January 17, 2017 at 12:00
    I have a white 1989 mazda miata which was purchased the first week this model hit the showrooms. HOW DO I CHECK WHAT PRODUCTION # THIS CAR WAS. Very low miles, garaged all its life. Great condition. Not used in past ten years other than to periodically start it up and drive it about block or to bring it to mazda for yearly fluid changes and inspections.
  • 43
    Bob Benoit Arizona July 8, 2017 at 16:46
    I've driven my 90 White "B" package Miata with matching hardtop for over 23 years. It has less than 150,000 miles and about $7K in aftermarket. I had it repainted a year and a half ago and it looks like it just came out of the factory. A fellow who is a nationally known Miata guru said that in a few years mine could easily be worth $26,000 due to the pristine condition and the added equipment in mine. That is academic, however, as I couldn't bear to part with it. It's like an old friend who has been with my in good times and bad and never failed to put a smile on my face.
  • 44
    Doug Stump Boise Idaho August 10, 2017 at 09:30
    Man if your will be worth 26k then my 1990 with 18,400 miles should be worth even more all original factory hardtop LSD and PS no other extras looks mint not one ding on it paint shines like new interior is perfect no squeaks or rattles zero leaks of any sort still have window sticker and all maintenance records

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