Buying an Esprit
Are you MAD!
You've just walk into a minefield,
walk slowly and probe everything very carefully
or it could just blow up in your face.
Great Looking Cars don't come this cheap. Looking at any Esprit, from S1 to Sport 350 you'd think they'd be in the same price range as Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborgini's. But the truth is there nearly half the price of most exotic supercars, and this is where the problems start. Supercar are never cheap to run and always need lots of TLC. Parts and Labour are expensive due to the small production numbers and only a few specialist can really look after these sorts of cars.
Due to quite high depreciation on Esprits and a low purchase price (for a Supercar), Second hand Esprits can look like an all time bargain. You can pick up a 1986 Esprit Turbo for around £9,000: a 1986 Porsche 911 will cost you around £15,000 and an 86' Ferrari around £20,000. A 1999 Sport 350 can be yours for £30,000 (if you can find one) compared to £50,000 for a standard spec 911 and £85,000 for a Ferrari F355. So once you've checked these prices out against performance and looks the Esprit is an easy choice. Problems start when people buy Esprit who couldn't afford a Ferrari or Porsche, because Esprit cost just as much to run as other exotics (and can often go wrong more often).
Many people in the past have seen the price of Esprit's in magazine's, decided they could afford one and then gone off in search of one. Not knowing much about the Esprit, they end up being impressed by the first one they see. All Esprit, whatever condition look ten times better than your average family car (or for that matter sports car). You'll find no rust as they're made of glass fibre. Looking at the engine and checking the oil won't help much and kicking the tyre doesn't work on any car. Driving your first Esprit will feel like no other car you've driven, so even a bad one will feel good if you've no experience of Esprits. The biggest problem is seeing a beautiful car you thought you could never afford and wanting it now.
Follow LEW's steps to buying your first Esprit (or even your second), It will be hard, but worth it in the long run, if you buy an Esprit in poor condition, you'll either have to spend huge amounts of money on it (that you'll never get back), or suffer continuing expensive problems before giving up and selling it on to the next unprepared fool.
Why buy an Esprit?
When you can buy something cheaper and more reliable!
The newer technologies often gain a level of efficiency that makes them... uninteresting. In many cases, the older ways and technologies were more than sufficient, and it is their minor failings that give variety and character to doing things that way. With the older ways, you usually have to be more aware of details, understand more of what you are doing, and take more time being involved in the process. That greater interaction makes the process more personal and enjoyable for some people.
Steps to buying a Second-hand Esprit Privately
1. Workout your budget for purchasing the Esprit
2. Find out possible running costs
3. Check Insurance costs and cover
4. Join ClubEsprit and Club Lotus
5. Check for Specialist in your area
6. Find out cost of having a specialist look at a possible purchase
7. Get a copy of LEW's Esprit Checklist & Receipt
8. Choose which model(s) to look for
9. Look for Esprit's for sale
10. Call sellers and ask questions while filling in Checklist
11. Make a short list of possible purchases
12. View Esprits and fill in fresh Checklist (owner answers may not tally with what you see)
13. See all Esprit on shortlist (Don't buy the first one you see)
14. View and test drive at least 5 Esprit (if possible) before deciding to make an offer
15. Find out cost of any repairs that need doing
16. Ring any Previous Owners of any Esprit your interested in
17. Ring any Garages that have worked on the Esprit for any information
18. View Esprit again that interests you
19. Once one has been found, make an offer and fix a price on condition that a specialist checks it and a H.P.I. Check is all clear
20. Pay small deposit to hold the car (about £50, non-refundable) and fill in Esprit Receipt
21. Arrange specialist to examine the Esprit
22. Cost up any Repairs found that you've missed
23. re-negotiate price until your happy (or walk away)
24. Arrange collection and payment
25. Collect car, fill in Esprit Deposit, and don't forget manuals, service history, any other documentation
26. Have fun
Steps in Detail
1. Working out your budget must be done carefully. Most people will always tell you to buy the best you can afford, which is good advice, but you'll need to leave money for Insurance, Security, Servicing and for consumables like tyres and brakes. Don't budget so you can't meet these costs, as this is where the problems start. A good condition Esprit will still need things doing to it, so budget accordingly. And remember petrol costs will rocket unless you've been driving something else exotic. You'll be luckily to get 20mpg unless your going to be careful, and that's not what your buying an Esprit for.
2. Research the cost of things so you can budget for them, as above tyres and brakes, servicing etc. You'll find lots of information on this site to help you, but remember, just because you can buy an Esprit for the price of a Ford Mondao, doesn't mean you can run one for the same price. Labour charges can range from £40-an-hour to £90-an-hour, and don't forget the VAT.
3. Insurance isn't as bad as you'd think, many Esprits can be insured as classics with restricted mileage. Check it out first and budget for it, also read any conditions if you're looking at a classic or restricted mileage policy.
4. Joining ClubLEW will give you many savings on Esprit related items and we'll support you via email. Joining ClubLotus will be £25 well spent, you get information on all aspects of Lotus Ownership. Lists of specialist, club meeting, club events, parts suppliers and insurance companies. Call them on 01362 694459 (or see the Club Section on the Running an Esprit page).
5. Find out what you're going to do when something goes wrong or you need it serviced. Lotus specialist aren't on every street corner like Ford or Vauxhall garages and trust me you don't want anybody who doesn't know Esprits working on your car. Ring specialists in your area, find out what they charge an hour for labour, what experience they have, how many Esprit's they deal with and what models. If you can, visit and have a look around, don't wait till you've a problem before you find yourself someone to look after it for you. I personally have a 200 mile trip to have work done on mine, having to leave it for a week before being able to pick it up. If you're the same you'll need to think about it and build it into the running costs.
6. When you've found an Esprit you want to buy, you'll need a specialist to have a look first. The AA and RAC will do it at around £350, but your better off asking someone from your chosen garage to come along and go over it (that's why it's important to find a garage before you start looking). They will charge around £150 depending on distance. It will be the best money you spend, We saved £2,000 on our Esprit's asking price.
7. Get a copy of LEW's Checklist and Receipt forms, run them out and familiarises yourself with them, they'll help you from being blinded by the beauty of seeing your first Esprit. It'll also makes sure you check everything before forcing yourself to walk away. It's a great bargaining tool when you come to sorting out a price for the car and can help you compare Esprit's you've seen, before deciding on which one's best for you. The Receipt has no real legal clout, but should make you feel happier handing over large amounts of cash. Add them both to your history once you've bought your Esprit.
8. Decide which model you want, it normally comes down to cost, but you might have a preference for a Giugiaro or a V8. Decide which one's for you and research the model, find out as much as possible. What options were available, what was standard, what common problems need looking out for. How much should you be paying for what year. It all helps if you know what you want and what's available.
9. There's always Esprits for sale, but where to look. Forget looking locally, you'll be lucky to find one in your area. Always look nationally and remember Esprit have never been produced in high numbers, so there's not that many around and fewer for sale, you'll have to travel unless you're really lucky. LEW's Used Car Centre is a great place to start looking, with many Esprit available and advertised by owners who have been wise enough to use this site!
10. When calling the seller, ask as many questions as possible. Try to fill in the checklist while talking to the owner, it will help you decide if it's worth looking at. Also you may get an idea if they really know about Esprit's or have just bought one because they liked the look and price. These are the owners to try and stay away from, if they have little knowledge of their cars then its unlikely to have been looked after (although this isn't always the case).
11. Pick out the Esprits that look the best bet from the information gained from talking to the owners, make a shortlist of possible purchases and visit your least favourite first, this may help you from buying the first one. Also you'll gain a little experience before you see the one you think is the most likely you'll buy.
12. On viewing an Esprit spend as much time as you can filling in a fresh Checklist, keep the one from your phone conversations as a reference, it could give you an insight into how the owner views the car, compared to how you see it. Gather as much information as possible, this is an important part of buying an Esprit. You'll want to know as much as possible, because next time you see it you may be trying to buy it.
13. See all the Esprit you've shortlisted, even if you think you've seen the one your going to buy. You never know what it will really be like, and if there's a problem with the one you've picked this could be the next best one.
14. View and Test drive at least 5 Esprit's (if it's your first time) you'll need to make comparisons and gain experience to make sure you've picked the right one. See the Test Drive page for valuable information on what to look for.
15. Find out the cost of putting things right that you've spotted using the Checklist. Some fixes can be a lot more than you think. You can give your chosen Lotus specialist a quick call and he can advise you on a rough cost of repair, that way you won't be paying over the odds for a car if it's going to take a lot of cash to fix.
16. On the V5 document there will be the name and address of the Previous Owner ("PO"). There's a space on the Checklist to take down their details. A quick call to Directory Inquires will possibly give you a number so you can contact the PO. By speaking to them, you can find out a lot more about the history of the car (especially if the current owner has only had the car for a year). You can find out how long they owned it, what problems they had, why they sold it and maybe even what they sold it for. All this information can only help in your decision as to if the cars right for you, and all for the cost of a phone call.
17. By checking the service history and any bills, you can find out who's been working on the car over the time it's been with its current owner. A quick call will determine if they are Lotus specialist or just a normal garage. They may remember the car and have records of some of the work they have done and any problems that the current owner hasn't told you about. If the garage are unhelpful, then you've lost nothing, and maybe have an insight into what sort of people have been looking after the car. Lotus is a small marquee and most within are normally very helpful.
18. View the Esprit once more, double checking what you've written on the checklist and making sure it's what you want.
19. When you've made the decision that this Esprit's for you, it's time to fix a price with the owner. How you get to this price is up to you, but use what you've found out as a bargain tool. Work out what you think it's worth on the market, then add or subtract from that what you've found out about the car. Once you've got a price in your head, decide how much you're willing to pay over that. This will give you a realistic price limited that you shouldn't go over. Before you start trying to fix a price make sure you make it clear that anything agreed is subject to an inspection by your specialist and a HPI check, if they won't agree to this WALK AWAY, they can only have something to hide and it won't be to your benefit. You can now start to negotiate from the advertised price, making sure you don't forget your price limit.
There are many easy ways to get an Esprit HPI'd. You simply give them the cars registation number and they give you a report back. One thing to watch is a lot of Esprits have private plates on them, these may come back clear, but the car could still have outstanding finance. So don't skimp on a cheap HPI and make sure you check the full history of the car. LEW knows on one Esprit owner who was caught out this way. Make sure you're not another.
20. Once you have agreed a price fill out the Deposit Form making sure that any agreements are written on the back of both Deposit Forms and counter signed, things that the owner has agreed to fix or sort (i.e. MOTing, Taxing, or parts). Also any agreement relating to the audio equipment, you don't want to turn up to collect the car and find the owner has stripped out all the audio equipment, which you haven't budgeted on replacing. Pay a small non-refundable deposit (£50 minimum and upwards depending on the price agreed), this shows good will in your deal and will mean you'll have time to sort out a HPI check and get your mechanic to arrange a time to inspect the car. Making it non-refundable will make it easy if you decide to pull out of the deal after the check and inspection, you won't have to try and get your deposit back and will stop any owner from thinking your not serious about purchasing his car and give you both piece of mind that you both want the deal to go through.
21. Now you can arranged your chosen specialist to inspect the car and wait for his report (we would prefer to be there, but this will not always be possible). Your report shouldn't be made available to the owner unless you wish, you've paid for it, so the information's for your benefit, not his.
22. Go over the report with the specialist and cost up anything that you've missed. Remember a second hand car will not be in showroom condition, so don't expect everything to be sorted, you must take into account wear and tear. You must then decide if you're happy to pay the price agreed or you want to re-negotiate the price, or just walk away if the news is really bad.
23. You must then contact the owner and discuss the report and come to a final agreement. A verbal agreement should be good enough to save you another trip. If there's any problems you can still walk away only losing a small deposit.
24. You must then arrange a collection date and how payment is to be made. Don't forget to get insured.
25. On collecting the Esprit, remember to fill in the Receipt Form as this will give you a record of the agreement and a (non-legal) proof of purchase. Don't forget the documentation, including the Service History, bills, old MOT's and the manuals (Car, Alarm, Stereo) and anything else in the agreement. Remember to find out what sort of fuel it takes and how to release the fuel cap (don't laugh, because you won't be when you go to fill up).
26. I think you need some of this after going through all of the above.
Advice from Lotus Service Centre Manager Neil Turner on purchasing a V8
You really need an extended test drive to evaluate any car. Do lots of homework before you purchase and get the AA or RAC to independently inspect the car to check the mechanical side of things. Check the history carefully and make sure the servicing is up to date. Cam belts on V8's should have their tensions checked every 12,000 miles and changed every 24,000 miles.
Try to buy from a Lotus dealer and always get an official Lotus extended warranty called 'Lotus Endorsed'
for added confidence and back up, should things go wrong. Try and buy as late model as you can because we are always improving specifications and developing the car. GT3's are great, but the performance of the V8 and all of its torque is stunning (query about GT3's being the most reliable Esprit).
Just be careful what you buy.
Clips of Advice we've given out via E-mail
"My advice is to go and look at any Esprit that sounds good. NEVER believe what's written, just go and have a look yourself. I've had long conversations with owners about their cars, and have turned up and found something completely different. The term Superb Condition can be some what over used. Call the owner, have a chat, see the car, fill in my checklist, make your own mined up."
"As for pricing, it's very difficult to price an Esprit, especially the older ones. If one is very cheap, it might means that something expensive may need doing. Personally I would ask the owner a few searching questions and then probably give it a miss."
"You can run an Esprit as an everyday car, but running costs will
be very high. As long as you buy a good one and look after it, you shouldn't
have any more problems than with a 'normal' car. Finding a good one will
be difficult if your not buying a fairly new one, as most cars have been
neglected and will cost thousands to get back into good enough condition
to be used as an everyday car."
"As for looking, start now and don't expect to get one for at least 3 months (if your lucky). You'll have to travel the country looking at them and the good ones to bad ones ratio is about 5 to 1. And trust me, you'll need a good one. Remember to call the previous owner, check the service history very carefully and call the company that serviced it to get some background. NEVER buy the car the first time you see it, you need to walk away, make the calls and get somebody who knows Esprits to have a look (£150-£250) or the AA/RAC (£300-£400). It's a minefield out there, so be very careful. It will be worth it in the end though, I love mine, even if I am broke all the time. "
"Be wary of Esprits that seem a good deal, they more than often are due a big service (£1,000) and have a few faults that the owner can't afford to fix and will try and push off onto you. Also don't believe what they tell you on the phone, I've had long conversations about the condition of a car, travel 200 miles and turn up to see a complete dog that was nothing like what they told me."
"It's a good idea to get somebody to check the car over as some fault are difficult for mortals to find. My Esprit looked in very good condition, with only a couple of things that needed doing, but after getting a specialist to have a look, he found a few expensive things that needed doing that I'd have never spotted. "
"I got a good reduction on the price which I then spent on the car. My advice is to join ClubLotus (address & Tel below). They will have lists of all dealers & specialist in your area and can give you advice on finding somebody to checkout a possible purchase. Also the UKlotusesprit Group on Yahoo is a must if you're not already on, there's huge amounts of valuable information and very useful people. I paid £250 for Barry Ely of London to checkout my Esprit in Reading, so its not something you can do too often. Only when your sure you're going to purchase the car. If the owner talks about a quick sale or other people are interested, stick to your guns. If you buy an Esprit in poor condition, it will cost you an arm & a leg. "
"I've spent over £4,000 this year sorting the problems out and servicing it. An A Service will cost you around £250, a B Service will be around £500 and a C Service will be between £800-£1,000. So make sure you budget accordingly. This is why you're likely to find a lot of Esprit's in poor condition. People don't realise how much it costs to run, and don't look after them. Esprit's don't take long to fall into bad condition if they're not looked after."