Yes, ladies and gentlemen: another week has passed, Friday is upon us, and that means it's time for Letters to Doug, the weekly column wherein I provide good, sound advice to loyal Jalopnik readers, and then you tell me how wrong I am.
This week's letter comes to us from a reader named Leonard (just kidding, I changed his name to Leonard), who is located somewhere in America. Leonard writes:
Ive got an idea that i cant quite shake loose.
After browsing craigslist, I noticed that a used GTR as actually pretty cheap. Low enough in fact that its attainable for me.
Ive been finding deals on 2009-2011 ish nissans with almost exactly 35k miles for right around $45k. Sometimes cheaper!
I love me a good godzilla car, but is this to good to be true? Because i feel like im missing something here.
Also, would it be douche-bagish for me to be driving around a mild supercar while in my early 20s? Im not rich, but i could afford it without a huge issue. Ultimately its between that or a truck. Truck < gtr
Leonard, you've asked an excellent question, because this is something I hear all the time. "YO MAN" people tell me. "I CAN GET XYZ COOL CAR FOR XYZ MONEY. THEY'RE SO CHEAP!"
I especially heard this when I had my Ferrari. People would see my videos, and they'd see my car, and they'd get all excited, so they'd go on eBay, and they'd find a gray 360 that was about four years overdue for a major service; a car that had mismatched wheels and bald tires and a "minor accident" on the Carfax and 47,000 miles and a nonfunctional F1 transmission, and it would be going for $49,250. And they'd say to me: "MAN! 360s ARE LESS THAN FIFTY GRAND NOW!"
And then I'd sit them down, and I'd look them directly in the face, and I'd spit on them.
You see, Leonard, here's the thing: just because you can buy a cool, high-performance sports car for a "low" price doesn't mean you should. To explain what I mean, I suggest you log on to AutoTrader.com, perform a nationwide search for 2009-2011 GT-Rs, and check in the bottom right corner. See where it says "Average Price"? That's right: $70,000. The average asking price of a 2009-2011 GT-R is seventy grand.
Now, what this means is that if you're very lucky, and you play your cards right, and you're willing to go for a higher mileage example, and you compromise on color, and you're OK with searching across the entire country, you might find a good one in the mid-sixties. Maybe even the low sixties if you get really lucky and you allow them to buy your trade-in with coins from the parts department cash register.
Now, that doesn't mean the $45,000 GT-R doesn't exist. But I will promise you this: every single GT-R available for $45,000 has severe problems. Every. Single. One. And now, I will go over what some of these problems might be, because I am a bona fide GT-R expert in the sense that I spent about 15 minutes on the forums earlier this week.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM #1: It has a severe accident in its history. If you find a GT-R for around $20,000 less than the going rate, it probably has some sort of severe accident history. Now, you might be thinking: "I don't care about that shit! I'll drive it anyway!" But you know who cares? Your insurance company, Leonard. When you call and try to insure a car with a salvage title, they're going to laugh at you like a Full House studio audience: loudly, and for way too long.
You know who else cares about your GT-R's accident history? The next owner. Because when you go to sell this thing, people are going to see your low price, and they're going to call you, and you're going to say that everything is great, and fine, and perfect, "except for that one minor issue where a cement truck fell on it," and they're going to laugh at you in a long, sad, depressing way, that you haven't personally experienced since the time you called your insurance company.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM #2: It has a bad transmission. Allow me to explain how the R35 GT-R works. You have a reliable car with a robust engine and a sturdy chassis and a nice interior and a strong frame and an impressive all-wheel drive system. And then you have a transmission made out of pine straw.
Seriously: the GT-R is a wonderful, excellent, amazing, beautiful automobile, but its gearbox doesn't seem up to the task of lasting forever. The result is that transmission failure is rampant in these things. So rampant that the GT-R is the only car Nissan doesn't offer in its certified pre-owned program.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "So what?! I once had a Dodge Caliber with a bad transmission, and me and my buddy Gary changed that out in my driveway on a Saturday." Yeah, well, here's the thing: a GT-R transmission costs $13,500 before shipping and installation. In fact, for the cost of a GT-R transmission, you could buy a running, driving Dodge Caliber and still have enough left over to bail Gary out of jail for his drunk and disorderly charge. Think about that.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM #3: It's actually an Altima Coupe. There is the distinct possibility that a low-priced GT-R is not a GT-R at all, but actually an Altima Coupe. To verify this, climb inside the vehicle and check in the back. If you can sit in the middle, it's an Altima Coupe. This vehicle is not worth $45,000. In fact, Kelley Blue Book says the current going rate for an Altima Coupe is "three heads of lettuce," or – if it's a V6 model – "three heads of lettuce and a Power Bar."
And so, Leonard, a quick summary. When I was searching for my Ferrari, someone told me a fantastic adage that certainly applies in this situation: the cheapest Ferrari is actually the most expensive Ferrari. And while the GT-R isn't as expensive to own as a Ferrari, the lesson remains true: these things aren't cheap. And cheap ones especially aren't cheap. If you have to find one with accident history or a bad transmission in order to get your foot in the door, you might want to wait a few more years and save your money for a nicer example.
In the meantime, consider an Altima Coupe.
Please remember that you, too, can participate in Letters to Doug, assuming that you have a) a topical, relevant question, and b) an Internet connection. E-mail me your question at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, or Tweet me at @DougDeMuro – but remember, I can only reply to one letter per week, so please refrain from anger if I don't chose your letter. After all, there's always next week, when I will probably not choose your letter again.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.