In 2008, Japanese car manufacturer Nissan raised its sizable middle finger to the establishment and released the world-beating R35 GT-R, a car that would eat the collective lunches of Porsche, Audi, and BMW for a seriously bargain price. However, in 2015, things aren't so peachy. Here are a few reasons why.
Here's the way resale works, especially on high-dollar cars. A car is released for its brand-spanking-new price, early adopters purchase it and typically eat the depreciation cost. When they trade it in, due to newer models and upgrades to the platform, there's usually a substantial difference in purchase price and sale price, called depreciation. However, the GT-R's market doesn't seem to be moving at all, because there has been only one generation of the GT-R available in the US, with little in the way of actual upgrades other than trim packages.
The first GT-Rs for sale could've been purchased in the high-$60k region. After six years, with tens of thousands of miles on the clock, the cheapest early GT-Rs that you can find on the market still hover around the mid-$60k mark, so basically if someone bought a brand new one in '09, they essentially got to drive a brand new, warrantied Nissan GT-R, putting years of farts, miles, and abuse into the car for free.
This also creates a "soft stop" in the market, meaning that no matter the year, the miles, or condition (within reason), a used GT-R will never sell for less than this price, which is the reason that you can find a 2009 model with 30,000 miles and a 2011 model with 13,000 miles listed for almost exactly the same price. However, there will be an end to this wacky depreciation anomaly.
As many owners had opted for the extended 7-year/70,000 mile Nissan warranty, the coming years should have out-of warranty GT-Rs that require substantial and expensive repairs, as evidenced by the self-reported failure rate on driveline components on enthusiast forums. This will tear a hole in the used value of the car, and bring the entire range down to a more palatable and realistic depreciation curve. I predict that in 2016, you will see early GT-Rs drop into the mid-to-low $40k range, competing with the slowly-appreciating Porsche 996 Turbo market. This means that existing owners can expect another $20k value hit in the coming years, so just as in stocks, the constant rule of thumb is to buy low. But even if you want to find a great deal on one today, that would be nearly impossible because...
Let's play a game called Sticker Shock. I'm your host, Tavarish. Here's your first question:
A new, warrantied base model Nissan GT-R cost $69,850 in 2009. How much does a new, warrantied base model cost in 2015?
The answer is $101,770. That means that in six years, the base price has gone up by three Nissan Versas. Obviously, with great price comes great power, but as the original GT-Rs were quite underrated, the difference may not be as significant as once thought. But let's humor this notion. If the manufacturer power figures were spot on, the horsepower difference between '09 and '15 is 65. Factored into the price, you're paying $491 per additional horsepower, before any trim packages.
"That's OK", you say to yourself, "the aftermarket is full of well-priced options that give you better bang for the buck," and you'd be right, if it wasn't for the fact that they're not covered under warranty. If you bought a used GT-R with whatever sliver of a factory warranty left over, the second you decide to slap on an AMS Alpha 10 turbo kit giving your car 950 horsepower at the wheels, Nissan turns its back on you and give you the cold shoulder, signifying that you're on your own should a piston punch a window through the engine block.
Even if you wanted to buy the cheapest GT-R in the known universe, out of warranty and just eat the costs of any repairs yourself, replacing the transmission (a likely outcome for used GT-Rs) could cost upwards of $15-20k for parts and installation, not counting any other odds and ends that you'd need throughout ownership, so all roads could potentially lead to a six-figure GT-R. That in itself isn't horrible as it is still a competitive platform, but the premium competition is quickly catching up and making cars that are a better overall value, even if they don't beat the GT-R in a strictly numbers game.
If you decide to go after the bonkers power available in the aftermarket, the cost of that aforementioned AMS turbo kit is the better end of $20k just for parts, not including any installation, transmission/driveline mods, or tuning. When all is said and done, you'll be into the project another $35-40k, with a car that no longer has a factory warranty and isn't actually worth any more than the original purchase price, and may actually be worse to drive day-to-day. And that's a troubling prospect, because...
In a very unscientific internet poll, GT-R owners were asked what reasons, if any they would have to sell their bargain supercar. Nearly everyone who had moved on from the platform noted practicality as a major concern - the car just wasn't as refined as previously thought, and it didn't fare well as a commuter car or daily driver. Yes, the car was designed to blitz the Nurburgring and do sub-three second 0-60 MPH sprints, but it does have four seats and a Nissan badge on it. Among the top concerns for owners is that it just isn't comfortable on longer drives. The seats aren't built for more rotund American frames, and the large 20 inch wheels with low-profile tires, coupled with the track-tuned suspension make for a harsher ride than you would like on a frigid morning blast to the office. Here are a few comments from the owners themselves:
It rides rough and is extremely noisy. Way rougher than my STi w/ a built suspension.
The transmission is not as refined as I expected. Really abrupt downshifts, especially in lower gears. Transmission hunts for gears at certain speeds. Sometimes when it hasn't fully changed gears and you step on the gas it just sits there for a second then abruptly goes into gear and lurches forward.
The interior is uncomfortable for me. I'm a bigger guy and you can tell the seats in particular were built for a small frame.
I'm 6'3" 275lbs. I've lifted some weights in my day and my back and legs are pretty large. The side bolsters don't even come close to containing my back, so I simply ride on top of them
After having mine for 700 miles I agree that the seats don't fit wide bodies. I am 6.5 and there is plenty of leg and head from, but i am also 265lbs and the seats don't give enough width.
You definitely can not take advantage of the car on public roads unless you live in Dakotas or Wyoming, it doesn't take long to close in on cars doing 70 when you are doing 120.
And even if you'd leave the car only for the weekends, you'd run into perhaps the biggest problem of all...
Make no bones about it, the R35 GT-R is a special car, and nowhere in my mildly hyperbolic rant do I try to diminish the immense bar-raising achievements that Nissan engineers have accomplished with this model, but there are some negative aspects to this car that are simply unavoidable. As it's a car that has almost universal fanboy praise, it has almost universal fanboy envy, which is more dangerous. Getting attention from every dudebro with a LS-non-vtec swapped Integra wanting a highway race can be quite ridiculous when it happens daily. What's even worse is when the backwards-cap wearing gangsta-lean aficionados actually manage to grab a 144-month financed GT-R and become a god among ants, challenging the world at every stop light, offramp, and highway stretch.
Not only does this put people in danger, but it makes responsible owners who simply want to enjoy their cars more susceptible to targeted ticketing. Here's what some owners are saying about it:
The car gets an insane amount of attention from the wrong type of people: street racers and ricers.
The "getting the wrong attention" part I agree with. Ricers are like bugs that disturb my piece on the roads.
I get all sorts of weirdos but my wife driving the car REALLY gets them. Pics, videos, had a guy on a street bike follow her home the other day (of course this happens when I'm out of town).
Funniest sorry I've got is some guy pulling up next to me and doing old Caesar "thumb down" motion while staring me down.
Mine only seems to get attention from 15 to 30 year old males. The darned thing is a sausage magnet. Drives me nuts. The ones I hate are those that feel entitled to take photos of it. The other day I was at a local cycle shop and a young man stopped what he was doing, walked past my wife and I, took a pic with his phone, walked past us again and resumed his task. Never said a word to us.
Due to the fantastic performance of the car it is very boring to drive on public roads. You step on the gas on the highway and you are going 100 before you know it. You have to consciously keep it boring in order to stay safe and avoid law enforcement. In my STi I could wind out first, second, third, and part of fourth gear and still be 'safe'.
Due to the above mentioned issues, it is kind of hard to justify spending such a large amount of money on a car you can't really enjoy all the time. Sure I love tracking it and autocrossing it, but that is only like 5-10% of the time I spend in the car.
If you ever have the chance to drive a Nissan GT-R, do it. It's a spectacular performer and looks every bit as exotic as anything three times its price. But if you aspire to own one, hold off for a while before the market adjusts to a more normal depreciation curve and make sure you budget for major driveline work. It was a phenomenal value six years ago, and hopefully in time, it'll return to its unbeatable bargain in the marketplace. However, if you don't want to follow my advice, try to find a better deal on a GT-R and prove me wrong - but be warned, the odds are against you.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.