On Monday morning, Tian Xia saw an ad on Nextdoor, the social network, for a 1996 Mazda Miata with around 57,000 miles for sale for $300, seemingly too good to be true. The car had some front-end damage, but otherwise ran well, even the air-conditioning worked. Tian didn’t waste any time, completing the purchase later that day. It was an honest steal.
“We asked [the seller] why he had chosen $300 as a selling price,” Tian told me. “He said he was leaving the country in one week and didn’t want anybody to haggle.”
All of this might seem like Jalopnik porn for a certain segment of our readers and staffers—and thus suspect—but Tian showed me a screenshot of his conversation with the seller, in addition to the original ad and some pictures. In fact, it is possible to find a running Miata for $300 in this day and age, provided that the seller is sufficiently motivated, and that you, the buyer, are keen enough.
This all went down in Alexandria, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. Tian said that Nextdoor, like Craigslist, generally has more chaff that wheat, but he got lucky.
“Not a lot of cars are listed on the site, maybe 1 in 50 listings, but until this Miata, I haven’t seen a single interesting car worth a second look,” he said.
Here’s how the original listing looked:
Tian said he anticipated the worst.
At $300, our expectations weren’t all that high, we assumed that it’ll most likely be a rusted out body with a blown head gasket. We’re talked about potential plans to take it rallycrossing, or ice racing, or even daily driving on the way over. When we got there, the seller Carl met us in front his house with this little NA Miata in the driveway. The car was in great shape, Carl had purchased it as it came off a lease in 1999 with 20k miles, and had kept up with the maintenance throughout the years. He lived in DC in that time and barely put any miles on since he rode the metro daily. Recently, Carl took a job out of the country and was looking to sell his cars before leaving on 7/16. Being in a rush, while packing an entire house, Carl was motivated to sell.
The car’s a five-speed manual. The interior is clean as hell:
Good stuff, even if the exterior was not as unscathed.
The car had also been backed into by a pickup truck, there was some damage to the front bumper, which he accounted full repairs for in the cost. We took the car for a spin around the neighborhood and it left a big smile on both our faces. We paid Carl the $300 and brought the car home.
Tian’s girlfriend, Christina Lam, later posted the news on Twitter.
The answer is always Miata, indeed.