I have a bone to pick with the Lotus Elise. Despite not having been sold in the United States for years now, and despite not having changed much since going on sale in the early 2000s, they have held their value here pretty consistently for the past few years. This is bullshit. Bring on the cheap used Elises, already.
As a quick recap: you, an American, have not been able to buy an Elise since 2011, when Lotus decided it wasn’t worth it to make this ultra-light, ultra-nimble mid-engine sports car compliant with then-new crash safety standards for airbags. Thankfully, there’s always the used market.
But because it’s one of those cars that never got a true replacement—think the Honda S2000—and remains pretty unique on said used market, every time I check the prices on one the answer’s always the same: about $25,000 on the low end and $50,000 or more on the high end. It’s been like that for years now. Even Bring a Trailer shows that price curve has stayed flat for some time.
Here’s the last one we featured on Nice Price or Crack Pipe, two years ago. It was a 2005 model with 63,000 miles, selling for $25,500.
Now, the Elise is good. We all know that. Weighing in at just about 2,000 with around 200 horsepower (depending on your model) and offering glorious mid-engine balance, it’s a near-perfect track toy or tossable small daily driver. But, man, is it really worth 25 grand—as much as a new Mazda Miata—when it’s got 63,000 miles and is 11 years old? I don’t know!
Take a look at what’s for sale on Cars.com. I’m no math genius, but the average price for these still seems to be around $35,000, and there appears to be 20 for sale currently listed here nationwide. Again, you get why they’ve held value—never truly replaced (I suppose the Alfa Romeo 4C came closest), with a great reputation, and truly unlike most sporty cars for sale out there. Plus, these are all Toyota-powered. I have to imagine that with the right care they can last a hell of a lot longer than your average British sports car.
Granted, $25,000 to even $50,000 isn’t that expensive, as cars go. We live in a world where Boxsters and Caymans regularly come with $100,000-plus price tags, where million-dollar hypercars are on offer to the most elite of the elite.
But I’m waiting for the day when these things get really cheap. Fifteen grand or less, cheap. Twenty-four Hours of Lemons, cheap. Bad Craigslist decision, cheap. Good tax return cheap. Dirt cheap. The way NB Miatas are now, cheap. Just absurdly, almost irresponsibly, cheap.
I don’t know when that will happen. It may take more than a decade, perhaps two. I hope gasoline will still exist when it does. But when it comes, it will truly be a magical day for us all.