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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated March 5, 2024



Older Mazda Miata Overview (1998 - 2015), Reliability, Possible Maintenance Problems, Overall Pros And Cons

Related: How To Get The Lowest Price On A "Brand New" Mazda Miata

In today's very high-priced used car market, it may be the right time to look at "older" models that have aged well as a way to save significant dollars.

Mazda Miata Grand Touring (2010)

And the Mazda Miata is certainly one of those models due to its superior reputation for reliability and longevity. This is vital when buying an older vehicle as ongoing repair costs could offset the initial upfront savings.

This doesn't mean an older Miata is a sure thing repair-wise. All vehicles have issues.

In addition to its solid build quality, a lot of it will come down to a specific vehicle's proper maintenance history as well as the environmental conditions and driving habits of the previous owner(s) ... and with a little luck thrown in.

What it does mean is that older Miatas do indeed have some good DNA to start with. In fact, history has shown that a well-maintained Miata lasts in the 200,000 mile range, with some documented going much further ... with the key being "well-maintained".

And by "older", I'm generally referring to Miatas that are 10+ years old, which would mean those from its second and third generations, those produced for the 1998 - 2015 model years.

I've driven a number of these and they've all been a blast to drive. Credit goes to the ultra-responsive steering, the communicative handling, an energetic engine, the short throw manual shift, and a rear-wheel drive with excellent weight distribution.

And I'm far from alone in this opinion. These older models were consistent winners of Cars.com's "Best Bet Award", not to mention Edmunds.com's "Used Car Best Bet Award", along with their "Consumers Most Wanted" and "Editors Most Wanted" Awards.

J.D. Power chimed in with a 4.5 (out of 5) for Performance and a perfect 5 for its Automotive Environmental Index for many of these as well.

So here, ...

- We'll do an overview of second and third generation Mazda Miata, those produced from 1998 to 2015.

- Then we'll list the possible mechanical issues for these production runs that have been reported by owners so they can be checked before buying one today.

- And then we'll summarize the overall pros and cons of an older Miata worth consideration for potential buyers.


But first, and very importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Miata

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

And My #1 Price Tip: It's important to get online price quotes at auto sites such as Edmunds.com and CarsDirect.com (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business is what gets you a lower price, and it's very easy.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.


Third Generation Mazda Miata (2006 - 2015) Overview

2006 Mazda Miata MX-5 Grand Touring

This version comes with a 170 horsepower 2.0-liter incline four-cylinder engine, which is nearly as much power as the turbo charged MazdaSpeed models produced in 2004 and 2005. This engine is mated with either a 5-speed or 6-speed manual transmission, or a 6-speed automatic.

This Miata is offered in four trim levels: SV, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring.

With slight variations in the model years, the SV and Sport were initially fairly sparse when it comes to features, both mostly aimed at weekend racing enthusiasts. The SV basically ccame with power windows and anti-lock brakes but not A/C, while the Sport added 17-inch alloy wheels, P205/45R17 high performance tires, and a leather-wrapped gearshift knob.

But by 2010, the SV had been dropped and the then base Sport came fairly decently-equipped with power windows, power mirrors, air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, a black vinyl convertible top with a rear glass window, a 6-speaker audio system with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary input jack, cloth seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

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It's really the well-equipped Touring model that usually attracts more interest, while the Grand Touring is fairly luxurious. And in a major advancement for everyday drivers, a power-operated hardtop was introduced in 2007 for additional safety and enhanced quietness.

In 2008, a Special Edition model in Icy Blue paint was offered, while in 2009 the Miata got a mild refresh which included some engine revisions that slightly boosted both power and fuel economy.

Also added was a more aggressive grille, a new headlight and taillight design, a stiffened suspension, and several new convenience features (an auxiliary input jack and two additional speakers for the base audio system, an auto-dimming mirror for the Touring model, and automatic climate control for the Grand Touring).


2006 - 2015 Mazda Miata Potential Mechanical Problems

While the third generation Mazda MX-5 Miata is generally regarded as reliable, like any vehicle, some mechanical issues were reported by some owners, so they should be included in an inspection before buying one today.

Clutch and Transmission Issues: Some owners have reported issues with the clutch, such as premature wear or failure. Transmission problems, such as difficulty shifting or gear grinding, have also been reported in some cases.

Engine Misfires: Some owners have experienced engine misfires, which can be caused by various factors such as faulty spark plugs, ignition coils, or fuel injectors.

Suspension Components: Components of the suspension system, such as bushings, ball joints, or shocks, may wear out over time, leading to a decrease in ride quality or handling performance.

Convertible Top Malfunctions: Problems with the convertible top, such as leaks, tears, or motor failures, can occur, especially in older or heavily used vehicles.

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Electrical Issues: Some owners experienced electrical problems such as malfunctioning sensors, wiring issues, or failures in the electrical system components.

Rust: While Mazda improved corrosion resistance in the third-gen Miata compared to earlier models, rust can still be an issue, especially in areas prone to salt or moisture exposure.

Cooling System Problems: Some owners have reported issues with the cooling system, such as radiator leaks, water pump failures, or thermostat malfunctions, leading to engine overheating.

It's important to note that not all Miata models experienced these problems, and many owners had years of trouble-free driving. Regular maintenance, including timely inspections and addressing any issues promptly, can help minimize the likelihood of mechanical problems and prolong the life of the vehicle.


Second Generation Mazda Miata (1998 - 2005) Overview

2001 Mazda Miata LS

While these are getting harder to find out there, they certainly exist in good condition. I just did a search (on March 5, 2024) and found 5 with less than 60,000 miles within 200 miles of my location. One had just 36,000 miles.

And yes, I'm willing to travel a good distance for the right vehicle, and actually much further. And I find that a lot of these older Miata owners are enthusiasts and have taken good care of them, and often had other cars for their daily vehicles, hence the far below-average mileage.

While this version also has the sharp steering and overall dynamic handling the Miata is famous for, it is also a bit smaller and therefore a bit more cramped.

Originally under the hood of this Miata was a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that delivered 140 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. These Miatas can be found with either the standard 5-speed manual transmission or the optional 4-speed automatic.

And like the third generation, the base trims were lightly equipped, but models can also be found with more upscale features such as leather upholstery and a Bose sound system.

For the 2000 model year, the lineup was simplified to include the Miata and Miata LS with a choice of three option packages. In addition, 2000 saw the debut of a Miata Special Edition with a 6-speed manual transmission.

For 2001, horsepower was upped to 155 and the Special Edition's 6-speed manual was offered on the Miata LS as an option.

2004 saw the addition of variable valve timing which increased engine output, as well as the introduction of the 178 horsepower turbocharged Mazdaspeed model with its high-performance suspension and unique exterior styling elements.


1998 - 2005 Mazda Miata Potential Mechanical Problems

This generation MX-5 Miata also generally maintained its reputation for reliability. However, it did have some mechanical issues reported by some owners that should therefore be included in a pre-purchase inspection.

Engine Cooling System: Some Miatas experienced issues with the cooling system, including radiator leaks, water pump failures, and thermostat malfunctions.

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Suspension Bushings: Over time, the suspension bushings could wear out, leading to increased noise, vibration, and reduced handling performance.

Convertible Top Mechanism: The convertible top mechanism could experience wear and tear over time, leading to issues such as leaks, tears, or motor failures.

Clutch and Transmission: Some owners reported issues with the clutch, such as premature wear or failure. Transmission problems, including difficulty shifting or gear grinding, were also reported in some cases.

Rust: Some owners reported the buildup of rust, particularly in areas prone to salt or moisture exposure.

Electrical Problems: Some of these Miatas experienced electrical issues such as malfunctioning sensors, wiring problems, or failures in electrical system components.

Overall, while the second-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata had its share of mechanical issues, it remained a relatively reliable and enjoyable sports car for many owners.


Overall Pros And Cons Of An Older Mazda Miata

Older Mazda Miata Pros

Mazda Miata Grand Touring (2008)

Affordability: Clearing, older Miatas tend to be much more affordable than newer models, resulting in significant upfront cost savings. However, this has to be weighed against the possibility of higher repair expenses going forward.

Fun Driving Experience: The Miata is renowned for its fun and engaging driving experience, regardless of its age.

Reliability: While older Miatas may require more maintenance and repairs compared to newer ones, they are generally reliable vehicles with a strong reputation for longevity when properly cared for.

Strong Community Support: The Miata has a large and active community of enthusiasts who share knowledge, resources, and aftermarket parts. This support network can be invaluable for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.

Classic Design: The timeless design of the Miata means that even older models can still look stylish and attractive on the road.

Easy to Maintain: The Miata's simple mechanical design makes it relatively easy to maintain and work on, even for DIY enthusiasts.

Resale Value: Miatas tend to hold their value well over time, thereby potentially reducing the overall cost of ownership.


Older Mazda Miata Cons

Higher Maintenance Costs: Older cars typically require more frequent maintenance and repairs, which can add up over time. Budgeting for potential maintenance costs is essential when buying an older Miata.

Limited Features: Older Miatas may lack some of the modern features and amenities found in newer cars, such as advanced infotainment systems, safety technology, and comfort features.

Potential for Rust: Depending on the vehicle's history and where it's been driven, rust can be a concern in older Miatas. Thoroughly inspecting the car for rust damage before purchase is crucial.

Lower Safety Standards: Older Miatas may not offer the same level of safety features and crash protection as newer models.

Availability of Parts: While the Miata has strong aftermarket support, finding specific OEM parts for older models may become more challenging as they age. Some parts may need to be sourced from salvage yards or specialty suppliers.

Limited Space: As with any small sports car, the Miata's interior space is limited, particularly for taller individuals. The trunk space is also quite small, limiting practicality.

Performance: While the Miata offers a balanced driving experience, some enthusiasts may find its performance lacking compared to more powerful sports cars.

Road Noise: Due to its convertible nature and lightweight construction, the Miata can be prone to significant road noise, especially at higher speeds or on rough roads.

Rear-wheel Drive: While rear-wheel drive enhances the Miata's handling characteristics, it can pose challenges in inclement weather conditions.


Lastly, Suggestions For Getting A Low Mazda Miata Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" Mazda Miata if the price was really good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Mazda Miata. This works just phenomenally well.


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