Keen to buy but have rust nightmares..


For years I have been eager to buy a lovely MX5, finally I am aching close to being able to have one as a second car, but the internet seems to be full of rust nightmare stories and accusations that Mazda have done nothing to assist with the seemingly guaranteed massive rust issue with each new version. With sill rust leading to apparently some massive replacement bills only for it to all happen again 3-5 years later. and it is allegedly even worse on the ND (?)

That plus the internets grim stories of front chassis rails rust on the Mk2-2.5 leading to MOT failure apocalyptic repair bills (mostly in labour (shame as I really fancy the 2.5)),  is making me all tense at the thought of going to see and MX5 let alone buy one as seeing the slightest rust on the rear wheel arch (according to the internet) is “open chequebook” time and having to possibly have to pay half the price of the car to get a fix only to have it happen again a few years later on the other side is very much brown trousers time and seems contrary from my personal experience of owning Japanese cars…

So i thought best thing to do rather than stare at a screen and be filled with possibly false perceptions and incorrect opinions I would ask the people who own them and ask in the best place the MX5 owners club.

So really this boils down to a handful of tiny questions:

  • Are they really as prone to rusting as an 80’s Ford Escort?

  • If the sills are the weakness did anyone think about making galvanised ones? - yes it is not a “permanent” fix (as nothing is with rust) but gives more rust free years

  • Can anything be done at least slow the rust?

  • Should any car with any rust blisters be ignored? (Is it ok to run away screaming waving my arms in the air?)

  • Been looking at either the NB or NC as the NA underbelly would get battered on the minefield of aggressive “traffic calming measures” loving put down by the council where I live and the internet says the NA is the best version but is much lower then the NB onwards. (?) So which of the 3 is best for a first time buyer living in such an area in your opinion?

  • Also mileage i am seeing commonly 100-130,000 on the ones I can afford is this a sensible choice? 

Hilariously someone suggested buying an MG-TF instead, having been a passenger on many track days in one (and an F) experience tells me if I can afford to buy a convertible sportcar I would prefer to buy an MX5 …


I think the rust issue comes down to how it’s been used and looked after.

There will be both good and bad examples out there.

Take the NC for instance, early models are now 15 years old.

How many 15 year old cars are not rusty.

How many 15 year old cars are sitting in scrap yards with the guts falling out. (probably loads)

On the other hand, how many 15 year old cars are still on the road looking good.


A car that’s used as a daily, living outside all year round, and suffering the winter salt, is never going to be as clean as something which is used as a summer toy, regardless of whaich make or model it is.

How many Fiestas are used as summer toys. ??


The trick in buying a good one is to wait it out and drop on that summer toy, they are out there, you just need to be patient.

If your’e keen and eager to get in one and want one yestrday, then you could end up with a pup.

Wait it out, don’t be afraid to walk away if it’s no the right car.

Incidentally, my son in law has a 2005 Saab, I already know that it’s going to fail its MOT needing some welding doing.

Same age as my NC and not a patch on it’s condition.

First try not to put up too many barriers at the end of the day you are buying an old car and it will come with problems.


The better the budget the better the car (generally!)

Rust can be treated and held back if done correctly. Keeping the car clean and only going out in dry weather, keeping it in a garage etc. can help   … lots of options here. But you are first beholding to how the car you are buying has been treated before you got it.

Check the documents, the more history the better.  Look at the DVLA to check pas MOTs for clues.

Allow some budget for initial repairs, I had to replace a cracked manifold on my first NA.

The NAs are higher than you think, ours has no issues with speed bumps in our area, as long are you are not racing over them

There’s an argument for ‘waiting for the right’ car but there is only so much waiting you can do …

Keep an eye on this forum there are often cars for sale from genuine enthusiasts who have looked after them well

We are on our second NA and no regrets, yes it needs some work but we expected that.  We we were very spoiled with our first NA which was practically rust free but unfortunately it met its demise on the M3.  Although it has been resurrected and is now an Exocet


The ND is no better protected in terms of undersealing from the factory than previous models, what it does have is more modern materials technology for parts of the construction which may stand the test of time longer than earlier models, still too early to be proven.

Not sure where the idea the NA is lower comes from, if it is it’s not significant.

Mileage on a car that has been maintained is not a real issue, having some idea of your budget range would allow people to give more specific advise/highlight examples.

If you can afford an NC 3.5 (introduced part way through 2009 IIRC) there should be a good set of solid cars available.

One thing you haven’t mentioned is your budget – that’s probably going to influence the cars you are able to consider.


I bought my current NC last year and based my choice almost entirely on the condition of the car underneath. I looked at several between 2006 and 2009 and ended up with a relatively low mileage 1.8 that was extremely good from a lack of rust perspective. I’ve comprehensively rust-proofed it with Bilt Hamber Dynax products to hopefully extend it’s life – easy to do but fiddly and time consuming.


Low mileage isn’t necessarily a guide to condition from a rust viewpoint, as I saw a number of newer cars that were pretty bad underneath. Looking at the MOT history can be a guide before viewing any though.


So, my suggestion would be, decide on your budget, look at as many as you can and buy on condition – don’t be afraid to poke around underneath!


Hope that helps.


I am working to a cash strapped budget of £2000 (which means looking at cars upto £2500 as the art of negotiation can bring great rewards!), which in some areas of the country can’t buy a bag of crisps but here in sunny (?) Walsall I can easily find a brace of  MK2, MK2.5, the occasional galactic mileage NA’s and a swarm of NC’s all under budget but all around 100-130,000 miles on the clock.

Alas the 2002-2004 NB’s are out of the question due to the insane road tax (£325!!), the NA/NC/NB’s are significantly lower looking for an engine size no bigger than 1.8.

Have no plans to drive it everyday as it is too impractical, even less in desire to drive it in the winter, purely interested in the legendary driving experience in safe weather conditions and having my first rear wheel drive car

As for the age of the car every car I have ever owned is more than 10 years old when I get it, but have never had sill or wheel arch rust, even my old (and missed) trusty MK1 Focus only at the end of its life got a small bit of surface rust on the front arch. Most of my previous cars have been Japanese and that is one area I have never heard of rust being commonplace, the underside of the car sure if gets hammered by anything on the road but a Japanese car with rusty sills?

Hence my concern at the many internet stories of sill rust nightmares and regular rust fixing expenses, sounds more like a major design flaw than anything normal which does not sound like Japanese manufacturing, but that is what the internet says anyway…but it is enough to make me think twice hence the paranoid questions!




Road tax is rarely the biggest expense in keeping any car on the road whatever the age or condition. You may be better looking for something you can drive for a couple of months to satisfy your curiosity and then flip it on.

With your budget I’d also consider looking at MGFs. I’ve had two in the past (both old examples when bought) that were generally good cars. Like with the mx5 there is plenty of tat around but there are also decent ones too with the infamous head gasket issue sorted. Compared to an mx5 of similar age the MGF is likely to suffer less rust (especially terminal rust) but is more likely to require a bit more maintenance and tlc. I found both mine fun to drive, but not quite as sharp a steer as the mx5 mk2 I owned subsequently. Due to their age buying any old sports car requires a bit of patience in order to secure one that’s not going to be a money pit. Good luck with your search…!

Can I suggest that if say £2,000 is your limit and a big repair bill after that would be an issue.

The risk of buying a 15 year old or older car for that amount is not for you.

There are plenty people who have bought £1,500 MX5s and they got a good few years out them.

OTOH I have inspected similar priced and similar age cars and have had to advise people they have to spend another £1,500 to get them into good shape.

Unless you have access to a car lift and someone who knows where to look including doing a boroscope inspection of the inner sills it is a lottery.

What realy concerns me about your posting is after reading factual reports of rust repairs you ask if that is the truth!

Unless you can get the car examined by a competant person it is a lottery buying any old car of any make.

I would buy a good MK1/Eunos and fit suspension sufficient to raise it above road issues. The later MK1 cars are perfect or fit MK2 suspension.

Rust is an issue particularly with the MK2 so important to inspect any car you intend to buy thoroughly. Good repairs should last well.

Your budget would pay for a very good MK1/Eunos but a low end MK3. MK2 is the worst for rust with front chassis rail and rear sill issue. Car tax is very, very  irritating but one of the prices we have to pay to drive these cars. They are £1k - £3k typically not £10k - £50k you may expect to have to pay for so much fun.

Take your time, choose a good car and pay for assistance with inspection if required.    


Thanks for the sage advice, the more I read the replies to this thread the more I am convinced the MX5 isn’t the rusty money pit the internet says it is and just something that needs a little extra tlc for long term fun…!

You mention that you’ve ruled out the 2002-4 NBs because of the road tax, but you also say you don’t want to drive it all year round so you could save yourself some money by only taxing for six months and having the car on SORN for the rest of the year.

Also if you’re not planning on driving during these winter months, if you wait, will your budget get any higher and open up more options for you? I know prices for convertibles tend to go up in the summer so presumably you want to buy one before then, but it’s just a thought.

When I was looking for my MX-5 there were loads for sale, including one mysterious one that kept being sold and then being put back up for sale again a few weeks later by the same seller - I did wonder if it was so I could buy it because the number plate was near enough personalised to me that it made no difference, which made it all the more strange.

At the time I also found a recently restored MX-5 (may have been a Eunos) that had been a graduation present to the owner from their parents who had had it booked in with one of the specialists and it looked like new, the reason they were selling it within my price range was because they were being highly selective over who got to buy it, turning down offers from people who clearly weren’t going to look after it/were going to turbo charge it and go drifting.

I lost out on buying that all thanks to a common cold, and ended up with a Mk1 special edition which was quite cheap, and yes, it did come with holes in the sills and arches

As an owner of many a rusty car I went mad with the filler (to make it pedestrian safe), zinc primer, paint, rust killer, etc. Also the wheel arches and even in the sills (where the rust holes allowed access) were completely clogged with drief mud/dirt that needed cleaning out, so as has been said it all depends on how the car has been looked after as to what state it’s going to be in. I managed to keep the rust at bay for three years before it finally had spread too far internally and required rear arch, sill and seatbelt anchorage work doing - that cost 3/4’s of the cars initial purchase for a non-specialist job (if it had been logistically possible I’d have gone to a specialist albeit at double the costs).

If it weren’t for currently being on SORN (and deciding to have a power steering leak), it would still be giving me the joy of driving round in it - so don’t be too horrified by the rust stories, you can have your fun in a rusty car and save up for the repairs while doing so