Buying Late-Model Corvettes - C5 C6 Buyers' Guide

Everything You Need To Know To Buy Your Next C5/C6

Tom Benford Nov 2, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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Mileage Matters
Thanks to superb design and excellent engineering, the C5 and C6 engines have longevity that was beyond the wildest imaginings back in the days of carburetors. Today's engines are subject to much less internal wear thanks to being made from better materials, synthetic lubricants, fuel injection, computer engine management and more. Because of this, mileage is of less concern with C5s and C6s than it was with earlier Corvette editions, so it should be a major determining factor when shopping for one. It's not at all uncommon to find C5s with 150K miles on the clock that are still running perfectly and not burning any oil. That, coupled with the fact that Corvettes are cars that most people take care of - change the oil regularly, do scheduled maintenance, drive the car sensibly - all relegate mileage to being a minor consideration as a purchasing factor. The best strategy is to have a competent mechanic check out the car if you're interested in a Corvette with high mileage. OK, so what would be the point where mileage could be considered high, I asked Ron? "Triple digits (100,000 or more) miles would be a good barometer. But, once again, if the car has been maintained properly, there should still be plenty of trouble-free life left in an engine with this kind of mileage. And bear in mind that the higher the mileage, the better the asking price will usually be. So, in most cases, if you're looking at a higher-mileage C5 or C6, you're going to get a whole lot of car for a whole lot less money, all factors considered."

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Back in the old days of mechanical odometers, unscrupulous used car dealers (and private owners, too, for that matter) would run the odometer backwards using an electric drill to decrease the mileage shown on the speedo. Since the C5 and C6 odometers are electronic/digital, it would take some pretty sophisticated programming and specialized knowledge to change the odometer reading, which makes this a lot more trouble than it's worth. But the mileage could also be miss-reported by swapping out the gauge cluster with a lower-mileage one taken from a wreck or a salvage car. But, again, swapping out the cluster involves taking the entire dash apart which is a lot of work, so this isn't too much of a concern. For that reason, the mileage shown on the odometer is probably the actual mileage of the vehicle in most instances. You can check out the car with CarFax, AutoCheck and looking at its service records to help confirm that the mileage is legitimate if you're really concerned about it, too. And if there are no service records for the car, that in itself is reason enough to be suspicious. Most Corvette owners are "car people" and they care for and take pride in their rides; as such, they usually maintain their vehicles and keep records of any maintenance and service, which is why it's suspicious if no such documentation is available.

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Multiple Owners
Corvettes, probably more than just about any other marque, are more likely to have a history of multiple owners. There are several reasons for this, according to DeSmedt. He cites a typical scenario. "This fellow always wanted a Corvette; he finally saves up enough money and buys one, then decides he doesn't like it, so he sells it. Another variation of this scenario is that his wife has a baby and it can't fit three people, so he sells the car. And lately, another scenario we're seeing more often is that he can't afford to keep it due to a job loss, so he sells it. It's consistent with what I said earlier about nobody actually needing a Corvette. What are the first things that go when you need money? Your Harley, your Corvette, and your boat, right? Because of this, a Corvette is a car that is bought and sold many times over its lifetime. This is even more prevalent with the newer models, especially in the current economic situation. Here's another typical scenario: a guy goes to Reedman's (a large Corvette dealer in PA), buys a new one and he's straddled with $1,200 a month payments. After a year of this he decides that this is ridiculous, so he sells the car or trades it in. The next person buys the car used and he has payments of $800 a month. After a year he decides to get out from under this debt, so he sells the car, too. And this goes on and so forth so a Corvette, more than any other car, is very likely to have multiple owners in a relatively short period of time. So don't let that discourage you from buying it, thinking that it's a problem car. It's more likely that it's a disposable car. The older generations of Corvettes (C4 and earlier) were more likely to be problematic. In truth, I haven't seen where C5s or C6s are problem cars, so the multiple ownership issue is due to economics more than anything else."

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