Nissan 300ZX Buyer’s Guide (Z31 & Z32)

The 300ZX is one of Nissan’s most loved sports cars and most iconic models of all time.

It was awarded Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year for 1990 and was on Car and Driver’s Ten Best list for seven consecutive years. The 300ZX is quickly becoming a classic and it is getting harder and harder to find a good example of one.

With prices rising and availability dwindling, now – more than ever – is the time to find and purchase a good example of the Nissan 300ZX.

This Nissan 300ZX buyer’s guide will give you all the information you need to know about purchasing either the earlier Z31 or the celebrated Z32.

How to Use This 300ZX Buyer’s Guide

This Nissan 300ZX buying guide is broken up into various different sections that cover different topics. To start with, we will be covering the entire history of the 300ZX range (December 2023 update – we have moved the history section to its own standalone article here) and the specifications of both the Z31 and the Z32.

Following this, we will look at buying a 300ZX, general car buying advice and how to import a Nissan 300ZX.

The two generations are broken up into different sections, so make sure you use the table of contents below to skip to the part you want to read.

Thanks to Southern Specialist Cars in Christchurch New Zealand for letting us come and take some photos of their 1989 300ZX Z32 with only 58,000 km (36,000 miles) on the clock. You can check out their website here

Buying a Nissan 300ZX – What You Need To Know

Now that we have gone over the history of the Nissan 300ZX, let’s take a look at buying one. We have broken this section down into two parts – buying a Z31 300ZX and buying a Z32 300ZX – so feel free to skip to the model you want to look at. This section will cover everything you need to know about buying either of the cars and some common questions about them.

Additionally, we have included some general car buying advice at the bottom of this article, and some information on how to import a Nissan 300ZX from Japan as well.

Nissan 300ZX Z31 Buyer’s Guide

The first generation 300ZX is a fairly old car now and there are loads of things that need to be checked out before making a purchase. A bad Z31 can quickly drain your wallet, so you need to be really thorough when inspecting any of them (or any car for that matter).

Prices are starting to creep up on them as well, so expect to pay a good premium for good condition, low mileage examples. Let’s take a look at some things you need to watch out for when buying a Z31 300ZX!

Check the Vin

The first thing we recommend you do is to check that the vin on the dash and the vin stamped into the firewall match. It is not uncommon for owners to tell you that the car is a certain year, when in actual fact it is another (84 when it is really an 85). The tenth digit in the vin designates the model year of the vehicle, E is for 84, F for 85, and so on.


Many Z31s are well past their prime and will cause some serious headaches during the course of ownership. However, you can still find good examples and we are going to show you how. We always recommend you inspect a vehicle yourself or get a reliable third party to do it for you.

Try to view the vehicle first thing in the morning, when the engine is completely cold. Warm engines can hide a multitude of sins, so don’t let the owner warm up the car before you arrive. Additionally, avoid viewing cars when they are wet as this can hide a number of bodywork issues.


Preventative maintenance goes a long way on Z31s, so make sure the car has been regularly serviced. If maintained properly, these cars should be able to rack up some respectable miles (check out this thread on where one owner has almost 400,000 miles on his Z31).

It is important that the engine oil is changed regularly, especially for turbocharged models. Oil changes should occur every 3,000 miles (5,000km) or so and check that the oil filter has been changed every 6,000 miles (10,000km). If the owner has been lax with changing the oil and oil filter, it is a sign they have not cared for the car properly.

Additionally, if the car does not get much use we recommend you change the oil every 6-12 months. This is because oil that sits idle at the bottom of the crankcase can break down in the presence of contaminants such as dirt, gas and more.

In general, the engine oil you should use with your Z31 300ZX is 10W-30, however this may change in different temperature conditions (10W-40 is also a good choice). We recommend something like Lucas Oil’s high zinc engine oil for all of the engine options in the Z31 300ZX. When it comes to the oil filter, we recommend K&N’s HP-2008 Performance Gold Oil Filter.

When inspecting any vehicle, check the oil for any metallic particles. If you do see any, simply walk away, the car isn’t worth your time. Black oil is okay, it just means it is probably time for an oil change.

Most Z31s will be at an age and mileage where the timing belt needs to be replaced. This is one of the most important items of maintenance on a Z31, so make sure it has been done. Check any documents (service history, etc.), ask the owner and check under the hood (Usually on a sticker) to see when it was last replaced.

It is recommended that you replace the timing belt every 60,000 miles (100,000km) or 6 years to be on the safe side. Some owners are known to replace it every 100,000 miles, but it is riskier. Other parts that should be replaced every 60,000 miles include the tensioner, water pump, thermostat, coolant bypass hoses, crankshaft seals and camshaft seals. The upper and lower idling pullies and idler studs should be replaced every 120,000 miles.

Check that all these parts have been replaced at the required intervals. If you are looking at a Z31 that needs many of these parts replaced, try to get the price down or get the owner to replace them before selling it to you.

The next step is to inspect the air filter – does it look clean on the engine side and outside? Or is it covered in dust? If the air filter is dusty on the engine side it could be a sign of serious problems.

Another thing to watch out for is the ‘mass-air sensor’. It is incredibly sensitive to dirt and soot. A large quantity of injector issues on the Z31 came from a bad EGR that let dirt and detritus into the mass-air meter.

Injector System

Check to see if the injector work has been done on the car and if it has suffered an engine fire. Reformulated gas destroyed the engine seals and allowed fuel to leak onto the engine, which could cause a fire.

Most cars were okay, and almost all Z31s have had the problem fixed by now (or they’ve burnt to the ground), but make sure you check. If the work hasn’t been carried out, either move onto the next Z31 or get it done immediately after you purchase the vehicle.

It should be obvious if the Z31 you are looking at has caught fire in the past. Melted insulation on the underside of the hood and any melted wires are a sign that fire damage has occurred. If the work has been done, there should be newer looking parts on the engine and the injectors’ connectors will be spliced into the wiring harness.

Starting the Car Up

Turn the vehicle on, do you see any smoke? Does it struggle to start? Does it misfire? A car that smokes heavily is probably not worth your time, so pay attention!

White smoke – Is caused by water that has made its way into the cylinders and could be a sign that the head gasket has blown.

Blue smoke – Is usually caused by piston wear, worn piston rings and more. To check for blue smoke, get a friend to follow you as you drive the car.

Black smoke – Usually occurs when the engine is running too rich (burning too much fuel). The first things that should be checked is the air-filter and other intake components.

If the car misfires, it may be a sign that ignition components are worn and need replacing. Additionally, while the car is idling, go to the back and get a good whiff of the exhaust. Any nasty smells usually indicate that there a problem with the tuning of the vehicle.


Manual transmissions were more popular on these cars than automatic transmissions, but they tend to have been driven a bit harder. The five-speed transmission that came on the 1984-1986 Turbo Z31 is regarded to be a bit fragile, however, they are not too expensive to rebuild.

Manual transmissions on non-turbocharged cars shouldn’t cause too many issues, just make sure they shift smooth. The five-speed on the 1987-1989 turbo Z31 is the most desirable and robust of all the transmissions fitted to the car. When test driving any Z31 300ZX, check the synchros to make sure they are okay, paying particular attention to the second-gear synchro.

The same four-speed auto was used for the entire duration of the Z31’s production. It features a temperature sensor that stops the overdrive from engaging until the transmission has completely warmed up, so bear this in mind.

If possible, take a look at the engine, transmission, and differential mounts to see if they have been separated. If this has occurred, it shouldn’t cause any problems, but you may hear some strange clunking sounds. This is a fairly common problem on Z31s and should be fixed.

On Z31s manufactured until 1986, you may notice some fluid leaking down the steering column. This is caused by the speedometer pinion gear leaking at the transmission. New seals and a bit of cleaning should get this problem sorted.

The transmission fluid for both automatic and manual cars will need to be changed periodically, so see when this was last done. Additionally, the clutch fluid may also need to be changed (Use DOT 3) along with the differential fluid.

Body and Exterior

Rust is cancer on Z31s. The main areas you want to check are at the back, underneath the spare tyre, above the muffler, and under the tool kit. Rust under the spare tyre is especially bad, as if it rusts through, it will be a nightmare to fix. We would personally avoid any Z31 with rust issues, unless the problem was only minor (however, it can be hard to tell until you really inspect it closely).

While the areas we listed above are the main culprits when it comes to rust on Z31s, we also recommend you check the entire car for any signs of the problem. Look under the battery tray, check the wheel wells and get under the car with a flashlight to look for any signs of rust.

Signs That a Car Has Suffered from Rust in the Past

Look for any signs of rust repair such as areas that have been resprayed or discolouring in the paint. Ask the owner about any rust repairs – they may be forthcoming with information or they may try to hide the fact that the car has suffered from rust in the past. You can use a magnet on steel sections of the car or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to look for previous repair work.  

Things That Can Rust More Likely to Occur

Cars that are (or have been) in countries that salt their roads or have lived by the sea will be more likely to experience rust issues. Additionally, if the Z31 you are looking at has been stored outside for extended periods of time, the chance of rust appearing will be higher. Signs that a vehicle has been stored outside include:

  • Hard rubber window seals
  • Excess water in the engine bay or cabin
  • Faded paint
  • Heavily discoloured badges
  • Cracking on the plastic parts
  • Obvious rust or corrosion
Crash Damage and Other Repair Work

While looking for rust, make sure you keep an eye out for any signs of crash damage. If you notice any inconsistencies in the paint or finish it may be a sign of crash damage.Additionally, Misaligned body panels, headlights and large panel gaps can also mean the vehicle has been in a crash.

Make sure you check under the car. If the front “frame rails” are bent or damaged, it indicates light accident damage such as curbing or tapping the front. This is not a major problem (depending on how bad it is), but you should definitely get the alignment checked to make sure that there is sufficient adjustability.

Additionally, check the A/C condenser – it’s located under the front bumper, ahead of the radiator. A minor accident can cause the condenser to warp slightly, but it should still be usable.

While accident damage is a major problem, don’t automatically exclude the car from consideration. Minor damage is usually okay and you can often use it to get a better deal. However, any talk or signs of major damage would make us walk away.

Other Bodywork Problems on the Nissan 300ZX Z31

Unless the car you are looking at has been stored in a garage its entire life, there are bound to be some minor dings, scratches and other paintwork issues. You can try to use these problems to drive down the price of the vehicle.

Additionally, leaks are not uncommon on these cars, especially where the t-tops, door glass, and roof join. You may also find leaks around the rear side windows, but these are not usually too bad. Leaks from the roof are very annoying and should be fixed immediately.

Brakes and Suspension

There are no specific brake issues with the Z31, but make sure they work and they have life left in the pads. When test driving the vehicle, make sure you abuse the brakes heavily and if the car pulls to one side it may be a sign of a stuck/seized caliper. If the car shimmies under braking, plan on replacing the rotors.

While the owner probably won’t let you, try to get the wheels off the car. Put two lugnuts on without the wheel and grab the rotor. Give the rotor a good tug and if you feel any looseness, something will need to be replaced. If the rotor comes off, put the wheels back on and walk away, it’s not worth your time.

Turbocharged Z31s manufactured after 1986 (87-up) received dual-piston calipers with slip-on vented rotors – these are a bolt-on modification for all Z31s, so you may find them on other cars. Vented rear rotors were also fitted to later cars, but installing them on early cars will require some work (rear control arms will need to be swapped).

When inspecting the car, take a look at all of the suspension components to make sure they are in good working order. Look out for any leaks, cracks or corroded components. Additionally, make sure there are no bent or broken components as this may be a sign that the car has been in an accident.

Wheels and Tyres

A large number of Z31s you find will probably have aftermarket wheels. Ask the owner if they have the originals, if they don’t, try to get the price down a little bit. Make sure you check the tyres – do they have any tread? Have they worn evenly? Are they of a good brand?

You will probably notice that the tread on the rear tyres is worn more on the inside edge than on the outside. This happens to all Z31s and is usually made worse by hard driving. Cars that have been driven normally will have pretty even tyre wear. A modified rear crossmember can sort out the uneven tyre wear on the back. Uneven tyre wear at the front may be a sign that the car needs the wheel alignment done.

If the Z31 you are looking at is wearing a set of premium rubber it shows that the owner probably cares about the car.

More than a few Z31s have been fitted with aftermarket suspension components and that’s okay. Make sure they are of a quality brand like Tokico and have been installed correctly. A spring and shock upgrade will take care of the Z31’s squatting problem when accelerating.

Interior and Electronics

You shouldn’t find too many problems on the inside, but expect to see some wear and tear. Check the seats for any rips or holes and take a look at the steering wheel and shifter – do they show excess signs of wear? If the steering wheel and shifter are heavily worn and the mileage is low, it may be a sign that the odometer has been wound back.

Replacement trim parts, especially on special edition models like the 1984 Anniversary Z31 are difficult to come by. Many owners will have fitted aftermarket parts (steering wheel, shifter, etc.), but always ask for the originals if they have them.

The Z31 was the first generation of Z cars to go heavy on the electronics, and they can all go wrong. Check to make sure everything works (A/C, lights, indicators, wipers, windows, stereo, etc.) and see if there are any warning lights on the dash. While most parts are easy to replace, electrical problems can be a real pain.

Buying a Modified Z31 300ZX

There is nothing wrong with buying a modified Z31 and, in fact, many of them you inspect will be modified in some way (minor or major). Make sure all modifications have been installed correctly, are legal and haven’t ruined the characteristics of the car.

As we wrote earlier, some cars will be fitted with aftermarket suspension upgrades to improve the Z31’s squatting problem. Make sure they are of a good brand and are in good working order.

We advise caution when it comes to Z31s that have been used on the track or those that have been modified by multiple owners.

Summary of Buying a Z31 300ZX

As you can see, there are quite a few things to check out when looking to buy a Z31 300ZX. Take your time inspecting any vehicle you look at and don’t rush into any purchase.

We have included more general car buying advice at the bottom of this article. Additionally, you will find information on where to buy a Z31 and how to import a Z31 300ZX from Japan at the end of this article as well.

Nissan 300ZX Z32 Buyer’s Guide


While the Z32 300ZX is a newer car than the Z31, they are still getting pretty old now. A bad one will lead to some wallet wounding experiences, so don’t rush into any purchase. Take your time inspecting any Z32 and if something seems wrong, it probably is.

Prices can vary quite drastically on these cars, depending on the condition, mileage and specification. Expect to pay a good premium for a turbocharged Z32 300ZX with low mileage and in good condition. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about buying a Nissan 300ZX Z32.

Check the Vin/Chassis Number

As with the Z31 above, a good place to start your inspection is to check the vin. That way you know what you are dealing with. It is quite common to find someone who is selling a Z32 as one year, but it is really another (1991 when it is a 1992 model). The tenth digit on the vin designates the production year.


A large number of Z32s are in pretty poor condition or have been fitted with terrible modifications that ruin the car. While you need to be careful of these vehicles, there are still good examples out there like the one in our photos from Southern Specialist Cars NZ or  this one. We recommend that you inspect any Z32 300ZX yourself or get a reliable third party to so for you.

Always try to get access to any car you want to buy first thing in the morning. That way the engine is completely cold before you inspect the vehicle. Warm engines can hide a number of problems, so make sure the owner doesn’t pre-warm the vehicle. Cars that are wet can also hide problems, so try to get a viewing when the vehicle is dry.

Engine & Under the Hood

Good, regularly maintenance goes a long way on these cars, so make sure the Z32 you are looking at has been serviced at the correct intervals. If maintained properly, Z32s are capable of hitting some pretty high mileage. The video below shows one that has just reached 300,000 miles and is still going strong.

However, Nissan packed in a lot of technology in these cars and when things to break it can be a real nightmare. Additionally, many Z32s have been driven hard, so keep that in mind when inspecting one.

Oil changes are important on these cars, so make sure they have been done regularly. Check that the oil has been changed every 3,000 miles (5,000km) and that the oil filter has been replaced every 6,000 miles (10,000km). Be cautious of Z32s that have not had regular oil changes as this tends to suggest the owner has not looked after the car correctly.

If the car is not driven regularly, change the oil every six-twelve months. This is recommended because the oil will break down in the presence of contaminates as it sits at the bottom of the crankcase.

10W-30 and 10W-40 engine oils are often recommended for the Z32 300ZX. Something like Lucas Oil’s 10W-30 Hot Rod & Classic oil is an excellent choice for the Z32. If you are looking for an oil filter, K&N’s HP-2008 Performance Gold Oil Filter comes highly recommended by 300ZX enthusiasts.

Make sure you check the oil for any contaminates or metallic particles. If you see in any, don’t buy the car. Black oil is perfectly fine; it just means it is time to change the oil.

Timing Belt and 60K/120K Service

As with the Z31, it is incredibly important to change the timing belt at the correct intervals on the Z32. Ask the owner, check the service history and look at the sticker on the casing to make sure it has been changed.

Nissan recommends replacing the timing belt every 60,000 miles (100,000km) or every four years. Some owners are known to replace the belt every 100,000 miles, but we think you should stick to the recommended service interval. Failure to replace the timing belt at the correct interval can lead to some pretty nasty damage!

Nissan also recommends replacing the tensioner, water pump, thermostat and various hoses and seals at 60K miles as well. At 120,000 miles (200,000km), the upper and lower idling pullies should also be replaced along with all the other components we just listed. If the owner/seller can’t produce evidence of this work, use it to drive down the price and get the work done immediately.

Other Things to Check

Insist on performing a compression test of the engine. If you don’t want to do this yourself or are not too sure how, take the vehicle to a Nissan dealership or 300ZX specialist. If the owner does not want you to do this, take this as a big warning sign.

Check to make sure the radiator still has its cooling fan shroud, and that the original clutch fan is still there. Some owners will replace these with cheap electric fans that don’t cool as well as the stock setup.

Look at the electrical connectors and wiring – are they broken or cracked? This is a common problem on Z32s. Additionally, check the routing of the engine wiring. The brackets and clips that secure the wiring in the engine bay can often break or become disconnected during engine work.

The Power Transistor Unit (PTU) is prone to failure and earlier Z32s in the United States were actually recalled due to the problem. Z32s produced prior to 07/1990 had a problem with defective valves and will begin making a tapping noise after a while. Additionally, the driveshaft carrier bearings seem to fail between 70,000 to 100,000 miles.

Z32 Engine Swaps and Rebuilds

Be cautious of any Z32 with a rebuilt engine. Recently-rebuilt engines may have been botched and the owner may be trying to offload the problem onto an unsuspecting buyer. Some owners may even claim that the engine has been rebuilt, when in-fact only minor work (or no work at all) has been done.

If you go to look at a Z32 with a rebuilt engine, always check for any receipts for parts and labour. A rebuilt engine with miles on it (10,000 or more) is probably a safer buy than one that has only just had rebuild.

While engine swapped Z32s can be tempting (they are usually cheaper), we would not recommend buying one. This is because most people have no idea what they are doing and you are very likely to wind up with a dog of a car.

If the rebuild or engine swap has been carried out by a trusted Z32 specialist, you shouldn’t have too many problems.

Starting the Car Up

Start the car, is there any smoke? Does it have difficulty starting? Any misfires? If you see lots of smoke or it continues for a long time, the car is probably not worth your time.

White smoke – Is caused by water that has made its way into the cylinders and could be a sign that the head gasket has blown.

Blue smoke – Is usually caused by piston wear, worn piston rings and more. To check for blue smoke, get a friend to follow you as you drive the car.

Black smoke – Usually occurs when the engine is running too rich (burning too much fuel). The first things that should be checked is the air-filter and other intake components.

300ZXs with leaking valve seals (especially common on early production Z32s) will blow a plume of smoke when you start them up. This happens because excess oil burns off the spark plugs.

Any chugging or misfiring when the car is cold is usually caused by low compression and/or dodgy fuel injectors. If you hear a metallic whining sound it may be a sign that the oil pump or power steering pump is on its way out.  

Listen out for any ticking or rattling, it could indicate dirty oil, the wrong type of oil, worn out VTC gears, or lifters that are well past their prime. Squealing sounds are usually caused by improperly tensioned drive belts, and high idle/lazy throttle response is usually a sign that there is a problem with the timing, vacuum leaks or a number of other electrical issues.

Once the car warms up, the idle speed should be under 1,000 rpm (around 750-850 rpm is the sweet spot.

When test driving a Z32 (or any car for that matter), make sure you let it warm up before giving it some gas. Once you have got the car to a good operating temperature, give it some throttle and check for any hesitation or bucking. If it does, it could point to failing fuel injectors, spark plug problems and more.

Check the Boost

If you are looking at a twin turbo Z32, the boost gauge can tell you quite a bit of information about the condition of the car. At warm idle, the needle should be near to -14. If the needle is closer to the middle of the gauge it indicates that the engine has several vacuum leaks and/or compression problems. After driving, the needle should indicate a maximum boost of around 9 psi.


The manual and automatic transmissions fitted to the Z32 300ZX are fairly robust, but enthusiastic driving can wear the syncrhos on manuals. Automatic versions can suffer from heat transfer from the torque converter. Try to steer clear of early automatic Z32s (produced prior to early 1991) as the transmissions on these cars have a tendency to overheat.

Manual Z32s are much more likely to have been driven hard and are usually priced a bit higher than autos. If you notice any crunching or thudding while driving or putting the car into gear, proceed with caution. Additionally, on manual cars make sure the clutch doesn’t slip – if it does, try to get a lower price.

When test driving a Z32, listen out for any clunking sounds from the rear during on/off throttle transitions. Bad differential mounts are usually the culprit here and while replacement parts are cheap, the labour cost can be quite expensive.

As the Z32 is getting on a bit, check to see when/if the transmission fluid has been changed and make sure that the clutch fluid is topped up. Use DOT3 brake fluid for the clutch. When it comes to the transmission fluid, REDLINE MT-90 is recommended for manual 300ZXs, while Redline High-Temp ATF is recommended for autos.

Body and Exterior

Keep an eye out for rust. While Nissan had got a much better handle on the problem by the time the Z32 rolled out the factory, it can still be a serious problem. Below we have listed the most common places to find rust on a Z32 300ZX.

  • Rocker panels/sills
  • Around the toolkit
  • Underneath the battery
  • Above the rear wheels
  • Behind the rear bumper
  • Beneath the car
  • Under the motor mounts

While the areas above are the most common place to find rust on a Z32, we recommend you inspect the whole car for the problem. Use a flashlight/torch to check hard to see places and look under the carpet.

Signs That a Z32 300ZX Has Suffered from Rust in the Past

Keep an eye out of any signs of rust repair. Look for any areas that may have been resprayed and ask the owner about any rust repairs – they may tell you the truth or try to hide it, so check all of the car’s documents. You can use a magnet on steel sections of the car or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to look for previous repair work. 

Things That Can Rust More Likely to Occur

If the car is located (or has been) in a country that salts their roads or it has lived by the sea, rust will be more likely. Additionally, if the vehicle has been stored outside and driven extensively in the winter, the chance of rust occurring will be higher. Here are some signs that a Z32 300ZX has been stored outside.

  • rubber window seals that are hard
  • Excessive amounts of water in the cabin or engine bay
  • Paint that has faded
  • Heavily discoloured badges
  • Plastic parts that have cracked or lost their shine
  • Obvious rust or corrosion
Crash Damage and Other Repair Work

While you are checking for rust and other problems on the vehicle, keep an eye out for any accident damage. Many owners/sellers will lie about accident damage, so don’t take their word for it. Here are some things you should watch out for:

  • Z32s produced until 1993 had a grey strip painted on the front bumper. In 1994, Nissan decided to make this body-coloured and when the bumper is resprayed/replaced, this strip is hardly ever repainted.
  • Z32s originally featured black stripes that ran in the groove all around the vehicle. Like the front bumper, these stripes are usually never repainted.
  • Look for any misaligned panels or uneven panel gaps. The bonnet/hood, front bumper and fenders are incredibly difficult to align properly following a crash.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not, it usually indicates that the vehicle has been in an accident. This problem can be repaired but is a sign of a careless owner.
  • Look for inconsistencies in the paint. Discolouration in different body panels can be a good indication that the car has been in an accident and repaired.
  • Check the doors – do they line up or are there large, uneven panel gaps? If the doors don’t line up properly the car has probably been in an accident.
  • If the headlights or centre nose panel at the front of the car seem to “dip down”, it may be a sign that the vehicle has been backed into. Accidents can break one of the mounts on the nose panel and/or headlights, which can cause one corner to sag.
  • Check under the car to make sure everything is straight and look for any parts that may have been replaced. Bent metal or broken parts are a good indicator of accident damage.

While accident damage is serious, do not automatically exclude the vehicle from consideration. Minor damage is usually fine as long as it has been repaired correctly. Cars that have suffered from major damage should not be included in your considerations. If you are looking at a 300ZX with minor damage/repair work, use it as a bargaining point.

Other Bodywork Problems on the Nissan 300ZX Z32

Unless the Z32 you are inspecting has been stored inside its entire life and never driven, there are bound to be a few scratches and dings. While these shouldn’t cause any problems, try to use them to get a better price.

In addition to this, keep an eye out for any leaks, especially where the door glass, roof and T-top joins (if it has a T-top). Leaks can also be found around the rear windows. If the car does leak, it may be a sign that the owner has not cared for the car as good as they should have. Any leaks should be fixed as soon as possible.

We also recommend that you check if the paint is factory. Colour changes, especially ugly bright ones can drastically reduce the value of a 300ZX and will make them harder to sell in the future. If you do suspect the car has been resprayed, make sure it is a quality job.

Brakes and Suspension

While there are no specific brake issues with the Z32 300ZX, make sure they work correctly and the pads still have life left in them. If the Z32 you are test driving pulls to one side during braking it could be a sign of a seized/sticking caliper or contamination of the braking surface.Alternatively, it could be caused by worn suspension components or different sized tyres on the wheels.

If the front brake rotors have warped and the tension rod bushings are in a poor way, you may feel the steering wheel shake under braking.

The brake master cylinder on 300ZXs produced until 1991 can start leaking at around 50,000 miles (80,000km). Most have these should have been replaced with a redesigned one that is supposed to be better.

Take a look at all the suspension components to make sure there is nothing wrong with them. Keep an eye out for any cracks, leaks, corroded parts or damaged components. The suspension bushes wear, but can be replaced with better performing Nismo ones. Ensure that the car tracks straight on a level road. If it doesn’t, it may have been in an accident or may simply need an alignment.

Wheels and Tyres


If the 300ZX you are looking at has aftermarket wheels, ask the owner if they have the original ones. While it is not a biggie, you can use this to get the price down a little bit (especially if the ones they have put on are ugly).

Take a look at the tyres – do they have tread? Are they wearing evenly? Are they from a good brand? If the tyres are not wearing evenly it may be a sign that the 300ZX needs a wheel alignment or has been in an accident.

Cheap tyres are an indicator of an owner who doesn’t care about their car. If the tread is getting low on the tyres, try to get a discount on the car as you will probably have to replace them soon.

Be cautious of Z32s fitted with aftermarket suspension. While modified suspension can make a car better, it can also make it worse. Make sure the modifications are from a good brand like Tokico and have been installed correctly. If the owner has simply cut the springs or done something equally silly, don’t waste your time.

Interior and Electronics

On the inside, you shouldn’t have too many issues, but keep an eye out for general wear and tear. Check the seats, especially around the bolsters, for any holes or rips in the material. If the owner has fitted aftermarket seats, ask them for the originals. A worn steering wheel and shifter indicates that the car has travelled far (Useful if you suspect the odometer has been wound back).

Turbocharged Z32s have a boost gauge integrated into the speedometer, so a lack of one could indicate that the engine has been swapped. Additionally, the mirror switch (by the centre console) should have a “Sport/Touring” suspension switch on it if it is a twin-turbocharged model.

If the car you are looking at has a stock stereo, plan on replacing it. Almost all of the original ones fitted to the Z32 have problems these days. However, don’t let a fancy sound-system persuade you into buying a car, as they can be easily installed at a later date.

Play with every switch and button you can get your hands on (A/C, Cruise control, windows, etc.).Check to make sure they all work and check the dashboard for any warning lights. If something doesn’t work, ask the owner about it. Electrical problems can be an absolute nightmare to fix, so take your time doing this.

While inspecting the interior, keep an eye out for any leaks. If you do spot any try to find the cause of them.

The last thing to do is to make sure that the key works in everything (doors, ignition, boot/hatch, etc.). Black and titanium keys are the master keys, while Red keys are valet keys that will only operate the ignition and doors.

Buying a Modified Z32 300ZX

You are going to be hard pressed to find an unmodified Z32 300ZX for sale, but they are out there. Modified Z32s are perfectly fine and you will find lots of cars with modifications that range from minor to major. Always make sure that any modification has been installed correctly and is legal for the country you are in.

Modified suspension, wheels, and interior parts are all relatively common. If the Z32 you are looking at is heavily modified, we recommend you take it to a specialist to get it checked out.

Be careful when it comes to Z32s that have been used as track cars or those that have been modified by multiple owners.

Summary of Buying a Z32 300ZX

Finding a good Z32 300ZX for sale is becoming more and more difficult. There are lots of things that can go wrong with these cars and many of them have been maintained poorly. Still, if you look after them well and keep on top of any problems, a good 300ZX will last you years.

Remember to do a compression test on turbocharged models and take your time inspecting any Z32. Keep an eye out for any rust, crash damage or signs that the car hasn’t been maintained properly.

In the next section of this article we have included more general car buying advice. Additionally, you will find information on where to buy a Z32 and how to import a Z32 300ZX from Japan at the bottom.

General Car Buying Advice for the Nissan 300ZX

This section contains information that relates to both generations of the 300ZX

How to Get Yourself the Best Deal On a Nissan 300ZX

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.

1. Do your research. Before you start your hunt for a 300ZX make sure you know what model and condition you are happy with. Are you okay with a highly modified 300ZX or do you want something that is completely stock? Do you want a low mileage example or are you happy with a car that has travelled far?  

2. Shop around. Don’t limit yourself to just one dealer, seller or location. Check out various different dealers and sellers to find the best car and get the right price. Limiting yourself to just one area will make it more difficult to find your ideal 300ZX.

3. Test drive multiple cars. Don’t just take one 300ZX out and then buy it. Test drive as many 300ZXs as you can get your hands on. This will give you a good idea of what makes a good and what makes a bad 300ZX.

4. Adjust your attitude. Don’t rush into purchasing a 300ZX, take your time. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time looking through all the different vehicles available and then go inspect the ones you think look promising.

5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage. Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.

6. Don’t trust the owner. While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say, but check out the vehicle thoroughly and inspect all the car’s documentation.  

7. Bounce between sellers/dealers. If you are looking at multiple 300ZXs, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.

8. Be prepared to walk away. If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition

Mileage vs condition is always a big debate, but we recommend that you should always buy on condition and then on the mileage. There are a truck-ton of 300ZXs out there with low mileage but in poor condition, while some high mileage examples may be perfectly fine.

Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good. Short distance trips are not kind to a 300ZX’s engine as they do not have enough time to warm up and get lubricated properly.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.

Mileage will never decrease with age, so go out and drive your car!  

Service History and Other Documentation

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. The service history will give you a good idea of how the 300ZX you are looking at has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will add value to any 300ZX and will make it easier to sell the vehicle in the future.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner

  • How often do you drive the car?
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
  • How much oil does it use?
  • What oil do you use in the car?
  • When was the timing belt replaced?
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point?
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
  • Is there any money owing on the car?
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
  • Is there any rust?
  • Has rust been removed at any point?
  • Has the car been used for track use at any point?
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
  • Where do you store/park the car usually?

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Nissan 300ZX

Sometimes, the best option is to simply walk away from a vehicle. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.

  • Overheating problems
  • Significant Crash Damage
  • Money owing on the car
  • Stanced
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
  • Excessive amounts of power (too much power can lead to reliability problems down the track)
  • Bad compression
  • Bad resprays
  • Significant rust problems
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engine
  • Significant track use
  • Major engine or transmission issues
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)

Where to Find a Nissan 300ZX for Sale?

Auction/Classifieds Websites

Websites such as Craigslist, Kijiji, TradeMe, Piston Heads and GumTree are excellent places to start your hunt for a 300ZX. You will find a range of 300ZXs at different prices and in different conditions. You can easily compare the price, specs and condition of different 300ZXs and you will be able to select the ones that look promising.

Dealers and Importers

Most dealers and importers will have an online presence, so make sure you check out their website before for any 300ZXs for sale. Dealers tend to be a bit more expensive than private sellers, but sometimes you can get some extras thrown in or better protection.

Social Media

Websites such as Reddit, Facebook and even Instagram can be excellent places to find 300ZXs for sale. Check out some of the many enthusiast groups or subreddits and let other users know you are interested in buying a 300ZX. Additionally, social media groups are often great places to find spare parts or get advice from other owners.

Owners’ Clubs

This sort of ties in with the above, but many owners’ clubs have their own website or they may not even have a website at all. Look to see if there are any Nissan or 300ZX clubs in your area as these are often great places to find cars for sale or ask for advice.

Importing a Nissan 300ZX from Japan

If you are struggling to find a suitable Nissan 300ZX in your country, you may want to look at importing one from Japan. While the 300ZX was sold in lots of different countries, the best place to import them from is usually Japan.

Exporting vehicles from Japan is a big business as it keeps the country’s motor industry moving and older vehicles become more expensive to run. Below we have outlined everything you need to know about importing a Nissan 300ZX from Japan.

How to Import a Nissan 300ZX from Japan

While importing a Nissan 300ZX from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually quite easy. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search “import Nissan 300ZX” or “Import Nissan Fairlady Z”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for 300ZXs based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.

Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.

Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get scammed, it can happen, so be prepared. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:

Always read up on any website or auction house you are thinking of using. Look for reviews and feedback from people who have used to service before. While you are unlikely to get scammed, it can happen. Here are some examples of Japanese importers/exporters.

GoonetExchangeIs one of the biggest vehicle exporters in Japan and they have head offices in Tokyo and Nagoya. They have quite a big selection of 300ZXs ready for export.

JDM Expo Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.

CarFromJapan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars. They have a number of 300ZXs available for export.

How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work?

The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles

They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.

Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.

While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.

Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.

Use the grade to whittle down the number of 300ZXs you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you.

The Auction Check Sheet

Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of the 300ZX and where any problems are located.

Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.

What Does the Number Grade Mean?
  • Grade 7 to 9 or S – New car with delivery miles.
  • Grade 6 – Same as above but with a few more miles.
  • Grade 5 – Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles.
  • Grade 4.5 – Overall condition is great, but may have up to 100,000 miles on the clock.
  • Grade 4 – Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles.
  • Grade 3.5 – Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles.
  • Grade 3 – Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work.
  • Grade 2 – Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these.
  • Grade 1 – Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple).
  • Grade 0, A, R, RA – Some repair history that can be major or minor.
The Letter Grade

As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.

The Car Map

The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide.

Our Guidelines for Importing a 300ZX from Japan

  • Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase
  • If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.
  • Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame
  • Cross reference the check sheet with other websites
  • Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)
  • Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)
  • Be careful of heavily modified vehicles
  • Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.
  • Avoid cars with unknown mileages
  • Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true
  • Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents

Know Your Country’s Importation Laws

Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example,some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age.

Summary of this Nissan 300ZX Buyer’s Guide

This guide should have covered most of what you need to know about buying a Nissan 300ZX. We will continue to update this article with more information on both the Z31 and Z32 300ZXs. Both generations of the 300ZX are fantastic cars and if maintained properly they should provide years of driving pleasure. However, there are plenty of bad apples out there, so take your time finding a suitable 300ZX.

Now Read: How to Import a Car From Japan


  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

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13 thoughts on “Nissan 300ZX Buyer’s Guide (Z31 & Z32)”

  1. I have a couple questions, about buying a 300zx, recently I came across a 91 N/A 300zx and the current owner is selling it , I believe it is because it doesn’t run. What things besides the known like engine, transmission or PCM being bad should I be concerned about in case I decide to buy it?

  2. I purchased a new 1984 300ZX in January 1984. I still own the vehicle and I want to sell it. The car has never been driven in Winter & has been stored inside since new. It is imculate & has been professionally maintained.

    • Hi Melva, we aren’t selling this car in particular (as this is just a buyer’s guide). However, we are planning on doing more to open up a “classifieds” section on this site so that you can list and buy cars like the 300zx.

  3. im looking at a 300zx z31 car and it 2.8k and all it needs is a timing belt and breaks
    what do you guys think and I’m 15 turning 16 and I want this to be my first car ???

    • Hi Jasmine,

      That sounds reasonable price-wise but without seeing the full condition it is hard for us to comment.

      Definitely a cool first car (biggest concern here would be lack of safety features versus a modern car).

      Bear in mind that an old car like this never just needs one thing doing … you will always be needing to factor in maintenance, improvements etc.

      However, if you like the idea of working on a car then it could be a good buy.

  4. Hello my name is Farooq I have 1984 nissan 300zx turbo 50th anniversary auto sliketop I been told it’s very rare they only made few in this year with no ttops so how do i find out about it ty

  5. Good guide … I’ve always loved the 300ZX since I had one on Gran Turismo as a little kid. Too expensive for me now though 🙁


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