The Nissan 350Z had a lot to live up to when it launched in 2002 – there were certainly big shoes to fill for Nissan’s next Z-Car.
The car’s predecessor, the 300ZX, was widely popular and one of the most loved Japanese cars of the eighties/nineties.
You can read our Nissan 300ZX buying guide for more information, if you’re interested in learning more about the 350Z’s “big brother”.
Thankfully, Nissan did a great job with the follow-up, and today the 350Z has become somewhat of a modern classic.
Prices are rising fast, demand is increasing, and many enthusiasts seek the 350Z for its “old school” driving thrills.
In this Nissan 350Z buyer’s guide we have put all the information you need to know about the car to make an informed purchase.
Although the 350Z is typically regarded as a fairly reliable, well-built car, the specialist nature of these vehicles combined with the fact that many of them have led a hard life means that you’ll want to be thorough in any inspection. You don’t want to go out buying a 350Z, only to find that it is in poor condition and leaves you stranded or facing big bills.
Our buying guide will help you to find a good example of the 350Z that will give you years of motoring enjoyment.
Additionally, we have also included information on the history and specifications of the 350Z along with information on importing one from Japan.
Table of Contents
How To Use This Nissan 350Z Buyer’s Guide
This guide covers a lot of information, so we recommend that you use the table of contents below to skip to the section you want to read.
To start with we will be looking at the specifications of the 350Z.
December 2023 update – We have started the process of splitting out the history components of our buyer’s guides into their own dedicated articles. If you’d like to learn more about the story of the 350Z, then read our 350Z history guide here.
Following this we will be covering the buyer’s guide portion of the article and then finally we will look at importing a Nissan 350Z from Japan.
Nissan 350Z Specifications
|Year of production
|2002 – 2008
|Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive
VQ35DE V6 (2003 & 2004)
VQ35DE V6 (2005 (35th Anv & Track) & 2006)
VQ35HR V6 (2007–2009)
|276 – 308 hp (205 – 229.7 kW)
|352 – 372 Nm (259 – 274 lb ft)
|5-speed RE5R05A automatic
6-speed FS6R31A manual
|1,446–1,634 kg (3,188–3,602 lb)
|0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)
|5.3 – 5.9 seconds
|250 km/h (155 mph) – limited
Nissan 350Z Buying Guide – What You Need To Know
With the history and specifications of the 350Z out of the way, let us look at what you need to know before buying one.
You should always try to inspect a Nissan 350Z yourself or get a reliable third party to do so for you. We also recommend that you bring someone along with you to an inspection as they may be able to spot something you missed.
Another tip is to inspect a 350Z in the morning when the engine is cold and the ambient temperature outside is lower. The reason for this is because warm engines can cover up a number of problems that could lead to some expensive bills.
You should also avoid inspecting a car when it is raining or if the car is wet (watch out for sellers/owners that wash the car just before you arrive). This is because water on the bodywork can hide a number of problems (paint, accident damage, repairs, etc.). If you do inspect a Nissan 350Z when it is wet, try to go back for a second viewing.
How Much Should I Pay for a Nissan 350Z?
This is a difficult question to answer as there are so many variables as play (where you live, the condition of the car, the model and the year the 350Z was manufactured). As this is the case, we are not going to tell you how much you should pay for one.
What we recommend you do is go on local auction/classifieds or dealers’ websites and search for Nissan 350Zs for sale. This way you can get a rough idea of how much you need to spend in your local area or country.
Nissan 350Z Inspection Guide
In the following section we will be looking at everything you need to know when inspection a Nissan 350Z. Overall, the Nissan 350Z is a fairly reliable car, but problems can occur if they are not maintained properly.
Checking the VIN
It is always a good idea to check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) as it can tell you quite a lot of information about the history of the 350Z you are inspecting.
Enter the VIN one a VIN check-up website or service and see what comes up (you could even do this on your phone while you are inspecting the car).
You should be able to find the VIN in the following locations (depending on the model):
We strongly recommend that you run a VIN (and/or licence plate) based vehicle history check before purchasing a Nissan 350Z – or any car for that matter.
Using a platform like CarVertical to check the VIN number will cost you a few dollars, but potentially save you from buying a car with outstanding finance, previous accident damage, or dubious ownership history.
In our view, you should NEVER purchase a used car without running a vehicle history check first. This is the single best investment you can make (outside of actually inspecting the car physically) in terms of protecting yourself from making a bad purchase.
Inspecting The 350Z’s Engine & Exhaust
To start your inspection of a Nissan 350Z’s engine, open the bonnet/hood and take a good overall look at the engine bay. Watch out for any broken or damaged components, leaks, modifications, or signs that the engine has overheated.
A super clean engine bay can indicate a very well-maintained car, or it may also be a sign of an owner trying to cover something up (leaks, etc.).
You should also make sure that the engine is cold, if it is not it may be a sign that the owner has pre-heated the engine to hide a problem (or it may simply be that they drove the car to the inspection place).
The next thing to check is the fluid levels. We recommend that you check the fluid levels both before and after a test drive to see if they remain the same (however, you may notice a slight difference in some of the fluid levels).
Fluid levels that are too high or too low are a sign of a poorly/incorrectly maintained vehicle. If the fluid levels are not at the correct height it can lead to premature component wear or even total engine failure.
When Should Engine Oil/Oil Filter Be Changed on a Nissan 350Z?
It is always a good idea to check that the engine oil and oil filter have been changed at or before the recommended service intervals. This is because old oil that sits at the bottom of a 350Z’s crankcase can breakdown overtime and become diluted in the presence of contaminates. Below you can find information on when to change the oil and oil filter:
It is usually recommended that you change the engine oil every 6,500 – 8,000 km (4,000 – 5,000 miles) or every 6 – 12 months when using synthetic oils. Many enthusiastic owners will change it much earlier at around 5,000 km (3,000 miles), which is a sign of good maintenance. Non-synthetic oil will need to be changed more frequently than synthetic.
Best Engine Oil for Nissan 350Z
Nissan recommends that you use a good quality 5W-30 engine oil such as this one from Mobil 1. Another common choice of oil is 0W-40. Generally, heavier weight oils will be better in warm environments, whereas thinner oils will be better in colder places.
You should also check to see what oil the owner/seller uses in the 350Z you are inspecting.
Oil Filter For Nissan 350Z
It is usually recommended that you replace the oil filter with every oil change. The following filters come highly recommended for the Nissan 350Z:
- Mobil M1-110
- Mobil M1-108
- Mobil M1-105
- Nissan OEM (65F00)
- Nissan VQ30 Oil Filter (9E000)
- K&N Nissan 350Z Oil Filter
Check Out This Video on How to Change the Oil on a 350Z
Problems with the Engine Oil
While you are checking the engine oil level, remember to check for any metallic particles or grit. If you do see any you should move onto another 350Z. Additionally, a frothy dipstick may be a sign of a head gasket leak/failure.
Most Common Causes of Oil Leaks on Nissan 350Zs
During your inspection of a 350Z’s engine, remember to check for any oil leaks – there should not be any. If you do notice any oil leaks try to get an idea of how big they are and where they are coming from.
While we wouldn’t necessarily rule out a leaking Nissan 350Z, you should be extra vigilant if you come across this problem. Also, watch out for owners that say it is normal for 350Zs to leak oil. Here are some leaks you may come across during an inspection:
- From the dipstick – If the dipstick is not inserted properly it can lead to a leak. Not a major problem.
- Oil line around the oil filter
- Rear main seal – big problem if it is this as it is a real pain to fix it
2006 – 2007 Oil Consumption Issues
There were some instances of oil consumption issues with 350Zs produced from 2006 – 2007 and GT models that featured revised valve timing. This was a rare issue and most of the engines should have been replaced under warranty. Earlier and later models are unaffected by this problem, however, expect all models to burn a bit of oil.
Inspecting a Nissan 350Zs Cooling System
Remember to inspect as much of the cooling system as possible on a Nissan 350Z, as a problem here can lead to total engine failure. Check the service history and with the owner to see if the cooling system has been regularly maintained. Here are the main components of a Nissan 350Z’s cooling system.
- Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
- Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
- Water Pump –belt that is driven from the e-shaft pully. Pushes water/coolant through the engine
- Overflow or Expansion bottle – removes air from the system and provides a filling point
- Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system
It is important to check the cooling system both before and after a test drive. This is because problems may start to occur as the vehicle heats up. Additionally, don’t forget to check the coolant height as well to make sure it isn’t too low (or doesn’t drop significantly after a test drive). A cracked or warped expansion tank may be an indication of past overheating issues.
The radiator fans on 313 hp HR models can fail, so listen out for them if the car becomes hot.
What Coolant for a Nissan 350Z?
Using the wrong coolant can lead to some pretty nasty problems and possibly even total engine failure, so check to see what the owner/seller uses in the car. It is recommended that genuine Nissan Blue Long Life Coolant/Antifreeze be used in a Nissan 350Z. Some other coolants will work, but we feel that the extra $10 or so is worth the peace of mind you get when using a good quality, recommended coolant.
Another thing to note is that the appearance of coolant can tell you quite a bit of information about the condition of a Nissan 350Z’s engine. Brown or muddy coolant is an indication of poor maintenance, and if you see any oily bubbles in the coolant you should move onto another 350Z.
Does the Nissan 350Z Have a Timing Belt or Chain?
Thankfully, the 350Z has a timing chain instead of a belt, so you don’t have to worry about all the problems that come with a belt. The timing chain should last the lifetime of the engine, however, in reality it may need to be changed at some point (at very high mileage).
Additionally, the timing components are dependent on a fresh supply of clean oil. This means that if the engine oil hasn’t been replaced regularly problems can start to occur with the timing chain/components.
Below we have listed some reasons why the owner may have changed the timing chain (or say that they have):
- The engine has been rebuilt due to wear or performance reasons at some point
- The owner is cautious and likes preventative maintenance
- The timing chain stretched or there may have been some other problem
- The owner is lying and thinks it sounds better
- The owner has no idea what they are talking about
If the timing chain has been replaced, the water pump and thermostat should be replaced as well (these will need to be replaced eventually). You can read more about the Nissan 350Z’s service schedule here.
Inspecting the Spark Plugs On A 350Z
It is always a good idea to take a look at the spark plugs if you have time and the owner lets you. While it is not completely necessary to do this, the spark plugs can tell you quite a bit of information about the 350Z you are inspecting and how it has been looked after. We recommend that you check out this spark plug analysis guide.
When do the spark plugs need changing on a 350Z?
Nissan states that the spark plugs should be changed every 120,000 – 169,000 km (75,000 – 105,000 miles). The reason for the big difference is that your driving style and the conditions that the car operates in can have a big effect on the lifespan of the spark plugs. Additionally, some owners like to change them even earlier.
Check the service history and with the owner to see if the spark plugs have been changed at any point. If the car has travelled further than the distances stated above and has not had it spark plugs changed it suggests poor maintenance. Additionally, remember to check that the spark plug wires are in good condition.
What spark plugs does a Nissan 350Z use?
The stock OEM spark plugs are NGK PLFR5A-11. There are other options that will work as well, just make sure they are from a good brand such as NGK or Bosch (most people prefer NGK). Additionally, iridium or platinum plugs are recommended over copper.
Checking the Exhaust System on a 350Z
Remember to get under the car and take a good look at the exhaust system. Exhausts can be expensive to repair/replace, so make sure it is in good condition. Keep an eye out for the following issues:
- Black sooty stains– Indicates a leak which may require expensive repairs
- Corrosion– May or may not be a problem (these cars aren’t really known to rust badly). Any signs of significant corrosion are a major problem and you should probably walk away from the vehicle. Rust on the exhaust may also be caused by accident damage
- Cracks or accident damage– Can be a sign of a careless owner
- Dodgy repairs– Bodge jobs on the exhaust are a big no no, and they can be expensive to put right
- Loss of power when driving and strange noises – A leak can lead to loss of power and possibly even some strange noises (ticking, etc.)
It is quite common to find a leak where the exhaust splits before the catalytic converter.
Aftermarket Exhausts on Nissan 350Zs
Aftermarket exhausts are available from the likes of HKS and Motordyne. Some owners go with fully custom options as well. There is nothing wrong with an aftermarket exhaust, just remember to make sure it is from a good brand and is not too loud for use on your country’s roads.
Smoke & Vapour from a Nissan 350Z
It is important to check what is coming out the back of a 350Z during an inspection. Do this before, during and after a test drive.
Don’t worry too much if you see a small amount of vapour on engine start-up as it is probably just condensation (especially if it is cold outside). If you see lots of smoke or vapour move onto another 350Z as the one you are looking at is probably not worth your time. Here are what the different colours of smoke mean:
White smoke – This is usually caused by water in the cylinders and could indicate a blown head gasket. If the smoke smells sweet, it is probably coolant.
Blue smoke – Can be caused by wear to the pistons, piston rings, and/or worn valve seals. To check for blue smoke, ask a friend to follow you while drive the vehicle and take it through the rev range. Alternatively, get the owner to drive the car for a bit and watch out the back. Blue smoke on start-up and overrun is a sign that the car has been thrashed.
Black smoke – Usually occurs when the engine is running too rich (burning too much fuel). The first things you should check is the air-filter and other intake components.
Overheating and Blown Head Gaskets on a Nissan 350Z
Overheating is a problem on any car, so if you notice any signs of it during an inspection or the owner mentions it, alarm bells should be going off in your head. Past overheating issues that have been repaired are also a cause for concern as well (many repairs are carried out poorly and on the cheap). Watch out for the following:
- Coolant leaking externally from below the exhaust manifold
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- An engine that overheats
- Oil that is white and milky
- Fouled spark plugs
- Low cooling system integrity
- Engine oil that smells of coolant
- Sweet exhaust smell
Don’t forget to check the temperature gauge. If it is on the low side, there may be an issue with the thermostat. If it is on the higher side, it indicates that the cooling system is struggling.
Start Up and Idle Speed on a 350Z
It is always a good idea to get the owner/seller to start the car for you for the first time. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- So you can keep a lookout for any smoke or vapour from the exhaust.
- If the owner revs the car hard you know to move onto another 350Z
When the key is turned in the ignition the car should jump into life. Hesitation or failure to start indicates a problem that could be something simple like a bad/flat battery or a much more serious issue.
What Is the Correct Idle Speed for a Nissan 350Z?
Once the car warms up the idle speed should be around 700 – 800 rpm. Don’t worry if the idle speed is slightly higher when the engine first starts. Additionally, you should also turn on the air conditioning, electronics and lights to see what happens to the idle speed. You will probably find that it increases slightly, however, the car should not stall.
Misfires, Squeals & Other Noises
Chugging, misfiring and other strange noises can be caused by anything from bad injectors to poor compression. Squealing sounds are usually an indication of a worn belt and if the timing chain sounds like it is dragging it may be the idler pulley or tensioner causing issues. The primary timing chain tensioner can also cause tapping sounds as well.
A common issue on Nissans from this period is a clicking driveshaft. While it is an annoying problem, it is not too expensive to get fixed.
Hesitation/Acceleration Issues on Nissan 350Zs
If you notice that the car hesitates when you put your foot on the throttle, it could be down to one or more of the following:
- Carbon build up on the inside of the throttle body – Needs to be cleaned or replaced
- Bad petrol/gas
- Bad coil packs
- ECU/electronic problems – Try disconnecting and reconnecting the battery
- Exhaust cam timing going slightly out of its preset limits – Can be cured with an uprev remap
Excessive Shaking or Vibrating
If the Nissan 350Z you are test driving shakes or vibrates excessively, one or more of the motor mounts may have failed. Not a terribly major issue, but annoying to get fixed as its quite a time consuming process.
Getting a Compression Test Done on a Nissan 350Z
While not completely necessary, a compression test can tell you quite a lot of information about the condition and history of the 350Z you are looking at. However, compressions tests can only indicate that a problem is present and they don’t necessarily tell you what that problem is.
Compression readings should be 185 psi, with a minimum of 142 psi. Additionally, there should not be more than a 14 psi difference between the highest and the lowest cylinders.
Buying a Nissan 350Z with a Rebuilt Engine
Owners get their car’s engines rebuilt for a variety of reasons from wear caused by high mileage to performance reasons. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a rebuilt engine on a Nissan 350Z as long as the rebuild has been done by a competent Nissan or 350Z specialist. The main thing to watch out for is rebuilds that have been done on the cheap for a quick sale.
If you are thinking about buying a Nissan 350Z with a rebuilt engine, find out who did the work and see if you can find any reviews/feedback about them. If the owner has done the work themselves you should be extra cautious. While there are plenty of competent home mechanics out there, there are even more who have no idea what they are doing.
It is usually better to buy a car with a rebuilt engine that has done a few more miles. For example, a rebuild that has already travelled 10,000 km is more of a known than one that has travelled 500 km.
There are a few problems to watch out for when inspecting the transmission on a Nissan 350Z, especially If you are looking at an earlier model (up until about 2006) with a manual gearbox.
During a test drive, make sure you go through all the gears at both low and high engine speeds. Listen out for any grinding or whirring sounds and make sure that the shifts are smooth.
Synchro wear is a problem on early 350Zs with manual transmissions, so watch out for any crunching or graunching during shifts. Pay particular attention when shifting from first to second as the problem is most apparent here, however, synchro wear can occur on other gears as well.
A slight buzz from the gear lever as you drive is perfectly normal. This was something Nissan was aware of from launch and they said it was a flaw that they left in to give the driver a more direct feel.
Gear changes on the 350Z are quite heavy compared to other sports cars from the period. Expect the gearbox to be a tight when you first start the car, but it should loosen up as the vehicle warms up.
The transmission fluid for both automatic and manual 350Zs should be replaced every 40,000 km (25,000 miles) or every 2 years. Check to make sure this has been done as it is a sign of poor maintenance if it hasn’t. While you are changing the transmission fluid the differential fluid should also be replaced as well.
What Transmission Fluid for a Nissan 350Z?
It is recommended that you use something like Redline MTL/MT-90 for manual cars, while Nissan states that you should use Nissan Matic Fluid J for automatic transmissions. The rear differential oil should be a good brand 75W-90 Synthetic Gear Oil (GL-5).
Testing and Inspecting the Clutch on Nissan 350Zs
Clutches can wear out quickly on 350Zs and they usually need to be replaced every 65,000 km (40,000 miles). The clutch master and slave cylinders can also fail. If this has happened the clutch pedal won’t return and you will have to pull it up.
It can be a good idea to change the flywheel at the same as replacing the clutch. This will save on labour and save you money.
Remember to check the service history and with the owner to see when the clutch was last replaced. If it is getting close to that 65,000 km mark, try to get a discount on the vehicle as you will probably have to replace the clutch soon. Here are some ways to test the health of a clutch on a Nissan 350Z
Clutch Engagement – The first thing to check is the engagement. To do this put the Nissan 350Z you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.
Clutch Slippage – The way to check for this is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. Once you have done this, plant your foot on the throttle and watch the revs. If the engine speed goes up but the car doesn’t accelerate the clutch is slipping. Here are some things that can cause slippage
- Worn clutch
- Clutch covered in oil
- Clutch cable is too tight and is not releasing properly
Clutch Drag – Get the 350Z on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the Nissan hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.
Body & Exterior of a Nissan 350Z
It is always important to take your time inspecting the exterior and bodywork of a Nissan 350Z. Bodywork and exterior problems can be expensive to repair or they may not even be fixable at all.
Nissan did a good job of rust proofing the 350Z, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the problem too much. Still, we recommend that you keep an eye out for any rust as it can be a real nightmare was it takes hold.
Corrosion problems can be more apparent on 350Zs that have experienced one or more of the following:
- Spent time in countries that salt their roads
- Spent time in countries with very harsh winters
- Lived by the sea for significant periods of time
- Always been kept outside (never garaged)
- Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
When looking for rust, pay particular attention to the area around the bottom of the doors and around the wheel arches. Additionally, check inside the wheel wells and in the engine bay. The underside of the car should be sealed but take your time here as accident damage can remove it. Check the exhaust as it can rust (particularly around the split before the catalytic converter).
While you are inspecting the bodywork, you should also keep an eye out for rust repairs. Look for any areas that may have been resprayed or repaired and check the service history. Additionally, check with the owner, however, remember that they may not be 100% honest with you.
Use a magnet on steel sections of the car or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.
Accident Damage on a Nissan 350Z
Accident damage is a big one on performance cars such as the Nissan 350Z. People get in them and then make contact with things they shouldn’t have. Replacing body panels and repainting the car is not cheap, so don’t rush this. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Inspect the doors, tailgate and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage. If the panels are uneven it could suggest an accident has occurred.
- Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Nissan 350Z you are inspecting may have been in an accident or may have some sort of other problem.
- Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – This is a good indication of crash damage or rust repair.
- If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This is usually a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident and that the owner is careless. This problem can be fixed but is a pain to get right.
- Bent or broken parts underneath the car –Check to see if everything is straight underneath the vehicle and watch out for any replaced parts. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
- Rust in strange locations – indicates that the Nissan 350Z you are inspecting has been in an accident or has some other problem.
- Paint runs or overspray – This could be a factory issue or a sign of a poor repair.
- Missing badges or trim – can be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
To minimise the risk of buying a “crashed and repaired” 350Z, we also strongly recommend you purchase an independent vehicle history check that checks the car’s VIN number. CarVertical is our recommended history check provider – go here to check them out.
Paint Fading and Chipping
Some colours are worse than others, but many 350Z owners have complained that the paint on the front bumper of their cars has faded quicker than on other areas. Additionally, the paint chips are common on these cars, especially around the front bumper.
The headlights can also succumb to stone chip damage as well. In some cases, the problem is so bad that the headlight has to be replaced (not cheap).
The roof on Roadster models is well made, so you shouldn’t have to worry about too many problems with it. One thing to note is that the roof won’t go down on a cold day when the temperature is below 8-degrees Celsius and you need to warm up the car properly before operating it. This is perfectly normal and is mentioned in the owner’s handbook.
Suspension & Steering On The Nissan 350Z
Take your time inspecting as many of the suspension and steering components as possible. Worn or broken suspension and steering components can ruin the driving characteristics of a 350Z and are expensive to replace. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
- Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
- Tipping during turns
- High speed instability
- Excessive vibration coming through the steering wheel (could indicate alignment issues or failed ball joints)
- Delayed or longer stopping distances
- Uneven tyre wear
- Excessive tyre bounce after hitting a bump
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
- Sagging rear suspension – usually caused by bad bushings in the rear
- Knocking or creaking sounds during a test drive (don’t forget to drive in a tight figure 8)
As these cars are now starting to get on a bit in terms of age, many of them you come across will have worn suspension components. Check the service history to see if the shocks, bushes and other suspension/steering components have been replaced at any point. If they haven’t, expect to replace them at some point in the future, so try to get a discount on the vehicle.
During a test drive remember to check that the vehicle drives straight without you having to correct the wheel. If you do have to correct the steering wheel it indicates that the wheel alignment is out. Alternatively, it may be a sign of other issues such as accident damage.
Brakes on a Nissan 350Z
The brakes on a Nissan 350Z should be more than adequate for road use, however, they are usually the first things to suffer when the car is used on a track. If the brakes feel weak or spongy during normal use there is a problem. Watch out for the following during an inspection.
- Pad life (use a little mirror or you may be able to use your phone)
- Pitted, scored or grooved discs
- Any leaks in the brake lines (get a helper to press on the brake pedal while you inspect the lines)
- Brake fluid level in the brake fluid reservoir
- Brake fluid changes every 12 – 24 months
Brake Testing During a Test Drive
Make sure you test the brakes under both light and hard braking situations to make sure they are working correctly. If the car pulls to one side it may have a sticking/seized caliper. This can occur if the car has been sitting for unused for a long period of time. If the caliper has seized on the Nissan 350Z you are test driving, you may hear a load thud when you pull away for the first time.
You should also watch out for and juddering/shaking through the steering wheel when the brakes are applied. This is usually a sign of warped discs/rotors and often becomes first apparent under high speed braking.
Loud bangs, knocks or other strange noises when the brakes are used should be investigated closely as they may signal some expensive bills on the horizon. Weak feeling brakes or brakes that struggle to stop the car signal an issue.
Wheels & Tyres
Take a look at the wheels – are they curbed or scuffed? Are they original or modified? Are they all the same? Curbed or damaged wheels are a sign of a careless owner and if the rims are not stock ask the owner if they have the originals. Remember to check the tyres for the following:
- Amount of tread
- Uneven wear (Can be a sign of alignment or suspension issues)
- Brand (they should be from a good or well-reviewed brand)
350Z Interior Issues
Remember to give the interior a good look over. Check for any rips, stains or tears in the seats and inspect the trim for any damage. While replacement interior parts are still available, they can be expensive to source.
Watch out for seats that move during acceleration and/or braking as it is incredibly dangerous and will lead to an MOT/WOF failure. The driver’s seat bolsters commonly wear, but this isn’t too expensive to get fixed
Lift up the carpets and check around the windows for any leaks or dampness. Additionally, check the steering wheel, gear shifter, pedals, and other trim pieces for wear as they can indicate how far the Nissan 350Z you are inspecting has travelled. If there is excessive wear for the mileage, it could be a sign that the vehicle’s odometer has been wound back (or the car may have just had a very hard life).
You can tell if a smoker has owned the vehicle by taking a goof whiff of the interior and by looking at the headliner above the driver’s seat. If there is a stain or it is a slightly different colour than the rest of the headliner, then a smoker has probably owned the car at some point.
Electronics, Air Conditioning and Gauges
It is not uncommon for the electric window motors to fail and they are quite expensive to replace. When looking at a 350Z Coupe, make sure the frameless windows drop and raise a fraction when you open and close the doors.
Air conditioning problems are always a cause for concern. Remember to check that cold air comes out the vents. If the air conditioning doesn’t work many owners will claim it just needs a simple re-gas. In truth, the problem is often a lot more complicated and if it just needed a re-gas they probably would have got it fixed.
Remember to check that all the warning lights are on when the ignition is first turned on. If the warning lights do not appear during engine start-up then they may have been disconnected to hide an issue.
Aftermarket components need to be inspected closely to make sure they work and are installed correctly. Poor workmanship here can be a sign of a careless owner.
Don’t forget to check that the headlights, rear lights, indicators, etc. work as intended. You will need to get out of the car when you are doing this or get somebody to help you.
The CD player is well known for skipping, which is annoying but not a major problem … who actually uses CDs any more?
Common Nissan 350Z Modifications
Below we have listed some common modifications (and brands) that you may come across during an inspection. There is nothing wrong with a modified vehicle, as long as the modifications have been done well and they are suitable for the car.
- Lowering springs – ARK Performance, D2, Swift Springs
- Coilovers – Improved cornering performance – Buddy Club Racing Spec, HKS Hipermax Series MAX IV GT, Godspeed Mono-RS
- Air suspension – Designed in a similar way to coilovers, but the struts have air bags to lower and raise your car’s ride height using an air compressor – Accuair, Air lift
- Sway bars – Increase torsional stiffness and reduce body roll – Blox Racing, Whiteline, Hotchkis
- Strut bars – Adds stiffness to the chassis between the strut towers – Cusco, Tanabe, NRG Innovations
- Camber kits – Aftermarket kits are usually lighter and stronger
- Brake pads – Aftermarket pads are usually semi-metallic, full-metallic or ceramic (probably best for street use.
- Rotors – Cross drilled, slotted rotors. Usually only beneficial for track use or situations during extremely hard and repetitive braking
- Big brake kits – Some owners put the 4-pot Brembos found on higher performance 350Zs on their cars. Another popular choice is the Akebono big brake kit
- Air intake – K&N, AEM
- Exhaust system – improve performance and sound – AAM Competition, HKS Hi-Power, Auto Dynasty Dual
- High flow cat – helps get rid of exhaust gases faster
- ECU upgrade
- Turbo kit
General Car Buying Advice for a Nissan 350Z
How to Get a Great Deal on a 350Z
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.
- Research, research, research – Prior to starting your hunt for a 350Z, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Is a highly modified 350Z okay or are you looking for something completely original? Do you want a low mileage example or are you happy with a car that has travelled far?
- Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. Don’t limit yourself to one dealer or platform (or even location). If you open up to more shopping options, it will make it easier to find a good Nissan 350Z.
- Test drive multiple cars – Don’t just take one Nissan 350Z out for a test drive and then buy it. Drive as many 350Zs as you can get your hands on. This will give you a good idea of what makes a good and what makes a bad 350Z.
- Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time looking through all the different Nissan 350Zs available and then go check out the promising looking ones
- 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.
- 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 back it up with a thorough inspection.
- Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple Nissan 350Zs, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
- 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.
- Do a pre-purchase VIN/vehicle history check – This is critical; you will be able to pick up on previous accident history, signs of odometer tampering, outstanding finance etc. We recommend CarVertical for VIN checking/history checks.
Mileage vs Condition
Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. There are lots of low mileage, poor condition 350Zs out there, so don’t discount a one with a few more K’s.
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 the engine in a Nissan 350Z as it does not have time to warm up properly and get lubricated.
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 350Z you are inspecting 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 only add value to any Nissan 350Z and will make it easier to sell the car 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?
- What parts have been replaced (engine, catalytic converter, etc.)?
- When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
- What’s the compression like?
- 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 350Z
Here are some things that would make as walk away from a 350Z. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.
- Overheating problems
- Significant Crash Damage
- Money owing on the car
- Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
- Excessive amounts of power
- Bad compression
- Bad resprays
- Significant rust problems
- Engine swaps with non-standard engines
- Significant track use
- Major engine or transmission issues
- Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)
Notes on the Owner
The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their 350Z (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.
- How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
- Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
- Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
- What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
- How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
- Do they know anything about the Nissan 350Z and the model they are selling?
- What can they tell you about previous owners?
- Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
- What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
- What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
- How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
- How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?
If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Nissan 350Z
Where to Find a Nissan 350Z for Sale
Websites such as Craigslist, Kijiji, TradeMe, Piston Heads and GumTree are great places to start your hunt for a Nissan 350Z. You will find a range of 350Zs for sale at different prices and in different conditions. You can easily compare the price, specs and condition of different 350Zs and you will be able to select the ones that look the best
Dealers and Importers
Most dealers and importers will have an online presence, so make sure you check out their website for any Nissan 350Zs 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.
Websites such as Reddit, Facebook and even Instagram can be excellent places to find a Nissan 350Z for sale. Check out some of the many enthusiast groups or subreddits and let other users know you are interested in buying a 350Z. Additionally, social media groups are often great places to find spare parts or get advice from other owners.
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 clubs in your area as these are often great places to find cars for sale or ask for advice.
Importing a Nissan 350Z from Japan
If you are struggling to find a suitable 350Z in your country, you may want to look at importing one from Japan. Many 350Zs were sold in Japan, so it is a great place to find them for sale.
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 350Z from Japan.
How to Import a Nissan 350Z from Japan
While importing a 350Z 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 350Z You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for 350Zs 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 completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:
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.
Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.
Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.
Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!
Use a Private Importer
While the websites above are handy to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing a 350Z, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find the perfect Nissan 350Z for you and import it, saving you the hassle. While it may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle.
You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.
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 350Zs 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 a Nissan 350Z 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 Nissan 350Z 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.
- Try to go through a private importer
- 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. This is why the Nissan Skyline is illegal in the United States, for example.
Concluding This Nissan 350Z Buyer’s Guide
The Nissan 350Z is a fantastic car and fairly reliable car. If you are on the market for a modern classic sports car with genuine ‘old school’ thrills, then you could do much worse … and in terms of value-for-money perhaps on the Nissan 370Z that succeeded the 350Z comes close.
This 350Z buying guide should cover most of what you need to know about purchasing one of these rapidly-appreciating modern classics.
For more information check the links in the section below. You can also leave a comment, and we will reply to you ASAP.