Here at Garage Dreams, we are massive fans of Mazda’s legendary lineup of rotary engine cars.
Although the RX7 will generally always be seen as the greatest rotary of all time (and we tend to agree), the successor – Mazda’s RX8 – is still a worthy vehicle and much more affordable.
In fact, many prospective buyers (including those who read our detailed Mazda RX-8 buyer’s guide) are left wondering “why are Mazda RX8s so cheap?”
In this edition of Car Facts we look at some of the reasons why RX8s are so cheap.
The RX-8 Never Really Lived Up To The RX-7
This is going to be a contentious statement on our part, and we’re sure to catch some heat in the comments.
However, in our opinion, one of the reasons why Mazda RX8s are so cheap is because the RX8 never really lived up to the reputation and “mystique” of the RX7 (particularly the FD generation – read our buyer’s guide for the RX7 here)
This isn’t to say that the RX8 is a bad car. In fact, it is a superb car and a good “swan song” for the rotary engine (until Mazda brings back the rotary, that is).
Despite the excellence of the RX8, there is no escaping the fact that it has always existed in the shadow of the RX7.
Ask any enthusiast which they would rather have – RX7 or RX8 – and it’s likely that nine out of ten would opt for the RX7.
It was a faster, more exciting, more unique and more desirable vehicle (as well as better looking, at least in our opinion). Simply put, it was a tough act to follow.
You know at concerts how there are often opening acts for the main band? The RX8 was a bit like the opening act for the RX7 (if the opening act was a closing act instead).
In our view, this “little brother syndrome” has negatively impacted on RX8 prices, because more money has flooded into trying to buy RX7s.
This situation in many respects is unique to RX7s/RX8s, because they are both the only options for anyone wanting a semi-modern rotary engined vehicle (absolute unicorns aside, such as the JC Cosmo).
Demand is higher and supply is lower for the RX7 – which is why the RX7 is so expensive – whereas the RX8 has long sat in the shadow of its predecessor and been seen – undeservingly – by many as a completely inferior vehicle. While the RX7 surely does best its successor in many departments, the RX8 certainly has a lot going for it.
Furthermore, the RX8 is at that awkward age where it is no longer a modern car, but isn’t old enough to be a classic (it almost isn’t even old enough to be a modern classic).
Much like the adolescent years can be challenging for humans, the inbetweener years (anyone familiar with the cult UK comedy show will get the reference) can be challenging for the values and desirability of cars. We therefore expect to see values climb in time as RX8s age.
Supply & Demand
If you ever did economics at school/university/college, then you probably learned about supply and demand.
The higher the demand, the higher the price (ceteris paribus)
The higher the demand and the lower the supply, the higher the price climbs in turn (a fact painfully familiar for anyone trying to purchase a PS5 console after launch, for example)
With cars, you need to consider the fact that the surviving population of any post-production model declines over time as well. Cars fall victim to disrepair, rust, and accidents, meaning that supply falls even lower.
How Many RX8s Were Made?
According to Wikipedia, around 192,000 RX8s were produced between 2003-2012, when production ended.
For comparison, only 69,000 RX7 FDs were produced over a similar timeframe.
The RX8 was produced in rather substantial quantities for what is ultimately a highly niche vehicle.
This decent production volume combined with low demand (additional reasons for which we shall cover below) mean low resale values.
Low demand and high supply equals lower prices … it’s economics 101.
But apart from playing second fiddle to the RX7, why else is the RX8 a car with low demand relative to supply?
Poor Fuel Economy & Daily Drivability
Another reason why the RX8 is cheap to buy now is because many are put off by the poor fuel economy of the car.
Rotary engines might be small in size (and produce substantial power relative to that size) but they have a tendency to be thirsty.
Driving a car with a displacement smaller than most milk bottles, but which drinks like a v8, can be off-putting to many.
While some owners will argue the toss and claim that the fuel economy/gas mileage isn’t that bad, the truth is that it is fairly bad, especially if you are doing short trips around town in stop/start traffic.
Looking on the Reddit RX8 board, for example, many owners report a realistic combined city and highway gas mileage of around 17mpg. However, for city only driving this can dip as slow as 10-12 mpg, according to some reports.
If you don’t mind poor gas mileage or you only plan on driving infrequently, then the “MPG nightmare” that awaits won’t really be an issue. In fact, you can basically benefit from the fact that other people are put off buying RX8s due to their poor economy.
However, if you are looking to use one as a daily driver – especially if you do lots of mileage or short trips around town – then you really need to be comfortable with spending a lot of time and money at the petrol station.
Short trips in city traffic can also potentially contribute to flooding issues that are a problem for rotary engines. Shutting down your engine before it reaches peak operating temperature – like you might often see in short commutes and city driving – can risk a greater likelihood of flooding, especially if your RX8 has a weak ignition system. RX8s were built to be driven hard, right to redline. However, many owners buy them and avoid driving them the way the car was made to be driven because they want to keep fuel costs down and are restricted in city driving. It’s a bit of a downwards spiral!
Therefore, the bad economy and “daily drivability” of the RX8 are key reasons why they are so cheap to buy now – many people just don’t want to deal with the hassle and expense that comes with owning one.
And speaking of expense …
Potential For Big Repair & Maintenance Bills
Another reason the RX8 is cheap to purchase second hand is because many are scared by the (somewhat deserved) “ticking time bomb” nature of the car.
If you’ve read our buyer’s guide for the RX8, then you’ll be aware that there are many things that can go wrong on this unique vehicle – most related to the rotary engine.
RX8s are not forgiving of improper care and maintenance. However, because of their low price – and the fact that many owners go into the ownership process without a good understanding of what is required both cost and effort-wise to properly maintain a rotary – there are lots of examples out on the market that have been poorly cared for.
When something does go wrong on the RX8, you will generally find that it’s going to cost you more to fix than you’d be accustomed to on a conventional engine car.
We won’t go into detail with everything that could go wrong on your RX8 purchase on this article (consult our buyer’s guide for more information on that). However, what we will say is that the RX8’s reputation for unreliability and expensive running costs does seem to be fairly well-deserved. This is a car that many believe needs to have an engine rebuild in the same way that other cars have timing belt changes; i.e. a routine service item!
How much of it is due to the design and construction of the car versus poor maintenance is hard to say, and in some respects irrelevant.
What you need to be comfortable with is the fact that you will probably have to reach into your pocket from time to time for repairs, and you most certainly will need to keep on top of maintenance.
If you are looking at an RX8, then get a compression test done – that is a must. Also spend time studying RX8 forums, buyer’s guides and more to get a solid understanding of what to look out for.
While you might strike it lucky, we suggest that you go in to the process of RX8 ownership expecting that you will need to cough up cash on a regular basis.
Because of this, many prospective owners are put off (reducing demand, and therefore reducing prices). Furthermore, some people who do buy this car find they cannot deal with the maintenance and repair demands, and sell their vehicles back into the market.
Conclusion – Why Are Mazda RX8s So Cheap?
To recap, here are some of the reasons why Mazda RX8s are available for such reasonable money:
- The RX-8 isn’t an RX-7. The RX-8 is a great car in its own right (especially the later facelifted version) but it never really reached the same level of desirability, and definitely not the same level of performance as the RX-7. The RX-8 glides under the radar compared to the RX-7, which is considered by most to be the far more desirable and valuable vehicle. In some respects, the RX-8 has suffered in the fact that it has always lived under the shadow of its older brother. We mean this with no disrespect to the RX-8 (as we say, it’s a superb car in its own right provided you are happy to live with poor MPG and potential reliability issues) but for many buyers the RX-7 is the “rotary to go for”.
- It is at an “awkward” age; no longer new, but not really a classic yet either. The RX-8 can no longer be considered a new generation car – especially because of the niche technology powering it – but nor is it old enough to be considered a proper classic (or even a modern classic) yet. We think that values will probably rise in time as the car becomes more of a genuine classic.
- Relatively decent supply. This ties in to the point above; there is still a decent supply of RX-8s on the market (including examples still being exported out of Japan albeit in RHD). While this number of “survivors” will whittle away over time, it’s much easier to find a decent RX-8 than an RX-7, for example. Supply and demand is a key factor in classic car pricing.
- Poor MPG/gas mileage. The RX8 is famous for being a gas guzzler. Despite its tiny displacement, rotary engines chew through a lot of gas. This poor mileage is intolerable for many, ruling it out as a suitable daily driver for example (doubly so if you only do a lot of shorter trips, which can be disastrous for the reliability of the Wankel rotary engine). Many complain that the RX8 has disproportionately poor performance relative to its fuel economy, and many who could tolerate the poor MPG are probably on the market for more premium, upmarket vehicles.
- Potentially poor reliability and high maintenance requirements. No discussion of the RX8 is complete without mentioning reliability. The RX8 was not famed for being a particularly reliable car when new (to say the least) and age certainly hasn’t made that any better. While there will be many who swear blind that their RX8s have never skipped a beat (and we don’t doubt that) there are also countless examples of this car going seriously wrong and causing big repair bills for owners. Routine maintenance can also be demanding and expensive compared to “normal” cars as well.
The truth is that in some respects, it is the perception of the RX8 as being an excessively thirsty and potentially ruinously-expensive-to-run car that has led to second hand prices being so low.
Many owners will report generally good ownership experiences, and if you find an RX8 that has been well cared for (or you’re happy to bring it up to standard yourself, which some experts claim is the better approach) then you will enjoy a car that is regarded as one of the best drives around. Ok, it isn’t the fastest in a straight line; but who can say no to a super high RPM redline, smooth revving engine and superb handling?
Why are RX8s so cheap? Because many are “scared off” of ownership and simply don’t consider them. While we don’t recommend the RX8 as a daily driver, if you can pick one up as weekend fun car, track vehicle etc then you are getting into something truly great. Just be prepared to spend on maintenance and repairs! Also, make sure you check out our Mazda RX-8 buyer’s guide for more information on how to score yourself a great example of this legendary car.
We welcome your feedback on this article (or any other insights or info you’d like to share). Just leave a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.