If You Want to Buy a Used Chevrolet Corvette, You Need to Read This Buyer’s Guide First

  • Expect to pay less than $35,000 for a collector-quality C5
  • Avoid early model years, as they had some reliability issues
  • There’s no better daily driver American sports car than the C5

Lace up those New Balances, whip out that big red folding lawn chair, and post up with a Pabst. It’s time to learn about Chevrolet’s halo car of the ’90s and early 2000s: the C5 Chevrolet Corvette. Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know before buying a used C5 Corvette. That means trim levels, maintenance headaches, and pricing. Let’s get started.

How much is a C5 Corvette worth?

A red C5 Chevrolet Corvette sports car on a back road
A red C5 ‘Vette | Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Obviously, the big question here is price. The semiconductor shortage has driven prices through the roof, as we all well know. Thankfully, prices for the C5 Chevrolet Corvette have stayed relatively stagnant. Now, let’s say you’ve got the cash to burn and want the best C5 you can get, a Z06 with a stick shift. It’s a real budget race car. With sub-50,000 miles, you can expect the world’s nicest C5 Chevrolet Corvette to run you right around $35,000. We’d recommend avoiding cars with ultra-low miles, as tehy’ll have sat for some time and likely need extra work.

From there, the Corvette only gets more affordable. If you want a clean sports car with the Corvette badge (and a few more miles on it), expect to pay anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000. This, in our opinion, is the Goldilocks range for the Chevrolet Corvette. It’s what you should want. A car with a healthy few miles, some good maintenance records, and most importantly, the ultra-cool targa top. Unfortunately, anything below this threshold will start to be cars sold with a “by the way…” on the seller’s lips. Should you want one of those, don’t pay more than $15k, and have your tools handy.

Is the Chevrolet Corvette reliable?

A yellow C5 Corvette shot from the front
The C5 was the last to get pop-up lights | Clement Roy via unsplash

Speaking of tools, let’s talk about major Chevrolet Corvette C5 problems. First, the early C5s. It’s a general rule not to buy the first year or few years of a model and that applies here. Aim for a 1998+ model. Those won’t have issues like bum TPMS sensors and key fobs that go hinky. Due to the lines and body construction, crash damage can be easily missed on all cars as well. Oh, and those pop-up headlights might be retro-cool, but make sure they work. The C5 Corvette is known to burn the motors out quickly.

Thankfully, these issues are all easily remedied. Parts for the Chevrolet Corvette of this era are cheap. Other popular used sedans from GM will share parts with them. You might even find some F-150 parts if you look carefully. Obviously, that also means cost of ownership is astoundingly low for a sports car. The most money you’ll spend is on bodywork, owning to the composite body. Of course, clutch jobs can also be pricey on both manual and automatic cars. Finally, as an aside, expect to pay less for automatic cars, especially convertibles.

What to know about the C5 and sports car ownership

A yellow Chevrolet Corvette shot from the front 3/4 angle
The C5 even came as a targa | Clement Roy via unsplash

If you’re in the market for a sports car from this era that’ll be reliable, return solid fuel economy, and be fun to drive, your choices are limited. Frankly, the Corvette is one of only a small handful of cars that tick all those boxes. You can drive this sports car every day, should you want. Obviously, snow tires will be a must for the winter. That said, the Corvette was hard to beat as a value proposition back then, and it still is today. Happy hunting.

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