Keepers: Honda S2000—Shopping

By Christopher Smith

June 01, 2009

Traditionally, even well maintained sports cars tend to be maintenance-heavy due to their high-strung personalities. There is good news, however, for all you would-be Honda S2000 owners, because the S2000—aside from being a high-strung sports car—is still a Honda. That means high levels of reliability despite its performance car status.

Of course, used cars are often only as good as their previous owners, and when it comes to the S2000, shoppers should scrutinize the shift quality of the transmission. Honda says some stiffness in the gearbox when cold is normal, but notchy and/or grinding between the gears after the fact could indicate the car was ridden hard in the hands of a novice driver. Switching to a quality manual transmission fluid may be all that’s required to solve the problem, but if that doesn’t alleviate the symptoms, a high-dollar transmission rebuild could be in-store. If that’s the case, inspect the clutch and swap in a new unit if you have the cash, as the early-run cars had some problems with a buzzing clutch.

Other problems of note include an underhood rattle resulting from a bad timing chain tensioner, and convertible tops with excessive wear. And don’t be surprised by high oil-consumption levels or rear tires wearing out prematurely; these are all normal aspects of S2000 operation.

Despite looking essentially the same across all model years, not all S2000s are created equal. Honda engineers pumped the engine up to 2.2 liters starting in 2004, giving the S2000 a more usable mid-range powerband thanks to extra torque and a lower power peak. Suspension revisions were also made to help tone down the tail-happy handling of the earlier cars, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the kind of fun you want to have. 2006 saw the advent of electronic drive-by-wire technology as well as stability control, which in the eyes of some take away from the purist driving ideology of the S2000, though these systems ultimately make the car just that much better. And then there’s the hardcore CR model, with a significantly retuned, track-ready suspension and the option to delete such unnecessary luxuries as air conditioning and a stereo. And once you decide on your particular S2000 flavor, there’s aftermarket aplenty for the folks who can’t leave well enough alone.

The only real bad news for S2000 shoppers is the price of admission. Even the first-generation cars from 2000-2003 still bring well over $10,000 for quality examples. Bump that figure to $20,000 if you want the beefier 2.2-liter variants from 2004 on up (like the nice 2005 example we found on eBay Motors, pictured above). Be sure to check with your insurance company before taking the plunge; its often cars like these that allow insurance agents to take month-long cruises to Jamaica.

Need to know more about the S2000 and the people who love them? Catch "S2000—Community" the final part of our inaugural Keepers series, coming soon.