How To Buy Your First Race Car

by Michael Satterfield

Nearly everyone who has ever watched a race has wondered how they could get behind the wheel and pilot their very own race car. But unlike shopping for a street car, race car shopping is a bit more complicated. My first race car was an old Formula Vee that I bought off an ad on Craigslist, had I known more at the time I would have realized that I wasn't buying anything that could be used for racing under most sanctioning bodies, it was still fun to work on and run around the neighborhood in.

To help you make better decisions when buying your first race car, here are some tips on how to buy your first race car.

What kind of racing are you planning to do?

It's most likely that you know what kind of racing car you are interested in. If not, you need to start attending as many different motorsports events as possible. Volunteer if you can and learn everything about whatever type of racing you plan on competing in.

If you're looking at autocross or gymkhana, nearly any car will work. Many autocross events have categories for stock cars and this can be a great way to get some seat time and connect with local clubs. If you are wanting to race in a more advanced series, the rules get tighter as do the licensing requirements. Your first step should be getting behind the wheel at a high-performance driving school be it open-wheel formula cars or Baja racing, there is a school that can help you become a better driver and earn your competition license.

Check your local track and also the regional schedule for any series you plan on racing in, not all cars can run on all tracks. Also, consider the logistics of hauling your race car to different events, do you also need to plan on buying a larger tow vehicle, trailer, or even a chase vehicle?

Create a budget

Buying the race car is just the first step, in some series it can also be the least expensive part of campaigning a car. Figure out your budget first then do some research on what types of car and competition makes the most sense for your budget. You might have dreams of GT racing, but TimeAttack could be the best place to gain experience.

Depending on the type of racing, look at the cost of converting a street car into a race car, compared to purchasing a turnkey racer or used race car. Is the car rare? Are parts hard to get or expensive? Will it require special tools, track support, or fuel? When buying used, does the car have a complete logbook and service receipts?

Start Shopping

This is can be the fun and frustrating part of finding your first race car, while you might find a few race cars listed on eBay or Craigslist, your best bet is specialty websites and forums. Most every racing series or car has a forum with a buy/sell section. But and are both great places to start. Since this is your first race car, try to get one that already has safety equipment like an FIA approved roll cage, fire suppression, and up-to-date racing seat and harnesses.

Unlike a street car, most race cars can't be taken for a test drive unless you are at a track and many owners aren't interested in letting just anyone jump in their expensive race car for a shakeout lap. Your first time behind the wheel is likely going to be after the transaction, so bring along someone who knows something about the car you are looking at and can inspect it before you purchase it.

Race cars are expensive so once you pick it up, make sure you have a secure location to store it and your trailer. Once you have your car, are licensed, and are ready to run, you will need just one more thing, a GoPro to capture all your heroic racing adventures.