Now’s A Good Time To Buy A Used Scion FR-S Or Subaru BRZ

Photo credit: Allison Feldhusen

As you know by now, I recently traded in my Subaru BRZ for a WRX. I’ve also been seeking a more practical car for a while, but the numbers didn’t add up to make getting rid of my BRZ feasible until North End Subaru made it happen. But my troubles are your advantage. These cars are not holding their value well, and the early ones are finally old enough that it’s a good time to buy a Toyobaru if you missed out when they were new.

In the beginning, enthusiasts were ecstatic about the idea of an affordable sports coupe. You no longer had to scrounge the dough for a Porsche Cayman, a BMW M3, or a Nissan 370Z. The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins undercut the price of the competition. What about the Miata? For track nuts, a solid roof makes it much easier to participate, as different track day sanctioning bodies have different rules about convertibles. Some allow them with factory roll hoops, while others ban convertibles altogether. With 200hp and a lower center of gravity than a Ferrari 360 Modena, it was a good cheap track monster right off the showroom floor, with plenty of room to upgrade any aspect of it you wanted.

BRZ at Thompson Speedway
Photo credit: Allison Feldhusen

Sales were brisk at first, but dropped dramatically after 2014 to a fraction of their original sales volume. My theory is that two things happened.

  1. People on the internet are infamous for saying they’ll buy something, then not buying it when it actually becomes available.
  2. Everyone who was actually willing to put their money where their mouth is and buy a BRZ/FR-S did so during the first two years of production – including me. After that, everyone who wanted one already had one, so it was difficult to find new buyers.

I believe the BRZ/FR-S doesn’t need any more power. Most automotive journalists disagree, including our own Josh Taylor. My feelings on the matter haven’t changed, but I also feel that Scion/Toyota and Subaru should have introduced higher horsepower versions of the cars to sell alongside the existing versions to attract the potential buyers who wanted more power. Toyota has a rich motorsports history, and a TRD FR-S (or now, the 86) would certainly have attracted some buyers who otherwise wouldn’t have considered the car. On the Subaru side, there’s already a long standing precedent for a two-tiered system thanks to the WRX and STi. Unfortunately, the only BRZ STi we ever saw was a concept car that never made it to production, and an April Fool’s joke I made that pissed a lot of people off. Sorry about that.

2017 Toyota 86

Last year both companies updated the car. Toyota took the opportunity to rebadge the FR-S from the dying Scion brand as the Toyota 86, which they unveiled at the New York International Auto Show. Subaru showed off their facelifted BRZ at the Wicked Big Meet. The new noses are controversial. The wheels are better, as is the rear of the car. The steering wheel gained some controls – the story that there were none to prevent unwanted inputs during performance driving didn’t hold water for enthusiasts who wanted them. The BRZ also gained a nifty screen where the gas and temperature gauges used to be, somewhat similar to the display in the center of the WRX gauge cluster. These are all improvements – well, except maybe the 86’s nose. But the one thing everybody wanted, horsepower, was barely touched – a mere 5hp and 5 lb/ft improvement. Lower gearing, however, does help the new model accelerate better.

2017 Subaru BRZ Series.Yellow

All of the effort to update these cars has been for naught when it comes to sales. According to Good Car Bad Car, Toyobaru sales hit their lowest ever this past January, with only 474 Toyota 86s and 204 Subaru BRZs sold in the US. Admittedly, a rear wheel drive sports car isn’t exactly the hot ticket in the middle of winter. February sales are up slightly, but the revamped 2017 models have done absolutely nothing to combat slow sales.

Justin's 2014 Subaru BRZ, brand new

Here is my 2014 Subaru BRZ as purchased new in March 2014. I paid $24,442 for the car – less than the no-haggle price of a Scion FR-S at the time.

Kelley Blue Book dealer value for my BRZ

Time and depreciation have not been kind to us. The car’s value has plummeted like Felix Baumgartner through the upper atmosphere. Like I said, this is mainly why I haven’t replaced it with a more family friendly vehicle until now, despite having been researching options for quite some time. I got $15,000 for my trade-in, which is on the high end of the spectrum 45,000 miles later. Switching to the price you would pay at a dealer, Kelley Blue Book lists a range of about $15,000 to $18,600 for its value, with a suggested retail price of $17,128. That’s nearly identical to the price the car is listed for right now at North End Subaru – $17,490. Yes, that’s the very same car you’ve been reading about here on Right Foot Down. It’s also proof that any optional extras you install – heated seats, for example, or a K40 RL360i integrated radar detector/laser jammer system – count for bupkis in this business.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just yesterday, Josh checked out a 2013 Scion FR-S for sale near him. One year older than my BRZ, similar miles, asking $15,888. It, too, has some aftermarket parts – the Subaru STi wheels, for example, as well as a single exit cat-back exhaust. Unfortunately, the TPMS warning light was on, as well as a Check Engine light. The TPMS warning is probably as simple as not having sensors in the STi wheels. My BRZ acted the same way when I put my OZ Racing Ultraleggera wheels on for the summer.  But the Check Engine light is a showstopper. I’m surprised they even put it on the showroom floor that way. Make fixing that a condition of the sale, and that’s a reasonable price for the car.

The problem is that the new versions of these cars add very little value to what the original cars offer. That, plus the rapid depreciation of older models, means that you can get 90% of the value of a new BRZ or 86 for half the price. I don’t expect that many of people leased these cars, but if they did, they’re coming off lease now. Plus, a situation like mine is common. I had my BRZ for almost exactly three years. In that time, my life changed significantly – getting married, buying a house, etc. – and so did my needs for a car. I’ve seen a lot of people in the 86 Owners of New England Facebook group move on to other more practical cars – sometimes a WRX like I did, other times something else entirely like a truck. If you’re looking for a cheap track car, and/or to soup one up with the turbo or supercharger the factory never saw fit to bestow upon it, this is an excellent time to scoop up an FR-S or BRZ at a very reasonable price.

Follow @justinhughes54


  1. It’s definitely the time to buy a BRZ/86/FRS if you want one, and the used market is saturated right now with clean examples. But has depreciation stopped? And I don’t think so! It’s a hell-of-a-lot-of-a-car for $15k! For me it doesn’t have the fun character of a Mazda Miata – it’s all business

    1. I completely agree. The top down and body roll of the Miata are more fun, while the BRZ/FR-S are more like tools for carving corners.

  2. Maybe I need to spend more time in one; in the drives I’ve taken, I wasn’t all that excited. Sure, it handles well, but in daily driving, I’m not sure it would be all that satisfying compared to something like a Mustang or Camaro that may not handle as well, but make great noises and can accelerate much faster.

    1. Part of the reason I traded in my BRZ for a WRX is that the WRX is a much better daily driver. Some aspects of what make the BRZ/FR-S/86 so fun work against it on the commute. The BRZ is a ton of fun to drive sideways, but if you do that on the street it won’t be long before you get stopped by a blue light special, The WRX is far more comfortable than the BRZ’s stiffer suspension that helps it shine on the track. And where the BRZ would traction control itself to a stop due to wheelspin in the middle of the busy intersection I was trying to jump across, or fishtail across with lots of wheelspin if I thought to turn traction control off in advance, the WRX just rockets across it quickly, efficiently, and with no drama. Plus I have my motorcycle for great noises!

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