There is so much literature online about the Miata, its really quite amazing. It also takes a lot of time to sieve through all the information and discern what's useful, what's background noise, what's absolutely rubbish and what's relevant to Singapore and the Singapore version.
In my research about the Miata before I had decided to purchase one, I had found the Miata.net website extremely useful. Upon entering the Garage, first time buyers can refer to the 'Buying a Miata' section under the sub-category'Used' with the title 'Buying a Use Miata' (Elementary my Dear Watson!) and there's also a checklist that goes together with that.
It was also comforting to know that I was not alone in Singapore as there was a local Miata Owners Club of Singapore and the website had reassured me that I was neither alone in Singapore, nor would I have any trouble buying parts locally or finding a garage that could perform decent work on her. The Garage section on the webpage gave pretty decent places to buy parts and/or find services. I've tried several and am still using quite a few of them and a few have been updated along the years.
Because I've gone to so many club meets (hey! I was a student and relatively free.....), have seen so many different variants and have listened to the complaints of the different owners through the years, I've come to several of my own conclusions about buying a used miata in Singapore.
1. Try as much to buy as much a stock standard miata as possible. Yes, the modified ones don't cost too much more, considering what's inside, but I say this for 2 main reasons. The first reason is that the stock miata is simply a joy to drive, to learn about and to enjoy. They are set up to be decidedly forgiving, responsive and communicative which is especially important for people making their first foray into FR (Front Engine-Rear wheel drive) machines. Start from there, learn about the car, learn how to drive properly, learn to appreciate what a fine machine the miata is and then slowly do it up to fit your style and requirements.
The second reason is this - there are idiots and then there are idiots. I've seen several poorly modified miatas with a confused disarray of mods that don't make sense at all. A stock standard miata has a higher chance of not being badly done up, so it's easy to trace problems and purchase proper parts. If you get it from a dealer, you're likely to not know what parts are on the car and you really don't want to spend good time and money finding stock brake pads only to realise that you have one-off custom prelude brakes on your car from duno which generation. You're probably looking at a good example if it comes with the stock 14" rims, a decent example if it comes with lightweight 15" rims, a borderline (depending on what else has been done) example if it comes with 16" rims, and i'd stay away from anything running 17" or larger. (I do NOT want to get into an argument about this - what I'm stating is merely my personal opinion to which I'm perfectly entitled to)
If you're inexperienced with handling a FR vehicle, please be extra careful of your choice of a miata. Stock Miatas tend to be much more forgiving and easy to handle. This is also good to keep in mind if you're buying the car for someone else e.g. your inexperienced girlfriend/boyfriend, mistress (kept man??), wife/husband, kids or lover(s??).
2. Below are some of the expensive repairs that are quite common. Most of the other repairs aren't too painful and can generally be solved for under SGD500. That being said, the summation of many small irritating problems can be a major pain in the ass and hole in the wallet.
3. There are some unethical people out there. There ARE miatas with warped chassis in the market. It is worth your time, money and effort to take a good look under the car for signs of a major accident. Small knocks to body parts are acceptable. Big welds to major chassis stress points are not. Don't say I didn't warn you.
4. Do a check with an insurance broker (preferably not a direct agent) on your premiums before you buy one - the premiums here can be quite high, so there's no point setting your eye on one only to have your dreams shattered when the premiums are insane. If you're in Singapore and need help on insurance quotations, do drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Insurance quote. Mention this homepage and they'll try to help you out.
5. Do join the local miata club and spend some time with the owners before you make your mind up. An occasional steal might come from one of the fellow members and the advice most will be able to give you will prove invaluable.
6. It is NOT the deal of a lifetime. There always are other deals out there. Don't be pushed into a purchase by hard sell tactics such as rush factor time-limits. That being said, patience is a virtue and don't rush into purchasing one just because you need and want one soooooo bad. Buying a Miata is like going into a relationship, you WILL find the right one eventually, don't rush into it with the wrong one.