Spending $20,000 on a Lada Niva is kind of like hearing someone spent $30,000+ on the same year Ford F-150 overseas.
Earlier yesterday a member of the Foreign Market Car Sighting’s Facebook group spotted a 1996 Lada Niva in Los Angeles County AKA sunny Southern California.
Here’s his photo below.
While Lada Niva 4x4s are some of the most common off-road-type cars in Europe, specifically Russia, they’re uncommon and almost rare to see in the United States.
Another member of the group mentioned that this particular Niva’s been on sale for several weeks (Facebook ad linked here) for a kind-of shocking price of $20,000.
Here’s the screenshot of that ad plus two more Nivas I found for sale in California.
JDM imports are one thing and, by now, many people know they have to pay a premium for their Skylines and Honda Beats, but, is $20,000 too much, too little, or just right for a used Lada Niva?
Here’s what I found out.
First, you have to understand that the Lada Niva’s design and powertrain have changed very little since it was first engineered in the 1970s and sold in 1977.
Even to this day, Niva 4x4s still used a close variation of the original Fiat 124 engine they used in ’77 except for a switch to fuel-injection and an improved carburetor on some models of Niva in 1993.
Since hitting the market, Lada’s sold over 650,00 Nivas so, hopefully you can see that the Niva was a low-priced, robust, uni-body 4×4 that, since it’s changed very little, remains affordable and easy to maintain and repair.
The Niva is like the Ford F-150, VW Beetle, and, Toyota Corolla of Russia, entry level people movers.
Lada Niva 4x4s are still for sale, new, today.
Lada calls it the Niva Legend and they only cost 808,900 rubles or $13,600 if you bought one new in Russia.
So, if they’re still for sale, new, how much do used Lada Nivas cost?
Like most used car sales, there are Craigslist-type sites and Russia is no exception.
According to a search on Auto.drom.ru, a popular used car site in Russia, used Lada Nivas cost around 170,000 rubles or roughly $2,800.
But, as you can see, you can get Nivas for close to half that, too.
Of course, buying carssight unseen in Russia, is a gamble but, as hinted at, you have to remember these are super simple cars that, if it’s at least running and driving, is a good start to future used Lada Niva ownership.
“(Ladas) it’s a simple car, that’s fun to work on with many English instructions on Youtube., says /u/f_thisguy on a Reddit thread advising someone purchasing a used Lada. “If properly maintained, it’s reliable. Parts can be found easily, even on European webshops, that ship internationally, parts are very cheap in general, but watch out for quality.”
“Despite their reputation they can be very reliable providing you take proper care of them,” says /u/khaotik03 on the same thread. “Keep up with maintenance but expect to fix minor s*** too.”
With that information established, let’s return to our $20,000 Niva, are you getting ripped off?
If you refuse to do your homework and take a chance, maybe not.
But, if you have money to throw around and a good head on your shoulders willing to Google around, kind of.
You’re going to have find a used Niva 4×4 in Russia or from a European used car dealership and arrange payment and shipping to the nearest US port.
As that bit’s beyond my purview, as they say in any college-level math book, that bit of legwork “is left as an exercise for the reader.”
According to CarShipping.com, the cost of shipping a car from Russia is about $1,500-$3,000.
So, let’s say you buy a used Niva for $2,800, throw in another $1,000 for the auction site and miscellaneous fees, tack on the $3,000 shipping and let’s budget another $2,000 for title, registration, new tires and all that jazz, and you’ve got a new-to-you Niva for under $10,000.
Admittedly this cheaper method, if it’s feasible, doesn’t take into account if it’s running or not which, if you’re doing your due diligence, should be up to you to determine, by video from the seller, that your Niva is actually in OK condition (running and driving.)
So, is $20,000 way too much for a Niva from ’96?
On face value, yes!
But, if you do your homework, search online, and figure out how to get one over here, you can get one for significantly cheaper.
I suppose if you’re absolutely too lazy to figure it out or $20,000 is hardly a dent in your disposable income, a $20,000 Lada Niva might be just the right price for you.
Are you someone familiar with importing Ladas to the United States? Please leave your .02 in the comments below.