Hi, this is my first post here. I have some basic questions about owning an Elise. Are the older cars still depreciating, or can I expect to own one for a few years and get back most of what I paid when I sell it, assuming it's still in the shape I bought it in?
Thats hard to say... they might be up in value from 2 years ago right now. best guess is prices seem stable for a good car (basket cases or cars with a long list of stories will always be far cheaper)
How easy are these cars to work on, both physically and regarding any special knowledge or tools? Are parts expensive? Are they reliable? I assume the Toyota engines and trannys are, but what about all the other systems?
they are perfectly "normal" cars. so everything is like another car with a few exceptions... like any mid engine car, the engine can require a third elbow to work on... under trays remove easily to get access underneath, clam front and rear are 1/2 day of, 1/2 day on proposition. but there really should be no reason to do that barring large scale engine projects or such.
Are they easy and relatively inexpensive to mod? I probably wouldn't want to do too much to one, but I would at least want to do some small projects.
i would say "average" not as inexpensive as a miata... less supply and demand make "kits and bits" more costly, but not outrageous. you can get top notch damper for around 1.5 - 2.5k exhaust systems tend be a little over priced, but around 500 for a muffler and a grand for a header. wheels are wheels... brake pads are standard fare...
Is it true that bodywork costs a small fortune?
yes, a car can be totaled just due the price of body work in short order. to have a quality shop replace a clam with new, and some associated parts - estimate ~15k per end and you will not be shocked.
I would use this car primarily for autocross and HPDEs, along with the occasional joy ride. I currently have a well modded, supercharged Miata, but I've been in a few Elises and Exiges and always find them very impressive. I've never asked specifically about what it's like to own one, but the people I know who do own one seem to like them a lot and don't complain about any problems, at least not to me. Thanks for any and all advice.