Lamborghini Gallardo Buyers Guide

Since our last buyers guide on the Maserati Quattroporte and Aston Martin V8 Vantage, we’ve received a lot of emails asking us to give our take and knowledge on the all mighty Gallardo. The Gallardo easily is one of the best bang for the buck exotics that doesn’t require a million dollars in the bank. It’s been out for over a decade and has won the hearts of many while saving the Lamborghini brand from going under. Having owned a 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo, a 2010 LP560 Spyder, and 2013 LP550 Spyder, we want to share with you a few key differences between the years and some of our personal experiences with the car so you can ensure you enjoy a Gallardo problem free.
Here are the basics you must understand about the Gallardo in general:

1. No matter the year, your back will hurt after an hour sitting in one.
2. It squeaks and rattles from time to time. It wasn’t built by Lexus.
3. It gets attention and if you don’t want any, go buy a Honda.
4. The interior buttons are made of cheap plastic, and that’s ok.
5. E-Gear cars shouldn’t be an option before 2008. Don’t be that guy.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can get right into the meat of the action and talk about what to buy, what not to buy, and what to look out for. There are four main types of Gallardos when considering the almighty V10 baby Lamborghini.
Photo credits: Jason Thorgalsen

2004-2005 Gallardo – First gen cars, cheapest today, but most problematic. Typically the most sought after on the used market due to the sub $100,000 price point for a clean low mileage 04. We have even seen some 30K+ mile cars going under $70,000, making this the most affordable of the Lamborghini breed.

There are, however, a few issues to be aware of and on the look out for. The E-Gear is the most notorious one, primarily because of its clutch eating habit and poor engagement times.

We must mention the common E-Gear actuator failure that can be upwards of $20,000 to repair. The car is horrendous with an E-Gear transmission, and should be avoided at all costs.
Photo credits: Jameson Apodaca

The majority of the cars on the market that are cheaper typically are E-Gear cars in need of clutches, which can be bought by our friends at Exotic Clutch Technologies who offer a cheaper and better alternative. The solution is simply to buy a 6 speed manual. The gated shifter and smoother manual clutch really give the first gen Gallardo’s a great feel and typically less problems.

Our car also suffered from tourettes and squealed like a city bus every time we stopped. We found that our new pads would cost upwards of $800 per axle if replaced and seemed excessive. A little bit of research will show that the front pads are from the Audi RS6, savings you $500 for your front pads. While the rear are nothing more than a lovely Dodge Viper’s front pads, saving you another $600.
Photo credits: Alain Peeri

Outside of E-Gear issues and brake squeals, very little goes wrong with these early gens unless you, of course, have a lemon.

As far as purchasing power, there are a few must have options in the early gen cars outside of just getting the 6 speed tranny over the E-Gear. Try to locate a car with the clear engine bonnet, as it helps a lot in terms of resale and makes the rear engine a pleasure to look at. Colored calipers are also an inexpensive and lovely add-on to any color choice. We have seen that the cars that do best in terms of resale are typically the pearl cars like Verde Ithaca or Arancio Borealis.

The first gen cars are your best bang for your buck if opting for a clean six speed manual coupe.
Photo credits: Coconut Photography

2006-2008 Gallardo – Most small tweaks fixed, improved E-Gear, more refined interior, front lift system, more power, better gearing, and a new Spyder variant.

While not very different from the first gen cars, this slightly tweaked version had more options and a noticeable more quicker and agile car thanks to improved gearing and a bump in horsepower. While we would still opt for a 6 speed over an E-Gear car, we are certainly less scared of the E-Gear in these newer model year Gallardos. A lot more Spyders were produced in this year as well lowering the cost based on supply and demand.

The convertible top can be unreliable because of the three Spyders we worked with, we found that the top was hit or miss getting stuck or had non functioning sensors from time to time. While it is not an expensive fix for a mechanic who doesn’t work at Lamborghini, it’s still a pain in the ass to deal with especially when spending $110k+ for one. We recommend looking at the 2008 specifically if you seek out a clean Gallardo Spyder. Just remember to look for a car that hasn’t spent its first few years in a service bay, as there are plenty of those cars on the market.
Photo credits: Keno Zache

2009-2010 LP560 – Second gen, all new exterior, solid engine, and greatly improved E-Gear. Even an idiot can drive it.

The Gallardo was a beautiful looking car, but the introduction of the LP line was icing on the cake from a design standpoint. Taking small details like vents, headlights, taillights and bumpers to a whole new level with small tweaks, set the cars very apart from its predecessor. It was a great business move for the brand to position its superiority from a performance standpoint.

While the performance and handling is where the LP560 line really outshines its predecessor, we also feel that the subtle design and technology changes really show well and enable the car to depreciate less than the earlier cars.
Photo credits: Nate Leach-Proffer

A clean, low mileage used LP560 coupe will still run you $130k, and is well worth it. It’s more reliable, prettier, and faster and many of the glitches found in the earlier cars like E-Gear failures, Spyder top failures, brake squeals, and worthless navigation units have been addressed thanks to the more obvious Audi influence.

There are still drawbacks to this model too. The E-Gear while improved, is far from responsive and smooth. You will find very few 6 speed LP560s on the market. While we only had our car for less than 3000 miles and 5 months, we had several issues that resulted in clunking noises coming from the drivetrain that no one could explain. Nothing broke but you shouldn’t have to experience clunking at all.

There is also the issue that despite the major price hike, the interior continues to suffer from cheap plastic bits and unsupportive seats. Your best bet: 2010 LP560 Coupe, E-Gear with new clutch.
Photo credits: Henric Orback

2011-2013 LP550 – Rear wheel drive, tail happy, insanely responsive E-Gear, and couture like seats worth peaking at, not sitting in.

After our LP560 experience, we really thought we had seen the best that the Gallardo would ever become, but we certainly didn’t expect the LP550 to take our breath away.

While the LP560 felt heavy and a bit boring due to its very rigorous AWD system, the LP550 comes out of nowhere and almost corrects all the issues found in the LP560 and makes an attempt to conceal what it can’t fix.

If you are in the market, you should look for and test the following aspects of any used Gallardo or LP you look at.
Photo credits: Denniske

The LP550 feels like no previous Gallardo, and it does that by mastering two things that were a miss from previous models: rear rear wheel drive system coupled with an amazingly fast shifting transmission. This made us rethink that perhaps Lamborghini got their shit together with this whole E-Gear thing.

While these two small things changed the car all together, the LP550 also improved styling a bit, especially on the interior side attempting to conceal the unsupportive seats with some beautiful diamond sticthing. While it is visually appealing, it still doesn’t solve the problem of massive backaches if sat in more than an hour straight.
Photo credits: Bjorn van Es

Our 2013 suffered from multiple sensor faults including an o2 sensor, a TPMS sensor and a MAF sensor. None of which were defective, only sensors tripping.

We also found common faults with our LP560 on the interior coming off and clips breaking making interior components come loose. Small issues for us that we felt we could live with without a problem.

The market has not tanked enough on the LP550 and we expect it will remain strong based on the improved nature of the beast itself. We do recommend waiting till 2015 if you are going to buy a used LP550 Coupe or Spyder. For once, we recommend the Spyder as the Corsa mode coupled with a sport exhaust and rear wheel drive is an experience like none other.

Photo credits: Alex Penfold

If you are in the market, you should look for and test the following aspects of any used Gallardo or LP you look at.

1. Get a PPI (private purchase inspection) and ask for a clutch wear reading for E-Gear cars.
2. Look for any leaks coming from engine seals or any oil residue once the engine skid plate is removed and car is lifted.
3. Looking for cracked front bumpers from under. Many scrape their cars in 2004-2005 as front lift kits were not standard.
4. If buying a 6 speed, look at the shifter and ensure the gate or shifter is not damaged from aggressive shifting.
5. Check rotors well for even wear as they are costly to change. Unless you plan to keep the car forever, you want to minimize your investment.
6. Check for a good service history, regular oil changes and fluid swaps even if car was sitting for months.
7. Look for the repair history. They were lots of lemons in the 2004-2005 models. Check to make sure you are not buying a car that needed repairs all of its earlier life.
Photo credits: Bas Fransen

8. Make sure to test drive the car at low speeds with the windows up and listen for unwanted noises coming from under the car. Windows rattling also seem to be common.
9. Get a feel for the car, each exotic car feels very different from the next as they are hand built. Drive multiple models and understand what a great car feels like vs one not taken care of. Even if you can’t afford that particular perfect low mileage car, you can still drive one and get the feel for the difference. This will open your eyes.

Just remember that just because you are buying a $200K car for $80K doesn’t mean that repairs will be based on your purchase price. Have a great independent mechanic who is very familiar with the car look it over as well as be on standby in case of a needed repair.
Photo credits: David Coyne

We bought our Gallardo for $80,000 plus tax & tags. We negotiated the price using our system down from $98,000 and immediately saved over $18,000. The car was highly optioned, in a desirable 6 speed manual with only 10,000 miles. Secondly, we financed our car through Bank of the West at 96 months for 6%, with only $25,000 down. Giving us affordable payments like a base model Range Rover but allowing us to actually drive a Lamborghini. We found a set of wheels used through EVS Motors for $1500 and picked up tires for $1,000. We also went ahead and purchased a used Quicksilver exhaust system for only $1,200 on Ebay.

We then drove the car for 4 months and posted it on eBay after 3 months, the car sold in less than 30 days for $93,000 plus $2,000 for the wheels. We had costs involved like insurance, property taxes, and as well as maintenance. After all was said and done, we actually made about $9,000 when divided into the 3 months of actual ownership or roughly $3,000 per month. That said, keep in mind if back in 2007 had we not sold our car and instead kept it till today, we could have gotten back exactly the same dollar amount at time of sale but would have driven the Lamborghini free for over 5 years, as today’s used Gallardo values have actually increased even with higher miles. All of this and more explained in our detailed system at Exotic Car Secrets