A question from a reader….. Which Porsche 911 should he buy?

7 generations of Porsche 911 pictured together, all in silver.

Tim, from NYC, asks which Porsche 911 he should buy…..

A brief question, if I may.

If you were to choose your favourite 911 year models from an enjoyment of the vehicle perspective, and investment hopeful return perspective, and in an attempt to mitigate maintainence costs, would you have any suggestions?

Tim wrote correctly in his email that I’m a fan of the Porsche 911 but sadly, I’ve never owned one. I came close once, but I hit the chicken switch because the price was ‘a whopping’ $37,000 AUD so I spent 30K on a 968 ClubSport instead. What an idiot! That 911 would be worth four times as much now (he says, knowing he never would have kept it long enough to see it appreciate).

I ask you, dear readers, to contribute your thoughts on this 911 question for Tim’s enjoyment and benefit. I will also furnish my own, of course.

I will preface this by directing you to one of my automotive maxims – Buy the Best. i.e. figure out what you like and buy the best equipped version you can find, the one that fits closest to your dreams. Better to extend yourself by $5K and love the car than sit there, somewhat content, thinking about the car you could should have bought.

So then, in anticipation of your collective thoughts, here are my own.

The enjoyment of vehicle perspective

It depends a little on what you’re into, I suppose. Objectively speaking, a Porsche 911 is really all about performance, so the answer to this is probably going to lie with one of the latest models.

But is maximum performance what will bring you the most enjoyment? Personally, speaking only for myself, I think not. The 968 Clubsport had plenty of performance potential – way more than I could have reasonably enjoyed with my driving skills – and I got bored of it within months.

What would give me the most enjoyment, I think, is proper classic design and just enough performance/handling to make me feel alive. Better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly, as they say.

For me, I think that would be a G-series 911 from the early-mid 1980s.

It’s no coincidence, perhaps, that this is the Porsche of my youth. I was born in 1970 so the Porsche of my teenage years is always going to be a strong contender.

Nevertheless, the G-series has those classic old-school 911 looks with just a hint of muscle. It’s got a lovely sounding air-cooled engine and the 230hp put out by the Carrera 3.2 model is well and truly capable of generating big grins on a Sunday afternoon.

Investment potential

Porsche sports cars of nearly every flavour have proven to be a sound investment over the last 10 years. Even a humble 924 can fetch money well beyond the car’s objective worth nowadays. That 911 that baulked at paying $37K for back in 2014 is likely worth well over $100K now.

But, as SE Hinton wrote …. That was then. This is now.

Porsches were undervalued 10 years ago. They’re not undervalued today. Some might even say that they’re due for a post-Covid decline.

Personally speaking, I think a desireable limited edition model, or a notable performer, will hold its value pretty well. Any air-cooled cars should hold value pretty well, for example. If you can afford a GT3, and the maintenance, and you can keep it in decent condition, I think you’re going to do OK. A bog-standard 2002 2.7 Boxster? Maybe not.

Mitigating maintenance costs

From my understanding, Porsches are well engineered and there are very few documented cases of systematic failures due to poor engineering design. They’re not unheard of (hello, IMS bearings) but they’re not common.

If you want to mitigate maintenance costs, my best recommendation would be to buy as new as you can and invest in a good regime of preventative maintenance. Older cars are going to need parts replaced. It’s inevitable. And when Porsches finally do go wrong, it can be expensive, too.

Don’t skimp the maintenance on a performance car. They’re not built for short-term thinking.

——

I’m going to leave my thoughts as inconclusive, mostly.

I don’t know enough about Porsches to make a firm recommendation. I also didn’t ask Tim for a budget.

Personally, I’d pick a 3.2 Carerra for myself. But that’s me and as a man I respect very much once reminded me, I’m a sample-size of one.

What say ye, brains trust?

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9 Comments

  1. 1984 to 1989 Porsche 911. Normally aspirated 6 cylinder is a 250,000 mi motor if maintained properly. They are cheap to maintain. Plenty of parts. Car comes apart like a jigsaw puzzle. Really simple. The trick is trying to find one at a reasonable price that hasn’t been inflated by all these f****** balloon heads.

  2. Enjoyment vs investment vs maintenance…. The 997.2 is the pick
    Motor issues sorted . Tick ✅
    Drivability. ✅
    Maintenance ( as in normal regular maintenance) expensive unless you can do yourself or find a nice man servant. Maybe a small tick
    Maintenance ( as in the silly fiddly bits that older G models , 964 and 993 are renowned for being a pain for ) . Tick ✅
    Investment . Good depreciation now so good buy price . Future monies should maintain price and increase as these become harder to find in good spec / condition. Fuzzy tick ✅

  3. I am also on the 997.2 train although I also think a well maintained 993 also ticks most of the boxes. I owned a 996 turbo for 4 years due to the performance and the mezger engine avoiding the well documented bore scoring, ims and rms issues which are very real for the 996 and 997.1 (apart from the gt3 and turbos) and it was a great car. I think though the 997.2 is the best choice as it’s beautifully built, new engine, good performance, updated dash, hydraulic power steer, a real handbrake and the option of pdk. Like goldilocks- not too old and not too new (991s onwards are too big for a 911 in my view). I just purchased a 2011 987.2 Boxster S as it’s an amazing car – fast, mid engined and same general updates to dash and engine as the 997.2. Yes, it’s not a 911 but it’s 80-90% of a 911 at 50% of the cost! Worth a look if you are objective and open minded! 993 being last air cooled, beautiful design and great to drive would make a great weekend car that will also hold its value.

    1. Hi David . Good to hear your thoughts on the 997.2 as well .
      The 993 is showing its age in the silly but annoying maintenance areas . Parts no longer available or extremely expensive/ plus difficult to replace ( meaning more money on labour $$) … love the 993 but age is now an issue

  4. Well, I would say that as a sample size of one the best way of improving your odds is to try out as many cars as you can. Go shopping! Do some research, and look at as many different cars and model types as you can and see if there’s one that particularly suits you. There’s definitely something to love about all of the various models.

    Price and value do come in to a certain extent – but interestingly at the moment all of the 911s that I personally favour seem to be around the same price point of $100-150k (in Australia at least), ie all those mentioned so far, 997.2, 993, 1980s 3.2, but to this I’d add that the 964, SC and the 69-72 911T are also worth a look.

    Depreciation-wise the 997.2 has probably just about bottomed out but it’s hard to see it increasing in value any time soon. The 993 and 964 meanwhile have already pretty much doubled over the last ten years – but in time I’m tipping that the 993 will be a stand-out, second only to the early SWB cars, due to them being the last of the air-cooled models, relatively rare, and just a flawless design that seems to keep improving with age. So this would be my pick at the moment.

    All that said, I’m with you Swade in finding that cars that have more performance than you can possibly use on a public road quickly lose their appeal – so I bought a 912 recently! It has the same “classic car” attributes that makes it as constantly entertaining to drive as its British and Italian contemporaries, while also having the 911’s build quality and aesthetics. Hard to find in RHD though…

  5. I’m immune to ‘911 desire’ despite the fastest auto ride in my life being a track passenger ride in the Lighting Direct Porsche 911 GT Le Mans Turbo with Kiwi race driver Owen Evans driving in ‘one arm mode’. His left arm was crushed in a speed record attempt crash (car was LHD and it went out the door aperture) and was rebuilt enough to allow him to hold the wheel, while shifting gears etc, but not really much more. He drove competitively afterwards with mainly his right arm!

    Thanks for taking me back to that memory!

    https://www.robincapper.net/personal/2023/10/recalling-a-ride-in-the-only-porsche-911-ive-ever-liked.html

  6. It’d be a mid-60’s to early 70s example for me – the more modern cars are a little gaudy for my tastes and not as special/interesting, so I’m mostly with you, Swade – something with classic good looks that still feels quite raw but ultimately allows you to enjoy it in a relaxed way; because it’s already giving you that auditory and sensory experience well below the speed limits, so you’re not frustratedly searching for the chance to really open it up.

    Slow car fast all the way – we could go back to talking about Fulvia’s here, which offer much the same.

    Of course I’d probably write it off in the first off-camber corner.

  7. In my mind, the point of a car is to drive it, so I’d be looking for driving joy and affordability. To that end, grab the underpriced 996 or 997 WITH the IMS problem, fix the IMS problem (retrofits exist) and drive away, happily aware that you’re getting a deal thanks to others’ anxiety.

    It’s like 6.0l Powerstroke diesels, in that they’re undervalued thanks to a well deserved bad reputation, but the thing they’re notorious for isn’t insurmountable, just dumb.

  8. Yes, the 996 and 997.1 ims issue can be fixed permanently with the LN solution but there is also the bore scoring issue which is equally if not more serious.