Porsche 911 Buyers Guide: Classic to Modern

Buying your first classic or modern Porsche 911 can be a confusing experience. Read Ferdinand Porsche Magazine’s Porsche 911 Buyers Guide to learn more.

Here’s a Porsche 911 Buyers Guide I wrote a few years ago. An introduction to all models of the Porsche 911, it offers a general overview of potential issues by price bracket. I’ll get around to doing model-specific buying guides eventually.

To some extent, you should ignore the price information – this was first written in 2011 and some classic Porsche values have risen by more than 50% since then. Keeping buyers guide Porsche prices relevant for every day into the eternal future is not something I want to attempt.

The last edit to prices here was in Jan 2014. Text is ©Mighty Motor Media 2016.

Porsche 911 Buyers Guide

The Porsche 911: ultimate polariser of motoring opinion. Thousands of delighted owners know their 911 as the place where great motoring memories were made. Buy a bad one and you’ll want to bury it. Buy a good one and you’ll want to be buried in it.

What Porsche 911 model should you buy?

The Porsche 911 has been in continuous production since 1963, so buyers have plenty to choose from. Highest volume production models have always been four-seaters, and the famous flat-six boxer engine has always been in the back.

Classic or modern is the first choice. All 911s are quick enough to use daily, but poorly ventilated early cars are a compromise once the weather turns damp. Later cars can be nice to drive, with PAS, ABS, A/C and the myriad acronyms Porsche 911s now come with as standard. Test drive as many as you can and make your mind up for yourself.

Which 911 is which? Porsche 911 model numbers explained.

Individual model series in the long-running 911 line are known by their Porsche type number. Type numbers run like this:

1963-1973: Early 911s (metal bumpers). The real ‘Classic 911’ – anything later is not classic to anoraks
1974-1989: Impact-bumper 911 (painted aluminium bumpers)
1989-1993: 964 911 (plastic bumpers, old-style body)
1993-1998: 993 911 (plastic bumpers, lying-down headlamps)
1998-2005: 996 911 (fried egg headlamps and water cooled engines)
2005-2011: 997 911 (round headlamps, water cooled)
2011-on: new 911, known as the 991.

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Porsche 911 Coupe versus Targa versus Convertible

Ignore those who insist the 911 Coupe is the only true 911: this is not the case and every owner has a different preference. Main advantages per type include:

  • Coupe: Classic roofline, best chassis stiffness, four seats on most models
  • Classic Targa: Classic Targa looks, cheaper than Coupe, open centre top portion, connoisseur appeal, four seats
  • Glass Top Targa: Sliding glass panel gives panoramic view, interesting hatchback ability, four seats
  • Convertible/Cabriolet: Full drop top, can be cheaper than Targa, more noise thrills for driver, year-round capability with multi-layer top, four seats
  • Speedster: Looks great. Saves time showering when you drive it with the top up in the rain

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Buying Porsche 911 for Resale Value (is nuts)

There will also be those who advise picking a more common colour, which might sell quicker when you want to get rid of it, such as Silver, Black or Dark Blue. Ignore this and anyone rubbishing Tiptronic (Porsche automatic) transmissions because they fetch less second hand.

While it’s true that four-speed Tiptronic transmissions can be hard to live with, if an automatic gearbox suits your needs, then buy one. The price differential to manual can be even more attractive if you are the only potential buyer. Newer Porsches run PDK automatics: a nice dual-clutch system, albeit with a weight disadvantage.

Buy the car that suits your needs: forget the future owners. If you like it, someone else will too. Buy a car you’ll enjoy and use: there’s nothing worse than a 911 reserved for Sunday use that never goes anywhere. Don’t be afraid to try the unexpected: approach 911 buying with an open mind, and your purchase will reward you for many years to come.

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Where to Buy your Porsche 911?

If your target is a year-old 911 Turbo S, used Porsche 911s at Official Porsche Centres (OPCs) are the best place to start. Every used Posche sold through an OPC comes prepared to high Porsche standards, and all come with a two-year warranty. One warranty claim can easily eradicate the price differential between buying official and buying independent, so consider the savings carefully.

Older 911s don’t fit with the OPC image, so you’ll be buying a classic 911 from an independent dealer, private individual or auction.

Buying a Porsche 911 at Auction

Auctions might look cheap, but as 911s are highly prized by the trade, anything running through auction could well have its fair share of issues. I have bought hundreds of cars through auctions (I even bought my Porsche Cayenne daily driver on eBay) but, in my opinion, auction is not a great way to buy a Porsche 911. The only exceptions would be: dry state car in a dry state sale, or buying accident damaged salvage for parts.

Buying a Porsche 911 from Private Seller

To the uninitiated, private sellers can come across as friendly and knowledgeable, but many have run their dream 911 on a budget and are getting out of it because something has cropped up. You don’t want to inherit these problems. That said, most UK Porsche sellers I’ve dealt with have been perfectly good natured people.

Private sale should be much cheaper than a dealer or what’s the point? Watch for overpriced private cars. Keenly priced private sale Porsche 911s in good condition sell quickly once advertised, so buyers need to be ready to react, and deal fast. Holding out to get another hundred quid off a good car is a false economy.

Good cars are hard to find and you may kiss a few frogs before you find your princess, but that’s part of the reward of owning one.

Buying Privately-Owned Porsche 911 on Consignment or SOR through a Dealer

Independent dealers often have a selection of 911s for sale, but not all own the cars they sell: many are sale-or-return (SOR) or consignment sales from private owners. This is obviously fine, as it is great for dealer cashflow and the customer’s return.

HOWEVER! A trader may tell you that because they don’t own the car, your deal is therefore a private sale and no Sales of Goods Act protection applies. This is absolute rubbish: the dealer could well be liable for anything you choose to seek redress for under the Act, unless you sign something to the effect of “this is a trade sale: no warranty or protection implied”. So don’t sign anything like that.

Buying a Porsche 911 from an Independent Trade Seller: Retail Purchase

The best trade sellers have reputations to protect, so only handle the best cars and support them with inclusive warranty. Some cars will still have transferable Porsche warranty, but you should try to ensure that the aftermarket warranty is there to help once the manufacturer’s warranty expires.

Older cars cannot always be covered by warranty, so it is worth getting an independent inspection done on all 911s for sale, no matter who the seller. Retail Porsche dealers like JZM Porsche have a busy Porsche service workshop attached, and will be happy to put any of their Porsche 911s for sale up on a ramp for you and your inspector to have a closer look at.

First-time buyers should always try to take someone who knows about the Porsche 911 along when visiting a dealer to look at stock.

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Pre-Purchase Inspections When Buying Classic or Modern Porsche 911

Having bought and sold 911s as both a trade and private seller, I know there are good sellers and cars out there, as I have tried to be one of them. But visions of driving their first 911 can blind buyers to blatant bad news. Don’t be enthralled into expensive mistakes: bad 911s can break the sturdiest bank accounts.

Having a potential purchase inspected by an independent Porsche specialist shouldn’t cost more than £250 and can save a lot of heartbreak later on. Specialists including JZM Porsche and Tuthill Porsche can help with pre-purchase inspections on Porsche 911.

Buying a Porsche 911 for under £20k

Everything from project early cars to rough 997s can be found in the sub £20k bracket. The best examples of most models will now fetch over £20K in the UK, so, below that water line, it is very much a case of buyer beware.

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Alongside Coupé over Targa, common or garden buying advice recommends models like the 3.2 Carrera with the G50 gearbox, Carrera 2 964s over C4s and so on. Forget this notion, as it often leads buyers towards ‘bargain’ cars that are usually past it.

Project 911s always cost more to repair than buying a good example to start with, so buy the best condition you can afford. Air-cooled, flat six engines can snap head studs (911 SCs), suffer valve guide wear (3.2s), and leak oil like a beached supertanker (all including water-cooled engines), so proper inspection is crucial to peace of mind.

Last cars in a model line are not always the most fun: mid-year 1977-1983 911 SCs are light, torquey and wonderfully charismatic to own and drive. An early 964 Carrera 4 Targa (last of the lift-out roof panels) would be bottom of many shopping lists, but few 911s can match it on a winter sports drive through a sun-drenched Alpine pass. These cars are amongst the best value for money that can sometimes be found in the £20k bracket. Good examples are getting harder to find and rising in value: another plus point to buying something rare.

Insider Tip: Bottle that beginner’s enthusiasm when looking at 911s. Even when kidneys start vibrating with excitement, keep thoughts to yourself and listen carefully to what the seller has to say. Is it mostly flannel? What are they not keen to talk about?

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Potential problems: Rust on older cars costs huge money to fix. Galvanised body shells can fall apart after 20 years of UK use. Shiny new paint hides a multitude of sins and the longer rot stays covered up, the closer the car gets to scrap. “It hasn’t gotten any worse since I’ve owned the car” is patently ridiculous. Specialists including Racing Restorations carry out Porsche rust repairs at reasonable prices which can help with decisions to sort it, sell it or scrap it.

£20k-£40k

£20k+ will buy good examples of late 3.2 Carrera, most 964s and standard-body 993s. Wide-body cars like the 964 Turbo, 993 C2S and C4S (4wd) are now out of this price bracket, so the odd examples that comes up with minor tidying to do could be a smart buy. Clean early cars can still be found in this bracket, but many RHD early cars are heading to Australia and the Far East.

Cheap 997s under £20k are tempting, but many early examples suffer from engine cylinder liner failures and intermediate shaft bearing failures, so are currently enduring the “911 money pit” stage. Engine problems are well documented and rebuilds can easily exceed the cost of buying a cheap one. Good 996 GT3s are a different animal and a nice buy in this bracket. They will soon be well out of it.

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Don’t be too scared of cars used on track, assuming decent service history. Watch for uninsured damage repairs: remember the important professional inspections. Damage repaired by insurance is worth looking at when priced correctly. Ignore forum experts who have bought one car and claim to know everything: look at all cars and don’t rule out cars with damage recorded on the V-Car register.

Porsche 996 Turbo for sale is one to watch at the £25k mark. It is almost impossible to imagine that these cars will get much cheaper from independent trade sellers who offer inclusive warranty, so buying now is a good plan. Tiptronic versus manual – your choice. Either works for me. 996 Turbo Tiptronic is a great car to use every day but I know why most would take manual. Negotiate hard on Tiptronic.

The better looking 997 suffers from many of the same issues as the 996: coil packs, suspension slop, rust, cracked springs, intermediate bearing woes, oil leaks, cylinder bore wear, scruffy trim and so on, but the styling has aged much better. Buy the right 997 now to own over ten years, and there’s a chance you can run it through the depreciation and into the early stages of appreciation. Favourite depreciation busters must be the S-bodied cars: although production volumes are higher than on S-bodied 993, the wider body gets a bigger engine on some 997s.

Insider Tip: Replicas of classics like the 3.2 Carrera Club Sport and 964 RS based on cheaper Carrera models are not always worth more than the cars they were based on. Do your homework on what’s been done: cosmetic fettling does not add fortunes.

Over £40K

Spending £40K on your first Porsche 911 means lots to choose from, but it’s no guarantee that you can buy what you want. Many 911s are unobtanium: latest GT3 RS 4.0 and 997 Speedster are both hard to find, and one-owner ‘75-‘76 3.0 911 Turbos are not on every street corner.

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Early 911S (pre-‘73) is a nice buy should the chance come up. Serious need-to-inspect bells ringing – hope you can hear them. Air-cooled RS models still a safe bet: 964 RS and 993 RS both great drivers’ cars but you will need megabucks. I’d own the 964RS simply because it is such a huge hooligan hoot to drive. You can build a RS-like 964 Carrera 2 into something fun for less money than an RS costs.

Over £40K puts you in light-used 997 Turbo territory: still the daddy when it comes to boost, unless you prefer the last of the great air-cooled Turbos: the all-wheel-drive 993.

£40k-ish opens the owner door of a 997 Carrera GTS: the best water-cooled 911 I have yet driven. My money would go towards a C4 GTS manual Cabriolet in Macadamia, but I’m not you.

Insider Buying Tip: Ensure any dealer-supplied warranty does not have a maximum claim limit. Engine rebuilds at Porsche dealers can be tens of thousands: a new 3.6 911 engine complete is almost £35,000 (much cheaper when rebuilt with new cases by a specialist). Yes: thirty-five thousand pounds. Read the warranty small print for yourself!

Porsche 911s to Avoid

What 911s should you avoid? None really. This market is mental so, assuming you think it will stay this nuts forever, then get whatever you can afford to run, repair and enjoy.

Mid-70s basic 911s with the uninspiring 165bhp 2.7 engine are rare for a reason: there have always been more exciting cars around for the money. Still, they have their own charm. Cheap 996s can be a mega money pit. The cost of a basic Porsche 996 engine rebuild starts at around £7995 at SVP Porsche, which is more than some cars cost to buy. That said, an honest simple 996 with good history is a nice, cheap way in.

Early 911 Turbo (impact bumper shape) is also known as the 930, but the Porsche 930 Turbo does not exist: it is 911 Turbo OR 930. The first 3.0-litre Turbos and clean examples of the 3.3-litre 930 model from ’77-’89 are now hard to find in good condition. Repairing exhaust leaks from broken studs, worn turbos and injection issues can be very expensive: please buy one that’s been sorted. There are lots of crash damaged cars now being offered at top money and they are simply not worth it. 1989 5-speed worth a chunk more than 4-speed: some cars now well past £70k.

Some 911s are arguably well overpriced now. Rare-groove specials like the 3.2 Carrera Club Sport will top £70K – much more for low mileage – but are they worth it as a pure driver’s car? Same question for the 3.2 Speedster: a car that seems overpriced in the UK at the £100K value many insurers now recommend. Porsche aren’t making any more of these cars, but whether they represent the best you can do with your money is up for debate.

Watch out for fakes: special editions that are not as they seem. Ringers (false ID cars), forged service histories, clocking: all the trade tricks that are worth hundreds of pounds on lesser cars are worth THOUSANDS more on pricier Porsche 911s, and can cost you a fortune if you fall victim.