RE: Porsche Boxster (986): PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Porsche Boxster (986): PH Used Buying Guide

Wednesday 10th January

Porsche Boxster (986): PH Used Buying Guide

All the boxes to tick when in the market for Porsche's revolutionary roadster



When it was launched in 1996, the Boxster was the best compact roadster you could buy. It wasn't the cheapest, but it delivered everything the Porsche badge promised.

The same holds true today for that first 986 generation of Boxster and a used example still offers fine driving interaction coupled to affordable running costs. You have to choose carefully, though, as cheap Boxsters often come with cheapskate owners.

On the upside, there are plenty to choose from, so finding a decent one might take a few viewings, but they are out there. The lowest cost ones will be less than £3,000, but reckon on spending from £4,000 and early 2.5- and 2.7-litre cars are there for the taking.


The 2.5-litre car kicked off the whole Boxster dynasty with a mid-mounted 204hp flat-six engine. Just about the only criticism from contemporary road tests being that the chassis could clearly take more power.

That was addressed in 1999 with the arrival of the 220hp 2.7-litre motor to replace the 2.5 and, more importantly, the launch of the S model with its 256hp 3.2-litre unit. Here was a Boxster that lived up to the looks and chassis.


A gentle facelift in 2001 was followed by more power for the engines in 2002. This increased the 2.7-litre to 228hp ad 260hp for the S version's 3.2-litre. Another small but significant change at this point was a glass window for the fabric hood.

Service history is important with any used performance car, but don't get too worked up if invoices are missing from many years ago with a Boxster. Much more important is to look for evidence of recent care and attention at specialists. With many reputable specialists out there, this shouldn't difficult and you'll end up with a roadster that still puts plenty of the latest kit to shame.

Inspired? Buy a Porsche Boxster (986) here



Bodywork and interior

Any corrosion points to accident damage that has not been properly repaired. Best to look for another car if you spot rust.

Check the condition of the hood carefully. Replacements are expensive, but a cloudy rear screen can be swapped for around £250.

Look for any damp inside the cabin as a pointer to blocked drain channels for the hood. These are easy to clean and clear out and this prevents water getting into an ECU mounted behind the seats.

Peer behind the front bumper at the condition of the radiators for the engine and air conditioning. They get covered in road debris and corrode, so factor this into the price if they look scruffy. This work will be needed every eight years or so and costs around £1,200.

Open the rear lid and check under the boot carpet for any damp. If there is, the coolant tank is the likely culprit and needs to be replaced. A new one is around £225 from Porsche.


Engine and transmission

Rough running is most likely a faulty ignition coil pack. They degrade with heat but are easy and affordable to replace.

Mention the 986 Boxster and every pub bore will instantly regale you with horror stories of the intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing. It's much less of a problem than the internet doom-mongers will have you believe though. Earlier 986s are less prone to this problem as they use a dual-row IMS bearing. Cars from 2000 switched to a single row bearing and this is more likely to fail. Check the service record for this being replaced, ideally with an uprated bearing from a recognised specialist. If you're not sure, budget for this in the price you pay and reckon on replacing the clutch at the same time when the engine is out, which will cost around £1000 for parts and labour.

The rear main oil seal can and does leak on the 986's engine. A very minor leak can wait until you need to drop the engine to swap the clutch, but a more persistent drip should have you walking away.

Cracked cylinder bores can occur but are hard to spot. If you can access the engine, look for 'mayonnaise' in the oil. Also keep an eye on the engine temperature as cracked bores lead to overheating. The only sure way to know if the bore liners are cracked is to have a specialist inspect the motor.

Gearboxes are strong, but look for evidence of fluid changes in the service history.

The VarioCam's chain tensioner guide can wear and fail, letting metal fragments into the engine's oil. It's a difficult problem to spot, but be wary of any car with gaps in its routine service history. Replacing the guides with uprated items is straightforward.

The mass airflow sensors can give up and cause a hesitation when accelerating. Replacements are around £150.

Cars with low mileages may have sat for prolonged periods and this can be bad for seals, so look for signs of leaks.

Check that the battery cranks the starter motor quickly. Cars that have been left standing will have weak batteries.


Suspension and steering

Like its 911 sibling, the 986 suffers from worn front suspension bushes. They are easy and cheap to replace and need doing around every five years.

Other clunks from the suspension are likely to be from a broken coil spring.


Wheels, tyres and brakes

Original is best when it comes to wheels. Many Boxsters have been fitted with later and larger wheels, but they can cause problems with alignment and put more strain on the suspension bushes.


SPECIFICATION - PORSCHE BOXSTER 986

Engine: 2,480/2,687/3,179cc
Transmission: 5/6-speed manual/auto
Power (hp): 204/220/256@/6000/6400/6250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 177/192/225@5000/4750/4500rpm
MPG: 31.7/28.5/26.9
CO2: 239/264/255g/km
Price new: £31,475/35,000/£43,497
Price now: £3,000 upwards

Author
Discussion

Maldini35

Original Poster:

1,599 posts

117 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
I loved mine. Only sold it to return to racing.

Great car.


Rawwr

19,535 posts

163 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Call me a sick, twisted freak but I love this:


dibblecorse

4,030 posts

121 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Absolutely everything you may ever need to know and some stuff you don't on 986's right here: https://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?t=11...

Eddie Strohacker

3,879 posts

15 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Outstanding value cars. I'm selling my 987 Cayman soon for something dull & practical but will almost certainly snaffle a 986 at the same time to keep my hand in.

KPB1973

97 posts

28 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
I bought a leggy 986 'S' in late November for less than £3500.

In terms of handling and interaction, they were lightyears ahead of their competitors. But in terms of interior design, reliability and refinement they were a decade behind.

On the right road at the right time, they really are a very special bit of kit. That variocam 3.2 is an absolute peach and felt very strong for 252 bhp, and the noise was a revelation. By modern standards, there is so much feedback through the steering it is almost disconcerting until you get used to it. I know its a cliche but you really do feel every undulation and imperfection in the road surface.

But cheap ones are cheap for a reason, and can quickly turn into a false economy even if you do your own spannering. They are a relatively complex beast built down to a budget. Parts prices are okay but a lot of the foibles mentioned in the article are a case of 'when' and not 'if', so try and get one with them already sorted. Especially the clutch!

Rather than turn mine into a labour of love, i've since swapped it for a 987.2 which is quicker, better built and more economical - but the 986 was a delightfully old-school car that felt very, very special indeed.

Advertisement

GrandAndrew

671 posts

79 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Love mine, had it for a bit over 6 years and er 14,000 miles- might need to use it more! Had some very memorable trips in it, including driving to Spain and back, roof down all the way. I think the Boxster is particularly appealing as it’s at home on both the country lanes and on longer trips. I had a great blast on the morning of New Years Eve. Mine’s a 986.2 ‘S’.

I think I’ve owned mine through their most derided period and they’re starting to get a bit more appreciated again now. As it’s not an every day car I don’t miss the creature comforts that modern cars now offer. I have no idea what I’d replace it with if I ever chose to sell.

Phunk

1,268 posts

100 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
I loved my early 2.5

Bought for £2,800, had to replace the front brake discs and pads (£120), front and rear drop links (£15 a pop), front suspension arms (£70 a side), air conditioning condensers (£100 a pair, a hour to fit) and a MAF (£150 Bosch).

If you can work on them yourself they are cheap to maintain. Just don't take it to a main dealer (They wanted £1200 for the condensers)

Get the alignment setup properly and they are a great steer, I preferred mine to the 996 Carrera I owned previously.

freeform

31 posts

89 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
A very tempting car at today's prices but...

... to glibly say of the potential IMS bearing issue, "It's much less of a problem than the internet doom-mongers will have you believe though" completely ignores a failure's effect. It may be rare but it is catastrophic, with it being enough to write off any sub-£8K car. With a friend's example - a 3.2S - the engine was scrap and it is hard to imagine anything less. Used engine plus, rework and precautionary new bearing plus labour is typically £5K+.

I am still tempted but I'd budget for upgrading the bearing at time of purchase.

Eddie Strohacker

3,879 posts

15 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Phunk said:
I loved my early 2.5

Bought for £2,800, had to replace the front brake discs and pads (£120), front and rear drop links (£15 a pop), front suspension arms (£70 a side), air conditioning condensers (£100 a pair, a hour to fit) and a MAF (£150 Bosch).

If you can work on them yourself they are cheap to maintain. Just don't take it to a main dealer (They wanted £1200 for the condensers)

Get the alignment setup properly and they are a great steer, I preferred mine to the 996 Carrera I owned previously.
Agree with this. It's not for everybody but these cars are more than capable of being maintained to the right standard with more or less basic tools & a bit of will/bloody mindedness. In fact, having done nearly all the spannering on my car, I would go so far as to say it's when you get into the guts of the things that you start to understand where the budget goes on Porsches. They are without doubt massively engineering led machines & a delight to work on.

MrMT

67 posts

118 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Fantastic cars and unbelievable value for money.

I ran a 01' 3.2s as a daily for 3 years and enjoyed every mundane drive to the office! In a hasty moment I sold it to fund a new house, instantly regretted it. I managed only 6 months before I bought another.

Now 6 years into running a '04 facelift 3.2 as a weekend fun car.

I can't bring myself to sell it so its now a keeper. Cars have come and gone but the Box remains...there is just something special about the depth of chassis ability, engine power delivery and the balance between raw thrills and usability.


Edited by MrMT on Wednesday 10th January 12:54

KPB1973

97 posts

28 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Eddie Strohacker said:
They are without doubt massively engineering led machines & a delight to work on.
They're certainly an interesting challenge but personally I think engine-related work is generally harder than competitors due to the mid-engined layout.

I'm not trying to be deliberately contentious, but its a factor for newbee owners to consider. Its not as if you can pop the bonnet and tinker with the lump straight away.

Suspension / brakes no problem at all, and I agree the component quality is high.

Eddie Strohacker

3,879 posts

15 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
That's a fair point, as anyone who has done a water pump on these (I.e. everyone!) will tell you.

ooid

998 posts

29 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
KPB1973 said:
I bought a leggy 986 'S' in late November for less than £3500.

In terms of handling and interaction, they were lightyears ahead of their competitors. But in terms of interior design, reliability and refinement they were a decade behind.
Totally agree. Great fun cars but need constant maintenance and not cheap, even parts. I've kept mine nearly for 6 years as a semi daily. As the article suggets, IMS is kinda worst luck but can happen. Mine needed an engine rebuilt due to cracked bores after 65k and 13 years of heavy-traffic London use. The cooling in 996/986 cars are not efficient and need specific attention. Even with the current low prices, one has to be careful, as the maintenance can go up very quickly, so 987.2 is a much more smart choice with a better engine. If porsche would have built these cars like 993 back in the time, they would have been a time-less classic already but Porsche probably would not exist now, financially.

And yes, one has to stay away from OPC for maintenance/service on these cars. They might take your kidney, and would even try to re-mortgage your house for a small repair. hehe

MrHooky

83 posts

71 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
Saw this go through auction at the end of last year. Personally thought the price was decent but perhaps a little racy given this article.

https://www.historics.co.uk/buying/auctions/2017-1...

Be interested to see if others think overpriced...?

andrewparker

3,047 posts

116 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
MrHooky said:
Saw this go through auction at the end of last year. Personally thought the price was decent but perhaps a little racy given this article.

https://www.historics.co.uk/buying/auctions/2017-1...

Be interested to see if others think overpriced...?
What was the tiptronic ‘box like in these cars?

I’ve been looking for an early 987, but must admit, I’m being swayed by an early 2000s 986s (around the £7-8k mark). They look very good value for money.

MrHooky

83 posts

71 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
andrewparker said:
What was the tiptronic ‘box like in these cars?

I’ve been looking for an early 987, but must admit, I’m being swayed by an early 2000s 986s (around the £7-8k mark). They look very good value for money.
I've only every driven a manual (987 not 986) which was lovely. My guess is that the tiptronic box is all well and good if you want an auto, albeit not as good (nor quick) as later 987 PDK cars, but it's the manual you want to go for for true drivers appeal. Prepare to stand corrected though. I'd been looking at 996 Turbos which appear to be mostly tiptronic cars when ideally I'd want a manual...

snotrag

11,670 posts

140 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
I suspect lots of the 'Poverty Pork' thread regulars will turn up here soon!

The thread (linked above, currently at 188 pages) is well worth a read as theres a lot of content from lots of us who have these cars.

A few things to add from myself:

Eddie Strohacker said:
They are without doubt massively engineering led machines & a delight to work on.
Absolutely this. Yes the dashboard may seem a little basic and cheap, the money was spent on the bits that matter.
Bear in mind that from the B-post forward, this is the same car as the contemporary 911. The suspension components are all cast aluminium not pressed steel, the fasteners, clips, pipework and looms etc are all good quality.

The car lends itself to home running if you are a keen/competent mechanic. Access to the engine is by no means 'easy' but equally there are many front engined cars that are considerably trickier. From underneath all basic servicing is a doddle, and all engine ancillaries are accesible through the access hatch in the cabin.
Exhaust, Gearbox and clutch, for instance, are a lot easier to access then just about any regular FWD hatchback.

ooid said:
And yes, one has to stay away from OPC for maintenance/service on these cars.
I would slightly disagree with some of that - in that its very often your local OPC that have the best prices for lots of service items, aswell as odd bits like trim, clips, electrical components etc. They are keen to retain business on these 'modern classic' models.


Be in no doubt that the purchase price is just the start, but even accounting for this, they are still fantastic value.

My car now has had a full bumper to bumper suspension rebuild, alignment, good tyres etc. It is absolutely fantastic to drive.

treeroy

231 posts

14 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
I would be very tempted by one of these when my car goes back in 2 years. But some of the running costs look scary. Porsche parts are not cheap. And I'm going to assume they're harder to work on, being mid engined, than front engined cars?

I am not a sensible person most of the time but I think I would have to opt for a 350Z or S2000 for that money.

cmoose

41,561 posts

158 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
KPB1973 said:
Rather than turn mine into a labour of love, i've since swapped it for a 987.2 which is quicker, better built and more economical - but the 986 was a delightfully old-school car that felt very, very special indeed.
Eddie Strohacker said:
They are without doubt massively engineering led machines & a delight to work on.
Two comments that really stand out.

I've gone 986 to 987 and can confirm the 987 doesn't have the magic of the 9x6 platform. The 9x7 cars are better finished and clearly had the benefit of more investment. They also have a densely engineered feel that the delicate / flimsy (take your pick) 9x6 cars lack. But then there's that magic in the 9x6 platform. God those 986 engines sound so sweet and musical. I think I miss that more than anything.

On the other hand, the 9x7 cars are very nicely productised and lovely to live with. They have a better driving position, too, which is a notable weak point of the 9x6 cars. Driving really hard in road terms, I prefer the 987 to the 986 (with the proviso that the 987 is on 17s, otherwise I'll take the 986). It's both more competent and more exciting. For pure charm, however, a 986 at 7/10ths (again, in road driving road terms) simply cannot be beat.

It really is a tough call between 986 and 987. Overall, the 987 just squeaks it for me as an only car i which to do 20,000 very varied miles. But I'm constantly questioning that preference!

Re the engineering bit, absolutely. get underneath and the quality and the intelligence of the design really hits you. It's preposterous that you can buy a high-end sports car chassis with a proper sports car engine installed properly (fairly few proper longitudinal mid-engine cars at any price over the years and no others at anything close to this price) for under £5,000. Total insanity when you consider the values of all manner of crap, rusty sheds that pass as classics.

Overall, 986s are still criminally undervalued. Personally prefer them to several air-cooled 911s I've experienced that command an order of magnitude more money. One of the very, very best cars I've ever driven at any price.

cmoose

41,561 posts

158 months

Wednesday 10th January
quotequote all
snotrag said:
I would slightly disagree with some of that - in that its very often your local OPC that have the best prices for lots of service items, aswell as odd bits like trim, clips, electrical components etc. They are keen to retain business on these 'modern classic' models.
They're not that keen. Price up, say, pads and discs at an OPC and then come back to us when it's a large fraction of the value of the car.

There's the odd item that they turn out to be quite competitive on - little bits and pieces, like you say. But generally I agree with the previous poster. Steer well, well clear aside from the parts desk occasionally. They're simply not set up to service and maintain these cars in a rational fashion.