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Early Porsche Boxster Models Are Bargain Sports Cars

If you’re looking for a Porsche but you can’t afford a new-ish 911, you obviously aren’t alone — but that doesn’t mean you should simply give up on your Porsche dreams. You don’t have to have a new, or slightly new, 911 in order to have fun in a Porsche — and there’s no greater proof of that than the "986" Boxster.

The "986" Porsche Boxster is the Boxster model that was offered from 1997 to 2004, which is the first generation of the small roadster. Unlike its rivals back then — the Audi TT, the BMW Z3 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK — the Boxster was midengine, which transformed it from just being "mostly fun," like this models, to being truly enjoyable.

You may not think this is true if you look at the Boxster on paper. The original Boxster debuted in 1997 with a 2.5-liter flat six that had only 201 horsepower, which doesn’t seem like a big figure — but this was a small car, it weighed something like 2,800 pounds, and 201 hp was really all you needed. Plus, the Boxster was so wonderfully well balanced that it was all a joy: you truly got to wring it out to explore its performance, and you enjoyed doing that on your favorite twisty road. If that knowledge didn’t help, in 2000, Porsche expanded the Boxster line and brought to market the Boxster S, which came with a more impressive 250-hp version.

And these days, all of these used Boxster models are incredibly cheap.

Right now on Autotrader, there are nearly 300 used Boxster models from the original 986 generation listed for sale, and the vast majority of them — about 240 — are under $15,000. In fact, you can find one of these for $10,000 or less pretty easily. This may not be the new 911 you’ve always dreamed about, but it’s a well-designed, highly exciting Porsche for a reasonable price — a very reasonable price, in fact — and one that’s not likely to drop much further.

Indeed, the original Boxster may not have all the amenities of a modern car, and it may not be as fast as the latest Porsche models. But just 15 years ago, every car magazine on the planet was singing this car’s praises — and as long as the one you get has been well maintained and driven rationally, you’ll have a lot of fun in an "old" Boxster for a fraction of the cost of a new one. It’s very much worth considering if you’re interested in buying a fun sports car on a reasonable budget.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Dough. SHUT UP! I’m one year away from my youngest starting (free STEM) kindergarten. My wife told me it’s up to me to decide what to do with the daycare money, we will be saving. Boxster S or Carmen. Shushing man. I’m almost there. Don’t price me out when I’m so close. 

    Fun fact. The Audi ABZ v8 is a direct bolt on for the 6 speed on the S. Just need to fabricate engine mounts. 
    • I got my 2004 Boxster in 2009. I had 26000 on it. I have changed the IMS and other things to keep it in top shape. I now have 82000 on it. It is the best, Mose fun car I ever had. Do what ever it takes to get one. You will never regret it. When I am driving it l can’t get the smile off my face.

  2. Quick Question: I’ve heard that the Boxster and some consistent engine issues.  Doug, can  you give a follow-up about what engine choices are best in a Boxster or are most of those concerns a fallacy?

    • The IMS bearing can fail and destroy engines, but replace it preventatively, and it’ll be fine. You can also replace it with a stronger ceramic bearing, or/ and get an oil feed kit for it, which eliminates the reason for IMS bearing failure.
      Another issue is bore scoring. There’s no preventative fix for this- you either have an engine with defective bore liners, or you don’t. To ensure you don’t have this problem, just stick to higher mileage cars- a car with bad bore liners rarely pass 50k miles. 
      The last engine issue is the rear main oil seal (RMS). If it has issues, it’ll leak oil. But if the leak isn’t too bad, all you have to do is keep the oil topped up.  
      The engine that is the least likely to have these issues is the 2.7 liter.
    • The IMS bearing can fail and destroy engines, but replace it preventatively, and it’ll be fine. You can also replace it with a stronger ceramic bearing, or/ and get an oil feed kit for it, which eliminates the reason for IMS bearing failure.
      Another issue is bore scoring. There’s no preventative fix for this- you either have an engine with defective bore liners, or you don’t. To ensure you don’t have this problem, just stick to higher mileage cars- a car with bad bore liners rarely pass 50k miles. 
      The last engine issue is the rear main oil seal (RMS). If it has issues, it’ll leak oil. But if the leak isn’t too bad, all you have to do is keep the oil topped up.  
    • The 97-00 model years have a dual row IMS and have a significantly lower failure rate. It’s even less for the cars that are tiptronic. 

      Like most other mechanical things, the more it is used frequently (higher mileage) the better. There is less risk of bore scoring as well in a frequently used example. 
      My 97 Tiptronic has been the most reliable of my vehicles currently owned. I drive it as often as possible. 

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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