Top 10 Tips on Buying a Porsche

Top 10 Tips on Buying a Porsche: The image seen here is for the article on Buying a Porsche. Porsche classics -- from 356s and 911s, to 928s, 944s and Boxsters -- are seen parked on a high plateau overlooking picturesque mountainous terrain in the distance. Credit: Porsche AG
Credit: Porsche AG

by
Larry the Porsche Guy

1. When Buying a Porsche, Seriously Consider a Hobby Porsche

If you are looking to buying a Porsche and you’re on a severe budget like most of us in these troubled economic times, then consider buying a pre-owned “Hobby Porsche,” one that won’t break the bank while allowing you to work on it yourself if you are so mechanically inclined.

According to Jim Schrager, author of Searching for the Porsche Hobby Car, which unfortunately is no longer available on the Porsche Club of America’s website, “A hobby car won’t win any concours, isn’t a dedicated race or rally car, and probably won’t ever be in perfect condition.  It is a car to work on and enjoy, a car to drive at every possible opportunity, a Porsche that is your legitimate admission ticket to the club and includes all the joys (and occasional sorrows) of Porsche ownership.”

You’ll be able to drive and enjoy your Hobby Porsche to your heart’s content — just be prepared to invest ample amounts of elbow grease mixed with equal parts good old sweat equity, which naturally is almost half the fun of a owning a hobby car in the first place.

If, however, you’re not so mechanically inclined, then you’ll have to be even more vigilant in sniffing out not only…

  • the latest model possible that you can find,
  • a car that has a perfectly clean history and title,
  • the most trouble-free Porsche you can get your hands on, but also
  • that one Porsche that feels so very right to you — point-blank striking your visceral main nerve

…all while falling within your budget.

“What?!  You kidding me?!” you may be asking yourself about now.  Well, kinda, sorta.  But, please, do read on; it actually does get a little better, and easier too.

In fact, the following tips will apply to buying a Porsche for the first time as well as being relevant to anyone else who is looking for a subsequent Porsche to buy . . .


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2. Narrow Down Your Choice of Porsche Models to Buy

So take your pick.  Focus on purchasing a particular affordable Hobby Porsche that suits you best in terms of price, desire and pride of ownership, such as a 1974 to 1977 911, a 911SC, a 944, a Boxster, or a Cayman.

The beauty of the marque of Porsche is that there’s such a broad range and variety of models now more than ever before in Porsche’s production-car history.  Today there’s virtually something for everyone’s taste, sensibility and budget.

No doubt a particular model among the rare breed of Porsche has been tickling your fancy for some time now.  That’s the model on which you should concentrate.  Come as close as you can to that ideal which haunts you most (for the moment, anyway, fickle Porschephile that you no doubt are).

For now, take it one one-of-a-kind Porsche at a time -– that one Porsche you want to make all yours, within the realm of reason and budget, of course, when buying a Porsche.

3. Research Your Porsche Year and Model’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Once you do “take your pick,” your efforts are just beginning:  Now it’s time to hunker down and start doing your homework on buying a Porsche.

You must research and thoroughly get to know your chosen year and model’s strengths, idiosyncrasies and, above all, its weaknesses -– i.e., the potential sources of mechanical failure that, over the years, have bubbled to the surface of the body of common Porschephile knowledge as being unique, intrinsic characteristics of your chosen year and model.

Failure to educate yourself on these common traits and issues inherent to any given year and model could turn your beloved Hobby Porsche into a bottomless money pit in a blink of the eye.  A gloomy caveat emptor, to be sure.  But no need to despair.  Once again, keep reading. . .


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4. Read the Recurring Porsche Buyers Guide Analyses in Excellence Magazine

Required reading are the recurring Porsche Buyers Guides in Excellence magazine.  These analyses give you much of what you need to know about each model’s genetic composition, traits both good and not so good, as well as typical price ranges.

If you don’t already have a subscription to Excellence magazine, then find a way to get your hands on the issue containing the analysis of your chosen model and year.  Back issues are readily available.

Excellence magazine also publishes its annual Porsche Buyers Guide in both a Print Edition and a Digital Edition — a virtual treasure trove and fine distillation of information that will guide you in acquiring the holy grail of your Porsche vision quest.

Besides the usual cars-for-sale websites online, Excellence also has a section on its site called Porsches for Sale, where there are classified ads of wide variety of Porsches that need new homes.

5. Join The Club!  (PCA, That Is, Even Before Buying Your Porsche)

Sign up for the Porsche Club of America’s PCA Test Drive program, which gives you a six-month trial membership to PCA without having to comply with the basic requirement of actually owning a Porsche yet.

The PCA Test Drive program gains you full access to the PCA website and to the Club’s outstanding monthly magazine, Porsche Panorama, both of which include The Mart, which lists hundreds of Porsches that PCA members have posted for sell.

While The Mart is an excellent resource to consult during your search, it certainly isn’t the only one of its kind.  So keep on the lookout for other similar online as well as offline sales clearinghouses that feel comfortable to you.

The PCA website has another invaluable resource to take advantage of as you pursue your Porsche education:  It’s known as Technical Questions & Answers, which is accessible to PCA members only.  Its ever-expanding body of knowledge is the result of the collective experience and expertise of the PCA National Technical Committee of seasoned experts on all technical things Porsche.

Tech Q&A allows you to

  • search all previous questions on your chosen model
  • ask a particular question
  • or just search recent answers.

This is truly a comprehensive resource in your search for mechanical and servicing answers on your pick of year and model.

In addition, the PCA Test Drive program opens up a whole new world of opportunities to rub shoulders with fellow Porschephiles, who can further assist you in your quest for that very special Porsche you desire.

Socializing at PCA events, especially if you venture out to other surrounding PCA regions besides the region in which you live, is a good way to gather nuggets of personal experience and knowledge from those Porsche owners who possess, or have owned, the year and model that you are pursuing.

You can even check out their cars in the flesh for the skinny on any and all inherent DNA strands and traits, in the casual setting of the parking lot at which that particular PCA event is taking place.

Monthly PCA breakfast gatherings on weekends are probably your best bet to first get your feet wet because they’re very casual, laid-back get-togethers.

How’s this?  You get to break bread with fellow Porsche lovers and enthusiasts who eagerly want to share with you everything they know about the year and model you wish to acquire. ‘You think it gets any better than that?

6. Ask Questions Everywhere about Your Chosen Porsche Year and Model

Hopefully, you will in fact mingle with Porsche owners so you can pick their brains as suggested in the preceding tip.

In addition to the aforementioned PCA Tech Q&A, other great resources for addressing any questions you may have are the various online forums and discussion boards that cater to Porschephiles.  Rennlist Discussion Forums and Pelican Parts Discussion Forums are perhaps the best known of their kind.

Once you have narrowed your field of Porsches for sale down to a select few candidates, also consider using such services as CARFAX to gather as much information as you can about a prospective vehicle’s financial, theft and damage history, if any, as well as any title and Vehicle Identification Number (i.e., VIN) problems and issues.  In addition, the CARFAX site now offers used-car listings that you can search.

Check the cars’ actual VIN plates, too, making sure they haven’t been tampered with.  You should even think about checking engine numbers to verify whether they match or not, for instance.  If they don’t match, then inquire as to why.

In any case, as you embark upon your physical search in earnest, be sure to quiz all sellers as much as you can about their cars for sale, too.

It behooves you to ask every question that comes to mind — based upon doing your homework due diligence — about each car you are considering.  This will serve you well in your decision-making process, allowing you to make much more informed decisions in the long run.

It will also place you in an enviable position of power when the time comes to negotiate price with the current owner/seller.

Above all, though, ask to see any and all service records, thus making sure whether or not the car has been serviced at all factory-mandated intervals.  In addition, you can see whether or not the vehicle has undergone any warranty corrections for problems both large and small that are inherent to your particular choice of year and model.

But if the seller balks at this request to review service records, Porsche dealerships are also reliable sources of producing records if services were performed at any Porsche dealerships.

If you are seriously interested in a particular car, then this is definitely an avenue to pursue if the current seller happens to start sweating profusely and keeps changing subjects abruptly whenever you even hint at wanting to see service records.

In addition, make note of any major service requirements that may be coming due soon.  This is why it is important for you to ask to see not only the owner’s manual, but also the service-history manual outlining all factory-mandated services, intervals and milestones required to keep the warranty in effect.

Any pending expensive maintenance requirements on the service horizon could become substantial “bargaining chips” when in negotiations with the seller on the final purchase price.

7. Document Your Car Search Whenever Buying a Porsche

The rejoinder to the previous tip of asking all manner of questions is taking notes to record as many answers and details as you can.  That is, keep notes on each car so you’ll be armed with the proper information and criteria when it comes to making your final decision so you can pull the trigger with complete confidence.

This also goes a long way toward improving your haggling position based on your fairly well-informed knowledge of the car and its empirical value now.  You’ll know the most you can about each car, thereby enabling you to bargain intelligently, again with greater confidence, too.

You’ll soon come to realize that the more cars you check out, the harder it will be to remember which is which, an inescapable fact of life.

If you do your due diligence in documenting each car not only with copious notes, but also with ample digital photographs, you’ll be all the more organized in narrowing your choices down to the Porsche that’s just right for you (with apologies to the Three Bears).

Finally, bring a buddy with you, to each viewing, who will help you more dispassionately evaluate and document your searches, as he/she can keep your feet anchored more in the realm of objectivity.

Otherwise, left to your own devices, human nature could overcome the best of you –- your unchecked emotion running rampant like lusting after girls gone wild, with nothing stopping you from going all googoo-gaga over a shiny, beautiful “new” Porsche with “love” at first sight — a car which could ultimately turn out to be, financially speaking of course, very expensive jailbait hidden deep beneath that bedazzling surface.

Objectivity is key, so your bring-along buddy goes a long way toward keeping you as impartial as possible.

8. Beware the Washing of Titles

I’m sure you know by now there are some real bad hombres among us all, hombres who want to part you from your hard-earned money.  Some of them clean up at it doing an unscrupulous deed known as title-washing.

That’s industry parlance for the act of said bad hombres buying a Porsche at auction that has been deemed totaled by the insurance company.

Next they repair it, bringing it back from the dead, and then run its title through a neighboring state in order to scrub it down so that the term “salvage” vanishes from that title, washed away completely.

While such resurrected cars should bring only 50 cents on the dollar at best, try not to become that unwitting bonehead paying full market value for just such a jailbait zombie in fresh lipstick.

You leave yourself wide open to this vulnerability if you pursue a car with a little-known or completely unknown history.  Due diligence, once again, is your solid defense against this potential catastrophic exposure.

9. Try Your Desired Porsche on for Size, for Goodness Sake!

Ideally, at least one, or two, or maybe even three of your prospective Porsches will fit you like a glove.  Lucky you!  But how’re you going to know if you haven’t tried them all on for size?

You have to grasp the sense of the feel of each car, and see whether it’s right for you or not, ultimately.  Walk around it.  Check it out from all angles.  Kick the tires (not literally!).  Then sit in it.  Better yet, fire her up and take her round the block or two or three.

Get the feel of her at various engine and road speeds, as well as on a variety of road and highway configurations and surfaces if possible.  In short, take note of that old trustworthy visceral vibe of yours -– that priceless, yet underrated basic instinct known as your “first impression.”

Most important, make sure you feel her out for consistent, smooth, strong power across the entire rpm spectrum.  If you sense gaps or drop-offs anywhere along that power band, or see any blue smoke puffing like a chimney out the exhaust on acceleration or deceleration, be absolutely sure to have your mechanic diagnose these potential red flags thoroughly (see Tip 10 below for more on this).

Also check for rust, the bane of every Porsche owner through the close of the twentieth century.  Definitely do not forget the lesser known areas due for rust inspection, such as the headlight assembly housings in earlier-model Porsches.

Rusting could also form in the battery tray area as the result of battery-acid spills that have the potential to cause severe damage to suspension mounting points, among other various and sundry nightmares.

10. Don’t Even Think about NOT Performing Pre-Purchase Inspections (PPI)

After narrowing down your choice of Porsches to buy, arrange to have your candidate vehicles undergo pre-purchase inspection.

A great place to start researching and selecting prospective pre-purchase inspectors and mechanics is our own StuttgartDNA Porsche Pre-Purchase Inspection page accessed from our Porsche® Resources Directory page. Just pick your state and start investigating mechanics who populate the area of your purchase and/or the locality in which you live and will keep the vehicle maintained.

Another good reason to join PCA before buying your first Porsche is again to be able to pick members’ brains as to who might turn out to be a good mechanic –- with the expertise in the model and year you have picked -– for both your pre-purchase inspection and your maintenance of the vehicle once purchased.

When selecting your pre-purchase inspection mechanic or technician, do your best to choose someone who is commonly known for his/her Porsche excellence of service.  Oftentimes, you can’t acquire this kind of choice information unless you mingle with fellow Porschephiles.  It’s probably the only way.

Your chosen pre-purchase inspector/mechanic should own and use state-of-the-art electronic diagnostic equipment to analyze and diagnose all of your candidates’ on-board systems.

He/she should agree to inspect for all potential major sources of problems, including but not limited to oil leakage, suspension ailments, brake issues, recent damage and repairs, and any exhaust high jinks.

The end-product of services rendered by your pre-purchase inspector/mechanic should be a thorough written report that clearly and concisely evaluates all diagnostic aspects of the vehicle.  Granted, it’s going to cost you some to pursue these above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty measures, but it’s a worthwhile investment that could save you a boatload of money down the road apiece.

In fact, you need to ask up front when hiring a shop to do your PPI if they will provide a comprehensive report, or not.  One way or the other, this is the deal-maker/deal-breaker in deciding which PPI shop should represent you.

Then, while you’re in final deliberations about your chosen Porsche, your PPI mechanic can give you invaluable feedback about the car you are about to buy if you quiz him/her thoroughly and relevantly.

A potential unintended but very cool consequence all wrapped up in this reluctant expense is the fact that your PPI mechanic can also help you “tag team” the seller by knowing exactly the right questions to ask the seller at any given moment all while you’re standing there making final mental preparations to go in for the kill.  (No offense to you legitimate, trustworthy sellers out there.)

As a final consideration, do not rule out the possibility of purchasing a Porsche through authorized Porsche dealerships offering the Porsche Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) warranty, thus rewarding yourself with precious extended coverage.

While tending to inflate the final selling price, this tack of acquiring your prized Porsche from an authorized dealer could nonetheless pay major dividends down the road apiece along your distant, twisty road to Porsche Nirvana hopefully –- up to two years or 50,000 miles, to be exact.  Righteous, dude.

In closing, get yourself that Porsche.  You’ll thank me for it.  Hey, it’s all my pleasure –- as it will soon be all yours, too.

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