10 Things I learned about buying a used Porsche Boxster

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Shopping for used Boxster? Here are 10 things I wish I’d known or learned beforehand…

1. High mileage Boxsters are cheap, but you get what you pay for. Expect to put $2k or more into your older, high mileage Boxster the first year of ownership. If you don’t have this extra cash, put off buying the car until you do. I had to replace two struts, a control arm, radiator fan, brake pads and put new tires on my Boxster and just these things were over $3k. Count the costs of buying an older car before you get all worked up about buying one in particular. Cheap Boxsters always cost more than newer ones with fewer miles on them. Period.

2. Buy as new a Boxster as you can possibly afford, and save up for the S (3.2L). Preferably, one with some remaining factory warranty on it. This will come in handy those first few months of ownership when the radiator overflow tank leaks, you discover a small rear main seal drip, etc. Everything is expensive to repair, so getting PCNA to pay for the first couple of rounds will quickly offset the extra money you paid for a newer one.

3. Pricing on used Boxsters is absolutely wild. You can find two Boxsters that are nearly identical in features, engine size and mileage and the price can differ as much as $4000 or more. Do your homework and know the value of the model year you are seeking to buy.

4. Buy one from an individual who loved the car and took care of it. If you can possibly buy a one-owner Boxster who has kept good maintenance records, even if the mileage is high, you’re doing better than buying one from a dealer where the car’s been driven by 2+ owners and serviced at multiple dealerships around the country. It’s just too hard to find out about work done on the car when it’s been in a number of owner’s hands at different cities.

5. Unlike most other car dealerships, Porsche service dept. people cannot tell you what work has been done on your Porsche if it was not serviced at that particular dealership. You can look at the Carfax report and find out where it’s been titled and call the dealers in those cities and ask them to look up your VIN#, but there are no guarantees. Of course, work done on the car at a non-Porsche dealership will be unknown, so assuming maintenance was not done is the only safe assumption if the car doesn’t have authentic records.

6. Speaking of Carfax reports, they are total crap. My Boxster had been slammed into a curb and spun around, doing sub-frame and rear strut damage, and the front bumper had been repaired and resprayed. Neither showed up on the Carfax. Get one though for title info.

7. Your PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection) should include a 4-wheel, laser alignment. Most PPI’s don’t come with this, so you’ll need to pay extra for it, but it will quickly show you if the car’s been wrecked and not repaired properly (which was the case for me). BTW, my car never drove or looked wrecked, but did fade to the right when I let go of the wheel…and the alignment brought out what was wrong (bent front subframe and bent rear strut. Ouch!).

8. Boxsters eat tires and brakes and brake discs. If you get more than 15k out of a set of rubber, you have bragging rights for sure. Brake pads are soft, and their wear point has a lot to do with how often and how hard you depress the brake pedal… but if you enjoy the gas pedal, the brake pedal use usually used as well. Brake discs cannot be turned, only replaced. Every third set of pads require new discs. And I make these comments as a conservative Porsche driver. I don't dump my clutch, spin my wheels or race between stop lights like a teenager.

9. Find a reputable Porsche mechanic before you take possession of your out-of-warranty Boxster. He must have (or have ready access to) a PST2 (a laptop-looking diagnostic tool) to discover most of the engine-related issues. Many dealership’s mechanics are moonlighting on the side, and that’s not a bad choice because they work on them all day and you can supply them parts bought cheap over the internet and save big bucks. I did not find my mechanic until after 6 months of ownership and far too much cash given to the dealer for repairs.

10. Ensure the Boxster you buy has the following:
- Two remote keys that work well. Replacements are $265 each and a real pain to secure (parts counter, bringing in your car for programming, etc.).
- Manuals for the car. Expensive and needed as the car isn’t a “self-discovery” kind of vehicle (the manual is actually very helpful).
- Tools for changing tires and towing. Find out what came with the car and demand it be sold with these items or pay out the wazoo for them later.
- Rollbar inserts & Lexan clear center windscreen. Also very expensive after the fact and without them, top-down driving is like being in a tornado.
- Lots of speakers. If it doesn’t have door speakers, you’ll hate the stereo system. With door speakers, it’s tolerable, but not enjoyable with the top down. The rear storage box with speakers is the best scenario and will save you big bucks later. Absolute best factory system is the Bose setup, which has a sub woofer and mid range speakers in a custom-designed rear speaker enclosure (BTW, the Bose option came with a center windscreen, so if this is missing pitch a fit over it!).
- Upgraded convertible top transmission cables. If you see a diamond pattern on them, they're the newer reinforced version and won't stretch, which causes expensive repairs.
- Coolant tank is not leaking (take up the carpet around it and look for wet spots).
- Oddments Tray hinge is intact (the little flip-up storage space below your elbow).
- A fairly clean record of not being redlined repeatedly. The way you find this out is to have the Boxster hooked up to a PST2 tool and the mechanic can query the OBC for this information. If it's been redlined a lot, walk away, even if it's under factory warranty. PCNA is quick to inform you that you (or previous owners) have trashed the engine and they will refuse to pay for a replacement, even if the engine is faulty. It's a loophole you do not want them to use, and believe me, they will use it if they can. Engines are expensive!

If you want to learn even more about the Porsche Boxster, I recommend two web sites. The first is www.986forum.com and the other is www.iwantaporsche.net. Both are excellent sources of information.
10/2009 Update: I'd like to add one more thing you must learn about the Boxster/Cayman motor before you buy a Porsche with the M96 motor in it: 11. The factory intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing is weak. Flat Six Innovations has made a far more robust unit that will keep the motor from cratering when the IMS bearing goes out, and it WILL go out prematurely. The time to replace this part (costs about $750 USD) is when you have your clutch replaced. While you're right there, it would be good to have a new rear main seal installed... the Cayenne version fits the Boxster/Cayman M96 motors and is said to be less prone to tearing. If this has not been done to the Boxster/Cayman you want to buy, budget for it and get it done soon after you take delivery of the car and then you can sleep at night knowing you have a far more reliable $9,000 motor in your sports car.

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