Adi is in a rather envious position: he can finally get his dream car, a Porsche 911. The only problem is even though all the 911s look pretty much the same, and there are so many variations and generations that it’s hard to figure out which is the best one. What Porsche should he buy?
We all have that dream where we finally earn, inherit, win or steal enough money to treat ourselves to the car we have always wanted. For some of us, it might be an Italian exotic, or a classic muscle car or a JDM legend. Adi wants a Porsche 911.
This should be an easy decision, except it isn’t.
I’m so excited that I have finally reached a point where I can get my dream car, a Porsche 911, but I’m suffering from information overload. My budget is flexible. I could buy something for around $80,000 but would spend a little more if it was worth it.
I can walk to work so this isn’t really a daily driver, just a fun car for when I need it. However, this is where things get confusing everyone has a different opinion what to get. Some people say to get the PDK because it’s faster, while other say a manual is the only way to go.
I’ve had people tell me to get a 993 because they are collectible, but I worry about maintenance costs. Others have said to invest in a GT3 because they hold value. I’ve even thought about leasing a base model 991, they are plenty quick as is.
I don’t really plan on keeping this car forever, maybe five years max. So the one thing I don’t want to do is worry about is a big depreciation drop, so total cost of ownership is important to me.
Budget: $80,000 but flexible
Daily Driver: No
Ownership Time: 3-5 years
Wants: A Porsche 911
Doesn’t want: Something with a steep depreciation
Adi, picking the right 911 may be the greatest “first world problem” to have, but that doesn’t mean people should give you crap about being indecisive. The fact of the matter is there really is no wrong answer to this question. There are, however, better answers than others.
I’m of the opinion that if this is just a car to be enjoyed, get one with a manual. I have nothing against the PDK and if the quickest lap times are your goal, then, by all means, go with that. But if this is just a car to drive for the sake of driving you can’t really beat the engagement of a manual gearbox.
Let’s say you have your eyes on a newer-ish 911, then. A 991.2 lease would be the easy way out. Those cars are wonderful to drive and you won’t have to worry about resale value. But I get the feeling you would like something a bit more special. While I normally would recommend a used GTS because I think that model gives you the best of all worlds, I think you need a 997 Turbo. All 911s these days have turbochargers. The previous-gen 997 was the last 911 where the Turbo name truly meant something special and unique.
It was also the last “Turbo” trim 911 to offer a manual gearbox, which is quite delightful. These have also depreciated enough so you can get one for a good price, but they can still be found with reasonable miles.
This 2007 example may be 10 years old but has less than 13,000 miles on the clock and it still looks good. These Turbos can also be found in a comfortable range for your budget.
When someone asks what 911 you got, you don’t want to say “Oh I leased a base model.” Tell them, “I bought a TURBO!”
Turbo, schmurbo. The best 911 is the one you can use, and the best place to use a 911 is on a race track. The second you discover what a 911 is really good for, you’re going to be ruined for life. You work from home, and it doesn’t need to be a daily driver, so why not? Fortunately, $80,000 will buy you a lot of race car.
I could be sensible and suggest a nice Spec 944. They’re easy to drive, not terrible to work on and you can pick up a nice example around $10,000. Here’s a pretty bright orange 1986 Spec 944 for $9,000. It’s the perfect place to dip your toes into club racing, and then you could blow the rest of your budget on a tow vehicle, consumables, entry fees, ice cream, and what have you. Go on a road trip and tow it across the country! The 944 will serve you well.
But oh no, you said 911. If you’ve always dreamed of owning a 911, you get you that 911. Let me introduce you to my dream 911: the 911 GT3 Cup. The big pro support race GT3 Cup series has since moved on to the 991-generation GT3 Cup, so prices on 997 Cups have dropped like a rock. They’re still legal for club racing and wicked fast, and it’s thankfully the generation where Porsche admitted the 996's blobby-eyed front end was a mistake.
Here’s an ex-Scott Tucker 2009 997.1 GT3 Cup for sale by Autometrics Motorsports for $87,500—that’s a little above budget, but probably worth it. Tucker had a well-known reputation for spending his ill-gotten cash ludicrously on his race cars, so even though GT3 Cup is a mostly spec series, you know no expense was spared on this car at some point of its life. Of course, you can find other 997 GT3 Cup cars under your budget, like this 2006 997.1 GT3 Cup sold by Isringhausen Motorsports for $79,900.
If you want the best 911 you can buy for around $80,000, this is what you need.
As usual, everyone else is so very, very wrong.
If you’re going to blow $80,000 on Porsche-built machines, you need something more interesting than some 911 any jackass with a fat checkbook can get. And I think the best way to do this is to split the problem in half: you need a Porsche for fast, engaging driving, and you need a Porsche that’s full of charm and feels great just to drive anywhere in. You need two Porsches.
Specifically, you need this 1974 Porsche 914 that’s been very carefully converted into a 914/6! 914s in general are perhaps the most under appreciated Porsche, but I think you have the vision to see beyond all the mainstream bullshit. The 914 was a taut little mid-engined design that boasted two trunks for optimal luggage separation (now you can carry matter and antimatter without any worry!) and was a blast to drive.
Real six-cylinder 914/6s are wildly rare and expensive, but this conversion seems really well done. It’s got a 3.2-liter from the 911, uprated suspension, transmission, all that. This thing must be fantastic to drive, and it’s only $33,000!
So, what should you do with your remaining $47,000? Easy! You also buy this stunning 1967 Porsche 912 for $41,995! Just look at that little butterscotch charmer; it’s lovely, in a simple, understated way that modern Porsche seems to have forgotten about.
That uses a 356 flat-four, which makes a decent 90 HP or so. It’s not a screamer, but it’s fun in its own way, and besides, you’ll have the 914 for your screamer!
This one-two air-cooled Porsche punch is by far the best solution for you. And even with these two cars, you’re still coming in a few grand under budget.
Double down, buddy.
I can hardly begrudge anyone the chance to buy their dream car, Adi, and I commend you for being in the position to buy something with a budget of “$80,000 but flexible.” Having said that, when I think of Porsches in that price range, my mind doesn’t go to the 911—it goes to its younger, cheaper siblings, the Cayman and Boxster.
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret that us “automotive experts” know and that the public, and Porsche, are reluctant to admit: the mid-engined Cayman and Boxster are better overall driver’s cars than the 911. The 911 is an icon, don’t get me wrong; but it’s also long, heavy, loaded with luxury amenities and more of a grand tourer than it’s ever been. Bring back the 928, the fans say? Porsche already has one. The motor’s just in the wrong place.
The Cayman is one of my favorite cars, full stop. It’s quick enough for every day use, incredibly balanced, deeply rewarding to drive, and posh enough inside and out to (mostly) justify its price tag. Plenty of enthusiasts drive 911s, but plenty of posers do too. A Cayman is a car for drivers.
I think you owe it to yourself to at least try one. The new 718 Cayman is a fantastic machine, but my gut tells me you should look at last-generation Cayman GTS, with a 340 HP naturally aspirated flat-six and a greatest hits album of Porsche performance parts. Here’s one for $79,988, a 2016 model with LESS THAN FOUR THOUSAND MILES on the clock.
If I had your budget, this would be my pick.
Adi, my man, congratulations on making it to the Porsche club. With an $80,000 budget, you really have a lot to choose from. Personally, I’d recommend the silver 911 in the photo above, though you can get them in pretty much any color.
This 911 is one of the few that came from the factory with a supercharged, front-engine 5.0-liter V8. Can you imagine rolling up to the Porsche meet with a supercharged 911? You’d really stand out! It has all-wheel-drive and 550 stomping horsepower and a screaming exhaust note that’s guaranteed to turn heads.
Unfortunately, the V8 version of this 911 does not come with a stick, but instead with an eight-speed automatic. But don’t let that turn you off! It’s a perfect match for the engine—shifts are smooth and quick, making this car the ideal grand tourer.
Here’s a silver one with a red interior with just 4,851 miles on the clock for $79,995. It’s all the Porsche you will ever need.