Get-Ad Free Access: Join Today!

Budget Based Porsche Buyer’s Guide: $50k 

Porsche 911 997.1 (2005 - 2007) – Service Schedule

Doubling our previous budget opens as you might imagine a much wider selection of Porsche sports cars. What can the buyer with half the price of a base Carrera 992 (without any of Porsche’s expensive options) expect to find?

The Transaxle Models

Surprisingly perhaps for thirty and forty-year-old cars, plenty of Porsche’s front-engine sports cars still lurk in the sub $50k category. You are unlikely to find any 924s except the GT, the le Mans-based turbocharged 924 GT which presaged the 944.
A little over four hundred were built for homologation purposes and they have long been collectors’ Porsches. Their prices reflect this: a private listing is for a 924 GTS Clubsport, ‘POA,’ which as my dad once told me, means ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’

There is no shortage though of 944s and 968s: the sought-after 944 Turbo is usually the most expensive of the 944 range. A private seller in Morganton NC has a red 1987 example showing 39,500 miles and priced at our 50k limit at $49,900. With 220 2.5 horsepower, the Turbo was only slightly quicker off the mark than the later 944 3.0 S2. Buyers intent on a turbo at this price level might also consider the 1989-90 250 bhp Turbo S.

1994 Porsche 968

This 1994 Porsche 968 coupé is listed for $36,800. Credit: Hemmings

Apart from looks, there is not much to distinguish the 944 S2 from the 1992-95 968. The latter car is harder to find – its career was far shorter than the 944’s. The 968 does sport a slightly more powerful 3.0, extracting thirty more horses thanks in part to Porsche’s first application of its Variocam variable valve timing).

Like the 993 it has a six-speed gearbox and Tiptronic four-speed was optional. In the $30 -$50,000 category, for transaxle Porsches now already in their fourth decade, condition and what the buyer conceives as the best value for money should be the main purchase criteria unless he or she is specifically seeking a 968 rather than a 944.

The $25-$50,000 segment has a wide selection of Porsche 928s. Logically, the later S4 5.0-liter model is more usually expensive. The occasional early 4.5 240 bhp 928 is found flying at this altitude: these will be exceptional, low mileage cars with supporting history like the automatic 928 on offer privately at Palm Beach.

911 Air-Cooled

As predicted in the sub 25K article, the air-cooled cars provide very slim pickings below $50,000.

Generally, 911 convertibles and Targas are cheaper than coupés because after several decades the roofs are often no longer waterproof and increasingly noisy at speed. There are plenty of photographs, including of the underside. Minor corrosion is apparent in the front wings and in the rear bodywork and in the B pillar (potentially more serious) but the cabin appears to have worn well and the engine (the big induction fan is clearly new) sounds as if it should be in good shape as the ad claims $17,500 has been spent in the last two years.

It would be worth asking whether this expenditure included a gearbox refurbishment as the shift quality of a worn and abused 915’box can be awful. But on the face of it, this appears a good, useable old 911, but one which will require more work.

911 Water-Cooled   


Double the budget and the whole offering moves up a gear, but don’t expect a turbo: the 996T would only turn up in this segment in the kind of condition that would daunt all but the keenest and then with deep pockets. But other interesting 996s do appear and perhaps the best example of these is the Carrera 4S.

This was a trick Porsche first marketed with the 964, a fully specified Carrera or Cabrio using the Turbo’s, suspension and brakes, and above all wide body, but with the stock, naturally aspirated 3.6. The 964 version was a special run-out edition, but the idea was really honed on the 993 4S which added all-wheel drive to the recipe: made between 1996-8, this was the pick of the 993 range and excluding turbos and RS versions, remains the most sought after.

A 996 4S was therefore irresistible to Porsche’s market planners and the Carrera 4S, ‘the Turbo without the turbo’ was a hit, the widebody, especially the rear wings and deeper turbo fenders are undeniably attractive. With its leather interior a big step from the plain Carrera, the 4S was often a special purchase, and many of these models have been well maintained, even cosseted in some cases.

Today pricing ranges from low-thirties to mid-forties with quite a strong concentration at the more expensive end.

This dealer in Arizona has a pair of 4Ss: both have the six-speed manual transmission and they date from 2002 and 2004 with seemingly negligible differences in specification. The cheaper car shows 98,000 miles and is pitched at $34,900; this dealer gives little technical detail, but lets his camera do the talking even bothering to photograph all the pages in the service book: these show a virtually unbroken 20-year maintenance history, a great asset with any used automobile.

2002 Porsche 911 4S 2004 Porsche 911 4S

Credit: Plaza Motors Arizona

Interestingly, the vendor shows 50 shots of the 69,000-mile 2004 4S priced at $44,900 does not illustrate its service book. In low-res photographs of the website, these well-presented 996s look visually indistinguishable. For an Arizona-based 911 enthusiast, they may well be worth a look if only to see what difference S10,000 makes.


2007 Type 997.1 GT3 from the official marketing package from Porsche
2007 Type 997.1 GT3 from the official marketing package from Porsche

At this level, the next 911, the 997, launched in the US in 2005 also appears. The first-generation car, the gen 1 as it’s referred to, reintroduced the concept of a more powerful 911S not seen since 1973. The 997 took the 996’s 3.6 engine with minor modifications, but the 997S had its capacity increased to 3.8, achieved by boring out 3mm.

The 3.8 offered 30bhp more, 351 compared with the 321 horses of the Carrera and a similar boost in torque. Pricing when new was S69,300 for the Carrera; customers had to pay around $10,000 more for the S.

Compared with any other volume marque, 911s have always depreciated far less and considering Porsche built over 200,000 997s (of which at least a third came to the US) they have mostly retained their values remarkably.

2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 997.2 Gen 2

A 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 997.2 Gen 2 listed for $45,900. Credit: Autotrader

Cosmetically the second generation 997, first seen in the US in 2009 differs very little from the gen 1, the main visual distinction being the revised rear light treatment. But under the hood, the completely new 9A1 engine family reintroduced the kind of engineering integrity expected from Porsche which had been lacking in the M96-97 series.

The stiffer, lighter 9A1 makes greater use of clever electronics such as an oil-on-demand lubrication system, and in its eight-year life it displayed none of the flaws of its predecessor. As before, the S version had about 10% more power and torque than the Carrera which now sported a slightly downsized 3.4 flat six.  The other major advance was Porsche’s double clutch transmission which replaced the five-speed Tiptronic and which in ‘sport’ modes shifted ratios quicker than any driver could.


A few gen 2 997s fall in our sub 50k bracket. These are almost without exception the plain Carrera and with the higher mileages you might expect.

Buyers should not be put off by by higher mileage vehicles provided the service schedule has been adhered to.

The Boxster & Cayman 

Based on the same chassis as the 991, the 981 had a longer wheelbase and wider front track than its predecessor and both ride and handling thought superior to the 987’s. The cabin was also an improvement having more space, especially shoulder room and using better quality materials.

While the 981S versions took the previous 987 3.4S with only minor changes, the base 981 Boxster and Cayman acquired a smaller, 2.7 flat-six. While this lacks the torque of the larger S, it was commensurately cheaper.

On the used market, the offer usually reflects mileage: most of the base models were purchased with few options except the PDK transmission (which was an extra $2500 new) but the growing interest in the manual shift appears to have taken away any price premium on used Caymans and the smaller engine more than makes up its lack of torque with its sheer enthusiasm, revving from 4500 to over 7000rpm with tremendous zest.

Porsche always positioned its mid-engine pair at two-thirds of the 911 price. The lower starting point means the 981 pair is plentiful in our sub-50k segment. The market has a plethora of early Boxster 981s between the $35-$40k, but the more powerful (+50bhp) and $8000 more expensive 3.4S is harder to find.

Almost without exception, the current 718 Boxster is outside the $50K cut-off.

2016 981 Cayman Black Edition

2016 981 Cayman Black Edition listed for $43,500. Credit: Team VW Audi

Until 2016, Porsche always priced the Cayman slightly above the Boxster and this is reflected in used offers. Base Caymans with mileages in the 30-50,000 mile range sell for $45-50,000; The 981 Cayman S is rarely encountered in dealers in this price bracket.