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Used cars: how to buy a second-hand Porsche 996

Published: 08 March 2013

Porsche's rear-engined 911 icon: it's yours for £7000. How? The cheapest way into a modern 911 is the 996 Carrera, and it’s not hard to understand why: the 996 was preceded by the last of the air-cooled cars, the 993, so that car’s cult status is assured; meanwhile, the 997 followed it, and that’s essentially a new, improved 996. Want classic? You want 993 or earlier. Want modern? You want a 997, even if you are driving about in a tweaked 996. That’s why 996 prices start from upwards of £7k.

Talk me through the Porsche 996's range history

First shown at the Frankfurt motor show in 1997, the 996 debuted with a 3.4-litre flat-six making 300bhp and 258lb ft, while the four-wheel drive 4S – pictured here with full optional Aero kit – and Cabriolet joined the Carrera line-up later on. A six-speed manual gearbox was available across the range, while a five-speed Tiptronic automatic was offered as an optional extra.

The 996’s droopy headlights, cleaner body styling – the cabin is wider, which means the basic body is wider too, which in turn removes the need for bulbous wheelarches to cover a wider track – and switch to water-cooling instantly rubbed the hardcore up the wrong way, and that’s a sentiment that can persist to this day. However, this is still a great daily driver, a machine that’s more user-friendly than the air-cooled 993, with normal, non-floor-hinged pedals, an improved driving position and a less idiosyncratic dash layout.

What updates did later Porsche 996 models get?

A facelift for the 2002 model year brought in powertrain tweaks, taking the flat-six up to 3.6 litres and 316bhp, while Turbo headlights were adopted across the range, the front end was re-styled, the rear panel extended and distinctive twin oval exhaust tips added. These cars now cost from £15k for a 60,000-mile example. 

The cabrio, meanwhile, benefitted from a heated glass rear window – it replaced the scratchy plastic panel and meant that reversing was no longer like looking out of a frosted toilet window. Facelifted, 50,000-mile soft-top cars can be had from £18k.

What's the best-buy of the Porsche 996 range?

A solid, 2002-on Carrera 2 manual would be our pick, which pushes you into £14k territory if you want non-Starship Enterprise mileage, but those £7k cars are out there: it’ll be an early 3.4 with over 100,000 miles on the clock, but that’s a lot of car for the cash.

Buying a Porsche 996? Beware these spec pitfalls…

• Rear main oil seals: Just like the Boxster, the 996 suffers from leaky rear main oil-seals. And, just like the Boxster, it’s a £20 replacement part with £500 labour, due to accessibility issues. It can make sense to swap the clutch at the same time.
• Intermediate shafts: Another niggle shared with the Boxster is intermediate-shaft bearing failure. The bearing goes and the shaft can wobble. When it does that, the pistons and valves have a punch-up. It’s a £7-8k fix.
• Radiators:The radiators in the nose are made from very thin aluminium, which can corrode and is susceptible to stone chips, with consequences for both the engine’s coolant supply and the air-con.
• Sat-nav: Don’t pay extra for a car with the optional sat-nav – it’s so dated these days that it’s nicer to have a car without it. Don’t you have the app on your iPhone 5?