Some of us are just born with a love of cars. It runs deep in our blood. I believe that electric is the future, but I also believe that a naturally aspirated engine with perfectly engineered steering can create religious experiences. So whenI hit the age, income and NW to comfortably start thinking about a purchase this ridiculous I knew I had to do it right. I knew my wants list and for today’s blog post we are only talking about wants. Anyone that says a sports car is a need should really check themselves at the door.
My wants list was pretty small but pretty specific: it had to be a manual transmission, regular maintenance had to be DIYable, I wanted it to be daily drivable and trackable, and I wanted it to be a Porsche.
After a ton of research I settled on a 1999-2004 911 4S also known as the 996 generation. If you’re not into cars the story of the 996 is fascinating. If you are into cars there is a good chance you’ve heard about it by now as the secret is starting to get out.
The Porsche 911 is the flagship sports car. Every generation over the last 50+ years has been beautiful, powerful, fast, fun and track ready from the factory. For this, and many more reasons the Porsche 911 has held its value surprisingly well and in lots of cases has become worth more than the original MSRP for good models built before 1999. You see in 1999 Porsche made a few changes to the 911. First it went water cooled from air-cooled which was pretty much necessary to keep up with the performance of competitors. They also implemented some changes that most automakers do of sharing parts across models. The cardinal sin of the 996 was sharing its headlights from the Boxster and going away from the classic 911 round headlights.
There are a few other gripes about the 996, but the truth is that at its heart and core the 996 is a 911. It drives just as good as it’s more expensive brothers and sisters and it does it for less than half the cost of nearly every other generation. Here is mine – a 2004 911 Carerra 4S.
I bought this car for less than the price of a new Camry including delivery and some minor repairs. I’ve had the car about a year and in that time it has actually appreciated about 15% from what I paid. That’s the funny thing about sports cars – the markets fluctuate and if you spend the time researching you can clearly identify vehicles that are undervalued. I’m not advocating for trying to make a profit with your sports car addiction I’m simply saying that you should make the purchase smart and with some forethought. Other than maintenance and repairs the cost of owning my very own piece of vehicle art will cost almost nothing. Meanwhile a 2020 Carerra 4S is $127,900 before options. Ask yourself if you want the car for the status or to maximize your enjoyment for every dollar spent?
I will always take the approach of maximizing my dollar spent. I drive a car that I had a poster of in my locker in high school and my total cost of ownership so far is less than a fully loaded Kia. I’m into this car for under $30,000 and it’s a pristine example. You can easily find amazing, exciting cool cars for so cheap if you just know the markets. I actually found a friend of mine an Aston Martin Rapide for $52,000 a few weeks ago. It was a 2012 with 40,000 miles.The original MSRP was well over $240,000. He had always wanted one, is pretty close to a Fat FI/RE number and was blown away when I found his dream car for less than a new F-150.
Do your research, learn the market and buy used but reliable. It’s a great experience to learn the known issues of your dream car and how to wrench on them yourself. It’s a far more rewarding experience to have something you need to take care of rather than walking into a dealership and signing up for a giant loan.
In 2019 85% of new cars were financed and 56% of used cars were financed. Exotics are financed at a rate of 89%. Imagine having to make a monthly payment on something you can’t even use every day, doesn’t that sound miserable? I don’t think I could enjoy my beautiful sports car knowing it was chained down with debt.
The principal of buying used, learning the market, being an educated buyer and paying cash are principals that apply to nearly every major purchase. Whether it’s a house, car, boat, vacation home, plane, yacht, villa, or island the same rules apply. If you do what everyone else does you’ll learn nothing, gain nothing and be stuck with payments the rest of your life. Who wants that?
I remember my grandpa working on old mustangs and ancient fords he pieced together from junk yards. He was a child of the depression who didn’t go to high school. I’m still working on being as frugal as he was, but those skills made their way down the bloodline of finding the right deal and doing as much of the work yourself as you can.