Porsche Buyers Guide Introduction FeaturedWritten by Webmaster
So, you're thinking of buying a Porsche? you may have already chosen the model for you, you may even have looked at some. What this article aims to provide is the background information and tips for buying a pre-loved Porsche.
We say Pre-Loved because that is the kind of Porsche you want to buy, it needs to have previous owners who have looked after the car well, one who's servicing is up to date, has been serviced by a specialist or a main dealer and one which is the very best example you can find.
What you want to avoid is one where the servicing has always been minor, performed perhaps by a normal all makes garage, that is less than perfect, has issues and is cheap. There is a well used expression that I in particular like to quote, which is "There is nothing quite as expensive as a cheap Porsche". This means that although you might get what seems to be a bargain, but often it will cost so much to repair, maintain and bring up to scratch, that you would have been better off buying the one you thought was overpriced but was in great condition, with a good history of maintenance and has obviously been loved.
Do not buy a fix-er-upper, unless you are doing it because you want to work on a car and restore it, more than you want to drive it. If you are buying one to fix up, you are probably better off buying some books on car repairs and restoration rather than reading these buyers guides.
So, buy the very best one you can find, and before you buy it, make sure that you have read not only this article, but also the one specific for the model you are buying, perhaps also print them out and take them with you when you view a Porsche.
One last word of warning before we begin. Ebay, be very careful of buying a car from ebay and do not look at the ebay prices and decided that those prices are what the cars are worth. Ebay is typically a car vendors (private or trade) last avenue to sell a difficult to sell car.
Lets start at the beginning, finding the car.
There are lots of places to find a Porsche for sale, you might see it parked on the side of the road, you might even see it advertised in a local paper or other publication that you read. Which is fine, but before you buy one, or even go looking, I would like to recommend some places to look.
Specialist and main dealer websites.
Yes it is a good idea to check out what we have at JMG Porsche, or what our customers are selling. But as an unbiased article, I need to also advise you look at what other reputable Porsche specialists have for sale. Henry at 911 Virgin always has good cars, as does Jonus at JZMachtech and the guys at Strasse in Leeds. Check out all these sources, what they have and use them as the yardstick as I know that they, like me, take a lot of pride in their cars and will stand by them if there is an issue.
There are also a new breed of Porsche specialists, who will often advertise in the Porsche publications but are not of the same school and level of experience, so sometimes you need to be careful which specialists you trust.
The independent Porsche Enthusiasts Club (Tipec) is exactly what it says in the name, visit their forum, put the word out that you are looking for the model you have chosen, and see what comes up. Its not often that a true enthusiast will sell their pride and joy, but when it does happen, its often a good car. But also the members in the forum may be able to help you with your search, as well as they may know of some of the cars you are looking at and what is wrong with them.
Porsche Club of Great Britain is much like TIPEC above, and also has some very helpful members.
Pistonheads is a great resource for buying a Porsche. Whatever model you are interested in, simply because it has such a selection being advertised by both traders and enthusiasts. Which is the important point, enthusiasts! A community like pistonheads is filled with enthusiasts, enthusiasts generally look after their cars, which are just the kind of cars you are looking for. Like anywhere though, you will notice that their are cars there that are advertised at a lower price, and some at a higher price. Always start looking at the highest price cars first, there is usually a reason why some are so much cheaper than the rest.
When selling a Porsche, a normal non enthusiast may advertise it via AutoTrader and it may not be listed in the forums or on Pistonheads. Although Pistonheads tends to have more Porsche examples than Autotrader, it is often worth taking a look to see what is around.
You have the short list
Once you have a list of cars to start looking at, things are going to get serious. There is the usual advice to call the people advertising as private vendors and say "I am calling about the car for sale", if the vendor says "Which car?" you know he is a trader and not a legitimate private sale. But everyone knows that, don't they?
When calling about cars, the important information to gather is....
- Has the car got a service book? Is it showing a complete service history without gaps?
- Does the car have any original MOT's over the years? (This can help prove mileage)
- Does the car have any known issues? (Sometimes vendors will not tell you about any faults until you get there)
- Are there any blemishes on the paintwork or any corrosion or damage?
- Has the bodywork ever been repaired?
- Is the interior in perfect condition?
- Has it had any major jobs completed why they have owned the car?
- How long has it been for sale and have many people viewed it?
- How negotiable is the price (always ask this, after they have had to list any bad points!)
- If so, how low would be their lowest price? (You will be able to go lower than this, even if they say it is the lowest price)
Once you have gathered this information, you will have a reasonable idea of how good or bad the car is, as well as a starting point for your negotiations after, and only after you have seen the car, test driven the car and have identified any additional issues with the car.
When you arrange a viewing, tell the vendor not to start the car that day before you get there, you need to make sure the car starts well and without smoke. Make sure the vendor is aware of this requirement.
Viewing the cars.
OK, so you are now going to look at some (hopefully) excellent examples of the Porsche model you are interested in. Take a pad and a Pen, so you can record details about the car and leave your humanity and love of your fellow human being, you are now a car buyer. Put on your best poker face and prepare to buy a car.
When viewing the cars there is one important piece of paper to take with you, a bodywork inspection card. There is an article on this website showing how to use one as well as how to make one. This is an important tool to find every single dent on a car, even the ones you usually only find after buying the car and washing it for the first time. Every dent you find can effectively devalue a car by £40, which is what many paintless dent removal companies will charge to remove a dent without breaking the paint.
Look for stone chips. I personally prefer to see some stone chips on the front of a Porsche I buy, it shows that the car has not recently been re-sprayed, which may be due to accident damage. You seriously would not believe how many Porsche for sale have recently suffered an accident.
The next job is to use our buyers guide specific for your intended model of Porsche, read the article before you view the car, but also read the article and follow its directions while you look around the car.
Check the chassis numbers. Car's since the mid 90's have a chassis number in the windscreen. Older cars have them in various other locations. Check this matches the chassis number in the service book, on the log book, on the option sticker in the car, as well as other locations. The locations are also listed in the buyers guides specific for each model. But make sure they all match. If you end up interested in the car, you also need to check the chassis number matches the HPI report on the car, as well as the chassis number matches the specification of the car that has been advertised (read our chassis number reading guide) as you can learn a lot from the details hidden inside the chassis number. If all the details match, hopefully you are looking at a good honest car. If they do not, or they look like they have been tampered with, be cautious about the origin of the car.
Wheels and tyres.
Are the wheels fitted to the car the ones you would expect to have been fitted from the factory? If not, why not? and are the original wheels available? Many people want a Porsche with the original wheels, even if you are not bothered, the next owner might be.
Are the wheels damaged at all? Any curbing on the wheels is not only a sign the car has not been cared for as it should, but can also be a sign that the wheels have been structurally damaged. When viewing a car, make sure you point out any damage to the owner and negotiate the price accordingly.
When examining the wheels, check the tyres. How much tread do they have? Are they all the same make? How old are they (Tyres should be changed every five to six years, even if they have not worn out as they get hard and begin to crack after that amount of time. Missmatched tyres can be a sign of poor maintenance, especially if the two tyres on the same axel do not match, as tyres should be replaced at very least in pairs.
You also do not want to be test driving a car with poor tyres, bald tyres can cost the driver 3 penalty points and a fine for each defective one, a car with a bad set of tyres can cost you your licence!
Before the test drive.
Before you test drive the car, check the engine is cold to the touch. If it is warm, especially after telling the owner to not start the car that day, they might be trying to hide a fault with the car not starting easily when cold, a battery issue or even a puff of smoke as the engine starts, which could be a sign of a worn engine.
Check the engine bay for leaks, any leaks can be expensive to repair. A good engine bay will be dry of fluids other than the reservoirs that hold them.
If you see any fluid or damp patches, in the engine bay or under the car, here is a small rule of thumb for indentifying the cause.
- Blue, green, pink or orange fluid with a consistancy of water, could be anti freeze.
- Red or pink fluid with an oily touch, could be power steering fluid on pre 98 models, or transmission fluid on an automatic model.
- Clear fluid is usually brake, clutch or in post 98 cars power steering fluid or sometimes automatic transmission fluid.
- Black or golden fluid is typically engine oil or transmission oil in manual cars. Transmission fluid often smells bad, a little like cat pee (if you know what that smells like)
So there are no leaks? What else to check? Pull off the engine oil filler cap, look on the underside of it, as well as bellow it. Look for any signs of a thick creamy substance that has a coffee colour, any sign of this can be an early sign of head gasket problems. Although it can be a sign that the car has not been driven often and moisture is building up inside the engine, possibly still not a good sign and may require professional inspection.
Next you should pull off the coolant cap, is there any dry signs of evaporated coolant around it on the header tank or on the cap? It could be a sign that the cap is either faulty or the cooling system is building up too much pressure. In any case, its not a great sign and may require professional testing.
Lastly, check the brake and clutch fluid levels, they should be between the minimum and maximum level.
You can start the engine.
Any Porsche should start without the need to tickle the throttle. Make sure the car is not in gear, the handbrake is fully applied and that the drivers window is wound down. If it is a newer model, you may need to depress the clutch or press the brake peddle while you start the car, this can be normal if the vendor says you need to do it.
Once the car starts, get out of the car and look at the exhaust, there should be no blue smoke, if it is cold there should maybe be a small amount of visible white water vapor, but no smoke as such.
After observing the car running for a few minutes, you can proceed with the test drive.
The test drive.
You need to take the car for a reasonably long test drive, at least 30 miles. This should include stop-start town driving, country lanes as well as motorway cruising.
During the test drive the car should be taken very close to the rev limit on acceleration at least a few times, occasionally checking the mirrors for signs of smoke, which if blue, can be a sign of engine wear.
Also during the test drive it is important to at least once hold the car in gear at high rpm, let off of the throttle and coast to a lower rpm under engine braking and then accellorate hard. If you get a puff of blue smoke seen in the rear view mirror, it could be a sign that the valve guides are worn and require a top end rebuild.
The rest of the test drive should be spent listening to the engine note, searching for squeeks, rattles, vibrations or knocking noises which seem to be abnormal. They could be an issue with the suspension, engine, transmission or trim, but if you experience any, it will be best to ask whoever you get to perform a pre purchase inspection (PPI) to look into these.
If at close to 40 mph a rhythmic, deep humming noise can be heard, this is often a sign of wheel bearing issues.
It is during the test drive that you will reap dividends in experience from test driving more than one car. You will become familiar with what is normal, what is a quirk of the model, as well as what is most definitely not normal.
All Porsche models should have a relatively easy gear change (some older 911's may have a slight awkwardness) and a reasonably light clutch, in particular the later Porsche models after 1988 should have a clutch which is no heavier than a normal domestic car.
While in the cockpit, check the odometer digits are straight, sometimes (but not always) the digits not being level can be a sign that the mileage has been tampered with. Check the rest of the interior seems to match the same mileage. A car with only 30,000 miles shown, should not have a worn out gear knob, steering wheel and pedal rubbers!
Likewise a very low mileage car should not have worn out seat bolsters or carpet.
Once back after the test drive, I recommend you leave the engine running for at least 10 minutes while you make some last checks. You need to be sure that the engine does not overheat, the oil warning lights do not illuminate (except for some very early 911 models) and that the exhaust is not blowing. Also, once you switch the engine off, watch the car for 10 minutes to make sure the car does not begin to leak coolant or oil.
Now the test drive is over, it is time to check the paperwork.
The service record should have a stamp for each service, often with ticks or notes to say which service was performed. Look for the mileage not being sequentially rising after each service, it would not be the first time that I have seen the mileage of a car go down in one year, which can be a sign that the mileage has been tampered with.
If there are old MOT's in the paperwork, check through them and make sure they mileage ties in with the service history, you are asking the vendor to be patient while you check the paperwork, so it is worth thanking him before you start and explain that you are checking everything is in order. Most honest vendors will have no problem with this.
In an ideal world, there will be stacks of receipts with the car. However, if the car has been owned by a business at some point, there is a chance that the receipts are not with the car because they have been archived as evidence of the business accounts. So do not be too alarmed, as long as there is some record of servicing, even if it is just the book. If there is a pile of receipts, it is a bonus.
If you are interested in the car, but want to try some more, it is worth telling the vendor this and negotiating the price. It is worth trying a low offer, perhaps 60% of the price you know they will accept. This may seem harsh, but sometimes a vendor is desperate to sell, so you may get a bargain, if not, at least you have started at a good point to negotiate upwards, as the vendor negotiates downwards. But if you are interested in driving more, please do, even if the negotiated price is good. It will still be good tomorrow, even if the vendor says the price is if you buy it right now, ask yourself why would it change to a higher price tomorrow? Don't fall for this.
Before you pay any money for a Porsche, I would recommend a pre purchase inspection by a recognised Porsche specialist, yes it costs money, but so does buying the car and a professional pair of eyes can often save you a fortune or at least give you some ammunition to negotiate the price downwards further. I would also recommend you have a HPI report produced for the car to ensure it has no finance outstanding, is not stolen and has not been a total loss or a category A, B, C or D. Cat C and D should not be an issue if there is a valid reason, it is quite normal after an accident for an owner to refuse a repair from an insurance company if they are not prepared to pay for a authorized Porsche repairer, or Porsche specialist to make the repairs, which can result in the insurance company to list the car as not inspected, which can result in a cat-C or cat-D marker being placed on the HPI history, some investigation may be required to find the reason, and the car should be discounted by up to 25% to reflect this.
My main advice in closing would be to recommend the following.
- DO NOT buy the first example you see or test drive.
- DO NOT be soft on the vendor just because he is another human being.
- DO NOT trust the vendor just because they are a business.
- DO thoroughly check every car you consider.
- DO have a pre purchase inspection performed by a Porsche specialist on any car you consider.
- DO pay for a HPI check on any car you consider.
Happy Porsche buying and remember, please read the buyers guide for the model of Porsche you are interested in.
Some say he is the love child of a Cray XMP supercomputer of the 1980's and a Sinclair C5. That he can hear the tinkling of binary traveling through the internet.
All we know is he is the webmaster of JMG Porsche.