There are several excellent Porsches available in the $10,000 range that are good cars for everyday use. Practical considerations such as reliability, versatility, fuel efficiency, and affordability guided our choice. The first-generation Boxster was a clear winner, in part because it is the newest car in the group and its mid-engine design makes it a joy to drive. Early Boxsters fall in this price range because they have depreciated in price more than most Porsches. This should limit your cost of ownership as any further depreciation for a well-maintained car should be minimal.
Rather than leaving you with one recommendation at this price level, we offer three alternate selections, each with its own distinct character, to give you more choices. The 968 comes closest to the Boxster, as it preceded the Boxster in production and offers a similar driving experience because of its superb weight balance, although it is front-engined.
Two other options that can be had for even less, especially the early-year models, are the 944 S2 and 944 Turbo. Both are cars with excellent handling and good power. Although almost ten years older than our Boxster choice, there are many available and a thorough search should find the right car at a good price.
1997-2002 Boxster (986)
The first Boxster set a high bar with sublime chassis tuning and a willing engine. Designed to be an entry-level Porsche for both daily driving and weekend getaways, the mid-engined convertible was, and still is, cheaper to buy and own and easier to drive than the 911. When it was new it surpassed our “highest expectations,” and the same holds true for it today.
The Boxster lacks back seats, but it makes up for it with two trunks, generally good reliability, and good fuel efficiency. It also happens to be the newest Porsche you can buy for $10,000, a steal at a discount of at least 75% from its original cost.
Porsche’s first water-cooled flat six
The 1997-99 986’s engine, known internally as Type M96, displaces 2.5 liters and is rated at 201 hp at 6000 rpm and 181 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. Redline was set at 6700 rpm. The Boxster 2.5 accelerates from 0–60 mph in 6.7 seconds and then on to 149 mph, yet still gets an EPA-rated 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
In 2000, a slightly more powerful engine was introduced. The new 2.7-liter engine raised power and torque to 217 hp and 192 lb-ft, respectively, and had a Carrera-style induction system and a 7200-rpm redline. The manual transmission’s fourth and top gear ratios were lowered while the final-drive ratio was raised slightly to suit the engine’s power band. The first three gears can achieve 16%–19% higher speeds in each gear. “The newfound power is even more impressive, because the torque band is broader and usable power is available immediately,” we noted in the Boxster 2.7’s first road test. Consequently, its 0–60-mph time dropped to 6.4 seconds, its top speed increased to 155 mph, while its fuel economy remained practically the same.
For people who don’t want to shift gears themselves, many Boxsters came with an optional five-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission. However, cars with this transmission had slower acceleration and slightly worse fuel economy than those with the manual.