Despite engine reliability concerns, which involve oil leaks at the crankcase rear main seal and the intermediate shaft bearing flange, there are ways to raise your chances of finding a Boxster with a good engine. First, know that the 2.7-liter Boxsters have proved to be more reliable than the 2.5s. For the best chance of avoiding the common engine problems, which can affect any 986, look for Boxsters with at least 50,000 miles. RMS and IMS bearing problems usually (but not always) happen sooner if they’re going to happen. There’s also the chance that the owner performed the necessary updates or had the engine replaced, which should be indicated in the service records. A pre-purchase inspection by a Porsche technician will give a further measure of security.
By taking the necessary precautions and being extra selective in your hunt for a 986, any mid-to-high-mileage Boxster in good condition should be a joy to own. The chances are that a good one will show up sooner rather than later, something that can’t be said of other Porsches at this price point.
More Porsches for $10,000
1986-89 944 Turbo (951)
The 944 Turbo, or Type 951, has most of the great qualities of the 944 series, but its turbocharged 2.5-liter four gives it at least one advantage: It’s more exciting to drive than a normally-aspirated 944, even the 208-hp 944 S2.
The 944 Turbo was introduced as a 1986 model with 220 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. Both the 1988 944 Turbo S and the 1989 Turbo make 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Zero-to-60-mph acceleration runs are dispatched in under six seconds, and the 250-hp Turbos can reach over 160 mph. 951s can be made even faster with relatively simple and low-cost engine modifications.
In addition to the usual 944 concerns — water pump, timing and balance-shaft belts, worn motor mounts, oil and power steering-fluid leaks — the turbocharger adds an extra layer of complexity, which raises running costs. For example, a clutch kit runs about $875 and replacement labor alone is $2,000, about 45-percent more than on a normally-aspirated 944 S2. The reason? Turbocharger components must be removed to complete the job.
The Turbo costs more to maintain than a normally-aspirated 944, but it is among the fastest Porsches for $10,000. Prices for well-maintained 1986-88 Turbos in good condition start at around $8,500, though the later 1988 Turbo S and 1989 Turbo are more desirable and usually priced closer to $12,000.
As with any turbocharged car, expect to invest more in its maintenance. A normally-aspirated 944 or 968 might be a better fit if you don’t want the higher running costs, but for the money, it’s hard to beat the excitement of driving a 944 Turbo.
1989-91 944 S2
The 944 S2 is characteristically a Porsche in its meticulous pursuit of speed, practicality, and economy, but it’s quite different from the more traditional rear- and mid-engined Porsches.
Unlike those cars, the 944 S2 has a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive chassis with a rear-mounted transaxle for even weight distribution. The interior is comfortable and the spacious rear hatch yields a lot of storage, though the back seats are too small for average-size adults. Sub-seven-second 0–60-mph times, a 145-mph top speed, and a 400+ mile cruising range are all possible with the 944 S2.