Confessions Of A Porsche 996 Driver (1999-2004 Carrera 911)

26Aug09

2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (996)It is well acknowledged, if not documented, that the 1999-2004 Porsche Carrera 911 (or 996) is the ugly step-child of the 911 family.  Having been born right after the pampered darling, the 993, the much belittled 996 was intended as a leap forward in luxury and performance – a Porsche for the new age. 

In my opinion, Porsche accomplished that leap with great clarity – but we’ll get to that later…

1997 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (993)The reason the 993 become everyone’s favorite baby is because you need to pamper it (see my earlier post for 993 babysitting instructions).  The 993 is fussy and prone to tantrums – take your eye off its’ three oil gauges for more than a month for example and you risk serious engine damage.  It always has issues that consume you (but rarely detract from the pure driving excitement), like the heater and AC controls, sunroof operation, overall electronic operation, and I had constant flat tires – although this had more to do with the tire manufacturer than anything (aside: Michelins over Bridgestones always).  It takes a considerable effort to drive.  The 993 needs you, and your constant attention, and that dependence creates a bond unlike any other vehicle.  In fact, some nights you actually go to sleep worried about its’ well-being.

Granted, the 996 is a transitional figure in the Porsche genealogy.  It’s a given, that money being no object, every sportscar enthusiast would choose the styling and performance of the current Porsche progeny, 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (997)(the 997 – 2005-present), over the 996.  But the 996 paved the way for the 997 by leaving behind the antiquated air-cooled system for a conventional “water”/radiator engine cooling system, as well as computerized driver aids.  No question, the 993 is precise in its turn-in and road-feel.  The driver aids of the 996 do take away from this precision with intentional understeer, but the 996 delivers so much more in terms of luxury, information, and comfort, without abandoning that guttural Porsche “thrill factor.”

Compare the figures (“S” versions):  1997 993 – 282HP weighing 3064lbs = a Power-To-Weight Ratio of 1:11 vs. 2003 996 – 320HP weighing 2920lbs = PTW 1:9 (the lower the ratio, the 2003 Birel Honda 125cc Shifter Kartfaster the vehicle).  If you desire an unadulterated driving experience I would suggest you purchase a 125cc Shifter Kart, which provides a Power-To-Weight Ratio of 1:4. 

The Porsche Snobs, sorry Purists, say, “It isn’t a ‘real Porsche’ unless it is air-cooled and rear-engined.”  This way of thinking leaves the 944 and the classic 928 orphaned as well.  But the general public sees, and respects, any Porsche progeny saying, “Ah, there goes a Porsche – isn’t she beautiful?”

2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (996) HeadlightThen there’s the headlights.  The Porsche Purists say, “Round headlights are a 911 trademark,” following with, “Porsche turned their back on us with the introduction of the 996.”  I willfully concede on this argument.  This applies to the re-invented 996 front grill as well.  Notice how the well-received 997 made a return to a rounded, albeit oval, headlight and a more traditional front end – also notice how 993 and 997 resale values are holding steady, while 996 resale values plummeted within a couple years of their unveiling – honestly, that fact greatly added to my personal affection for the 996.  (Click here to see current 911 resale prices on Cars.com.)

1997 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (993) InteriorBut compare the interiors of the 996 with the 993.  No comparison!  The 993 looks as if it was stillborn in the 70’s – no cup holder or right arm rest, to which the Purists like to respond, “How many racing cars have cup holders?”  Can you believe the original MSRP on the 993 was over $60,000 in 1997?  (Most final sticker prices were well over $70,000.)  The 996 is indeed a modern luxury sportscar – ergonomics, computers and all – and its original MSRP was only $5,000 more in 2003.  (Aside: the original MSRP of my 1997 C4S was $81,700 compared to my 2003 C4S of $83,560)

2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (996) InteriorIn truth, I too was waiting for resale prices of the 997 to drop into my affordable range before moving out of my 993.  In fact, I’ve driven all three recent 911 generations numerous times and the 997 is without a doubt the best (especially with PDK), but 997 resale prices just haven’t dropped enough yet.  So I bit the bullet and settled for a 996.  Settled for the goofy headlights and the front-end slippage on tight turn-ins, even the second gear which is admittedly not well ratioed.  I resigned to receiving dirty looks from the Purists, rather than the friendly waves of my former 993 brotherhood.  But alas, after just one month of driving my 996, following five years fathering a 993, I have a confession…

2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (996)I am confessing to the “Porsche Purists” (you know who you are), the ones who celebrate the brutish 993 with a verbose and self-righteous rhetoric, that I have grown to love my fledgling 996.   I love it as if it were my first-born.  And better yet, I trust it.  I trust it in the hand’s of my wife and other lesser-experienced 911 drivers.  Trust that it will hold its line if my attention should ever momentarily wane.  I trust that I won’t ever have to experience snap-oversteer while putting it through its paces (thanks to PSM).  Trust that I will receive an equal, if not greater, number of speeding tickets. 

Lastly, I trust that I made the best decision, for the money, of which pre-owned Porsche Carrera 911 to buy.

Written by Perry & Co. Denver Real Estate Professionals’ COO & Director of Relocation Services Jon Larrance.

P.S. I just stumbled on these two other “Confessions of a 996 Owner” blogs – https://carrera4neunelf.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/confessions-of-a-996-owner-2/ & http://oppositelock.jalopnik.com/oppo-i-have-a-terrible-confession-to-make-1534705782 – seems I’m not the only person who’s happy with their purchase.



61 Responses to “Confessions Of A Porsche 996 Driver (1999-2004 Carrera 911)”

  1. Jon,

    While I love some Porsches (993, 914, 930, etc.) and like all others (including the Cayenne and the Panamera) I still like the raw, visceral, seat of the pants driving that comes with the older air-cooled cars (all generations and models). There was something that was/is lost with the newer electronics. In fact, at times, I think my ’97 C4S would be better off without the “4”. It might be just a “bit” more fun, but only a bit. But I digress…

    I think the 996 gets a bad rep, not so much from aesthetics (although that is definitely a factor for many) but more from the mechanical failings experienced by so many in the first few years of production (RMS, etc.). Fortunately, Porsche solved the problem with the introduction of the ’02s and quietly fixed many of the earlier cars. Your particular choice, the ’03 C4S is one that I would be happy to have in my garage and have, in fact, been discussing an ’04 C4S cab as the next possible neighbor for my 993 (blasphemy, right?).

    Lastly, I think the true test of any sports car is how you feel about it a couple of years down the road once you have some miles under your belt. I look forward to reading more about your experiences with your 996 and hope they remain positive.

    John (aka 993C4S)
    http://www.PorschePurist.com

  2. Thanks for the comment John!
    Obviously, not all Porsche Purists are snobs. The one fact that maybe doesn’t come through in this post (but hopefully does in my earlier one) is that I did adore my ’97 993 C4S and it’s “raw, visceral, seat of the pants driving.” I think that the C4, or C4S (All Wheel Drives), are the ways to go regardless of the 911 generation you choose – being a rear-engined car, when accelerating through a sharp corner the C2’s (Rear Wheel Drive) tend to slip out mid-corner, a different feel than under-steer.

    You bring up an excellent point that I had intended on touching upon in my post – that being the issue of the Rear Main Seals (RMS) leaking on models prior to 2003. My experience when shopping for a 996 was that near 100% of those for sale built 1999-2002 had a prior history of RMS repairs, and I’ve been told that it can be a recurring issue. I don’t remember exactly but I believe the RMS fix runs well into the thousands of dollars, thus if you are intent on buying one of those years, make sure the RMS fix has already been completed.

    But my recommendation when shopping for a pre-owned 996 is that you only look at those built 2003-2004. Another reason is because of PSM, or Porsche Stability Management, Porsche’s system for reducing under-steer and over-steer in all driving conditions, which became standard (Note: it can be switched off when desired).

    See you down the road!
    Jon

  3. 3 Raphael Bertolus

    Jon,
    Well put as an undervalued Porsche. But don’t pitch it too much or “they” will discover this hidden treasure.
    My recommendation (and my ride) is an ’04 GT3 with round headlight covers (by Tech-Art) and a ’73 RS rear deck lid (by M.A. Shaw).
    Retro looking, dead reliable and absolutely a purist delight!
    Raphael

  4. 4 Paul Eves

    I think you meant purists (like me) feel it’s not a Porsche unless it’s rear-engined and AIR cooled. I like to apply this to just 911s. 911s must be air-cooled. Can you imagine a water cooled 356? Same thing. I bought my 993 Targa because I love the sound of the engine, the feel of the road, and the all glass retractable roof! Does life get any better? My girlfriend has a 2003 996 cab which I enjoy driving but they are SO different it’s hard to call them both 911s. Yes the headlights are non-purist but I always use the front fog lights at night to give it a more unique look.

  5. 5 Mattman

    1) I always think of round headlights as VW Beetle lights. Besides, the 993 headlights aren’t round. They are ovals. They are only round when viewed on-axis from a front cross-section. My dad’s 912 had round headlights. And no oil cooling to detract from the “really pure real Porsche” which is just air cooled, not oil. hah. :-)

    2) I like my 996 headlights. Seriously. I think the 997 is too retro. My favorite headlights are on the Cayman. That’s a great car, BTW, but I like engine in the tail where I can swing it around… heh

    3) Dad’s ’95 993 is not tempermental like you mention. And I don’t think it’s harder to drive, really. street/ax/track. I can push my 996 harder but it’s familiarity not because of the car… (and the R-comps… LOL)

    4) I disagree about the resale values. 993 prices are about the same as 996 prices. But local markets vary a lot.

    5) PSM is a joy on the street (saved my ass in the rain when the car was new and I didn’t realize how awesome it was), I flip it off for AX (for nutty tail out action), and it doesn’t engage on the track, even when I 4-wheel drift it through a horseshoe turn at 80… fun fun!

    I love my 996. Can’t imagine selling it. (Need more garage space, I do!)

  6. 6 Geo.

    Bravo and well said!
    Unless I am misconstruing what I read above I think that what the purists actually say is “It isn’t a ‘real Porsche’ unless it is AIR-cooled and rear-engined.” Too bad – I loved the 944s that others let me sample and coveted a 928S4.
    That being said I love my 2002 Carrera Cabriolet AND its unique headlights (what a stupid thing to obsess over!). I have had my issues with flat tires too and actually prefer my new Bridgestones to the OEM Continentals the car came with having had bad experiences with Michelin Pilot Sports on BMWs.
    I have already experienced the coolant tank failure issue that many 996 owners encounter and my clutch started slipping last summer at 33K. As the original owner put the first 25K on the car, I blame them for that failure as I have been driving manual boxes since 1972 and have NEVER killed a clutch. I did the RMS and the clutch at that time and Paul Miller Porsche put in the upgraded version of the seal so I feel OK on that score now. I have seen some discussion of issues with failure of the IMS on the 996 online forums but not enough to worry me into doing something proactive and expensive about it.
    I might be more concerned if I had chipped the car or was doing track days.
    Dollar for dollar, I can’t imagine that I could be any happier with either a 993 or a 997.

  7. Thanks Geo.
    I love your last line, “Dollar for dollar, I can’t imagine that I could be any happier with either a 993 or a 997.” However, have you driven a 997? I think you would jump at the chance to own a 997 for the same expenditure as a 996. Regardless, the 996 is a great car and it sounds like you’ve worked out all the issues that seem to plague the 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002 models.
    Jon

  8. 8 Andy

    Came to this website for Battery info and am surprised to here all the ‘to-do’ about 996’s. I would hope the the 997 is a better car given it’s a newer revision! However, price is a huge consideration. First, though, I have a red 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S with black interior, and I get compliments every WEEK about the car, at the Starbucks, the Gas Station, etc. So, I don’t know about those headlights, but every one loves my car. Maybe it’s the red color and turbo body. Now for price- I got mine with 35K miles from a Porsche dealer with a 2 year CPO warranty for about $40K. An early 997 C4S goes for $60K-$65K in my part of the Country. That’s a huge price difference. I’ve driven the car for a year and a half without a single issue except killing the battery (drive it every third day or so and didn’t have a trickle charger on it). And the car is a thrill. I also own a 2006 E55, and if the 996 is too refined, I just wouldn’t want to commute in a 993.

  9. For those of you with tire questions. Here is a great evaluation done by Car & Driver. Click here to see comparisons of nine high performance tires.
    Jon

  10. Nearing 10,000 reads, my Porsche Carrera 911 996 “Dead Battery & Locked Hood” Solution blog post is Porsche Club of America’s Fifth Most Popular Story: http://multibriefs.com/briefs/pca/index.php
    Thanks PCA members!
    Jon

  11. 11 Werner

    Hi Jon
    Having sold my 2006 Cayman S I am looking at a 2003 996 4S with 31 000 miles on the clock. Car = clean + history + being sold by my local Porsche agent. I have convinced myself that, that sexy butt makes up for the goofy lights (they’ve actually started growing on me).
    I was just wondering, now nearly a year down the line; are you still happy with the car?
    Werner.

  12. Hi Werner,
    Love it. Although I might feel a little different if I didn’t have the CPO warranty. Without it, I probably would have spent close to $10,000 in the year – new stereo, new AC/Heat Control, new Radiator, and some other odds and ends. So if your dealer isn’t already offering the Certified Pre-Owned warranty, I think it would be wise to have them add it on as your vehicle would certainly qualify unless it has been in a significant crash.
    Jon

  13. 13 Jan Pethick

    HI Jon,
    ‘Really enjoyed your article and ongoing mail. Last fall at the PCA event in Newport,
    my wife and I were impressed by the 993s and 996s. So I finally sold our ’85 Carrera and have been trying to find out all I can about the newer (maybe up to an ’04 996).
    I was merrily going down the mail on your site, thinking, “Maybe an ’03 – ’04 911 IS the answer. Then I hit the $10,000 costs over the year. !!!?!!. The funny thing is the way the Porsche oil that is still in my blood keeps pulling me back to reconsider these remarkable cars. I have a silver 1990 Nissan 300 ZX coupe with 128,000 miles on it. The engine is so durable, in spite of its sophistication (double overhead variable cams, a coil per plug); it’s never been really worked on. The gearbox, although not new, is smooth and precise. It corners predictably and tracks like the yellow line at high speed. It is a good looking car. In fact IT is the reason I started drooling over the 996s. After spending years in an ex-competition ’56 Speedster as a daily driver, I embrace comfort a bit more than I did when I was twenty-four. I WANT a 996 or 997 but that kind of expense is, for me, daunting. I still am drawn to the Porsche, but…
    Anyway I bet your car is wonderful to drive and I wish you all the best with it.
    Jan

  14. Hi Jan,
    I hear your point loud and clear. I think any time you buy a used car it’s a crapshoot and that’s why I recommend buying a Porsche with a CPO Warranty attached. Although Porsche’s reliability rankings are now number one, I doubt they were back in 2003.

    Crazy as it sounds, I spent 50% more in the first year I owned my used 1997 993 C4S. So I think anyone would be out of their mind to buy any Porsche without an extended warranty.

    I also have to tell you that I adore the old 300ZXs (I had a 1992 t-top myself and still drool over them), but in Denver you need an AWD if you want an all year around sportscar (the Z was horrendous in snow and ice even with Blizzaks) and that’s why a 911 C4S is the perfect car for me.

    Lastly, Jan, I hate to tell you that the Porsche addiction never goes away.
    Jon

  15. 15 Jan Pethick

    Hi Jon,
    Thanks so much for your response.
    So you, too, had one of those Nissan 300ZXs? They are pretty wonderful. Considering what they cost, they are almost puzzling. But I can REALLY see why you went for a 4 wheel drive 911. And you’re right, “horrendous” is the correct term used to describe the Z’s behavior on snow or ice. The first time I experienced snow with the 300ZX was when I had to move it in the Baldwin School parking lot. As soon as those rear tires rolled onto the compressed snow the car decided to go “Sonja Henie.” It was a riot; I had to gently coax it along with the clutch to a cleared space, praying for warmer weather. The Porsche Speedster was NEVER like that. In fact in not-too-deep snow it was excellent. Some of the most “fun” driving I did was in that stark little car in the snow.
    Your opinions and advice have been very useful – and this is after six months of investigating the 993 and 996 possibilities. I do love that 300ZX but that Porsche… besides, after almost forty years I’m back in the PCA, I’m a Riesentoter! Now THAT’S an excuse!
    Ah, the addiction. I need therapy.
    Best Wishes, I’ll follow your progress.
    Jan

  16. 16 tarek salah

    Nice writeup, the 996 is an amazing Machine…i love my 2002 and with a few modifications, and a more aggressive stance she looks bullishly beautiful!

  17. 17 Martin

    Obviously, I’m late to the game… but Thank You! I have an early 996 with amber turn signals, manufactured in May of 1998. I’ve had it for 4 years, put 50,000 mile on it (at 110,000 now), and love it more every day. I was a 911 purist since childhood with walls full, and totally get the same nose as the Boxster issue, and admire the 993s and 997s, but… my car has won my heart and I could not love it more. I love that it looks small and retro next to a 997, and retro-modern next to a 993.

    I just love it. I hope they stay cheap so I can get a second some day.

  18. 18 arin

    I have an 01 C2. I actually love the headlights of my car :-) I kind of think that the cayman is the kind of car the 911 was morphing into before Stuttgart regressed away from their non-oval headlight 911. Given the initial lashing against the 996 and Porsches precarious financial position, the company quickly responded by changing the headlights (twice in a span of 5 yrs.) back to the original style.

    I think that the Porsche could have continued its evolution. Im loving what the 2013 boxster lights look like … and in fact, i think im going to like the 2013 cayman more than the 2012 911 ….lets see …

  19. 19 Anthony

    Thank you for your article. I am purchasing my first Porsche this week, a 2003 996, and look forward to driving enjoyment.

  20. I just bought an 04 911 C4S cabriolet with a 6 speed. I cannot tell you how much I love this car. It had the electronic exhaust that you can switch from loud to quiet with the dual port SS exhaust tips. It sounds stupendous and goes like crazy! Only issue I have is getting it into third when it’s cold. Once it warms up though, it goes right in and I get thumbs up wherever I drive it. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about regarding the headlights (other than the boxter had these) as I love the look. I really love the wide ass on it, too! The car is soo much fun, it should be illegal and the power curve from 3,000 to 7,000 rpm is intoxicating. I’m always speeding in it cause I cannot control myself, lol!

  21. Jon – Love reading your blogs and all the replies. I recently got my hands on a ’99 911 Carrera 996. Growing up I loved VW bugs & they were always more affordable but now that I have a real job, I’m happy to race the freeways of Northern California in my 996. Thanks so much for the info on your blogs!
    Best,
    Jim

  22. Thanks Jim, I appreciate that. Agreed, every day I get to drive my 996 is a good day for sure.
    Jon

  23. 23 Julian Tighe

    Hi I have just read your article about the 996. I am currently looking to buy one but worried about the RMS and IMS issues and the dreaded D chunking in the cylinders. I like in the UK and have tried to find out more about these issues. Do you have any ideas or experiences of these failures? Thanks Julian

  24. Julian,
    I remember after doing the research that it was best to avoid model years 1999 to 2002 – that’s why I chose a 2003. I believe those issues were resolved completely by then. But I do remember taking that issue seriously and the best way to do so was to avoid anything prior to model year 2003.
    Hope that helps,
    Jon

  25. 25 David Maltby

    Hi,
    I just recently bought a 2003 996 C4S. My first Porsche was a 987 Boxster I bought new in 2007. I found it a bit boring and sold it after 3 years.
    The 996 is a decent car for it’s age with about 55,000 miles (89,000 km) and full history.
    Quite a hard ride by comparison to the Boxster and the motor has a glorious sound that is difficult to ignore.
    Unfortunately buying an older car does come with some complications, a week into ownership the power steering pressure line gave in spilling the fluid all over the road so now it’s at the agents waiting for the parts to arrive from Germany. (2 weeks). While it’s in the workshop, I’ve asked for a complete check over and major service, in South Africa this and the power steering repair will cost about $3,000. (R25,000)
    I’m looking forward to getting my 996 back at the end of Jan so that I can start to enjoy it.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion.

    Cheers
    Dave

  26. 26 Steve

    ALL cars have their individual problems, there have been some 996 models with engine issues and Porsche SHOULD help those that have had problems as it’s their reputaion on the line, BUT lets put things in perspective ANY 996 is a beautiful piece of auto motive engineering and the vast majority give daily TROUBLE free motoring for thousands of miles, dont believe everything you read newspapers quantify that fact !!!! ENJOY your 996 and dont worry over misconceptions of reliability the vast majority of 996’s be early or late models will give their owners many miles of trouble free ownership, change the oil/filters regularly and enjoy the car, it’s a future classic for sure, 2000 model carrera owner with 50,000 miles NO ISSUES ever !!!!!

  27. 27 Mjeffers

    Hi all,
    I’m a novice Porsche owner considering a 2001 carrera 4 with 50,000 miles. What should I be looking out for and is there any general advice you can give me?
    Many thanks.

  28. Hi,
    If you read previous posts you will find that most people, including myself, will discourage you from 996s built 2000 to 2002. The main issue is because of RMS leaking issues. This can be a very pricey and recurring issue. It was resolved by model year 2003 (that’s why I purchased a 2003).
    Best of luck,
    Jon

  29. 29 Mjeffers

    Thanks very much, Jon. Much appreciated.

  30. 30 dave

    I bought a 2003 spec 996 C4S with 70,000 miles in Dec 2012. A very neat car with no accident history and full service history. All service books up to date with all work done by the official agents. I was able to get a detailed report of all work done since the car was bought new. A review of the history reveals that extensive work has been done over the years. Motor replaced at 60,000 miles. Cluthch replaced twice, brakes replaced 4 times, numerous electrical faults, I just had the major service done and there were a few additional items that needed replacing. Total cost approx $4,000. I have not added the cost of every line item but I estimate the total cost of maintenance and repair is around $30,000.
    So much for the view that the Porsche is a cheap car to maintain. I think one has to be realistic, the 996 is getting old and normal wear and tear and maintenance alone equals big maintenance bills.

    Dave

  31. Dave,
    That sounds like a real lemon and really reinforces my view that people should only buy CPO Porsches (Certified Pre-Owned Warranty). My 2003 C4S has 76,000 miles – I just had the clutch done (first time) at $2,000 and have had brakes done once each. I have had many electrical issues (most covered under warranty) including window and sunroof mechanisms, HVAC and stereo problems. So I agree in principal with your closing thoughts.
    Thanks for your comments.
    Jon

  32. 32 dave

    Hi Jon,
    Did I mention it had it’s gearbox replaced as well? I agree with your point of getting a car with a history from Porsche. I know what work has been done to the car and obviously no money was spared to make it as good as a Porsche is supposed to be.
    It probably was a lemon but with all that has been done, it’s a pretty solid buy. I’m happy with it and look forward to enjoying it as much as possible.
    Dave

  33. 33 GH

    I bought an ’03 Targa last summer, and I’ve put around $4k into a new clutch, O2 sensor, water pump, alternator, battery, rear tires, and front control arm, although I did get about $800 of that back, because I bought a simple 3 year warranty from a third party, so that if my IMS blows up, my engine is covered.

    Speaking of IMS, every 911 from ’98-’07 has the potential to have issues, so you want to make sure that your mechanic goes through the necessary steps to check on it. My mechanic put in a magnetic oil cap to monitor particles, and, once my warranty runs out, I’ll have him put in the aftermarket, ceramic IMS bearing. He looked at the bearing recently, and, at 84,000 miles, mine is still in good shape. Having a higher mileage car that hasn’t had the IMS issue, yet, is probably a good thing, but I’ll still replace it once my warranty is up.

    All of this being said, I love my car, and it’s ridiculous that one can buy such a great, formerly $80,000+ sports car for relative pennies now days, but you do need to keep money around for maintenance.

  34. 34 Danespo

    I have a 2002 C2 coupe with 103,000 miles. The 2002 has the “turbo” headlights and the larger 3.6 motor. The 3.4 had cylinder collapse issues but had the dual row IMS bearing while the 2003 has the single row IMS which is more prone to failure. It not a matter of if the IMS will fail, it is a matter of when. Porsche recently admitted as much by settling a class action law suit for 2002 to 2005 996 owners. The details are in a Pelican MB thread with VIN numbers Porsche admits are troublesome. My advise for those who own a 996 is enjoy and drive your car as it is more refined, faster and handles better than a 993. Just change the oil every 5000 miles and the next clutch change, upgrade your IMS.

  35. 35 Erik Natkin

    Jon,

    Great thread, love the comments. I used to live in Denver, maybe I saw you driving around. Anyway, recently picked up a 2003 C4S. California, 2 owner car with 18K miles. Love the car. It’s good to read both on your blog and general Internet searches that this car is an everyday driver. Adding my two cents regarding the IMS bearing issue, my searches have come up with your same advice. It appears that about 1% of 996’s have IMS failures leading to catastrophic engine failures. Of these 1%, 97% were pre-2003. So, should be somewhat comforting if you own a 2003 or later car. Also, driving the car is good for the motor and owners should realize this. Many of the cars with IMS issues sat for a while, not being driven much. Of course, that makes me a bit nervous for my very low mileage car. But, that’s why I too have an aftermarket warranty. Cheers,

  36. For me Porsche ownership really comes down to how much you are willing to spend to own and maintain one. The 996 is a perfect entry point into the Porsche experience and you can find some real beauties out there. I now own a pristine 1999 911 C4 Cab w/ 40K orig miles, with now major issues (knock on wood). At a purchase price of $22K I felt this was a perfect way to experience the thrill of a Porsche while not pulling out a second mortgage on the house. I’ve owned many VW bugs in my life and many people can’t stand the way they look but many like me can never get them out of our lives and we still love them. As many who have posted here, I feel the same with the 996; great car to drive with amazing body lines. If this was the only 911 you had ever been exposed to I don’t think you would give it a pink slip. My last comment is that on a visit to Stuttgart this year for the “911 @ 50” celebration, I saw the 996 proudly paraded right there with all the other Porsche beauties :)

  37. 37 Bruce

    I’m Bruce, and currently looking to buy my first 911. I can only afford to pay about 30 grand. Although the 03-04 seem to be the best choices to buy. I really like t the drive of the air cooled cars. Somebody please help me decide.

  38. 38 Jeff

    Just bought my first Porsche, a 996 C4S last week. It will be a daily driver and has the comfort, power stability and awd needed for snow in the northeast.
    I agonized for three years over the various horror stories of IMS and RMS etc. and nearly backed out of buying anything Porsche. My wife said its expensive and not practical. I told her to just try it and you’ll see why it is revered. “It’s just a car” she scoffed. I knew what the car can do, one drive and she is now wanting to flip a coin to see who will drive to the store.
    Selling the wife was as much of an issue, as the purchase price. I believe i got a great deal since all of the concern issues were replaced or fixed prior to purchase. Mine had the LN Engineering Bearing swap, new clutch, radiators, starter and a boat load of other replacements. I paid $37K.
    I will drive it until it or I dies. Best car and decision I ever made.

  39. Bought my 2001 model 996 C2 2001 with 95k miles a month ago, love the drive so far and already added 2000 miles to it! It’s my first Porsche but given the level of cabin noise and feedback from road/steering etc compared to my previous cars there is still plenty of the “raw spirit” left in the 996 and makes me think the 993 and earlier just wouldn’t be suitable as daily driver cars.

  40. 40 Harry

    That 993 you owned was one sweet car, pretty girls can be trouble too, but I choose to never resist! All the newer 911’s look bloated to me but so do so many new cars. Maybe I am getting old but some things are just nicer to look at.

  41. I am glad I found your blog and happy to read many of the concerns about the 996 addressed here. After many years of non porsche ownership, we are looking forward to getting back in the game. After having owned a 1979 911 gray market car, a 1983 911 SC Cab, 2 944’s and one 944 Turbo I am well aware of what to expect. I think if most did their research, verified the cars history, got a pre purchase inspection, and purchased a warranty or did some of the work themselves on the car you could not go wrong. We just contracted recently to purchase a 2004 996 C4s Cab and are so looking forward to picking it up and driving it till death do us part, lol and cheers.

  42. 42 Jimmy

    I’m about to buy a 2004 996 Cab 6 spd, 16K miles, one-owner car. What issues should I be concerned about?

  43. If you have a CPO warranty with it I’d say there’s nothing to be concerned about. Otherwise, the only things I see being an issue are the auxiliary systems like the HVAC control unit, stereo, and window mechanisms. However, in my experience those issues didn’t appear until closer to 40,000. And the good news by 2004 the RMS seal issues were all resolved.
    Anyone else agree or disagree?
    Best wishes,
    Jon

  44. 44 Erik

    I purchased a 2003 C4S, 2 owner California car this last summer with. 18K. Very clean car. 2003 was the first year of the 3.6L motor which helped alleviate some of the mechanical issues such as the IMS and RMS. Of course the IMS is more of a concern since failure leads to needing a new motor ($15K or so). Although reduced this risk was not eliminated. To replace this bearing it costs about $3K because the motor and tranny are required to be pulled. Of course, since you’re there, replacing the clutch would be wise, about $750 in parts.

    The issue with these low mile cars is that they were not driven. I know this will sound weird, but that’s bad for these cars. At 23K mikes I ended up with an oil leak which my warranty payed to fix, about $2K. The clutch was bad too (low miles?) and had scored the flywheel a bit. I decide to replace all since we were there. Clutch, flywheel, and updated IMS bearing cost an additional $3700 but the car should be bullet proof.

    Again, the IMS bearing can go out. It has failed in about 1% of all 996’s. Good news for you is only 3% of these 1% were 2003 or newer cars. There is a class action law suit against Porsche for this. It covers the car for 10 years. Since the car you’re looking at us a 2004, I would look into it. I missed my deadline by a few months. It was a moot point anyway because my VIN was not covered. Your mechanic should have a copy of this document that lists all the covered VIN.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents. Have fun, drive fast. Porsche…. The ultimate driving machine….

  45. 45 John Paulsel

    I’ve had four Porsches in my lifetime and have had to tolerate Porsche bigotry with every one of them. My first was a ’74 914 2.0 which of course was snubbed as a VW with a Porsche badge. I loved that car so I didn’t care. It was a beast at autocross. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed this nearly perfect car. Then, I bought a ’73 911 T Targa. Snarky purists hated it because it had fuel injection. I’m assuming they preferred carburetors that needed adjustment every 50 miles. And the ultra purists had no use for the Targa. Just for fun, I bought a another ’74 914 2.0 at the same time I had the 911, but this one was in pretty rough shape. Marriage and kids put a long pause in Porsche ownership. Fast forward, I found a beautiful ’01 911 and of course, it’s an “inferior Porsche” because it is water cooled and has goofy headlights. I absolutely LOVE the car, headlights and all. I had the IMS bearing replaced for peace of mine and put a new clutch in at the same time even thought it still had some life in it, but it made sense to do it while the engine was out. It’s stupid fast, looks great and is a blast to drive. Anyone looking to buy a 911 on a budget should examine the 996. The prices are as low as they will get which makes tossing a little money into a IMS bearing a cheap date. Eventually, the purists come around. 914s are no longer shunned… the same for 928s and 924/944s. Every Porsche has its place in the history of the brand, particularly the 996. Without it, Porsche may not have survived or could have been sold-off to another manufacturer.

  46. 46 george jetson

    The Porsche 993 C4S is currently approaching $100,000 in value, at least stable in price or increasing and extremely collectable. If you want to sell a 993, you get money wired to your checking account within a few hours, if you want to sell a 996, you get calls from tire kickers who want to talk about IMS and RMS.

  47. That’s been my experience.
    Jon

  48. 48 Zac

    I have had a 2004 c2 for a year now , being in Canada I appreciate the good heat and air conditioning that none of my previous air cooled vehicles had . And being a little over 6 foot , I appreciate the room the 996 has over its predessesors . But what rarely gets talked about is the performance , in stock trim the 996 is 11 seconds faster around the Nurburgring than the 993 ! And I’ve fitted h&r coilovers and sway bars , powerflex bushes all round and the limited slip diff out of a crashed 40th anniversary model. It now handles like a slot car! I fitted braided stainless brake lines and cool carbon pads on sebro slotted rotors . For not a lot of money you can creat something really special . While replacing the clutch I fitted a lightened aluminium flywheel , a LNS ceramic ims bearing and the uprated rear main seal . It was pretty straight forward and the cost reasonable . If you are due for a new clutch a ims and rms upgrade adds 700 bucks in parts and one hour to the job . I did mine myself but it’s not that scary done at an independent shop.

  49. 49 Warren

    I have a 1999 Carrera C2 Cabriolet that I have owned for 10 years. Just rolled over 115,000 miles and it has been a fantastic car and has cost me less to maintain than any other car I’ve owned for that same length of time. Only maintenance issue other than standard wear items was a water pump. At 100,000 miles I did go ahead and upgrade the IMS bearing and seals while I was having a new clutch put in. Wasn’t as costly as I would have thought and with over 100K it still did not show any wear so did it more for long-term piece of mind since I will be keeping this car as long as I can drive. It’s been nothing but a true pleasure to own and drive. It is my daily driver and I put over 80 miles a day on it and it still puts a smile on my face every time I start it up. Still looks and feels new and solid.

  50. 50 Robert Abou

    I relate to every single part of your article ” I confess…” I love my 996 for the fun it provides me when driving it and the feeling of trust and relying on it. I also agree that the front headlight gimmick was probably the only design mistake done by porsche on this series. What is strange is that it took them 6 years to realize it.

  51. 51 Glenn

    I to can easily relate to this article. I was fortunate to stumble onto a ’05 Cab 991 Turbo S X50 in the fall of 2014 and it was love at first site. I bought the car before I got to drive it (I also researched the car thoroughly). It was towed and inspected by my Porsche mechanic, then had the car was towed to my garage where it sat for another 5 months as it was winter in Canada and I wasn’t going to drive my baby in the snow. I have heard over and over again the argument’s about the 996 and it’s “ugly duckling” looks from Porsche purists and no amount or arguing or even driving this marvel of engineering will change their mind on the imperfections of the 996. Personally I thing it looks better than the 993, it’s has better aerodynamics, the interior is very functional, the ergonomics are excellent not to mention that it will do circles around the previous 911’s. To some the 996 might look a little average as 911’s go but they deliver and incredible amount performance for its cost. Call me bias but I think that the 996 turbo looks very good with it’s wider rear, side mounted air intakes and the turbo front end. It also costs less than half the cost of it’s older sibling the 993 Turbo (let’s not even go into the price of a 930 or a 964 Turbo) and did I mention that he turbo doesn’t have issues with the IMS bearing. 10 years on and the car still get’s a lot of looks and questions about it’s performance and believe me this car will push hard against your inner organs when you put it through it’s paces it does not disappoint. So you get riveting performance at a great price with a Porsche badge up front, hard to beat I think.

  52. 52 Vancouver996

    Some good articles on the 996 on rennlist
    http://rennlist.com/forums/996-forum/893432-positive-996-articles.html

  53. 53 Mike f

    I’ve got a 996 convertible andnlovebit with only 63k on it. However, with five cars and an inheritance of a ton of gym equipment, the car is now impeding my ability to set up a professional gym at home. So here is my question. Should I hold onto my 996. Do you think the value will start to climb. I’m seeing about 24k as a fair price for this car

  54. Hi Mike,
    All indications are that the value of 996s are going to continue to drop. Unfortunately, the model has few of the attributes that make a Porsche collectible like scarcity, easy to work on, sensible wiring, limited plastics, etc.
    Enjoy the new gym! Jon

  55. If you’re seeing 24K as a fair price, that’s gone up since I got mine! Like Porsche’s before it, it is very easy to maintain by yourself & frankly is quite undervalued for the performance & abilities this car possesses. I’d hold on to it & know that you’ll get plenty of daily miles in this diamond in the rough!

  56. 56 Zac

    Actually prices bottomed about two years ago and have come up a bit in the last year . They made 175000 996s , so they are never going to see aircooled money but some of the cars are coming up.
    C4s , c2 manuals and cabrios are worth hanging onto ,
    A 3.4 tip of any sort is at the bottom of the market .

  57. I wouldn’t argue with anything you’re saying except to say that from a purely collector standpoint the 996 is not a good investment.
    Jon

  58. 58 SCOTT

    I have owned a 2002 996 C2 Cabio for many years and have loved every minute of ownership. I too wanted a 997 but they were just to far out of my price range. I changed IMS bearing at 70K and by the way the original one still looked perfect when removed, but I did not want to take any chances. I am still on the original RMS with no problems at all. I have changed the headlight switch and key switch. I also installed a modern stereo system with blue tooth and a rear view camera. To satisfy my need for a 997 look I put headlight covers on the 996 and called it a day. I have never regretted the 996 and plan on putting 150K or more on it.

  59. 59 Gerald shannon

    Started with a 1963- 356B in 1971. Went to a 1967-911S in 1975. Sold it because two children arrived (mini van). Purchased a 1968-912 in 1988 then another 1963- 356B two years ago. No air 100 dagree California days started me looking at newer Porsches because they are the only car that interests me. Much research landed a 1999 coupe. Love it. What a difference. Power, comfort and incredible engendering. Love the look. Greatest value in cars. Thanks everyone for your input!

  60. 60 JB

    Came upon this blog just today, yet of course after I purchased my 2001 996. Like most of the comments here I started seeking my Porsche over 10 years ago to replace a beloved 1966 & 1969 long hood cars. Many many cars ( bmw’s mostly, Volvo 960, Jag XJ12 etc ) later it was finally my turn to find my holy grail. We’ll as life has it many other things jumped in front of my wants ( grad schools, wedding, foreign weddings, farm equipment, etc. etc ) Now the time came when finances met opportunity yet like most of you have already stated, all the air cooled cars I chased ( even made offers on ) moved out of my range to purchase and bring up to daily driving levels ( faves, 964’s, SC 1980-82 all gone ) Quick research ( Excellence Buyers Guide ) sent me to the 996. Originally sought out the 2002-2004 but did not find the one. Then came across a 2001, 53k, great service history at local dealers, etc. All I can say is so glad I did. Just like my prior 911’s, this one has that rock solid feel, yet with more interior room, better ventilation & AC, 300+ HP ( I’m not a track guy ). No leaks anywhere, Litronic lights, rear wiper. Even though it has forged aftermarket 19″ wheels the ride & steering are terrific. Like other comments on this site, I know its not air cooled, yet it is a Porsche thru and thru with just a few more comfort features.


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