We're Gonna Put You in a Porsche. A Really Old Porsche.

A pair of 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 4's race down the highway. Photograph by Car Culture/Corbis Close

A pair of 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 4's race down the highway. Photograph by Car Culture/Corbis


A pair of 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 4's race down the highway. Photograph by Car Culture/Corbis

Common sense says don't buy a 25-year-old sports car. Oh, shut up, common sense. If it's a Porsche 911 Carrera built between 1984 and 1989, it's a reasonable purchase for a weekend driver, and Loot is going to prove it to you.

Most of the 911s from 1984 to 1989 with about 80,000 to 110,000 miles on the odometer sell for $17,000 to $25,000. And while that might seem like a lot of miles, "those are really bullet-proof Carreras," says John (Cheech) Fernandes of Rennwerk Porsche Technicians in Elmsford, New York. "They're the last of the simple Porsches." He notes, "Their air conditioning sucks." You've been warned.

So! Not such a bad deal for a rocket with leather seats strapped to it. But what about maintenance? Turns out it's not so bad. Your fixed costs will be:

  • An oil change at about $250 a year
  • A $1,500 tune-up every 15,000 miles (figure once every other year), or, on average, $750 a year
  • New tires every four years, at a cost of $1,200, so on average $300 a year
  • Insurance: Geico has quoted Loot $88.90 a month with the car licensed in New York City, or $1,066 a year

Total upfront costs: Just under $2,400 a year.

That's not the whole story. "You're talking cars that are coming up on 30 years old," says Tim Mulkeen of Lynmore Automotive Service in Huntington, New York. "They have issues. There are things that go wrong. Master cylinders go, brake calipers go."

There's an upside to these greasy ailments. "By this time in their life, a lot of the cars have already had the engine resealed," Mulkeen says. "Barring someone hacking up their gearbox by driving it like a 14-year-old, if you've got a car that's in good shape it shouldn't need much more than oil changes."

How much should you factor in for the things that do go wrong? "Over a 10-year period, assume it will cost $5,000 per year," says Michael Tashjian of Formula Motorsports in Long Island City, New York. Over that period, he says, "on your third year you might need a valve adjustment, on your fourth you might need new tires and a clutch. One year might cost you 10 grand, and one year might cost you $2,500."

The biggest variable, and the greatest liability, is where you keep the thing.

Tashjian says "99.99% of the car damage we see occurs in a parking garage." In other words, if you keep the car in New York, you're asking for trouble. "We paint about 800 bumpers a year," he says. "If the car is in New York, it's going to get banged up."

So how could Loot claim that a car that that costs at least $2,400 a year to maintain, and possibly more than $5,000 a year, is a good deal? Why not buy a Volkswagen Golf instead?

Appreciation. A late-'80s Porsche should roughly double in value as you drive it, says Tashjian. "A generation is just now retiring and has a lot of disposable income," he says.

But let's be cautious and say Tashjian is being optimistic. Let's assume the car does nothing more than maintain your purchase price -- say, $25,000 -- over the course of a decade, and you sell it for that amount. Let's max out the maintenance at five grand a year, for a total of $50,000 to own and drive and luxuriate in this good boy. Still not a bad value proposition for all that fun, and again, the failure to appreciate is counterfactual.

Bloomberg car reviewer Jason Harper seconds Tashjian's assessment. "You're basically driving the car for free," he says merrily. "Everyone and their cousin wants an old 911, including me. But one of the great things is that they really are a workaday sports car."

Common sense seizes Harper by the throat. "That being said," he adds, "if you own one of these, you will know your mechanic's name."

James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.

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