Boxster Buyers GuideWritten by Webmaster
You have chosen to buy a Porsche Boxster. Congratulations! An excellent and capable sports car with shore-footed handling, great looks and great performance.
As with all cars, the Porsche Boxster has its own problem areas to look out for, as well as some great features, so do not be put off yet!
In the early 1990's Porsche was still in production of their 944 and 968 entry level sports cars, however they knew they needed to produce a new product to compete with two seater Japanese sports cars which typically sported a mid engined layout. Even before the first 968 left the production line, Harm Lagaay and his team had produced the first designs and even a prototype model of the Porsche Boxster.
As you can see from the images here, the original prototype was very close to the version eventually released in 1996.
Harm Lagaay and his team were inspired by the iconic Porsche 356 speedster and Porsche 550 Spyder of the 1950's, which can be seen in these original prototype photos as well as the car that was eventually released as the Porsche Boxster.
The first generation of the Boxster, also known of as the 986, was made from 1996 until 2005 at which point it was replaced by a new version with many improvements, some of which cosmetic, some of which were mechanical, this new generation of Boxster is known as the 987 and was made up until 2012 with the advent of the 981 Porsche Boxster.
Chronology of the Porsche Boxster
- 1992 - First prototype of the 986 Boxster designed by Harm Lagaay and his team at Porsche.
- 1996 - The first 986 Boxster rolls off the production line as a 2.5 engined car with 201 BHP
- 2000 - 2.5 engine replaced with the 2.7 engine with updated performance of 217 BHP and improved internal components
- 2000 - Boxster S released sporting a 3.2L engine and improved brakes, performance was set at 249 BHP
- 2003 - 2.7 Litre engine improved further to produce 225 BHP and the 3.2 engine improved to provide 258 BHP)
- 2004 - Special eddition Boxster 550 released with improved 3.2 engine providing 266 BHP
- 2005 - Boxster 987 released with improved bodystyling and performance of 2.7 improved to 237 BHP and 3.2 S models improved with 276 BHP
- 2007 - 2.7 engine improved to provide 241 BHP and 3.2 S engine improved to provide 291 BHP
- 2009 - Boxster 987 Generation 2 released
- 2009 - Non 'S' cars equipped with 2.9 litre engines producing 252 BHP
- 2009 - 'S' models equipped with 3.4 litre engines producing 306 BHP
- 2012 - Boxster 981 released with further improved body styling and all new 2.7 (standard) and 3.4 'S' Engines
- 2012 - Non 'S' cars equipped with 2.7 Litre engines producing 261 BHP
- 2012 - 'S' models equipped with 3.5 litre engines producing 311 BHP
Of course when you are looking to purchase a Porsche Boxster it is important to inspect the body for accident damage, signs of previous paint repairs as well as lookings for corrosion.
The Porsche Boxster models have all been extensively treated at the factory to inhibit the possibility of corrosion forming in the bodyshell. So it is unlikely that the Boxsters that you are interested in purchasing will be suffering from corrosion, however as time goes on, the possibility of seeing corrosion on Boxster models will increase.
In particular, corrosion on a Boxster can be a sign of poorly completed body repairs, where the repair has involved the removal of paint, which may have removed the corrosion inhibiting coatings at the same time, which can lead to premature corrosion forming in the future.
On any Porsche you view it is important to ask the seller some direct questions, such as "Has the car ever had any repairs made to the bodywork, including paint repairs?". If the owner says there has been previous body repairs, you need to ask why the repairs were performed and who performed them.
Ultimately you need to be happy with the condition of the car's bodywork and if there are any signs of repairs, or if the seller admits to repairs having been performed, you need to be happy with the answers you are given and that you are happy to buy a car which has had repairs to the body in the past.
Otherwise, look out for any dents (using "The Dent Finder" tool and our accompanying guide), body filler (take a small magnet and run it around any points on the car which seem to have irregular contours that could be hiding body filler. Also keep an eye out for uneven panel gaps which could show signs of previous accident damage.
A point worth mentioning here would be lights. The very early Boxsters had orange indicators whereas the post 2003 models had clear indicators. While this may seem like a minor observation, the cars with the clear indicators are more sought after and the parts to retrofit an early car to have clear indicators will cost in excess of £1500 for new parts or will often will cost around half that price using used parts, so not as simple and cheap process as people may expect.
Typically the Boxster models have very similar interiors of various colours. The major changes in interior design happened in 2005 and 2012. Other than options for full screen sat nav units, and audio systems comprising of 2 speakers (basic), 4 speakers (hi-fi) or multi speaker (Bose) as well as the optional chronograph packages, the interiors are very much the same for the same models years.
The audio and radio options can be upgraded on all Boxsters, with the upgrade of speakers, addition of sub bass units and the integration of iPod, Iphones, MP3 players and Sat Nav units can be done without loosing the character of the car or it looking non standard.
One weak point of a Boxster would be the suspension bushes in the track control arms, which tend to fail every 5 to 6 years. Typical symptoms of failure is squeaking as the car crosses speed humps or pot holes, as well as eventually accelerated tyre wear.
Another issue with the Porsche Boxster can be broken coil springs, for which the symptoms are unlevel stance, as well as knocking noises over rough ground, as well as failed suspension top mounts which often cause groaning noises from the front or rear of the car when the car is being manoeuvred into parking spaces.
All Porsche Boxster models have superb brakes as standard, utilising Porsche aluminium callipers all round and vented brake disks.
When inspecting a Porsche Boxster it is important to check that the outer lip of the brake disk has not developed a pronounced lip, as this may be a sign that the brake disks are worn out or almost worn out and could soon require replacement.
In addition it is important to check the brake disks on both sides (inner and outer) to ensure that the surface is smooth and has no circular grooves which can be felt by hand, as well as checking for a surface which seems corroded or rough on any part of the surface of the brake disk, as this can be a sign of corrosion damage to the disk, or even a disk thats hardened surface is peeling away.
During a test drive, a Boxster should be able to pull up squarely and quickly to a halt in an emergency stop without any squealing or squeaking from the brakes. Should there be any abnormal noises or should the steering pull one way or another during braking, it could be a sign that the brakes require repairs.
While checking the car's service history, it is also important to see when the brakes were last replaced and by whom. Ideally you should be looking for brakes that have been replaced recently and by either a Porsche specialist or by an official main dealer. There are some very cheap and nasty brake disks and pads available to garages, which if used on a Boxster could cause serious consequences due to the performance and nature of the car. In addition it would be easy for a non Porsche mechanic to miss issues with the braking system, such as inspection of the aluminium hubs where the calipers attach, which if in need of repair and not spotted could potentially cause a fatal accident.
If there is one area of a Boxster that should be checked on a regular basis by a Porsche specialist, it should be the engine.
There are several ways that a Boxster engine can potentially terminally fail, requiring either rebuild or replacement with a new or used item, these are commonly as follows.
- Bore failure - Fractures or distortion in the bore can happen to a Boxster engine at any point in its life without warning. The engine casing can be repaired, however it will require a complete engine rebuild.
- Intermediate Shaft Failure - There is much discussion as to the cause of this problem, which we will touch on later, however intermediate shaft failure, if caught early enough can be repaired without a complete engine rebuild, however if not caught when early signs may be seen, such as during servicing, then it can cause major engine damage, requiring a replacement engine. This can be spotted early during an oil change by inspection of the oil filter during an oil change, as well as the trained ear of a Porsche technician noticing the tell tale rattle from the engine at idle. In addition its failure can be predicted by noticeable oil leaks from between the engine and transmission.
- Camshaft chain failure - During a service the engine will be listened to by a technician using a stethoscope in the area of the cam chains, listening for the sound of the chain rattling or slapping within the engine. Usually the failure is caused by the chain becoming slack due to it stretching or through wear in the cam chain guides.
As well as head gasket issues, which are common to any model of car, the above are the most common failure causing complete engine failure if not spotted early. However, it is important to say at this point that the above failures are by no means as common as you may imagine if you read posts on forums. instead, the vast majority of Boxsters continue to give good service without issue. However it does highlight that often it is a good idea to have a Boxster inspected by a professional before you buy it, and to have Porsche only specialists or main dealers care for your Boxster after it is purchased to ensure that expensive repairs can be avoided with good servicing or problems being caught early.
A Boxster should also run smoothly at both idle and at higher speeds under load. No matter what car you are used to, a Boxster should feel as if it has a smooth balanced engine which produces power without flat spots or hesitation. Some unscrupulous salesmen may say that a flat spot, rough idle or hesitation as a normal feature of a high performance engine. However this is not true with the Boxster engine and may be a sign of faulty sensors or other components on the engine.
When checking the service history of any Boxster, it is important to make sure the car has had at least one oil change every year. Even on post 2005 models where Porsche specified that it can be stretched out to every two years. Failure to do this can contribute towards all of the above engine problems.
It is also important to note when looking at the service history, that if the service book indicates that a low mileage minor service has been performed, this does not include an oil change and minor services do not include oil filter replacement. At JMG Porsche, all services include oil changes and oil filter changes.
It is also worth asking the seller when the drive-belt and water-pump was last changed on the car, as either of these if neglected can turn into a rapidly overheating Boxster, without warning, which in turn can cause head gasket failure.
While checking the exterior of the car, is is also worth looking into the vents either side of the front of the car, where the main radiators are located. If there is a large amount of debris or leaves, there is a chance that the radiators and air conditioning condensers may have been subjected to corrosion caused by rotting biomass. If the areas seem clear, look for stone damage to the fins of the air conditioning condensers you will see. Any damage here could result in large expense repairing the air conditioning system.
While checking for problems with the radiators, with the engine hot and running, smell around the front wheels, if you can smell a sweet chemical smell, it may be a sign of leaking radiators which may be about to fail.
Until recently only two transmissions were available for the Porsche Boxster, the manual six speed transmission and the tiptronic transmission. However in the newer models there is also the option of a PDK transmission with up to 7 speeds.
Typically all 3 types of transmission are very reliable, as long as they are serviced on a regular basis.
Porsche specified quite a lengthy service interval for their transmissions, which we have observed can lead to problems eventually requiring a complete transmission rebuild or premature failures requiring repairs. Typically we recommend that all Porsche vehicles have the transmission fluids changed every 35,000 miles, and in the case of tiptronic transmissions that the filter be changed at the same time.
With the manual transmission there are some problems to look out for.
- Sloppy or stiff gear change - probably caused by linkage and cable issues, the Boxster should be as easy to select gears as any other car you have driven.
- Heavy clutch pedal - Probably caused by a severely worn clutch. The clutch pedal should be very easy to depress and no heavier than the lightest clutch you have every experienced.
- Clunks from the transmission when switching off the engine - this can be a sign of flywheel failure, which will require replacement of the transmission.
With all models look out for the following.
- Clicking sounds from the rear of the car which increase in speed or frequency with the car - This can be a sign of driveshaft issues.
- Deep bass sounding hum from the rear of the car at or above 40mph - This can be a sign of rear wheel bearing failure.
- Echoing ghostly hollow sounding noise from the rear of the car - can also be a sign of wheel bearing failure.
Again, please do not be put off by any of the above explanations, as a rule Boxsters are very reliable cars, but the above are items we recommend you look out for when buying a Boxster, which a salesman may comment as being a feature of the car.
The electrical system in the Porsche Boxster is very robust and reliable, however there are a couple of problems to watch out for when buying a car as well as while owning the car.
The Boxster security system features an electronic control unit, which in right hand drive models is located under the passenger seat. A good location for security purposes, as a potential theif would have to spend a large period of time removing the drivers seat to gain access to the unit, with of course the alarm system siren sounding very loudly the entire time! The down side to this location is that if during servicing the leaves and debris accumulated in the rear roof drains have not been cleared, rainwater leak into the cabin behind the rear carpet on the bulkhead and then can collect around the control unit destroying it or causing random issues with locking, the alarm system, the roof or even the electric windows. Another case in point for regular servicing by technicians who only work on Porsche models.
Wheels and Tyres
Various wheels and tyres were available for the Boxster models, some of which were 16" rims, 17" rims, 18" rims or even 19" rims on the later Boxster models.
Typically for the purpose of your personal inspection of the car, it is not important to know the names and types of the various wheels, however it is important to ensure they are in good condition. Curbing marks, corrosion or damage will only become worse with time and complete refurbishment of wheels will cost between £75 per wheel, through to £200 per wheel depending on the type of wheel.
In addition, rear wheels can be prone to suffering buckles, which is due to their width and reduced strength across the width of the wheel. A buckled wheel is almost impossible to repair successfully and safely. So should the car exhibit any issues with vibration at speed, we recommend that the car is inspected on a car lift to look for buckles in the rims, in particular the inner edges of the wheels.
When Porsche buy in tyres from manufacturers they test to see which ones give the best performance, driver comfort and speed of wear. Once they have selected a tyre, they then approve that manufacturer and allow them to display the tyre as N-Rated, also that manufacturer offers a discount to the factory. When a Porsche is new, not using N-Rated tyres can invalidate your warranty and actively encorages owners to use the N-Rated tyres, which is part of the deal with the manufacturers who supply the tyres. Once a Porsche is out of warranty, there is no reason to use N-Rated tyres, the non N-Rated version of a Pirrelli Tyre (for example) is exactly the same as an N-Rated one. Likewise, since any Porsche model has been released, the European standards for tyres improve, as do materials and production techniques. So do not be put off if the tyres on the car you are looking at are not N-Rated.
Also with the tyres it is important to check the tyre has good amounts of depth of tread across the whole width of the tyre, as if the car has alignment issues, it may suffer from the tread wearing thin on the inside edge of the tyre only.
One other item to look for would be to make sure the tyres are not over 5 years old, as it is commonly accepted that beyond 5 years old a tyre is more likely to be hard, prone to cracking or even prone to complete failure through shredding, which is especially important with a car with high performance such as a Porsche.
Like all modern cars, Boxsters are currently still depreciating. Obviously the older the Boxster the less likely it will be to depreciate further, with more modern models likely to depreciate more rapidly. To see how much a Boxster will be worth in two years or more, just look at the prices of Boxsters of that additional age to be able to assume the rate of depreciation you are likely to suffer.
In the distant future the Boxster models will appreciate in value, but it is not anticipated that this will happen for 10 to 20 years from time of writing. However it will happen as it has happened before to every other Porsche model.
The future models which will be most valuable will be the 550 models, the Spyder models and to an extent the 'S' Models
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