The Best Used 911 Could Be the Best Cheap Sports Car: 996 Porsche 911 Buyer’s Guide

  • The 996 Porsche 911 could need an IMS bearing replacement
  • Coolant pipes crack with age
  • A leak can spell disaster in the best cheap sports car you can buy

Today, we’re discussing the 996 Porsche 911. It’s easily the most controversial Porsche model to come out of Stuttgart in, well, forever. However, there’s a big argument to be made that this could be the best used 911 out there, and maybe even the best cheap sports car. With some help from Tyler Hoover and plenty of forum scrolling, this is everything you need to know about the 996. And IMS bearings.

Why is the 996 so cheap?

A dark green 996 Porsche 911 sports car sporting a roof tent and rally lights
People really do use their 991s for everything | Porsche, 996roadtrip

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So, why is the 996 such a bargain? First, there’s the looks (we’ll get to numbers 2 and 3 further down). Porsche fans can’t stand the 996 generation because of the “runny egg” headlights. Whether it’s for you is, well, up to you. Regardless, they certainly set the 996 apart. People give Porsche flak for making the 911 look the same every year, but the 996 is immediately identifiable.

Then there’s the engine. When the 996 Porsche 911 debuted in 1999, it was the first water-cooled Porsche ever. People hated that. Frankly, it’s all a bit overblown. Valuable air-cooled Porsche 911s consistently overheat without modification, and the 996 brought many modern amenities like usable A/C and storage that help make this car a great daily driver.

996 911 common problems

A dark blue 996 Porsche 911 shot from a roll
The 996 has a trim level for everyone | Porsche

Now. The IMS bearing. As Tyler says in the video, people think the IMS bearing doomed the 996 911. In truth, it’s a bit like the rod bearings on an E92 or E46 BMW M3. It doesn’t need to be done until it does. Yes, when it does it’s expensive. Our research found that replacing an IMS bearing can cost anywhere from $3,000-$4,000. A big number, but doing the IMS bearing is a great chance to solve another issue: the rear main seal. Hell, you can even do a clutch while you’re at it for guilt-free driving.

We’d recommend budgeting for all three, despite Tyler’s insisting that only 5% of 996 911s suffer from IMS failure. Really, the name of the game here is leaks. Almost any leak on a 996 Porsche 911 means spending money, and quickly, Steering shafts are known to leak, and coolant lines can get fickle with age. This is absolutely a car that needs a pre-purchase inspection.

The 996 Porsche 911 is the best cheap sports car

A silver 996 Porsche 911 Targa shot from the rear 3/4
Targa 996 911s are especially hard to find | Porsche

So, how much should you pay for a 996 911? Really, the sky’s the limit. Low-mile Turbo cars are six figures now. Thankfully, despite the surge in enthusiast demand during the pandemic, there’s still some deals. An automatic transmission convertible is going to be the cheapest. We’ve found sub-100k mile examples for around $20,000. If you want a stick shift coupe (or Targa), expect to pay around $30,000 for sub-100k miles.

With 296 naturally aspirated horsepower, the 996 Porsche 911 is a killer sports car. There’s a reason every auto journalist remembers the first time they drove a 911. These are cheap sports cars that offer a killer experience for the cost of a new Toyota Camry. But get one soon. We’re seeing values begin to climb.

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