My name is Scott Eaton and I bought and sold used 911 and 930 Porsches for over 25 years. Following are guides I wrote for buying, selling, or owning a pre-owned Porsche. Consequently, when dealing with other exotic vehicle brands, the tips I share on Porsches apply to them just as well. My goal is to address the most important aspects of buying, owning, and selling collectible vehicles and keep people from traveling that lonely road to disaster.
If you are a normal car buyer, you are bound to read something here you did not think was important. If you are a veteran car buyer, well - we'll see. If you think of an addition, or spot an error, please comment below..
Note: This guide is not intended for those looking for a daily driver. Also, I try to list my suggestions in the order of importance.
All cars are an investment, but collectibles are in a class by themselves. Only drive them on weekends - preferably a lot less. Unfortunately, if you are like most collectors you're a bit out of luck. The one approach that is hardest is not driving the car.
While daily driving is done often, with Porsches and other exotics, most investment potential vanishes the day you start driving them daily. There is nothing wrong with driving what you know is the best, however; there is nothing wrong..., only if you can afford it. In other words, above all else, mileage is key. When it comes time to sell, the last thing you want is for your car to have higher miles than the competition.
- Color change: This is the worst thing you can do to a car's resale value. If you must change the color - don't. Sell the vehicle and buy one in the color you want. A color change will cost a minimum of $5000 and probably closer to $10000. The old paint must be stripped, the engine removed, along with seats, carpet, windows, etc. All that money wasted, and even if the paint holds up over the years, most buyers refuse to even consider it. Changing color is plain stupid and not worth the hassle.
- Garage your Vehicle: A car that is garaged, compared to one that is not, has paint and interior that lasts 3-4 times longer. One of the first questions I ask when buying a vehicle, "Do you keep your car garaged?"
- Maintenance: To avoid warranty work manufactorers go to great lengths determining what maintenance is best for their vehicles. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule religiously. You can do maintenance early but don't go overboard. Oil changes every 2500 miles is throwing away money unless the car is in storage. When in doubt, ask a mechanic who specializes in the car you are discussing and DO NOT listen to anyone who is not an expert. Taking advise from some blow-hard who just wants to impress can lead to disaster. When in doubt get a second opinion.
- Maintain Service Records: When it comes to selling your car, it is very important to have a complete set of service records. Keep records in a safe place, and be sure the service book is updated every time the car is taken in for service. Dates and odometer readings must be recorded, not just in the service book but on every receipt. Also, do not count on your mechanic to furnish you with copies of receipts in the future. Get the receipts now - and keep them safe. Finally, do not change your oil at places like Jiffy Lube, and do not let anyone who isn't completely qualified and trusted work on your vehicle.
- Love your car: Some people love their cars; some people don't. It is always best to buy a used car from people who loved it.
- Avoid areas where your car get damaged.
- Porsches are low to the ground and parking lot barriers are installed to make you stop; not to rest your front wheels against. Many front spoilers have been destroyed doing just this, by not paying attention and running into the barriers. OUCH!
- Avoid high traffic areas by parking away from pedestrians and cars. If parking between cars, be sure that both have enough room to not hit you when doors are opened. Consider what will happen when the car next to yours leaves? Will there be enough room for the next car? This is why it is always safest to park away from everyone, but above all else, use common sense.
- Do not park under trees because tree sap, falling limbs, birds, etc., can do a number on your paint and body.
- Avoid newly paved roads, road paving projects, and other types of construction. If this is not possible go slow. Avoid debris in the road from being kicked up into your car by not tailgating. Porsches are especially vulnerable to rock chips up front and on the side mirrors.
- Use bras and mirror protectors on long trips. Do not use them in the rain unless you remove them immediately after, and dry them out thoroughly.
- Accident history: If you are involved in an accident, do not paint the entire car. Paint only the parts that were damaged and no more. Most factory paint is baked on, and this process can not be duplicated outside the factory. Repainted cars lose tremendous value and are easy to spot. If only a door or fender are painted depreciation is a lot less. Therefore, if the paint is in good condition, a good body shop can match the color and repair only the part damaged. If the shop says only a repaint will fix it, take it somewhere else. They are obviously not good enough. Most areas on a damaged vehicle will probably receive new replacement parts. Fenders, doors, or any panel that bolts on. The area I suggest not be replaced are rear quarter panels, welded by factory robots. Like factory paint, these welded seams cannot be duplicated. Of course if they are damaged beyond repair, replacement is your only option. Whatever parts have been damaged, when settling with insurance, do not accept a check for the cost of the repair alone. Insist that there is depreciation to vehicles that have been wrecked. Insurance companies know this, and you can expect compensation for this depreciation.
- Rust: Rust comes from many sources, but the main source is salt air, salt water, bird droppings, acid rain, and plain dirt. Cars from the coast, cars driven on salted roads in the winter and other salty areas, are by far the most vulnerable. Never drive your car in salt water. If you do the car is totalled. The salt gets into every nook and cranny and you will never get it out. If you suspect salt got in your car then rinse it immediately, generously, and thoroughly. This means inside doors and fenders and the entire underbody. Ideally, do this at a time when the car will dry quickly, but do it regardless. Dirty cars also trap moisture each morning from condensation so keep you car clean.
- Upgrades: Most cars have known problems over the years that people become aware of. If your mechanic suggests you have an upgrade, they probably know what they are talking about. Of course a second opinion never hurts, but failure to get the proper upgrades can result in huge expenses later on.
- Racing: Cars that are raced around the street, track, or wherever, break a lot sooner. No amount of maintenance can prevent this. If you are a racer you must live with this fact.
- Repaint: If you must repaint the entire car, expect to pay $3000 minimum, if it's a 911, probably closer to $7500. Anyone who paints your car for less is not doing it properly. Parts alone cost at least $1000, and to do it right the car must be disassembled, stripped of old paint, stripped of rubber seals, sanded, primed, and then painted. Of course new rubber seals must be added before painting. Unfortunately, unless you are the painter, you never recoupe the price of a paint job. You could, however, make the car easier to sell - at the right price.
The reason for this Buyer's Guide is simple. If you buy a decent car today, there is a good chance it will still be decent when it is back on the market in the future. Don't get caught in a nightmare.
- Which Car Should I Buy: Most people buying a Porsche have one hurdle in common. The amount they can spend. Once this is determined, the next question will be, "What year can I afford?" Many people recommend you buy the newest vehicle, but I recommend the oposite. Buy an older car in better condition, and the reason is simple. The older car, in better condition, will look better, give better service, and cost considerably less in the long run. Sure, newer cars give you creature comforts, but they are not more reliable. Do you really need newer technology, or would you prefer reliability from a car that has been well maintained, loved, and years of service left before major repairs will be needed? Whatever you decide, follow the rules below and you can't go wrong.
- Salvage titles: Never buy a car with a salvage title unless you are buying a parts car and know what you are doing. Cars with salvage titles are hard to get insured, very hard to get financed, and almost impossible to sell when the time comes.
- Service records: Nothing is more important than a complete set of verifiable service records, going all the way back to when the car was brand new. Do not believe the odometer on cars without records, and partial records are just as suspect. Also, avoid buying cars from people who don't care enough to keep records. I have heard many sellers say their car was stored for 5-10 years before they owned it, but none could back up their claim. Other common stories are, "My wife threw the records out," or, "I lost them when I moved." If a seller claims their mechanic has them, be sure to get them before the sale is final. Unless you know the dealer personally, never expect them to fulfill the promise that the records will be mailed to you. If you think I am overly sensitive about records you are right. Bottom line: If you buy a car without complete records you are taking a huge gamble, but if you must buy the vehicle anyway at least don't pay full price.
- Pre-purchase inspection: Demand a pre-purchase inspection, before purchasing a used vehicle, by a mechanic who specializes in the car you are buying. Do not look at a pre-purchase inspection as an expense. A pre-purchase inspection is not just insurance to keep you from making a BIG mistake. It is also a tool used to lower the price. A pre-purchase inspection costing $150 is certainly worth every penney. It helps you walk away from a deal, due to undisclosed problems, or get the price down further, if that's the decision. Be aware, if you use a mechanic who worked on the car, they might owe the seller a favor; or they may not want to admit their last repair was not what it should have been. At any rate, never take the word of an unqualified mechanic, and talk to people who have used the shop you finally settle on.
- Garaged and Loved: One of the first questions I ask is, "Do you keep your car garaged?" A car that has been garaged will have paint and interior parts lasting 3-4 times longer than a car kept out in the weather. Avoid a Porsche that wasn't garage, along with those who blurt out, "It's just a car!" You can always tell a true Porsche lover by where the vehicle is kept, how clean it is kept, and who they let work on it.
- Color: All cars have colors that are not popular. If you are considering an unpopular color, then the price should be less - a lot less. Unpopular Porsche colors are browns, greens, yellows, purples, and especially cassis red (pink). Fortunately, some of these colors are rare. Unfortunately, if they are the ones you want, Murphy's Law makes sure they are unavailable as soon as you look for it.
- Repaint and Accident history: Avoid a car that is only 7 years old and has already been painted. Depending on the year, 2 panels may not be a big deal, i.e.: a door and a fender, a fender and a bumper, etc. Anything more is suspect. Best to walk away.
- Rust: If you can spot rust on the exterior, you can be sure it goes a lot deeper. Porsches built for the USA market have required rust protection for years. However, many cars bought in Europe were shipped to the US (European or gray market cars). These cars were prone to rusting because by law they were not required to have rust proofing. Cars from Florida, cars driven on salted roads in the winter, and other coastal or salty areas are also susceptible.
- Racing history: Cars that have been raced should not be considered, unless racing is just what you are thinking. If you do plan on racing, buy a car that has been used for this purpose. There are more of these cars than you might think and they have been made ready. Please do not destroy a good Porsche on the track, or the street for that matter... (Just kidding). It is true that a Porsche is designed to go fast, but people who treat their cars this way do not have a car I would want as an investment; or as an everyday driver.
- Low mileage: Too many people feel low mileage is key. The sad truth: Most buyers cannot afford Porsches with low mileage in excellent condition. That is if they can find one. Normal mileage on a Porsche is 7-8000 miles/year while normal cars are driven 12-15,000/year. Too many people turn down beautiful cars because the miles are higher than they anticipated. This is why odometer rollback is rampant and why a complete set of service records cannot be over-stated. I would prefer a car with 80,000 miles and all records than one with 40,000 miles and none. If you believe odometers are only rolled back 30-40k miles, you are sadly mistaken. Finding the right car is always a challenge, but if you want a 12 year old car or older with less than 50k miles, you're not looking for a car that can be driven - You're looking for a collector.
- Upgrades: Most cars have problems that people become aware of over the years. Do your homework and find out which upgrades are needed for the years you are considering. Try to find a car that has these upgrades. Surprisingly, a good many will meet this requirement.
- One Owner: It's a myth to believe a one owner car is best, and the reason for this is human nature. Every new owner makes repairs to their new baby that the previous owner did not care about. After the car goes through 5 or 6 owners, over the years the car can be restored little by little. It is true a one owner car makes people feel good about the mileage, but here is the other truth. If the car has all service records, you can be confident about the miles, regardless. It really doesn't matter if it is one owner or five. Of course restoring an old car over multiple owners does not happen with cheaper cars used as a daily drivers, but it does happen with Porsches. At least some that are not daily drivers.
- Leasing: Avoid leasing a vehicle unless it is strictly for business and you are getting a 100% tax write-off. The pitfalls to leasing require a lot more time to write about than I have at this moment.
- Paying for the car: Paying for a car works differently depending on whether banks are involved or the vehicle title is present. If the transaction is between two banks lack of a title is rarely a problem. If there are no banks involved and no title present. RUN AWAY! If you are financing just follow what the bank says, but if you are paying cash, be sure there is a title or all bets are off. Finally, do not pay for the car until all service records are present. Often sellers are merely stalling, when they say they have records - they have no records whatsoever. On the slight chance they do have the records, after selling their car, what is their motivation to look for these old files. It's a lot easier for them to simply say, "I couldn't find them."
The list I have outlined comes from years of experience. If you find a car that meets the best criteria I described then take the blue, black, yellow, or whatever book you are using, to tell you the car's value, and throw it in the garbage. If you find one of these gems, at the price these books say, you are a lot luckier than I am. Book value cannot be used when it comes to perfect cars with low mileage, all records, original paint, no accidents, the right color, etc., etc., etc.
- Advertising and Pricing: Do not advertise your car as, “best in state”, this is a big turn-off. Unless, in fact, your car is “best in state”. Do your homework regarding market value and do not over-reach. You are emotionally involved now, and you have also been out of the market for some time since buying your car. You can certainly pad your price some, for haggle room and what have you, but don't go overboard. Know this: If you advertise your car at too high a price no one will call. On the other hand, if you want to sell quickly, advertise your car in the low range. You'll get many more callers and the calls will be serious. Finally, to avoid wasteful and unnecessary phone calls, be sure to advertise the price, miles, color, and information that is important and you know will be asked. You do not have to advertise everything, but you do have to include the basics.
Warning: Be sure to advertise Make, Model, Year, Roof, in the exact same order as everyone else. If you simply state “Porsche red convertible for sale,” your ad will not be noticed because it will be far removed from all other convertibles listed.
If your car isn't selling, your best option is to keep lowering the price. Remember, it's a buyer's market in many cases, and people can always find something nicer. Above all else, price is what sells then comes the condition. Keep all phone numbers to those who call, do not disregard them. If you ever reduce your price, it might be all it takes to spark renewed interest with an old prospect.
- Color: All cars have colors that are not popular. If you find that no one is interested in your car's color, your only alternative is to drop your price in the ad.
- Service records: Have all service records up to date and ordered chronologically so buyers can look through them easily. If your mechanic has the service records, get them yourself. Don't make the buyer be the one to obtain copies.
- Wash and Detail Car: First impressions are the most important. Have the car washed, waxed, and detailed, before showing it to a prospective buyer. You only get one chance to make a good impression so don't blow it.
- Personality and Patience: News Flash - A buyer who agrees with everything you say rarely exists. If someone disagrees with your price, don't take it personally. It's extremely important not to be rude if you don't agree with the buyer. If you can't control yourself, consider letting someone else sell the car for you. Do not let improper behavior destroy any chance of falling back on a prospect in a pinch. If someone offers a price you feel is too low, your best response is, “I'll keep it in mind,” or, “I'll get back with you.” In the final analysis, if you are not desperate, be patient. The right buyer will come around, eventually, for the right price of course.
- Repairs needed: You rarely recoup money spent on repairs so it is best not to do any. Most people would rather you come down on your price. When this may not hold true is if the car is long overdue for a service. In this case, get the car serviced immediately because some people overlook terrible service history if it was just done. Other people will never be interested in a car with poor service. (See Buyer's Guide and Owner's Guide)
- Pre-purchase inspection: Buyers should demand a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic who specializes in the car they are purchasing. If someone wants to purchase your car they may have their own mechanic and will not want to use yours. If you don't know the buyer, your safest option is to drive your car to their mechanic yourself. Call ahead of time, and be sure both appointment and payment is arranged. Also, find out how long it will take and ask if car will be worked on once you arrive. Pre-purchase inspections take about an hour, so take something with you to keep busy while waiting. If you decide to let a buyer drive your car to their mechanic, verify both home and work phone numbers exist. Finally, check their drivers liscence, before letting them drive off with your car.
- Trade-ins: In most states sales tax is less when a trade in is involved. However, if you plan to trade your car to a dealer, do not let them know at first. It is also wise to run your car by some of the auto dealers in the area beforehand, to get a better idea of what your trade in will be worth. Do not do this while buying a vehicle or the figures will be unreliable. Dealers are masters at playing with numbers and make it look like you're getting a great deal for your trade in. It is probably best to tell dealers you plan to pay cash for your purchase. After you strike the best deal you can, on the car you are purchasing, tell them you changed your mind, and ask how much they will give for your trade in. In reality the truth is this: Your trade in is worth no more than wholesale. The car they are selling is at retail. Do the math.
Copyright 2000 by Scott M. Eaton: 1978-2004 911 and 911 Turbo Porsche Specialist.