I hear this question quite frequently – “I love my 944, but it needs some things done to it and I don’t know if it is worth it to get it fixed. What should I do?”
The Porsche 944 cars out there are getting old – thirty years or so – and they require maintenance to keep them in good shape. Since they have been inexpensive to buy for many years, neglected maintenance is unfortunately typical for many of these cars. “Backyard repairs” can also plague these poor things, too – I’ll be kind and say that these repairs may not up to factory specifications. So they need help, and help costs money in parts and labor. So when is it time to give up on the old 944?
What systems typically need maintenance or repair, and at what cost?
- Appearance: Paint fades, clear coat wears through, and the car looks bad. Repaint can cost $2,000 on the cheap and go up from there.
Interior: Driver seat splits and bolsters wear out. Finding presentable used seats is difficult, reupholstery can cost anywhere from a $100 repair to $800 and up for new.
- Engine: Belts, Hoses, Water Pump, Front Engine Seals. This can get pricy if you have a shop do the work, although the parts are generally not too bad.
- Clutch: Not an easy DIY job, $600 for the parts and $1,000 labor.
- Air Conditioning: Leaks from age, including the condenser and compressor. This can get expensive.
- Other maintenance items like brakes, tires, light bulbs, etc. are common to any car.
- NOTE: Learn how to do your own maintenance! It can be fun and really rewarding!
So with this in mind, we again ask – is it worth it to keep fixing it? Well, here is the argument.
Most Porsche 944 and 924S owners do not have their cars financed. I have a “commuter car” 2010 VW CC four-door that I use as my daily driver. With almost 70,000 on the clock, it gets me where I need to go efficiently, but still requires maintenance and repair. I make payments of about $250 a month on it, and still need to fix a few things now and again. So with maintenance and monthly payments, I put about $4,000 a year into this car to get me to and from work – about 12,000 miles a year. That’s thirty-three cents a mile.
The Porsche 944 and 924S is a design from the seventies and eighties, but unlike other cars of the era, it has not aged all that much. Sure, the popup headlights are a sign of the times, but the lines of the 944 are still current today. Just look at some of the cars made today that take their cues from the 944 – the Toyota/Subaru 86/BRZ for example. Other than the wheelbase, it is a “modern” 944. So we can conclude that driving your 944 won’t make you look like you are stuck in some past decade.
I have always been one to attack both minor and major maintenance head on, when it occurs. If a mirror switch or light quits working, I fix it. If the car is due for belts and water pump, I do it. Running a little hot? AC not cooling properly? I fix it.
While some might call this obsessive, it has a pleasant result – I spread out the maintenance costs over time. My 924S that is probably worth somewhere around $6,000 gets what it needs when it needs it, and I probably spend around $1,500 a year on it. WOW! That’s a lot of money each year on a car that isn’t worth that much! Or is it?
I drive my Porsche every chance that I can, even using it for commuting to work. I put about 8,000 miles a year on it (here in Central Florida, we drive a lot). So since it is not financed anywhere, it costs me $1,500 a year to drive my 8,000 miles, which includes Porsche Club events. That is just under eighteen cents a mile! My VW (at $.33 a mile) gets 26 mpg. My Porsche ($.18 a mile) gets 24 mpg. So in reality, it’s a dead heat. The Porsche is cheaper to drive.
So we circle back to the question – do I save my 944 or give up on it and sell it for $1,500 or so because it “needs work?” Do an assessment on what it needs now, what it will need in the next two years, and add it up. How long have you been driving your 944 without doing any maintenance at all? Be honest…three years? At $1,500 a year, that is $4,500 in missed maintenance costs – money that you owe your car. Then make a decision from there. Remember that these cars in good running and driving condition where everything works are bringing good money – prices are going up. So your 944 is no longer depreciating.
You love your 944. Bring it back to a full life with the proper repairs, then support it with proper maintenance. Your car will love you back.
Another disturbing thing that I hear from 944/924S owners – “I don’t belong to the Porsche Club of America because I don’t own a 911.” Bulls&$#t! Your local club actually has 944 owners in it, and the Porsche Club can be a great place for technical information, assistance and, of course, camaraderie. Membership is inexpensive and pays dividends. I took a totaled 924S with low miles back from the dead after an engine fire, and sold it to one of our local club leaders. Every month when we have our meeting at the Porsche dealership, he proudly displays his white 924S in front for everyone to see. I love that.
Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.