We get a fair number of questions about whether to buy a 944, how to tell if you are getting a good one, what the best price should be, and what to expect in maintenance. Here are ten rules to follow when in the market for a 924, 944 or 924S.
The Porsche 944 and 924S variants have gained popularity in the last few years, and prices for these sometimes 30+-year-old cars is creeping up. As a “public service,” I have put together ten simple rules to follow when in the market for one of these great cars.
- Buy the best car you can find for what you can afford. Sometimes the bargain basement price can mean that there are a lot of hidden issues that could be expensive to repair. Set you budget, then stay within that budget, knowing too that your new acquisition will need a little TLC after you take ownership.
- Knowing how to work on your car will be required. If you know nothing about cars, tools, and simple maintenance, this is not a purchase that you want to make. Any old car that you want to buy will require maintenance and repair, and if you cannot do at least some of the more basic stuff yourself, you will be paying a specialty shop something north of $100 an hour to work on your car. You can quickly spend more than the car is worth.
- If it doesn’t run, drive, turn and stop, you probably need to look for another car. Getting into a “project” that “ran when parked” or “only needs a fuel pump to be perfect” is a hive a problems that is best left to those with shop space, time and parts cars to rescue and return to the street. If you cannot take it for a test drive, leave it alone, regardless of price.
- Air conditioning typically needs more than “just a recharge.” Repairs on air conditioning can get pricy, and most of us cannot do our own AC service due to lack of expertise and proper equipment. If the system has leaked down, it is probably due to a leak! Compressors are $500, condensers are $250, and evaporators are $300, plus labor to install, charge and leak-test.. While many cars on the market have non-functioning AC, make sure that you take these costs into consideration when negotiating price.
- Interiors are normally not perfect. These cars are somewhere around thirty years old and the driver’s seat has seen and felt a lot of butt time. Seams split, leather, vinyl and cloth gets worn, and foam padding deteriorates. Professional reupholstery can be expensive, and matching materials and colors can be problematic if only doing one seat. Again, something to consider in negotiations.
- Sunroof mechanisms may not work. These sunroofs fail, and when they do it is mostly due to stripped plastic gears in the roof or bad microswitches in the cable motor mechanism in the hatch area. While a bit complex to diagnose, the parts are cheap and the home mechanic can fix them. This is another negotiating point on your side – if the sunroof doesn’t work, get money off because they are “difficult to repair.”
- Rear hatches separate at the hinges and leak. Look for water stains in the top of the back seat that would show that hatch has been leaking at its top edge, and see if the hatch opens easily. Inspect the area around the hinges to see if the glass and frame are still sealed or separated. If the hatch takes some pushing and twisting to open, the hatch probably needs attention.
- Rust should be non-existent, except in the battery box. Unbolt and move the battery to see if the original metal still lives under the battery. If the area has been fixed with new metal, fiberglass mat, or liquid sealant, look at the area under the battery tray in the interior for water damage. If the battery box leaks, it leaks into the interior and creates lots of other problems. Other rusty areas may indicate damage that was fixed poorly.
- A worn clutch can be an expensive repair. Clutch replacement at the shop can easily top $1,500. Parts are about $600, but there can be 8-10 hours of labor, and that can add up at over a hundred an hour.
- Buy a car that makes you happy. There are enough of them out there for sale that you can get the color combination, equipment and condition that you want. Hold out for the right car for you.
We cannot stress the importance of a pre-purchase inspection to ensure that you know exactly what you are getting. This is especially important if buying a car at distance. Having someone who knows about these cars take a live look at your choice can save money and aggravation down the road.
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.