A wise man once told me that something was worth exactly what someone would pay for it. How true. So when I get the question, “What is my 944 worth,” my answer is the same – what someone will pay. But that doesn’t really answer the question. So how can one set a value on a 924, 924S, 944, 951 or one of its variants?
Classic Car Value
We would like to think that our cars have the mysterious labels of “classic,” “rare” or even “desirable.” For most of them, it just isn’t the case. We try to take a page from the Corvette folks who spout statements like, “Only one in this color with this engine, factory air conditioning and these factory wheels.” Okay – one of a kind – but with over a hundred thousand 944’s in North America alone, we really don’t care about most of this stuff. Sure, the 944 Turbo S and the 924S Special Edition were limited production and may represent a bump in value, but remember that these increased value cars are 1) low miles, 2) stock as-delivered original condition and 3) come with complete documentation. Most of our cars do not fit into this category. Since restoration costs back to original typically exceed any value at this point, we don’t even think about doing a restoration and actually making money.
But Look At How Much I Spent…
So you bought the car for $X,000, then put another $Y,000 into it to get it to where it is today. You got the engine and transmission rebuilt, completely replaced the interior, had it painted at a high-end shop, and used only nuts and bolts made in Germany to get it to where it is today. That’s nice, but doing this kind of thing can easily create a situation where you spent more on the car than it is worth. Trying to recover all of your money is sometimes unrealistic at best.
For example, let’s say that you bought a 1987 944 NA for $3500. You spent $2000 on the engine, another $2500 on the interior, $900 on the suspension, $1000 on new tires, and $600 on the brakes. Then you paid $3000 for paint. You are now into the car for $13,500. It’s a nice 944, but you will probably not sell it for what you have in it.
More reasonably, let’s look at another scenario. You decide instead to buy a 2019 Toyota Camry. (I chose the Camry because they are popular, economic to drive and own, and hold their value. Depreciation is pretty level throughout the first five years, too, so you don’t see the big drop in the first year as you do with other cars.) In the first year, it will cost you about $6,100 to own it – money that you will not see again. The second year, the cost to own is about $3,800, and $3,400 the third year. So in three years, you will have spent $13,300 to own this Camry, not including fuel and insurance. You still have a Camry that is worth around $16,000, but the $13K or so that you already lost is lost forever.
So you bought your 1987 944 and spent a load on it to make it right. You drive it to and from work, to the grocery store, and to various meets and events with the rest of us. After three years, minus fuel and insurance, you have spent a total of $13,500, and your car is worth around $6,000. And you had more fun than you would have had in the new Camry for sure.
Will you get your money back? Probably not. But we cannot expect to buy a car, drive it for a period of time, then get all your money back. In our example above, it cost you $7,500 to drive your 944 for three years, or about $2,500 a year. That’s not bad, and it is realistic. It’s not a money pit…it’s $200 a month that it cost you to play with your Porsche.
I Have Seen The Ads and the Valuation Tools…
Even though I advertise a car for a certain number does not mean that it will sell for that number. Edmunds, KBB and Hagerty may say that cars like yours are worth between $6,000 and $10,000, but that doesn’t mean that your car in your market is going to get to that number. Some of these look at classic car auctions, then use an algorithm to decide what numbers to use for “Fair” or “Good” condition. With so few of our cars going to the classic auctions, there is a small sample of really good cars upon which these estimates are made. At the Russo and Steele Auction at Amelia Island this year, we watched a 1986 944 NA that DIDN’T sell for $41,000. It had 5,000 miles on it, and it had been in a collection/museum in Kansas since new. Does that mean that all 1986 944’s are worth that much? No. Does it mean that this particular car was worth that much? No. Remember – it is worth just as much as someone is willing to pay at the time of sale, and it did not sell. The seller wanted more.
To determine the real value, the best method is to determine the real value in your local market for a good looking good running, reliable, needs-nothing car similar to yours, then deduct for the things that it needs. And your deductions should be at a retail price – not “I can do it myself” price. For example, let’s say that a nice 1987 924S that needs nothing, everything works as designed and looks decent would sell for $7,000 in your area. Then take your 1987 924S – that admittedly needs some help – and deduct the things that it needs to make it right:
- Air Conditioning Compressor, installed and charged – $800.
- Sunroof repair – $100
- Odometer repair – $125
- Front seat splits repaired – $450
- Hatch resealed – $150
- Engine resealed, belts, hoses and water pump – $1,000
- Clutch replaced – $1,500
- New tires – $800
The total is $4,925 for the stuff that needs to be done. That means that your car is worth about $2,075, by the numbers. A buyer may be tempted to go higher, but don’t be surprised if you were to get an offer at $2,000 or less. And yes, someone may buy it for $2,000, do the work himself (or herself) and get a great car for less money.
The Real World
Looking at the ads we see terms like “classic” and “rare” thrown around quite a bit. In reality, these terms do not typically associate well with our cars. Our cars are fun, somewhat dependable, practical sports cars of a type and design not seen in newer cars today. The lines are timeless, the engineering wonderfully done, and they are infinitely customizable to an individual’s own tastes.
So is the 944 and its brothers and sisters seen as an “investment?” Not really – you’re not going to buy a 944 and see it increase in value by more than a few percent, if any. And yes, the 924S Special Edition and the 944 Turbo S are rare enough to garner some special interest, but not enough to make them gold-standard investments. They are fun cars that are inexpensive and give us lots of enjoyment.
So what is your car worth? Exactly what someone will pay for it. Look for a future article (soon) on how to make your car more attractive to buyers and how to craft that perfect advertisement.
CASE STUDY: A 924S was on Facebook Marketplace for $4,500. The lengthy description was full of “classic” and “rare” and “exclusive”, and was heavily worded to describe the fun of driving a ” real Porsche” for little money. Quite the bargain, it said. Well, the car was a 1987, and it was an automatic. The transmission had just been serviced, and it was ready to go.
Over several months, the ad came and went, with lower and lower pricing. The body was straight, but the paint was a mess and the interior – beige – was a bit horrible. It would need a lot of work – complete bumper-to-bumper redo – to make it just right.
Finally, 924S944.com made an offer and bought the car for $750. No one likes an automatic. Except…
My oldest granddaughter just turned 14, and we have a new shop going up this week. So over the next year, grandpa and Beth are going to “do” this car. We will rebuild the engine, brakes, suspension, steering, HVAC, interior, and paint on the weekends over the next year, then she will learn to drive on this Porsche 924S Automatic. I am sure that in the end, we will have many more thousands of dollars in this car – more than it is worth, since no one likes the automatics. But she will have 1) a dependable car that gets decent gas mileage, 2) a car that SHE built and 3) knowledge of pretty much every cubic inch of her Porsche. Not many new drivers have that advantage, and she will cherish this car and the time we spent together on it for her whole life.
It should be great fun.
Her little brother, who is 10, asked me if we were going to build a Porsche for him.
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.