Sale of the Week

At $25,500, is this the breakout Boxster?

by Andrew Newton
23 July 2021 2 min read

Ah, the Boxster. A well-balanced and lovely to drive little mid-engine convertible, it still gets a bad rap for some reason. “It’s a hairdresser’s car,” people say. “It’s a Porsche for people who can’t afford a 911.” Sure, people who say such things have never actually driven a Boxster, but the truth is that the early 1997-04 cars (aka the 986) have been among the cheapest things with four wheels and a Porsche badge for a long time. That means a lot of Boxsters have bounced around from owner to owner at low prices, living a life of deferred maintenance and hard driving. They just don’t get the typical Porsche pampering of, say, a 911 Turbo. That’s exactly why this car up for auction on Cars & Bids caught our eye. A first-year 1997 model with just 1190 miles showing, it’s the cleanest and closest to a brand-new example as you’re likely to find anywhere. It sold for $26,648 (including fees). That’s a decent chunk of change, yes, but it could have gone higher, especially in the context of all the other like-new, collector-grade modern collector cars bringing eye-popping prices lately.

photo: Cars & Bids

The Boxster came about at a turbulent, important time for Porsche in the mid-1990s. The front-engined cars were all gone, the Cayenne was still several years away, and the company was in rough financial shape. To boost sales volume and efficiency on the production lines, Porsche designed a new entry-level model in conjunction with the next generation 911, with the two cars sharing many components from the A-pillar forward and utilizing similar water-cooled flat-six engines. The new Boxster (a portmanteau of “boxer” and “roadster”) carried the entry-level torch for Porsche, and it was a big seller and a great driver’s car. Car and Driver concluded that “if there has been a contest going on among BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche to see which German automaker could build the best-performing small roadster…Porsche should be passing out cigars right now.” Nevertheless, hairdresser jokes as well as the infamous (and somewhat overblown) IMS bearing issue persisted, helping Boxsters depreciate to a fraction of their original purchase price.

The 986 Boxster actually stopped depreciating in 2017, when you could buy a #2 (“excellent”) condition 1997 model for $13,000. The #2 value is up 27 percent since then, so people are catching on, but at $16,500 it’s still cheap. Cheaper even than older, slower entry-level Porsches like the 944.

This Cars & Bids car had the potential to be a breakout Boxster. It ticked all the collectability boxes – insanely low mileage, first-year model, desirable colors, recent service, lots of documentation. In the end, though, it sold for only slightly above our current condition #1 (“concours” or “best-in-the-world”) value of $25,000, which strikes us as fair and realistic. For context, it’s also important to remember that even before options a new Boxster was a $40,000 car in 1997. That’s nearly 68 grand in 2021 dollars, and according to the seller this car cost $46,328 when it was new, which works out to over 78 grand adjusting for inflation.

Other, higher-mileage 986 Boxsters and Boxster Ss have also sold for similar money to this on other online auction platforms, and old front-drive Hondas sell in the $20k-range online all the time these days. So, for now at least, it looks like the crazy money isn’t chasing these budget two-seaters. That’s probably a good thing.

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  • Jim Crawford says:

    Loved the write up on the ’97 Boxster! I recently bought a ’99 base model with 51k on it for 14,500. I have owned 7 British 2 seaters, 100A and Sprite Healeys, MGs and Triumphs. Also a nice NC Miata, Audi’s, BMWs and a Benz 280. My ’99 Boxster is by far the best “driver’s car” I have owned. The paint and interior are near new condition, and I just put the IMS retrofit kit, new clutch, spark plugs, and tires on. For a total under $20k, this is a fantastic driving car! I have taken it on the track at NJMP for an HPDE day and couldn’t have been more impressed. Hairdresser’s car? LOL!!

  • Peter J. Pike says:

    My wife owns a 2001 base Boxster from new, with over 150,000 miles on it (and its original clutch!) While it is no longer a daily driver, it runs well and is a pleasure to drive on weekends (getting in an out is a little bit of an issue, but we all age!) While it is probably not worth more than the 1979 MGB that I got rid of years ago, at the very least, when I take it out, I am more than reasonably sure that I will make it back home under its own power. It is a fantastic car and an amazing value at the prices they get nowadays.

  • Emmanuel Orta says:

    A mid-engine, convertible with a Porsche badge that wasn’t as expensive as a Carrera sounded like a great deal, and still does. For this reason, the Boxster was nicknamed the ‘poor man’s Porsche’ because only those who couldn’t afford a Carrera bought one.
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  • Alexi Ojeda says:

    I personally prefer the boxster over the 911. That’s just one mans opinion, tho! Edmond Roofer

  • Darryl says:

    I love this old body style. I prefer this one, over the 2005 styles. Lawton Plumbing

  • Mark says:

    Just acquired a 1998 Booster from its only and original buyer. No accidents, 31,000 miles, silver with red leather interior, manual and factory hardtop. Beautiful car. Paid $12750. Very fun to drive. A sporty driver not a luxury ride!

  • Supriyo Khan says:

    The mid-engine, Porsche-badged convertible wasn’t as expensive as the Carrera seemed to be, and still is. For this reason, the Boxster has been nicknamed the ‘poor man’s Porsche’ as only those who could not afford a Carrera bought it. silentbio

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