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ekauppi7 New Reader
4/15/19 7:00 p.m.

The girlfriend is lusting after a convertible.  She's never owned one.  We'd share the car.  Manual trans and fun to drive are the priorities.  I spent some time looking at old Fiat 124's, I owned many back in the day.  Or a TR8, mm..  But then I started thinking modern and reliable would be good.  I have a Lotus Europa which needs a lot of work of course, I don't need another project.

Miata is the obvious answer, cheap and cheerful...   But they're not that cheap.  And it looks like I could get an '05 or earlier Boxster for $5-7k or so, since I'm not in a hurry.  I'm thinking find one with 50-120k miles and the IMS time bomb ticking, do the IMS and rear seal and clutch, and have a nice ride for not too much money.  

Am I crazy?  "There's no such thing as an inexpensive Porsche"?  And how are they to work on?  I'm a good mechanic and I have access to a lift, but I haven't worked on Porsches since the 914 days.

What do you think?

Who has driven both Boxster and Miata and can comment on the fun to drive question?



Floating Doc
Floating Doc Dork
4/15/19 7:22 p.m.

I've never even sat in a Porsche, so my input is worth every penny you're paying for it. However, there's a reason that...






There, now that that's out of the way, no one has to do it. Now you can get some actual useful comments. Good luck!

Tyler H
Tyler H UberDork
4/15/19 7:26 p.m.

$5-7k for a Boxster is about what it will cost to get one into top condition.  I'd shoot for a nicer P-car.  If you're a good mechanic, all cars are pretty much screwed together by human hands and robots, and thus fixable.  The Boxster is a nicer car to drive; more comfortable, more torque, more fast.

The Miata won't burn a hole in your wallet and is still tons of fun.  Go that route if you want a more predictable total cost of ownership, especially if you want to spend more time driving and less time wrenching.  It's just hard to go back after you get used to driving a torquey mid-engine or rear-engine car.

FormulaReed New Reader
4/15/19 8:12 p.m.

I owned a Boxster for 4 years or so. Really great car to drive, however in my experience, pretty expensive to keep running.

the ims bearing is an issue. But more common failures are still expensive to fix. The coolant tank, water pump, air oil separator, cam chain tensioners... all things that failed on mine, none were cheep. 

I wound up trading mine for a racecar. The Boxster broke so much, and cost so much money, my wife was happy to see it leave and a racecar show up. 

nderwater UltimaDork
4/15/19 8:17 p.m.

I’ve driven, on the street and on track, each generation of Miata and Boxster. In my opinion, they get better to drive with each new model—so go test drive as many varieties as you can.

If it was my money, I’d look for as new a Boxster S as I could afford (987+), but a Miata with forced induction is also ridiculous fun.

An alternative you might consider is an early BMW Z4 with the 3.0 liter i6. Good ones start at about $6k and, while they are not as pretty as a Boxster, they’re more entertaining to drive than a stock 986.

AAZCD Reader
4/15/19 9:10 p.m.

Counting two parts cars, I've bought 10 Boxsters. Never owned or seriously considered a Miata, but they look like fun little cars. I can't compare, but I can advise a little about the 986s. I like working on cars and the ones I bought were depreciated or salvage. I have fixed all the common problems multiple times. Some can be a bit annoying, but no more expensive or difficult than similar repairs on other cars I've had - easier than many.

Some basics:

All the worry about IMS bearings is Overrated. Until you are the one who has one go bad. Buying a car that you can Verify has had the bearing replaced, or planning to do it with the clutch is a great idea, but don't let the worry ruin enjoyment of the car. I have replaced two myself and had a shop do one for me when I was too busy and had a leak at the seal. If you DIY, it's not hard to follow the correct procedure. With an '05 model there is no way to know if you have a replaceable IMS bearing or the newer larger one without removing the transmission.

Buy a car that has had the water pump, coolant tank, and AOS replaced, or plan to do it at some point. These cars are 15-20 years old and things wear out with time, not just miles.

Much like buying an Audi, you do well to shop for the right previous owner rather than shopping specifically for the car. An enthusiast owned car can save you a lot of headaches over a worn out trade from a used car lot.

It's a great car to work on, but different. Lots of the maintenance can be done from underneath, or from the side with the wheels off. Brake pad and rotor change is the easiest on any car I've owned.

There are some good aftermarket parts, but some things like the coolant tank and AOS, it is best to go with the Porsche part (or Pierburg water pump).

2.5L/2.7L Base or S? Both are fun. If you need to have the bestest and fastest get the S (you are considering a Miata so the base is fine). I have just as much fun in a '99 as I do in an '04 S, but that same fun in the S will put me into more expensive speeding tickets.

I've seen a few fixes that were done very wrong. Don't hesitate to walk away if things don't quite look right. There are lots of Boxsters in the world and there will be a better deal next week.

Final note: If the amount of money you are spending is significant, have an experienced Porsche mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection. With all the cars I have bought, I know I will still miss things that a disciplined pro will find.

Vigo UltimaDork
4/15/19 11:15 p.m.

It seems like the early 2.5 cars aren't cared much about by the usual Porsche buyer, so you can find really nice looking early cars in your budget. And, as said, the 2.5 is still way faster than the majority of Miatae.  People dog on the 986/996 interior, but i like it. I have never owned a Boxster but did own a 996 911 and certainly would again if the right deal came along. Owned an na miata briefly and have driven a ton of them up to about 290hp, with very little desire to own another one unless it's an NC that's way cheaper than an equivalent performing Boxster (good luck!!).

amg_rx7 SuperDork
4/15/19 11:48 p.m.

NC Miata is the easy button choice imo 


spend your time driving instead of wrenching or worrying 

yupididit UltraDork
4/16/19 7:07 a.m.

Get a Boxster. At your price range and access to a lift you'll get way more car for your money. Plus, they're so fun to drive. Miatas break too, yes they're reliable but so are boxsters. 5-7k, you'll find many boxsters that are worth buying, especially along the California cost. 

I've noticed that miatas are more expensive to buy than I thought. Most deals are from a kid who did E36 M3ty mods with questionable quality parts. Boxsters are usually owned by a much older demographic with more income and common sense. 


alfadriver MegaDork
4/16/19 7:59 a.m.

So here's what I'm reading....

You can spend $5-7k on a P car, and wait for it to break in known areas along with normal used car issues.

Or you can spend $5-7k on a Miata and just drive and wait for the typical used car issues.



Honestly- go drive them, and make sure you fit correctly and like them.  That's the real key part of a car like this.  This should not be a compromise, as it's totally an emotional buy.  You need to really love the car to put effort into fixing what will eventually go wrong correctly. 

KyAllroad (Jeremy)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) UltimaDork
4/16/19 10:00 a.m.

NC Miata is the answer.

nderwater UltimaDork
4/16/19 10:27 a.m.

Wildcard roadsters priced under $8K:
- Chrylster Crossfire
- Mercedes SLK 230
- Nissan 350Z convertible
- Pontiac Solstice
- Saturn Sky
- Toyota MR2 Spyder

I've never had a chance to drive the Spyder, but I liked the Solstice & Sky.

dps214 New Reader
4/16/19 10:47 a.m.

2.5L (pre-2000) boxster and don't worry about the IMS. Not the fastest thing in the world but faster than a comparably priced miata in most cases. And you get sweet german engineering, lots of fancy aluminum parts, mid engine handling, two trunks, and sweet, sweet flat six noises (even if if doesn't make much power it still sounds the part in a way a miata never will). Yes, cost to own and maintain is a bit higher, but not nearly as ridiculous as anyone who's never owned one will lead you to believe.

Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
4/16/19 11:37 a.m.

AAZCD is THE Boxster guru here.  My experience so far is they are dead easy to work on.  Any issues I've had are either age related or things I missed putting it back together.  With the soft top 'service position' and the access panel from the inside everything is easy to reach.  What (very few) mechanical parts I've bought have been fairly priced.  The Porsche tax has only come in on trim bits so far and is why I'm still running around with one slightly cloudy headlight as after market replacements are over $500 vs $50 for your high volume vehicles.  

While size is a personal issue, I now find an NA/NB simply too small, too slow and too exposed for DDing.  I consider NA/NB's to be in the same category as MGB's from a DD point of view.  Fun, easy and affordable, but not practical, safe or comfortable, especially around here with E36 M3ty roads and predominant use of SUV's and trucks for DD duty.  YMMV.

A 986 boxster, relative to it's price point, has a E36 M3ty interior.  Having said that, it's magnitudes better than an NA or NB.  That's no slight against the Miata's.  They were $20K cars new, not $50K+.  Despite its sub par (for brand and price) interior, the Boxster is a really really nice place to be, at least for me.  I love DDing and I love taking 250+ road trips in it.  

You will also love how the Boxster handles.  Plenty comfortable enough with good ride for a sports car, but the handling is sublime at street legal speeds.  The steering is simply suburb, it feels like you have a tie rod in each hand rather than a steering wheel, column and rack in between you and the wheels.  Boxsters, especially early 2.5L cars like mine, are slow by modern traffic standards, but rocket ships compared to a Miata.  The nice thing is you get to wring that glorious smooth yet howly flat six all the time and listen to it's sweet wailings.  An early Miata will have a loaded semi flashing you to get out of it's way from a stop light even at WOT.

These are all personal opinions mind you, but the Boxster really is in a different class here.  Now a couple of disclaimers.  One, these are my opinions and yours may be different and just as valid.  Secondly, I've just discovered how cheap NC Miata's have got.  NC Vs 986 is a totally different conversation that you might want to have.

dculberson UltimaDork
4/16/19 11:50 a.m.

I've never driven a Boxster but need to.

The MR2 Spyder suggestion isn't a bad one. Despite only 150hp on tap they're on par with early base model boxsters in the 0-60 (around 6.5s) due to their low weight - 2200lbs. I'm sure it's a much more raw experience given the original cost difference and the weight difference. But I love-love-love mine, as a driver's car. It wouldn't be good for long trips given the essentially zero luggage room. Do not buy an SMT car, they suck.

As alfadriver says, though, drive the cars and pick the one you like more. That's the only answer to me.

nderwater UltimaDork
4/16/19 12:13 p.m.

There a few 987 Boxsters that show up for sale for under $10K, particularly at the wholesale level.  A couple years elapsed between my drives of a 987 and 986 so my personal experience is limited... so for the guys who know, how compelling is the difference between, say, an '04 Boxster and '05 Boxster -- enough to justify a $2,000 bump in budget?

Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
4/16/19 1:09 p.m.

In reply to nderwater :

Personally I would go for a good car over the cheapest one. My car was cheap cheap cheap but it had a brand new engine in making it worthwhile. But there are little things that are annoying. I’d rather have a really nice 986 over a tatty 987 for the same money. 

AAZCD Reader
4/16/19 1:34 p.m.
nderwater said:

There a few 987 Boxsters that show up for sale for under $10K, particularly at the wholesale level.  A couple years elapsed between my drives of a 987 and 986 so my personal experience is limited... so for the guys who know, how compelling is the difference between, say, an '04 Boxster and '05 Boxster -- enough to justify a $2,000 bump in budget?

Before coming to the GRM forum I've been on the 986forum.com for a few years and I have seen a gradual migration of a lot of the members there to the 987s and newer. From my '04 Special Edition to the 987 Boxsters the biggest changes are cosmetic. The '09 Model makes the next big jump in design and price, with the '08 Special Edition being a transitional car.  I think that condition and care being equal a 987 is worth the extra value. That said, if I want the visceral fun of blasting through the Talimena Skyway in a convertible my choice would be an 'analog' 1997 - 1999 model. Maybe that's another plus for the older Miatas too, no nanny's. Just shift, gas, brake, and steer and play beautiful music with the engine.

ekauppi7 New Reader
4/16/19 2:29 p.m.

Thanks you all!

She and I need to go drive some cars and see which ones we fall in love with, you are right about that.  And I hear you about choosing the owner not the specs on a used P car, and getting the best one we can afford.  The cheap ones are usually cheap for a reason, yes. 

Fortunately she'll be right there working on it with me, and she pays for half, so she won't be tempted to choose the most expensive or difficult thinking she gets the upside and I get the downside.  :-)

And thanks for the "wild card" ideas, nderwater.  I don't think the SLK is available with a manual trans?  I had an MR2, liked it a lot but I want something else now.  And of course there's always Mustang and BMW Z.  Driving a friend's $6k Z3 may have been what started this lust for a convertible.

Still looking and thinking....






dps214 New Reader
4/16/19 4:30 p.m.
ekauppi7 said:

Driving a friend's $6k Z3 may have been what started this lust for a convertible.

So I own a Z3M and a boxster. I don't have an apples to apples comparison (Z3 on blown stock suspension then cheap-ish coilovers, boxster on stock suspension with new bilsteins) but the boxster is better to drive on the street in every way except having less power and that I don't fit in it as comfortably as the Z3. So I think if you enjoyed the Z3 you'll really, really like the boxster.

yupididit UltraDork
4/16/19 5:09 p.m.
AnthonyGS HalfDork
4/16/19 5:13 p.m.

I currently own both.  Other than top up or down, there isn’t much in common.  Both are still fun to drive.  I hate not having a 3 car garage with a double lift so I’m going to have to sell the Miata. It’s a space issue for me.  

The one I’d buy a well loved 97 to 99 Boxster 2.5 5 speed with the dual row IMS.   I’d do regular maintenance and drive it hard.  

If you need it to go fast around corners a spec Boxster suspension set up will put you in serious fast company at the track.

Vigo UltimaDork
4/16/19 5:49 p.m.

I don't think the SLK is available with a manual trans?

They did, but I've driven one and it was still boring. It's a not-sporty car hiding under a convertible body. I already have a non-sporty convertible, my 1982 Lebaron and yes i would rather have it than an old SLK (they became somewhat cool in later generations). No offense to any SLK owners in the house. If you really want a manual SLK i would get a manual 3.2 Crossfire instead, or just stick with actual sporty cars. cheeky

Mr_Clutch42 SuperDork
4/16/19 7:19 p.m.

I haven't driven a Boxster yet, but I've autocrossed several NA and NB Miatas, and test drove a NC Miata. I would skip the NA and NB, they're not as refined cars as the NC or the Boxster, not to mention they're not engineered as aggressively as a sports car compared to the NC (specifically the throttle response), especially if you two will keep them stock, or only do light mods like summer tires and performance shocks when they wear out.

glueguy Dork
4/16/19 7:58 p.m.

If you have large feet, make sure you test fit a Boxster. The foot box is oddly shaped.  I like the Boxster but it will be a short-term car because I don’t fit as well as I do in my NB and Z3. 

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