It’s water cooled, it’s lights look like fried eggs, it’s too big, the interior is awful and dated, there’s a grenade in the rear and the plastics are cheap…and I love it. I’m referring to the Porsche 996 and what many self-proclaimed Zuffenhausen elitists have said—and continue to say—about this particular model of 911.
The first time I remember seeing the 996 was in the movie Gone In Sixty Seconds (2000). In the scene, Giovanni Ribisi throws a brick through the glass of a Porsche dealership where he then proceeds to open the dealer’s lockbox, he finds the right key and then drives the 996 through another piece of glass out onto the street while swerving past screeching cars and off to a nearby safe house. I was hooked. I had to have one.
I was 13 at the time. And I was impressionable—probably the most impressionable I’ll ever be. I was hooked on the 996. It became the poster car of my youth.
The first Porsche I rode in was a 996
Fast forward to 2004. My aunt purchased a 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera in Alpine Silver with upgraded 18-inch wheels, a six-speed manual and grey interior. This was my aunt’s second 911 since she sold her fabled 1980s Targa nearly a decade earlier. I was at a family reunion that summer and my aunt drove it there. I begged to take me for a ride in it. Happily, my uncle took me out for a spin. We accelerated out of the parking lot and headed toward I-15 in Ogden, Utah. I remember going around a steep bend leading up to the onramp. My uncle accelerated the car and it gripped even harder. We raced onto the interstate and weaved in and out of traffic. I had never been in a car like that. When we returned, my dad asked how it was and I’m pretty sure I responded with something like “Awesome!”
Why I bought a Porsche 996
Whenever I talk to car people—especailly Porsche people—I always ask them “Why did you buy your particular car?” The response I get nine times out of ten is “It’s the car I wanted when I was in High School.” The same holds true for me. I don’t know why this happens. Maybe we’re all a little nostalgic for our past? Maybe we’re hoping to fill a void we couldn’t fill when we were teenagers struggling to fit in and find an identity? I think it’s a little bit of both.
Some Porsche enthusiasts would say I was cursed for growing up in such a miserable era of 911s. I disagree. I think the 996 was a huge leap forward in the car’s design that towed a precarious line between the past and the future. And I think the car’s design strikes that balance nicely.
Nobody ever says the Porsche GT1 has fried egg headlights
I bring up the GT1 for two reasons. One, it’s beautiful. Two, Porsche won the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans race with the GT1-98 car. It had fried egg headlights and it still won. Not to mention it was the last time Porsche would win this historic race until 2015 with the 919 Hybrid. Needless to say, the GT1 is a historic car, it has the dreaded “fried egg” headlights and nobody ever complains about it.
This leads me to believe that most people don’t find the actual “fried egg” headlight design to be ugly. They just don’t like them on a 911 because a 911 is supposed to have round headlights. From a purist perspective, I understand why they don’t like the headlights. But I also think it’s completely outlandish to dismiss a car simply because of its headlights. And if you’re going to hate on the 996.1’s headlights, you better be ready to admit the same for GT1’s headlights. Good luck.
You’ve probably heard that the Porsche 996 911 Carrera is the “bargain 911.” That’s because it really is. It’s an unbelievable value at this moment in late 2017. I purchased my 1999 996.1 for $14,000. Seriously. that’s like used Honda Civic money. Who in their right mind would want to drive a slightly used Civic over a used Porsche 911? Not me.
Doug DeDemuro—the undisputed king of Cars & Coffee—said this to me, “You will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER buy another car for $14K that gives you as much enjoyment as the one you have.” While I understand Doug has a bit of a soft spot for the 996 and 911s in general, he also knows much more about cars than I do. That’s got to be worth something, right?
People often tell me “Those things are expensive to maintain.” And my response is simple, “How much have you spent to maintain your 911?” And the answer is typical, “Well I don’t own a 911 but I know a guy who has one and he says they are expensive.” This kind of response nullifies any argument. You have to get first-hand information in order for it to be credible. I recently replaced all four of my brake pads and sensors, front two rotors and it cost me $1,100. That includes my mechanic’s hourly rate. A full brake job on my wife’s Acura MDX last year cost me nearly $900. So no, I don’t think the Porsche 996 is all that more expensive to maintain than any other car. I think it gets a bad reputation because they are expensive to buy and you have to keep up with the maintenance if you want them to work properly.
Insurance is more affordable than you might think
We all know that insurance is a necessity and sunk cost associated with owning a vehicle. Fortunately, the Porsche 996 isn’t going to break the bank. My 996 costs $942.46 a year to insure—that’s $78.54 a month. That’s not expensive. A new Honda Civic costs around $1,400 a year to insure. But a new Porsche 911 could cost anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 a year to insure. With the 996, you get the performance of a 911 with the insurance costs of a Civic. Seems like a good deal to me.
Great fuel economy
I often get asked what kind of mileage I get out of my 996 and people are surprised when I tell them it’s usually above 20 mpg. Seriously. When I drove the car from Utah to Georgia this summer, I averaged 31 mpg for the entire 2,047-mile trip. The flax six in the Porsche 911 is an extremely efficient engine. Plus my car has a 3.4-liter displacement, which isn’t exactly huge.
Since I purchased my car, I’ve been exposed to an amazing community of other Porsche owners and car enthusiasts in general. I took my car to Caffeine & Octane July 2017, shortly after I bought it. I didn’t know what to expect since I’d never attended, let alone brought a car to show. I pulled up to the show and was directed to part with the other Porsches. Who doesn’t want that kind of treatment?
I’ve since attended many other events and have met some amazing car people at the shows and online through Instagram and Facebook. I have genuine conversations with these people about cars, goals, family, you name it. They’ve become great friends and I wouldn’t have met them if I hadn’t purchased my 996.
A big grin and a racing heart
The most obvious reason why I bought a 996 was that it makes me grin and gets my heart racing every time I drive it. I daily drive my car and not a day goes past where I don’t say to myself, “Damn, I love this car.” I enjoy taking it on twisty roads, straight roads, to the grocery store and to work. It doesn’t matter where I’m going or what I’m driving on, this car makes me happy. And it’s difficult to put a price on that, as cliche as that sounds, I genuinely believe that.
I’m going to continue to daily drive my 996 and document my experience with the car on this blog, YouTube and Instagram. My advice to anybody who’s serious about purchasing a 996 is to do their homework, know what they’re looking for and drive the cars. You can read all you want about the 996 but it won’t click until you drive one. Please let me know if you have any questions.