Home » How The Most Hated Porsche 911 Is Defying A Softening Market

How The Most Hated Porsche 911 Is Defying A Softening Market

Gavel Gazing 996 Porsche 911 Fried Eggs Topshot
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It wasn’t that long ago when 996 Porsche 911 models (the ones with fried egg headlights) were cheap, full-stop. You could get into a decent running, driving car for less than $20,000, provided it wasn’t anything hugely special like a Turbo or C4S. However, once the world opened back up in 2021, a strange thing started to happen: All those cheap rear-engined Porsches started to disappear.

As the collector car market softens in 2023, a clear set of winners and losers from peak pricing has emerged, and in the case of these 996 Porsche 911s, they certainly aren’t the cars you’d expect.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

First, let’s do some filtering. We’re going to remove all the really special models from the pool, like the GT3, GT2, and Turbo. These expensive, ultra-high-performance 911s aren’t exactly indicative of the broader 996 market, and GT2 pricing in particular has been up in the stratosphere forever. Next, we won’t be taking an exhaustive look at every trim level, body style, and transmission, because we’d be here all day. Instead, we’re looking at standouts, the cars moving up and down in value. Believe me, there’s a whole lot of up-and-down going on.

996 C4s 18k Miles

At the top of the pecking order for regular models sits the Carrera 4S, a model produced between 2002 and 2005 that paired the 911 Turbo’s wide fenders, big brakes, and suspension with naturally-aspirated M96 power, all-wheel-drive, and a fetching heckblende rear reflector that conjured up images of older 911 models. Just a few years ago, top-notch examples of these cars were fetching well north of $60,000. These days? Well, the 18,000-mile example picture above hammered for $53,500 in November.

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996 C4s X51

Oh, and on top of that sits the Carrera 4S X51, an “if you know, you know” power package that turned up the wick with a better intake manifold, better exhaust manifolds, unique camshaft profiles, CNC-milled cylinder heads, new intake valve springs, new oil baffles, and revised engine management software to run the whole thing. Sure, it only boosted output from 320 to 345 horsepower, but it’s a durable package that’s rare to see. Unsurprisingly, most X51 Carrera 4S models are still worth crazy money, such as this Ice Green Metallic car (finished through Porsche’s Paint to Sample program) that sold for $46,000 just last month.

996 40 Jahre

Of course, if we’re talking about X51 cars, we need to talk about the 911 40 Jahre, otherwise known as the 911 40th Anniversary Edition. Celebrating 40 years of the 911, this unusual limited-run chimera is strange by Porsche 911 standards, in that each of the 1,963 examples made is basically alike. They all got the front bodywork and radiators from the 911 Turbo, they all got the X51 power pack and limited-slip differential, and they were all painted GT Silver Metallic. Decent examples are still trading for north of $40,000, such as the $43,000 example above that sold in November, but they’ve fallen from a previous Bring A Trailer peak of nearly $60,000.

Next down the hierarchy, it’s the 996.2 coupes, the ones with a revised front end treatment sold between 2002 and 2005. Despite these cars all featuring the inferior single-row IMS bearing, they’ve historically carried a substantial premium over pre-facelift cars. Despite this, they aren’t free from the softening of the general market.

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41k Mile 996 Facelift

Take this 41,000-mile black-on-black example that hammered on Bring A Trailer for $31,500 earlier this year. It does the song and dance perfectly, is a properly low-mileage car, was specced in an agreeable color combination, and sold for decent money. However, if we were to go back a few years, it wouldn’t be hard to find 996.2 Porsches in similar shape extracting a lot more from collectors’ bank accounts.

44k Mile 996 Facelift

Here’s another black-on-black 996.2 Porsche 911 coupe with a manual gearbox, this time with 44,000 miles. The major difference? This one brought in $40,000 back in 2021. Sure, the seller of this example may have a great history on Bring A Trailer, but that alone doesn’t account for nearly a 25 percent drop in value between totally comparable examples.

However, if you happen to own an early 996 with the controversial fried egg headlights, the sky isn’t exactly falling. Far from it, to be precise, as enthusiasts seem to finally be latching onto these older cars. Some consider the pre-facelift 996 coupes the sweet spot of the 996 range for a variety of reasons. Their Boxster headlights may be more pure to the original design, their smaller 3.4-liter engines may be less prone to bore scoring than their larger 3.6-liter successors, particularly early examples should all be fitted with the far more durable dual-row IMS bearing, and the early two-wheel-drive manual 996 coupe is still the lightest roadgoing water-cooled Porsche 911 ever sold. Feel free to annoy brand new GT3 owners with that fact.

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996 Fried Egg Chrome

Whatever the case, these pre-facelift coupes are commanding stronger and stronger money, such as this 2001 example that recently sold on Bring A Trailer for $25,750. It may not be cosmetically perfect, but it ticks all the right boxes. It’s a manual 2WD car with a documented IMS bearing replacement, Turbo-twist wheels, Litronic xenon headlights, and plenty of service receipts.

996 Fried Egg Blue

If you wanted to buy a similar car in 2021, you’d have likely looked at something like this 1999 model year car that gaveled for a mere $16,246 with fewer obvious cosmetic imperfections. Sure, that 1999 car may have a bit more mileage on its odometer, but neither that nor the 2001 car are crazy low mileage examples, and a difference of 34,000 miles doesn’t solely explain a price difference of $9,504. You could buy an entire Boxster for that delta!

996 Tiptronic Cab

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If there’s one part of the standard 996 Porsche 911 market that hasn’t moved a ton, it’s the models with the least-desirable specs. The bottom end of reasonably well-kept automatic cabriolets has settled at around $20,000, right on with what we saw in 2021. However, one thing has changed: The model year doesn’t seem to matter. For instance, check out this 2002 911 Carrera Cabriolet auctioned at Bring A Trailer last week for $20,500. Unusually, it’s a facelifted 996.2 car, and it looks well kept. Facelifted cars have typically carried a premium, even models without the most desirable specs – so to see a number of them at the bottom of the market is surprising to say the least.

So where are 996 Porsche 911 prices going? Well, they’re diverging in a way few anticipated. While Carrera 4S and other historically more-desirable models have generally fallen in value over the past year, the oft-maligned fried egg models are finally getting their flowers. It can be hard to predict collector car values based on historical trends. After all, there was once a time when it was cheaper to have Charlie’s Angels blow up an original Mustang instead of a Mustang II. However, the sturdiness of early Porsche 996 values is surprising, as it bucks every trend people expected. Maybe it really is the fried egg headlights’ time to shine. After all, they are the lighting clusters that saved Porsche. In any case, this is just another example of why buying what you like and enjoying it is often the only way to come out ahead. The collector car market is a strange beast, and since most cars can lose a whole lot of money depending on timing, you might as well get some use out of what you own.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer)

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The World of Vee
The World of Vee
2 months ago

996 was the 911 of my formidable years so it will always be THE 911 to me. I love a good 964 and the new 992s are great but nothing screams PORSCHE to me like the 996. So I bought one. A 2000 Millennium Edition, imo the best “regular” 996. I saw one when I was 11 in the showroom and took home the brochure, devouring the information every day, vowing to have one when I was older. And I put that same brochure in it 23 years later when I finally picked one up.

The Millennium Edition was the first Porsche with Chromaflair paint and also came standard with Natural Brown leather which totally transforms the interior of the car, all the cheap and hard plastics are (for the most part) replaced with leather including things like the transmission tunnel, A pillars, Horseshoe, glovebox etc and it really classes up the joint. But Natural Leather options were ~15% the cost of the car new and understandably not many people chose those options.

Here’s a GT3 with Natural Brown (a little antithesis to the GT3 but hey) https://bringatrailer.com/listing/2004-porsche-911-gt3-79/ you can see just how much nicer the interior is to a standard 996. It’s not a Rolls in there or anything, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer to be in.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
2 months ago

The issue with any of the 996s is not the headlights. It’s the interior. In all your photos, you didn’t post a single one of the interiors, and they’re just bad.

From the outside, it still looks like a 911. The headlights are slightly different, but it’s unmistakable.

The inside though? It just doesn’t feel special, it doesn’t even feel nice. It looks and feels cheap compared to earlier or later cars, and if you’re buying a 996 you probably can’t afford other ones, so you’re wanting a ‘special’ car. The interior is the biggest let down of the 996, not the headlights.

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
2 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

You need to check out one with a Natural Leather interior (like a Millennium Edition). They take all the hard plastic yucky bits and cover them in leather, pretty much everything A pillar forward. Changes the shittiness immensely.

https://firstflatsix.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/996ME3.jpg

The problem was Natural Leather options for interiors were about 15% the price of a new 911 C2 at the time, so not too many of them actually were optioned with it.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
2 months ago

I never got how Porsche fans got so upset about the fried egg.
Not because it isn’t ugly, I just can’t imagine anyone who thinks other (non pop-up) Porsche front-ends look actually look good has any aesthetic sensibilities

Logan King
Logan King
2 months ago

I paid 40 for loaded low mileage 2003 C2 in October 2021 and took more of a bath on it than I was hoping when I sold it a couple months ago, but I’d still say it was worth the ride in the end.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
2 months ago

As a later millennial, I feel like I’m constantly missing the boat on things. I was on the cusp of getting to the point where I could afford an older dream car like a 996 911, due to a combination of depreciation and my income when the pandemic blew up prices.

It doesn’t help that it took me a few extra years to graduate, so I make a lot less money than many of my classmates at our age. Ok the pity party is over.

Preston Tiegs
Preston Tiegs
2 months ago

Right? I was just graduating college when Chevy had a fire-sale on the SS, and you could pick them up for $37k…. I’d jump all over that now

Waremon0
Waremon0
2 months ago

Right there with you. I miss when nice, low mileage, stock S2000s were around $15k. *sigh*

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago

Doesn’t someone in the aftermarket sell headlight assemblies with a paintable panel that eliminates the fried-egg thing?

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
2 months ago

Yeah but it looks hack af. If you really want to ‘fix’ them you can update the fenders and front end with new headlight assemblies from a 997, but…. at that point.. you’re spending a lot, so it would only make sense if you got into a small accident that roached your existing panels, and insurance handed you a check to fix it.

MP0W3RD
MP0W3RD
2 months ago

I recently picked up a 996 Turbo and I feel like it’s the biggest bargain in the industry. Coming from a (very) long string of BMWs, it seems insane to think about what these cars are currently trading for. The performance is still impressive by modern standards, they last forever (Mezger FTW), and those damn headlights are the same as the LeMans GT1 car’s!

I try and think about how impressive the performance was over 20 years ago and it’s difficult for me to process that this thing existed in the era of SN95 Mustangs and Catfish Camaros.

It’s like it’s from another planet.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
2 months ago

You can all waste your money on Porches but I have my money on the tulip market. We’ll just see who win!

Abraham Smith
Abraham Smith
2 months ago

I’ve never been able to make heads or tails of the models and submodels and variants and special editions of these cars. Marketing by mental exhaustion.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago
Reply to  Abraham Smith

Similar for me, too. Ditto with BMW and Lexus model names

DadBod
DadBod
2 months ago
Reply to  Abraham Smith

For real. A guy I know bought a Porsche 9-something and he was explaining how it was the one with the FU but not the BAR and I was clueless. I guess once you are in the club it all comes together, but I ain’t in.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
2 months ago
Reply to  Abraham Smith

Yeah, no shit. And it makes the used market a total mess.

I’ve been shopping used Porsches for about 5 years, and I’m just now starting to understand the differences enough to spot a decent value in the market. I would have bought years ago, but I find it very hard to drop $25,000 on a toy when I have no idea whether I’m getting a good deal or not because I’m not 100% sure I’m keeping it long term.

Eventually I’ll either get knowledgeable enough to know a good deal, or I’ll just buy on instinct out of exhaustion. I’m rapidly approaching the latter of those two options.

Last edited 2 months ago by PaysOutAllNight
PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
2 months ago

I noticed this less than 6 months ago. I was looking for a performance car for about $20k and really wanted a 996. Based on my research JUST A FEW MONTHS before seriously looking C2s and C4s were all over the place for $17-20k. When it came time to actually start shopping I couldn’t find a single one over the span of a few months. There were a few cabriolets and automatics for sale in that range but I wanted a hard top. Everything else seemed to have jumped to 30k+

Not sure what happened in that short time frame. I ended up buying a backwards Carrera 4 (also known as “another Audi”).

Goof
Goof
2 months ago

Simply put, 996s got too cheap. 986 Boxsters are doing the same thing, as 987s.

Yes, IMS, RMS, bore scoring and other bugbears exist. The Turbos in particular mitigate some of those issues, and X50 Turbos are still really great, capable cars. Pre-pandemic X50 996 Turbos with manuals were sometimes <$50K. Absolute steal at that price!

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
2 months ago
Reply to  Goof

My bud got a X50/6Spd in april 2021 for 46k. I couldn’t believe it

Goof
Goof
2 months ago

Well bought! That’s a car they can enjoy for decades more!

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
2 months ago

It’s just every other Porsche getting even more expensive, pushing up the 996 values with it 😐

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
2 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Bingo!

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