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Old January 22nd, 2006, 11:16 AM   #1
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Porsche Boxster Dream Come True or Nightmare

My passion for Porsche began when I was 10 (1977). My family had gone out to Point Reyes to go for a hike at the Bear Valley trail. Those of you familiar with Northern California already know that Marin is a hot spot for Porsche cars and that rural West Marin is an excellent place to exercise sports cars. So it wasn't a rare thing to see lots of Porsches around.

A few of us had gotten back from our hike early and sitting next to our Chevy van was this beautiful blue sports car. Across the back engine cover were the letters P O R S C H E. I remember saying out load to my big brother, "oh… that's a Porsche." He just teased me for being so stupid.

We sat there waiting for the others to get back so we could head home, and the entire time I just stared at the car, soaking in the its beauty. As we pulled away I knew that someday I would have to have a Porsche.

In fact for years I obsessed over them. I read everything I could. I even discovered, bought, and still have the very first issue of Excellence Magazine (then titled Porsche Magazine) that I found at a 4th street news stand in San Rafael. Growing up in Marin County didn't help my obsession much either because Porsche cars are everywhere. In high school and college my interests took me into the arts, pottery specifically, and for a while my dreams of owning a Porsche waned due to living the spartan life of a starving artist.

For the past decade my focus changed from the Arts to the Internet and my fortunes changed with them. My day job at Wells Fargo and my tiny but growing dotcom has finally given me the resources to afford my dream car, at least a used one. The actual model never really mattered, although I know that someday I'll have to buy and restore a blue 914, but for now that can wait. Instead I bought a more modern mid-engine Porsche, a used 2001 Boxster.

I bought it from Michael Stead Porsche in Walnut Creek, California, which is about half way between my day job in San Francisco and my home near Sacramento. I feel like I paid a fair price for the car, and I really liked that the salesman (Mike Pardini) worked most of the deal with me by email. It really impresses me when a car guy will actually use the Internet the way it is meant to be use. Many of you reading may be in the car business and I bet you are just like Mike or you wouldn't be on this website.

I picked the car up the first week of January 2006 and drove it 90 miles home in the rain. Everything seemed fine. My Honda Ridgeline was still parked at the bus station so my wife and I drove the Boxster across town to pick it up. Shortly after arriving home we decided to go out to eat and celebrate.

We got back into the Boxster, turned the ignition, and every light on the dash flashed, buzzers buzzed and the windows jumped up and down. Suffice it to say the car didn't start and we took the pick-up. All through dinner I tried to calm myself and my wife by saying it was just something I was doing wrong. It couldn't be the car. I probably sounded like Luke Skywalker when he screams, "That's Impossible!!!" when Darth Vader tells him that he is his Father.

Once we were back home I tried starting the car again with no improvement. I immediately called Mike back to ask him what I did wrong. He said the battery had probably gone into "sleep mode" after sitting on the lot and I should put it on a trickle charger. So I went out and bought a trickle charger and charged it overnight.

I won't bore you with the details of the following week but basically it was much of the same stuff. On Saturday I took the car back to Walnut Creek after a brief conversation with Mike who assured me that it should be ok to drive. But as luck would have it the car just stopped about 40 miles from my house and needed to be towed to the dealership.

In most cases this would sound like just a bunch of bad luck, a bad alternator and a used car that just needed to be fixed (which is in fact what happened). But at the time, the ten-year-old boy inside me was crushed. On that day, the day my dream car died on Interstate 80 was one of the lowest days of my life.

The only reason I'm telling the story is in hope that maybe someone will benefit from the lessons I learned.

1. If you have the option to by a Porsche Certified Warranty, buy it! I was a stupid not to get the warranty, but Michael Stead Porsche came through and covered the cost of the tow and alternator.

2. Trust you instincts and don't drive a car you don't feel safe driving unless you like sitting on freeways for 90 minutes and watching your dream car dragged behind a tow truck.

3. Buy a car from a local dealer. After my experience I can't imagine buying a car from an out-of-town dealer. I know that sounds odd coming from a guy who has built websites designed to help local and distant people connect for the purpose of buying and selling cars. The only exception might be if I buy a car with a warranty that a local dealer can service.

4. Have any used car checked out by an unbiased, independent mechanic before you buy it, no matter whom you buy it from.

5. Listen to your wife. Always listen to your wife. I know sometimes it doesn't sound like she is making sense but she is… she really knows what she's talking about.

6. And finally the most important lesson is that if you have a childhood dream, and it is something physical like a car, don't cheat yourself, get the best, newest one you can. If you have to wait longer it very well may be worth it; after all it is your childhood dream, not something worth messing with.

p.s You may be wondering about my opinion about Mike Pardini and Michael Stead Porsche after all this. In the end they came through for me. Up until the car not working this was by far the best car buying experience ever. I would recommend Michael Stead Porsche and Mike Pardini to anyone.
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Old January 22nd, 2006, 03:03 PM   #2
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I think the key take-away points here are...

One, with a used car, you're taking your chances, and that's true regardless of the make or model. Unless you're lucky, it's a fair guess that the previous owner is a "previous owner" for a reason, nor do you have any assurance that even if they liked the car, that it was maintained with anything close to the same loving care you'd have insisted on if it were your own.

Two, if you're going to buy a used car, doing whatever's necessary to obtain the same level of warrantee coverage that you'd get with a new car is a pretty good idea, particularly if it's something as (admittedly) delicate as a Porsche.

I have a brand-new 2005 Boxster S and it's probably been to the shop 5 times, 4 out of those 5 visits being covered by Porsche. The one exception was the car flooding inside due to a clogged drain pan, apparently Porsche doesn't cover the fact that their drainage system is pretty weak when the car is pointed nose-down during a torrential downpour, but hey - it's a sports car. If you want something totally reliable but less fun to drive, buy a BMW sedan.
'06 987 (Boxster S) Midnight Blue
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Old January 22nd, 2006, 09:48 PM   #3
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Where do you live in Sacramento? I thought I was the only Sacramento boarder on here. By the way I live in the south sac/greenhaven area.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 07:30 AM   #4
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I couldn't agree more!

Originally Posted by jkh
One, with a used car, you're taking your chances, and that's true regardless of the make or model. Unless you're lucky, it's a fair guess that the previous owner is a "previous owner" for a reason, nor do you have any assurance that even if they liked the car, that it was maintained with anything close to the same loving care you'd have insisted on if it were your own.
If you want something totally reliable but less fun to drive, buy a BMW sedan.
Mike, sorry to hear you had so much trouble. I just recently was able to fulfill my dream of owning a Porsche as well (Oct 05). I grew up at SCCA events all over the Mid-West. My father started racing the year I was born and as far back as I can remember the eyes of a Porsche seemed to stare into my soul. I knew I had to have one!

My experience was the exact opposite of yours. I purchased my '02 Boxster S from an individual off ebay and got a great deal! (I was able to get an 02 for what I had been seeing 00's going for). The only catch was the car was located in Delaware and I am in Indiana. In order to make sure I did not have any problems on the drive back I checked carfax and called the dealer where the car was purchased and serviced to see how well this owner had taken care of the car. While this was not a guarantee that there would be no problems, I felt fairly confident in my research (and the fact that it is under warranty until July 06 or another 10k miles didn't hurt) that I was getting a good car for a great price.

I hope things go better for you with your car from here on out. I sold my totally reliable BMW sedan for this Boxster, and do not regret it one bit! I love this car and how much fun it is to drive!
Colin (Indianapolis, IN)
2002 986 S Triple Black
"When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?"
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 09:45 AM   #5
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I too bought my 2002 Boxster used but was lucky enough to receive all of her maintenance history. Every problem known to the Boxster, ie; main seal leaks, water pump failure etc. had already happened minus the ingition ghost which arrived two weeks after I bought the car. I went ahead and had it replaced along with getting the 45,00 mile service done 10,000 miles early just for piece of mind if nothing else. I also added new tires in the mix just because that's a habit my dad taught me when I bought my first used car, a 1950 Ford two-door hard top. That was in the summer of '63 and some 75 used cars ago! (I built custom street rods for many years, nothing real fancy but boy could they run . I love to drive my Boxster when ever I can get my wife away from it. I've even found myself making up excuses just to take her out! We've named her sweet thing II after the first car I bought Sue, a red '69 Z28 I purchased when I returned from Vietnam.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 07:29 PM   #6
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Don't let this get you down too much. My first Porsche was my 1999 996 Coupe bought in December of '02 from the local dealer in Riverside, CA. I had noticed that they had the car on a battery charger more than once before I took delivery. The car was about 3 years old with 27,000 miles when I bought it. Still under factory warranty. I PLEADED with them to put a fresh battery in the thing before I took it and drove the 500 miles from Riverside to Roseville. They refused. Got to Roseville and the next morning... battery was totally flat. The dealer here (Sacramento) took about 5 minutes to diagnose it and replaced the battery under warranty and no further problems during my ownership. It was a great car. Why the Riverside dealer couldn't do the same thing remains a mystery to me to this day.

The thing we can lose sight of is that these were still used cars even if they were Porsches! As such, we don't always know the maintenance history or what kind of "signals" the cars may have been giving out. Enjoy that car!

2006 987S
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