The Porsche 996 costs considerably less when compared to the preceding 933 or the succeeding 997 generations. This is because the 996 is still the most controversial 911 model of them all thanks to its design, its engine architecture, and its overall reliability.
However, this does not mean that buying a 996 is a bad decision as lower-mileage, well-kept examples are indeed worth the asking price. Even so, the 996 costs quite a bit of money to maintain and there are a few relatively serious issues worth mentioning.
Common 996 911 issues are IMS bearing failures, cracked cylinder heads/liners, suspension issues, rear oil seals, clutch and gearbox issues, and radiator and condenser issues. The 996 is indeed one of the least reliable 911 models of all time, but if you maintain them, they are likely going to last.
Buying a 996 is a rather tricky task as it requires you to dig deep into every available model. The best thing you can do is contact a licensed Porsche specialist in order to inspect the car fully. You will have to pay more money beforehand, but it will save you a lot of money down the line if you buy a sound example.
IMS bearing failures
One of the most serious and potentially catastrophic issues with the 996 are the factory-fitted IMS bearings that tend to fail without any warning whatsoever. Failures such as these can completely destroy an engine, so you need to make sure that the 996 you are looking at has some form of a solution for this.
Multiple sources cite that between 5%-10% of 996s are plagued with these issues which is indeed a lot of cars. The easiest way how one can solve this is to install an aftermarket solution that is going to keep the IMS bearings from failing.
Cracked cylinder heads/liners
The 996 is also known for potential cracked cylinder heads and liners which also could result in catastrophic consequences. However, these issues are relatively rare and you are hardly going to experience them on later 996 models.
Nonetheless, this issue is problematic because it can not be spotted beforehand, at least not without Porsche specialist equipment which costs money. Available data shows that older 3.4L engines are a lot more prone to issues such as these as opposed to the post-2001 3.6L flat 6 engines.
The 996 introduced a brand new type of suspension which has proved to be reliable and a very welcomed upgrade because it makes the car a lot more dynamic and fun to drive. However, many owners complain about strange noises coming from the front left and right corners, especially cracking noises.
These are usually associated with worn-out or damaged control arms that are relatively easy and cheap to replace. Nevertheless, many Porsche specialists state that you ought to do this every 3-5 years.
Rear main oil seal issues
20-25-year-old European cars are known to drink a lot of oil, both because the engine requires more oil with higher mileage cars and because they tend to form leaks. The main rear oil seal on the 996 is a common place where leaks such as these occur and the parts to fix this are relatively cheap.
Even so, the issue here is that this seal is rather difficult to access and thus the replacement costs are high.
Clutch and gearbox issues
The 996 is available with two different types of transmission. The first and more popular option is the trusty manual box, but these are known to go through clutch plates relatively often. Of course, if you are gentle with it you will not have any issues, but if you are not, they tend to fail fast.
The Tiptronic gearbox is not bad as far as reliability is concerned, but it is rather slow to respond and relatively boring when compared to a manual. These transmissions also come with cooling pipes that tend to rust after a few years, but replacing them is easy and cheap.
Radiator and condenser issues
The 996 is susceptible to stone chip cosmetic damages just like any other unprotected car out there. However, the issue here is that stone chips also often cause damage both to the radiators and the condensers.
To maintain these two properly, you ought to clean them relatively regularly, but you need to remove the entire bumper to do so. As such, most owners tend to ignore this even though it ultimately leads to corrosion-related damages.
Is the 996 Porsche worth it?
The Porsche 996 911 is indeed worth it because it is a relatively cheap entry point into 911 ownership. However, you need to be willing to spend a bit extra on a lower mileage example that has all of these issues sorted. Otherwise, the costs of owning the 996 will greatly lower its overall appeal.
The 996 is the best value 911 you can buy right now and well-kept examples with a manual gearbox will likely continue appreciating. As such, now is a relatively good time to get into a 996, but only one that is sorted as much as possible.
Why do people hate the Porsche 996?
The two main reasons why many Porsche enthusiasts tend to hate the 996 is the design and the water-cooled engine. The eggplant headlight design was a huge departure from older 911 models which were so hated that Porsche immediately went back to rounded headlights with the 997.
The other reason is due to a water-cooled engine as older air-cooled 911s are not sky-high in value. The 996 is actually a good 911 because it is a fun car to drive and it offers a relatively modern ownership experience.
What are the Porsche 996 maintenance costs?
It seems like the 996 costs between $500-$1000 to maintain yearly but more expensive and track-focused versions tend to cost even more. It all depends on how old the car is, the mileage, and the overall condition.
You need to keep in mind that this is a Porsche after all, and everyone knows that a Porsche costs quite a bit of money to maintain, no matter what you think of it.