Unless you’ve recently bought one and therefore already know the answer to this question, have a guess at how much a base model Volkswagen Polo costs. To save you trawling the internet, the answer is £11,970 for a Polo 1.0 S. Head to the other end of the Polo pile and a DSG-equipped 2.0-litre Polo GTI will require you to retrieve 23,160 fine British pounds from down the back of your sofa. The thing is, that even for what a basic Polo costs, you could buy a Porsche.
NOT SUCH A PREPOSTEROUS PROPOSITION
Hmm, Polo or Porsche? Porsche or Polo? What should it be? Obviously, what we’re talking about here is a secondhand Porsche, but all the same, it’s a Porsche! For less money than a supermini.
Just in case you’re thinking that this is a preposterous proposition, let me assure you that it isn’t. I can say this with utmost certainty because I did buy a Porsche instead of a supermini. Only in my case the decision to do so was inspired by a Ford Fiesta and not a small Volkswagen, but the principle is the same. My local Ford dealer had a line of Fiestas out on the forecourt and I happened to notice that there was one with a relatively small engine and mid-line spec was wearing a price sticker that said £17,500. And it wasn’t even the most expensive Fiesta on the forecourt.
I have to confess that I wasn’t really in the market for a Fiesta – or even a Polo – I had my heart set on a 986-series Porsche Boxster 3.2S. But that whacking great price tag for the Ford acted as reassurance that even if I had the misfortune to buy a banger, I could undertake an awful lot of repairs before matching what I might have spent on what was to me a far less interesting new car.
SO WHAT PORSCHE DID I BUY?
My 2000 Boxster with 62,000 miles on the clock cost me £7,500, saving me ten grand over the aforementioned Fiesta. That was the attractive part of the purchase. The risky part was that even with a full service history this was an 11-year old car on which certain parts were likely to have reached the end of their natural life and might need replacing. And at Porsche prices, not those of Volkswagen or Ford.
I’m a little nervous of pulling out the abacus and totting up what I’ve spent on servicing and maintaining the Boxster during the past eight years, but I reckon it’s about £6,000, a large chunk of which was for a new clutch and flywheel. So, I’m still ahead, I’d like to think. And I’ve had far more fun than had I done the sensible thing and bought a little hatchback.
IT’S STILL A GAMBLE
There’s no point pretending that buying a used Porsche instead of a brand new and warrantied VW Polo isn’t a gamble. Even if nothing goes wrong, they cost far more to insure and tax than a Polo, and consumables such as tyres and brake discs are costly by comparison. But there’s something special about driving around in a Porsche that mitigates such negatives, especially when you find yourself on a stretch of winding empty road and can revel in the thrills of a wonderfully accomplished chassis and a joyously gutsy engine.
All this being the case, why aren’t more people blasting about in secondhand Porsches rather than handy hatchbacked run-arounds? Well, for starters, not everyone is a gambler, and the cost implications of a poorly Porsche are predictably off-putting. Plus there’s the fact that plenty of people remain unaware that you can actually buy a Porsche for half the price of a Polo. A couple of years ago the newspapers were pumping out stories on how Porsches were investment superstars with values shooting up into the stratosphere. Which was true in the case of the classic air-cooled 911 models, some older Porsches and limited edition newer ones, but you don’t need to spend long with your nose in the classifieds to discover that there are some very tempting cars out there.
BOXSTERS FROM £3,000
First generation Boxsters, for instance, can be picked up from as little as £3,000, although it would be better to allow yourself a budget of £7000-£10,000 and hunt down a well cared for 986-series example with either a 2.7-litre or 3.2-litre flat-six engine, or even a facelifted 987-series version. If you need to stick down this end of the Polo price scale, need more seats and are up for a dare, you can avail yourself of a V8-engined Cayenne SUV for as little as £6,500.
Then there’s the 996-series version of the 911: prices went mad a couple of years ago, now you can still find a handful from as low as £8,000 through to £20,000. There are 997 model 911s out there, too, for less than a Polo GTI, with prices starting from less than £18,000. Porsche’s smaller coupe, the Cayman, is available for less than £11,000 if you look hard – one that I found had a 2.7-litre engine and just 75,000 miles on the clock. Fans of ‘old school’ front-engined Porsches can find good quality 924s and 944s from between £9,000 and £20,000; the truly brave might consider a 928 with a rumbling V8 engine up front…
So, then: Polo or a Porsche? For some of us, at least, the answer is obvious.
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