944 ownership is freaking awesome(to me)! But here's a more logical and informative look into it, with a question someone asked me when I first brought her home: How expensive is it to maintain? Well, a more important question is, "How can a poor college student afford it"? Let's take a look at what I've done maintenance-wise in the past 5 months..
I'll divide this into sections to keep it organized. On to the first section which is more of a rule:
1. Buy the best 944 you can afford
Now, the costs of a 944 can vary based on the one you buy. Some can be in very good condition and need next to nothing to be ready to drive and enjoy; others, can be neglected and need a crap ton of work to just get to your house, or have an insufficient amount of undocumented maintenance that scares you enough to put a crap-ton of money into the car. Let it be known that a Turbo/Turbo S or S2 will naturally cost more than a regular N/A.
(Let me be clear, buying the best one you can afford, doesn't mean buy the cheapest turbo because it has the most power and is therefore the best.)
Any time anyone mentions the costs to run a 944, you'll hear certain words and terms constantly:
Balance Shaft Belts
These parts are the most important parts of this car if you wish to keep it alive and happy. We all know the repercussions of neglecting maintenance of these cars, so preventative maintenance is the only way to go with this car. Fortunately In my case, I bought a peach of a car.
My $3000 '84 had it's preventative maintenance done just about right before I purchased it; this included the timing and balance shaft belts and rollers, the water pump, and a new clutch. All of this was done 5,000 miles before I purchased her. Knowing that all that work has been done is like the cleanest can of air freshener on a potential pile of shits ever.
Now, let's talk about parts and such.
2. Timing / Balance Shaft Belts
I've decided that in March/April, I'll be doing my belts and rollers again even though they've been done 6,000 miles ago. "Why?", you might be wondering, for the learning experience and for even more peace of mind. The rule with the belts is to replace every 30-45k miles or 3-4 years depending on how frequently the car is driven or how much it sits. The belts should be re-tensioned between 500-2000 miles after the initial change because they will stretch, and should be inspected until the next change, every 15,000 or so miles. At least 3-4 times.
Now, the cost for the parts to replace these parts isn't actually expensive as you think. It costs only $250 or so for a basic kit and doing it yourself in you garage with friends, parents, or a pack of beers.
3. Water Pump
The recommended service interval for a water pump is every other belt change or 60-90,000 miles. Yes, if you're lucky, you may get it to go further, but you MUST be diligent and inspect for any leaks or signs of potential failure.
There are quite a few options for water pumps for the 944, ranging from new to used to rebuilt. If you're going with the "rebuilt" option, go with a Zims rebuilt pump as they are reported to be the best on the market rebuilt. You'll have to send your current pump to be checked to see whether or not it can be rebuilt to receive a rebuilt pump though. Even so, the price of any water pump will be between $100-220 to replace yourself.
This is any iffy one. The original clutches have rubber-centered discs rather than spring-centered; some say it was to reduce vibrations and noise, we'll never know but as science dictates, is it ages, rubber will become brittle and crack. You can either hope that it was replaced with a spring-centered clutch or just replace it anyways.
Expect it to run $1000 to do it yourself.
5. Motor Oil
This should be a no-brainer, change your engines oil and filter in regards to the service interval, which in this case, can be done at your leisure, but do it every 3-6,000 miles.
This car requires 5.8L of oil and that should cost anywhere from $30-60, including the filter, o-rings and whatever else you may want to have so you don't make a mess, and depending on the quality of the oil and whether or not you decide to do it yourself.
6. Spark Plugs
I don't know the service interval, just treat them like you would a regular cars spark plugs? There are FOUR plugs and they can range from somewhere like $20-30, and if you can't do this by yourself....I don't know.
7. The L-Word
Labor. If you took the time to read this you may have noticed I've used some form of the phrase, "doing it yourself" quite a lot, and for good reason too. Why do you think you see so many 944s on the Craigslist or random auction sites and whatnot? Because in some cases but not all, the people that bought them did so as a means of owning a "cheap Porsche/poor man's Porsche" under the thought that it is an instantly bullet-proof sports tank to take on the streets of Monaco(not really Monaco, lets say San Francisco). Just like most
European classic cars, they need preventative maintenance to be kept happy and alive, and what some don't realize is that truthfully, not all of the wear parts on these cars are as expensive as you think. What kills your wallet is if you take it to a shop and have them do the work. Shops in my area charge at least $85-120 an hour for work on not just P-cars, but any Euro car(Audi, BMW, ect.).
Here's a perfect example. Doing the belts on a 944 can go for roughly $1-2k with parts and labor included, taking a shop about 6-10 hours. Now, with this in mind, think about adding the water pump to that equation(if it isn't), a clutch job, some other things you might expect to replace and you can see where this is going.
It's not that you should avoid going to a shop for help or anything of the sort, just don't go for every single thing; the only thing I'd go for at the moment would be to do the clutch if I couldn't do it or have the time. If you have the money and no time(or don't want to make time) to work on these cars yourself then good for you, the shops will love your business and even more! If you don't have as much money as the former but more time(or is willing to take the time and learn) welcome to some awesome times!
Total 5-Month Costs
Well, aside from the clutch and water pump which was done before I purchased the car, I've either done or am currently doing everything else: The spark plugs, oil and replacement filter, I'm doing the timing and balance shaft belts in a month or so. So lets total that out:
Spark Plugs: $24
Motor Oil/Filter: $60
Timing/Balance Shaft Belts & Rollers: $250
Labor: Hours of experience, frustration and no sleep
Chinese takeout and hot cocoa: Priceless
*Total Costs: $334 (roughly)
So it is a "cheap Porsche" if you do most of the work yourself. Now that almost all of my maintenance has been done, I'll be set for a good long while
unless something electrical goes wrong for and many miles!
*knocking on wood*