981 Porsche Cayman S: A Real Owner’s Perspective

981 Porsche Cayman S in Guards Red

In 2013, I met Alex while we were both pursuing our MBA degrees in Boston. We didn’t hang out much, but, little did we know, we would later form a close friendship three-thousand miles away. Fast forward to 2016. Alex had just moved out to the SF Bay Area and had gotten a new job at my company. During our first conversation in over two years, our secrets came out. We are both GEARHEADS.

However, we didn’t quite get along. You see, Alex was a diehard BMW guy who drove a 4 Series. On the other hand, I was a Porsche fanboy who believed the answer to anyone’s sports car itch was, “Porsche, there is no substitute.” Slowly but surely, I began to pull Owen into the world of Porsche. “Hey Alex…what are you doing this Saturday? Nothing? Great, want to join me for a Saturday cruise with the Porsche Club of America (PCA)?”

The rest is history. I don’t know if it was the PCA Cruise or my constant enthusiasm for my 2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S, but something got Alex to sell his BMW, learn to drive stick shift, and buy a 981 Porsche Cayman S. In this article, we interview Alex to learn more about his journey to Porsche ownership and how he’s enjoying it so far.

Porsche Boxster 981 GTS

Alex checking out a friend’s 981 Boxster GTS

How did you become interested in cars?

I got into cars when I first got my driver’s license as a teenager. I loved the experience of driving, of freedom, even if at that time, the only car I drove was my family’s Toyota Sienna minivan.

What cars did you own before you purchased your 981?

Before my 981 Cayman S, I was a BMW guy. I owned an E93 BMW 328i convertible, an E85 Z4 roadster, and an F32 430i.

What drew you to the 981 and did you consider any other cars?

What got me into the 981 was actually my experience with my Z4. It was (and to be honest, still is) the most fun car I’ve owned to date. It was my first time with a two seat roadster and my first time driving stick. Unfortunately, it started becoming a bit unreliable given that it was over 10 years old so I wanted to find a car that could take the Z4 formula to the next level. The 981 I found did that – two seater, six cylinders, with a stick (although I ended up with a coupe instead of a roadster this time.) I also considered a base 991 with the stick, but it didn’t seem to be worth it since the performance was about the same but it was much more expensive.

How much did you get your 981 for and how was your purchase experience?

I bought my car for $47k at CarMax. It was a good buying experience. The car was in Arizona but thankfully, I had my good buddy and car expert Dennis there who kindly agreed to check out the car for me. It passed Dennis’s test, so I asked CarMax to ship it out to me. A few weeks later, it arrived. I test drove it myself and the transaction was fairly straightforward.

What do you primarily use your car for and what’s your favorite thing to do with the car (ie: weekend cruising, track, etc)?

Before COVID, it was my daily driver, but since COVID, I’ve been working from home and mostly using it for fun drives in the mountains.

2013 Porsche 981 Cayman S

What do you like and dislike about your 981?

Likes: This car has been a huge blessing, especially during COVID, remote work, and shelter in place. I thank God for giving me the car. I like the handling, the sound, and the ease of working on it (for a Porsche). I also love the looks. In my completely biased opinion, I think it looks better than the 718, 991, and especially the 992. I am not a big fan of the ergonomics.

Dislikes: The seats are uncomfortable (no lumbar support) and the buttons are placed in weird positions. Your left knee rests on the speaker grille if you have the Bose option which means if you wear shorts, your knees will hurt after a few minutes of driving. And, the brake and gas pedals are positioned in a way where heel-toe is difficult unless you are full on braking. (I wear size 12 shoes and had a much easier time with heel-toe in the Z4.) Overall, for me, the car is not a good daily driver but it is a great mountain/weekend/fun car.

Have you had any issues with the car?

Reliability wise, the car had a few rattles, the inside door panels were coming loose when I bought it, and the infotainment system restarts by itself every once in a while. All of these have been or will be fixed under warranty.

What advice do you have for other perspective 981 buyers?

Make sure you know what you are getting into. If you are coming from BMW (like me) or from another luxury brand, these cars skew much further into the sport part of the sport/luxury continuum. For me, it was not what I expected – it does not drive like a BMW – but it ended up being perfect for what I use the car for now. For others, this may not be the best fit for a car.

What car do you want to own in the future?

Maybe the new 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 or a 991.2 Carrera cab for a fun car. Tesla Model 3 and Model X for potential daily drivers.

Are there any other questions you think would be relevant and helpful to prospective buyers?

Make sure you know how much maintenance costs, or are willing to do it yourself. I don’t think I would have bought the car if I couldn’t do the maintenance myself given the high cost of doing it from the dealer (and even from independent mechanics.)

Final Thoughts

Alex’s journey to Porsche ownership and mine are pretty similar. We are both gearheads who have owned cars commensurate with our stages of life. At fairly young ages (~30 years old), we purchased our very first Porsches secondhand to get the best values possible. We also wrench on our cars not just to save money, but because we enjoy doing things ourselves. If our backgrounds resonate with you, then a used Porsche Cayman, Boxster, or 911 could scratch your itch. Have more questions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

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