By on November 7, 2011

TTAC Commentator A Caving Ape writes:

I have a 2001 VW Jetta 1.8 with 130,000 miles on it. It has its shortcomings that I can’t fix (front drive, rear legroom), but for the most part it’s a fantastic vehicle for me. But I worry that it’s a time bomb.

I do most of the small/easy maintenance myself, and and happy to pay an independent for stuff I’m not comfortable with (timing belt, front end stuff, clutch when the time comes). This will likely be true with any car I own. I’m very satisfied with the running costs of my car, but from what I can tell I am the only person in the world with a well-functioning early 2000s VW with more than 100,000 miles. This makes me worry that it will crap out on my one day. It’s my only car so this would be very bad.

My question: should I sell it now while there’s nothing wrong with it and I can still get a few grand for it, especially since prices have picked up lately? However that would leave me with (max) 4 grand for a car, plus maybe 3 more I can comfortably part with. But what on earth can I get for $7000 that that I would love as much as my VW, that would also be more reliable? Should I just buy a civic and a motorcycle? Or are all those claims of VWs being crap just a vocal minority, and I’ll be able to keep it going a while longer?

Sajeev Answers

I love those Jettas from a styling and interior perspective, but they are truly crap. Nearly impossible to diagnose MAF sensor issues, bad window regulators, engine sludging (1.8T) even with approved maintenance, and probably a handful of other expensive items found with a second of Google searching. Dig deeper in the forums and I guarantee there’ll be more expenses running up a bar tab that a fully-depreciated Jetta simply cannot pay.

It sucks, because these are truly fun, exciting and beautiful designs. That said, if you devote a large portion of your life to be a 10-year old VW specialist you can make it work. Just be ready for it to consume your life in ways you might never imagine…not that I’d know a damn thing about that. Not one bit.

So I recommend that you sell it, get a Civic and get over the loss of German precision. Or spend much, much more buying a new one with a warranty and enjoy riding the cycle of debt.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Always consider the time value of money in anything you do. For car people, that is aimed squarely at the key(s) in your pocket. Maybe you should do more to spend less in the end, but I suspect that there’s a good reason why so many of us simply must have a new or late model vehicle in their stable. And its not just because we got a great lease deal on a 3-series to impress people.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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54 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Time Value of Automotive Love...”


  • avatar
    krhodes1

    If the car has been good for this long, it will most likely continue to be good for a long time. I had a flawless 2002 Golf TDI, and lots of friends who still drive this era VW with no major issues with tons of miles on them. You already have found the secret of VW hapiness anyway – DIY and a good indy mechanic. The dealers are best avoided out of warranty.

    The transverse-engine 1.8Ts are not known for sludge, the inline 1.8Ts are. Different oil pans with less capacity on the Passats.

    Keep it, you could replace the entire drivetrain for just the first year depreciation on a new comparable car.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s right, I forgot about the different configurations of the 1.8T. Thanks for fixing that.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      tick, tick, tick, tick. Poof!

    • 0 avatar
      A Caving Ape

      What made me finally pull the trigger wasn’t actually breakdown paranoia, it was a boiling over of my annoyance at all the squeaks and rattles it developed. I would spend hours trying to track one down, only to fail and create a new one in the process.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        …along similar lines, the window regulator issues are 100% covered by an extended warranty program.

        I have had two of these cars and the first, a 1999, had the passenger window abruptly fall into the door like a “Connect 4″ chip.

        (Remember that one?)

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I’m in a similar situation with a ’98 540 6-speed. Even with such a large mechanical time bomb under me, it is the squeaks and rattles you mentioned that are making the most persuasive case to move on. There seems to be a new one every time I get in the thing and my efforts to stop them just waste time and occasionally make things worse. Amazing how the little things can drive you insane.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I know that a BMW is heads and shoulders above an Acura, but I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with the lack of squeaks and rattles from my 98 3.2TL at 138k miles. The driver side door needs a little oiling, it squeaks slightly when below freezing.

        My uncle has a 98 540i MT (with 18k miles, it sits at the airport alot) but it has been squeak-free too. He has had to replace alot of components due to lack of use though.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I know that a BMW is heads and shoulders above an Acura, but I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with the lack of squeaks and rattles from my 98 3.2TL at 138k miles. The driver side door needs a little oiling, it squeaks slightly when below freezing.

        My uncle has a 98 540i MT (with 18k miles, it sits at the airport alot) but it has been squeak-free too. He has had to replace alot of components due to lack of use though. I never realized that his car and mine were so similiar in size, especially compared to their modern iterations!

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        @TEXN3

        My car has somewhere north of 170k miles on it (not sure, cant read the pixels anymore), so it may just be wearing out. And when I changed shocks and struts I bought into the internet hype and went with Bilstein for durability. I think they are on the stiff side and may be contributing. Also, you have to disassemble a lot of the rear interior to change the shocks, so plenty of opportunity to introduce rattles there too. Finally, the car has been hit before, so it is possible some things were never quite the same.

        My dad has an ’03 Accord around the 100k mile mark with an impressively rattle-free interior. I like the previous generation TSX, but the 6-speeds are tough to find in my area. In addition, most are overpriced. Hell, anything Honda/Acura seems overpriced relative to mileage. Despite the high running costs associated with BMWs, the depreciation on them makes them look like a decent value right now.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    Once you drive a VW or Audi product, they’re super easy to love. Once you own a VW or Audi product, they’re super easy to hate.

    That being said, Iv’e gone through five VW/audi products over the years. three have been spectacular long term cars. One gave itself saving my life, and one made me almost homicidal with rage over it’s miserable build quality (F’n Jetta)

    If you like the car, keep it and drive it into the pavement. It’s worth nothing on a trade in, and it costs nothing to own it until it breaks. Put a few hundred dollars away every month towards the inevitable, and put a screwdriver in your glovebox for the ‘last day’ when the car dies on the side of the road and you need to collect your plates off the car and call for a ride home.

  • avatar
    John R

    $7k is a nice fat down payment on a pre-owned Mazdaspeed3…

    http://tinyurl.com/d2q3reb

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I once traded a broken Plymouth Grand Voyager (electrical system) for a new Honda Odyssey, which was a lemon from Day One, and I bitterly regretted not simply fixing the Voyager for a fraction of what I lost on the Odyssey.

    My only VW (02 Passat) was terrible, but if your Jetta isn’t giving you trouble, stick with what you know. That new car might not be so great after all.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    “Always consider the time value of money in anything you do. For car people, that is aimed squarely at the key(s) in your pocket. Maybe you should do more to spend less in the end, but I suspect that there’s a good reason why so many of us simply must have a new or late model vehicle in their stable. And its not just because we got a great lease deal on a 3-series to impress people.”

    Amen Sajeev. I’ve had this conversation with several people like my mother and ex-boyfriend as I’ve looked at a new car. Neither of them could understand why I’d want that used 3 series over a Honda Accord or new Focus or Mazda 3 if I went in knowing that it was going to cost me more money to own. They couldn’t understand that it was a matter of priorities; that I know my budget, and as long as I can afford it, I’m willing to spend extra to have something that drives better, even if it means cutting back in other ways.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    Hey, I never expected to see this here! I suppose I can provide an epilogue:

    I did sell the Jetta before it ever had a chance to do me wrong. It was right at the height of the market too, so I got way more than I expected for it. That plus my savings left me with 10 grand in an envelope.

    So did I do the sensible thing? No. I drove a lot of cars, everything I could get my hands on really. I’ll spare a full list but I did my due diligence with the Japanese and the domestics. What did I fall in love with? The E46 3-series (handling!) and the B6 A4 (interior!). The E46’s are still a bit pricey for the mileage, but those A4’s have depreciated a ton. I ended up picking up a 2003 1.8T with 75K for $8000. I know the longitudinal 1.8Ts are trouble, but it comes with full dealer records of a sludge TSB job and timing belt job recently, and my independent signed off. And AWD is a big bonus since I like to play in the mountains in the winter.

    This was a month ago, and I’m convinced I made the right choice. It’s a bit slow and soft for my tastes, but I’ve already set to rectifying those things with my leftover money. Was it a mistake? Probably. But I’m still young, single, and debt-free, so I can’t have screwed up too bady, right?

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      We have had an Audi B5,B6,B7 in the family.

      The B6 was underpowered. Get the car chipped (APR, GIAC, REVO) , upgrade the Diverter Valve and you will be amazed at the difference in power and torque.

      I have a Audi sports suspension (low miles) for that car sitting in my garage that I never used.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      I drove into work today in a 1999 A4 1.8T with 155000 miles on it. Owned from new. Frequent synthetic oil changes, timing belts a little early of the 70K mile spec and figure on rear brakes – rotors as well as pads – every 80K or so. I think there were a couple of CV joints in there because I didn’t spot the cracked boots. And a clutch replacement too. That’s it.

      Daughters CPO’ed 2004 1.8T is about the same story – going in for the timing belt replacement with 130K on it this Wednesday.

      Anecdote may not be the singular form of data, but I don’t think you’ve screwed up.

      • 0 avatar
        GarbageMotorsCo.

        I have a neighbor that swears by his Audi’s. His wife had a 98 A6 (voted worst car by CR if I recall) that she traded last year on a brand new one and her husband is on his 3rd A4 (this time an RS4 actually) in about the same timeframe.

        Having never owned a VW in my entire life I can say they are wonderful cars to drive but the reliability concerns seem kind of overblown to me.

        And if I was to compare with my own experiences, both of GM pickups were dogpiles that I dumped prematurely in a fraction of the time my neighbor has had even one of his Audis.

        To sum up: They must be doing something right.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      A nice choice. Basically the same bits arranged differently, a bit more room.

      I think reality is that Japanese cars are not as reliable as the Internet would have you think, nor are German cars as unreliable. The Germans take more care and attention, but they reward that by being soooo much nicer to be in and drive.

      As I said before, you already know the key secrets – DIY as much as you can, and know what the issues are before they strike, and have a good indy for when you can’t DIY. Then drive smiling.

      • 0 avatar

        I think you shoulda kept the Jetta. Spare parts will be much easier to find and should be cheaper too. But those A4s sure are pretty.

        And if you must deviate from the norm, maybe its worth doing it in an Audi instead of a VW.

      • 0 avatar
        200k-min

        I think reality is that Japanese cars are not as reliable as the Internet would have you think, nor are German cars as unreliable. The Germans take more care and attention, but they reward that by being soooo much nicer to be in and drive.

        There are exceptions to every rule, but on average (historically speaking) your best bet on reliability is Honda/Toyota. Same goes for the Germans (historically speaking of course) not being the most trouble free. Glippy mentions an Odyssey that was a lemon and a Chrysler that wasn’t. Sure, that happens, but I’d bet the Honda was 10:1 a better vehicle than any Chrysler minivan that same model year. Any gambler knows to play the odds unless you want to go broke. Sometimes you don’t win, but over a lifetime you’re best off.

        Problem is *most* people don’t play the odds when buying a vehicle. People buy on emotion. Of course I think that’s a mistake. My rule is to drive appliances and have the “enthusiast” vehicle when you can afford it. We all “need” an appliance to get from A to B. Everything else is a hobby, and not a cheap one at that. I know this is blasphemy on a “enthusiast” website, but there are more important things in life than a fun drive, i.e. actually getting to where you need to be.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @200K-min

        I don’t doubt that the Japanese brands will cost less than the Germans over the long term. But I don’t think the difference in reality is what the Internet would have you believe. ALL cars cost money to maintain, and all cars have unexpected repairs. Actually, I take that back – if you do your due diligence you will KNOW what the potential unexpected dilemmas are and deal with them beforehand. Or at least keep tabs on them.

        For me, my BMW 328i Wagon IS my appliance car. Would a Corolla be cheaper? Of course. If nothing else, you can’t fix things that are not actually in the car. But I would rather walk than drive a Corolla everyday. Life is too short to drive boring cars.

        Finally, here in Maine, where we use road salt as a desert topping, I would say the real long haul reliability and durability champs are RWD Volvos. For the simple reason that they last 2-3X as many years as Toyotas and Hondas. Consider that the NEWEST 240 is a ’93, and the NEWEST 7/940 is a ’95 and they are still EVERYWHERE here, despite having sold a tiny fraction of the Toyota/Honda numbers. Early-mid 90’s Japanese cars simply don’t exist here – they rotted away years ago. Japanese cars NEVER got the reputation here that they got in sunnier climes – they just did not last long enough.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        “I think reality is that Japanese cars are not as reliable as the Internet would have you think, nor are German cars as unreliable.”

        The Japanese brand cars do better than average in avoiding unplanned time in the repair shop for their first 10 years, but eventually parts wear out. I’ve found mass market Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, and Toyota cars to be easy to repair without having to wait for special order parts. Friends with German brand cars seem to have to wait on expensive parts before repairs can be completed.

      • 0 avatar
        70Cougar

        I don’t need Internet chatter to tell me that every time I see aVW that is more than three years old, it is making some kind of weird noise.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        We should just tell JD Power, CR and truedelta to shut down their business, since 70cougar has all the hard reliability data anyone could possibly need …

      • 0 avatar
        70Cougar

        True Delta and CR would back me up. Not sure about JD Power. Depends whether VW paid them enough.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Help me to understand this. Your primary concern about the Jetta was reliability, even though it had given you no trouble. So you sell it for an expensive cousin with a similarly spotty reliability reputation, built by the same parent company, and this car is only 3 years newer but will undoubtedly cost more for every single repair because it is a luxury brand? And you have to spend extra cash now to get the suspension up to your liking?

      Not getting it.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        Agreed, 30-mile fetch. This is a good example that with some effort you can rationalize anything even if it makes no sense. “it will be cheaper” (it won’t).

        All it takes is a moment of weakness to pull the trigger. Although if the OP is now happier with a *slightly* nicer and slightly newer ride, more power to him.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    C’mon! You remind me of a healthy person who watched “House” until he starts to feel sick. Maybe it’s time to put your own experience ahead of internet chatter.

    I have one of those 2002 VWs, commonly considered a bad year. It’s a TDI, so 180,000 miles have hardly dimmed its luster, and it’s still worth about one-third its purchase price. Its repair costs have been similar to my 2004 Forester’s. Like you, I could sell it for a great price, but I’d have to buy another car just like it. Which I may do, if I see one with lower miles…

    Many more VW owners than average are young and plugged in to the internet, There they find a rich, helpful community of fellow owners and mechanic (vwvortex, tdiiclub.com). This means that all their complaints and issues are documented in a way that Buick or Infiniti problems may not be. On the other hand, VWs do use leading-edge tech, and come with an un usually wide assortment of engines and drivetrains. And their dealer network is unevenly trained and usually greedy, so problems compound.

    You’re protected from all that if you have a good indy mechanic. Have him give your car a thorough inspection, things like oil consumption tests, engine wwash,m compression test, clutch thickness. Eliminate those unknowns, and begin saving for your next car. Bot don’t panic over anticipated problems.

    Just ask yourself: is it worse to face a sudden repair, or to spend your life driving boring cars? I know my answer.

    Now if you had said your car was an automatic, I would tell you to sell it at 100K!

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      > Now if you had said your car was an automatic, I would tell you to sell it at 100K!

      I’ll second that. Boyfriend just dropped $2K to replace the transmission in this model with, you guessed it, 102K miles.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Smart move Ape!!!! When you’ve got an itch, SCRATCH.
    You’re young and debt free; time to have fun, or to learn from experience. Proper risk taking is part of what we learn in life. Its not like you just bought a Jag with 200K on it’s clock. Enjoy the Audi’s upside and worry about the downside when (and if) it comes.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Where do VW make the cars they sell in the US, and how different are they from the Euro versions? I often see VW mentioned as a premium brand in the US, alongside Audi and BMW (OK, they are the base models of some Audi cars, but there’s usually a huuuge difference except for the drivetrains. Most older VW’s are the bread and butter cars of Europe, and are usually sold to people who remember how bad the quality was in Fords and Opels of the 80’s, it’s basically a German Toyota. without the quality. (even if the quality is not as rubbish as it’s made to look in the US) Everything Toyota knows about design and driving dynamics they must have learned from VW. I can understand the love for BMW’s ( well, driving them, not owning them, they are a money pit over here too) And I can understand the love for modern Audi interiors, well, compared to VW’s. But the smaller Audi’s only ‘premium’ ability is that they are about as impractical as BMW’s, even if they look nowhere as good (before the A5) and has nothing near the same driving dynamics. If you want the ‘best of both worlds’, buy a Civic S, and add some sound insulation and a soft non-slip rubber mat to the dashboard…
    It’s nice to hear you sold the Jetta btw, even if a decent base model 1.8 (was it manual?) that has gone 100k without problems will normally keep going with some care.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      There’s a split between euro sourced cars (Golf, Eos, CC, Touareg etc…) and the newer western-hemisphere vehicles (Beetle, Jetta, Passat). Look to the Euro cars for a higher base price and a nicer (base) interior. Look to the North American cars for lower base prices and wider drivetrain options (ironically enough).

      Here in the states Toyota isn’t even ballpark on VW in terms of suspension, steering etc… (although I just drove the new Camry and was impressed, things are certainly changing there). The companies which have done as you said, “design and driving dynamics they must have learned from VW” are Ford, Suzuki and Mazda, especially Mazda. The others really aren’t playing that game so much, or used to and have since fallen off (Subaru, Honda).

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Like I said, how different must those cars be to the European VW’s? If driving dynamics means going straight when the steering wheel is upright, and not falling over when it’s turned, then OK, they are better than a mid-90’s Euro Escort or Mazda 323. But I kinda expect more. Audi has some of it, BMW is the only current manufacturer who still cares (Audi doesn’t as much care, as compete with, BMW). there is offcourse the chance that the European Toyotas are better set up for their market, as we prefer boats to go on water:P VW has never (apart from that 90’s Golf vs Escort, the Focus set that straight) made a car with the driving dynamics of a European same year Ford. Mazda and Suzuki, well, they wouldn’t understand the question. (apart from a certain right wheel drive roadster and some rotary engined coupes) Honda still shines when it comes to wrong wheel drive cars (except maybe for the A5, which has the engine a little closer to the actual car, not a mile ahead of it) , and Ford (Eu) have been getting closer in the later years (since the Focus)

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        It is interesting to see the differences in vehicle tuning and perception across the Atlantic. Here Ford has only very recently started bringing a (faint approximation) of their EU tuning chops to our market, while Mazda is the only brand to really bring a hatch to market that benchmarked the Golf (until the new Focus). The Suzuki Kizashi is, frankly, the best MkV Jetta that money can buy (ignoring the CVT and AWD) and was briefly the best compact on the market. Honda has dropped the ball big time lately, but their competitive products like the Fit are sporty enough for euro tastes but acheive that through a total lack of attention to interior NVH and subjective “heft”, you would consider it a class below a current Golf but they are price within $1,000 of each other here (I’m no hater, I own a Fit and a BMW). Euro spec Hondas are Acuras here, and cost more than their Accord derived backbones can justify (although they remain nice vehicles in isolation).

        The issue isn’t that US spec VW’s are tuned better than their Euro bretheren, but that automakers tune their US products poorly in general, out of a perception that over 3 rebounds per suspension compresion is what Americans look for in a car (they may actually be correct). OTOH it may be that US divisions of car companies are focused too much on marketing and not enough on properly finishing their versions of their companies products, which I think is borne out by some of the sportier tuned cars doing quite well lately in the compact segment.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Yes, there sure are some differences, as you said, Euro spec cars are more likely to be tuned for the Euro marked, more than the other way around. And as VW is Europe’s they probably tune their Euro-spec cars to ‘not offend’ anyone, instead of trying to impress. And offcourse I was only speaking of driving dynamics. Honda sure can’t beat VW on many other aspects (except reliability)And, off course , most of the Toyotas in Europe aren’t even available in the US, like the Avensis (mid-size family car, shares platform with the Scion TC)
        PS, I’m a ‘old Honda & Ford’ fan-boy, so I could be biased…

  • avatar
    tedward

    Chip that Audi! I love the VAG turbos but add a little quattro and they need a bit of dialing up to keep the pace that the badge implies. No problem finding a vendor at an enthusiast event to do the job at a serious discount, expect to pay more just showing up at a distributor (its really really worth it to show up at an event when part shopping or just browsing, trust me).

    If you go full boat on the tuning front I’d suggest keeping the turbine housing at around the size it is now (frankenturbo maybe). K04’s are fun and dramatic, but not a good match for the low rpm torque requirements of a heavy AWD’er or the refinement you probably expect from your sled. Also, a true stand-alone turbo/ECU is very expensive to install and have setup properly, so I’d stick with package deals from the major tuning houses. Also (last one) look into a water/meth injection system and an oil catch can (a must).

    • 0 avatar
      A Caving Ape

      Chip’s done, evaluating turbo options right now! I’m thinking I’ll do other stuff first though, RS4 sway bar and exhaust are next on the list, followed by upgraded injectors.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        NICE. I like APR’s stealth exhaust (I forget the actual manufaturer) for the Audi application. That RS4 sway bar is probably the biggest change you’ll make to the cars handling, I have a buddy with a B5 ultrasport avant who just fitted one to his, drivetrain mounts were also a big improvement for relatively little money. He’s actually doing a frankenturbo build right now (tonight actually), so if interested I can pass along impressions.

      • 0 avatar
        A Caving Ape

        @tedward please do! this is one I’ve heard a lot about, though I had bean leaning towards the K04 for the same of OEM-ness.

      • 0 avatar
        ExPatBrit

        I hope you also have also invested in a VAG.com.

        Must have for Audi/ VW, get a full version if you playing with chips or turbos.

        Has saved me and friends lots of $$$ thru the years.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        sorry no update yet, everything is in but the car needs a software change before its ready to go on road. I noticed that I said B5, my bad, it’s a B6 as well. If you want to know more the guy doing the project works at north american motorsports (Ed).

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Well whenever I tell people “Car X is crap because of this issue, this issue, this issue…” then they site a long running example that they or a relative had. I always tell them; “Well that was obviously the exception that was a good one.” :P For example I have a co-worker with an old Northstar powered Caddy that has had no problems. He said every enthusiast asks him about head-gaskets but for them it’s never been a problem.

    My point: run the Jetta and start saving money. When the shite hits the fan decide if you want to fix or want to use that money you saved as a down payment. Right now it’s the devil you know vs the devil you don’t.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Keep it and save your money.
    Its history augers well.
    It’s a car, not a dodgy Japanese reactor.

  • avatar
    rfoster369

    Funny, I’ve just gone through the same dilema. We have a 2001 Golf 4-door with 1.8T, manual, chipped, mild suspension upgrade. It just turned over 120K miles, so time for a new timing belt, water pump, plugs, filters, and so on. In addition, we had a few gaskets needing to be replaced and a slow coolant leak. Oh, and brakes too. Other than oil changes, we’ve spent very little on the car in the last couple of years. Over the life of the car though,we have spent a lot of money on maintenance at an indie mechanic and I’ve done a lot of work myself. Almost all preventative maintenance. The only thing that has ever broken on the car were window regulators, taken care of under warranty.

    But I had the same thought – 10 year old VW 1.8T with a few miles may be a time bomb. I was all set to buy something, but the problem was finding a replacement with used car prices what they are today and used 4-door hatchbacks with manual transmissions are just hard to find. Even a new $20K car with payments, taxes, and insurance is going to cost a lot more per month that our well depreciated VW will.

    We made the decision to put he money into the car, hope it lasts a couple more years, and then buy something new or slightly used. The good news is that there are a lot of interesting smaller cars coming on the market now, so I’m expecting our options in a few years to be better than they are now.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Keep it!

    I have this exact car except a 2003, with 172,000. I went through a rough stretch with it – fuel pump, water pump, auxiliary water pump, O2 sensor, thermostat sensor x2, rusted exhaust system (covered under warranty, but only through 150,000 miles), torn CV boot, broken axle.

    I am the first to admit that these are way too many discretionary repairs even for miles 100k and up. However, I keep meticulous records and my repair cost over the last 3 years (appx. miles 125,000 to 172,000), which is about the zone you are entering, has been $105 per month. If you want to include tires and brakes, it’s $125 per month. That doesn’t include the timing belt which I had done preventatively at 100k.

    Engine still has that smooth turbo delivery and feels like it can go forever.

    Like Sajeev says the styling of the car still holds up. It really is the baby benz of the early 2000s. And it’s worth literally nothing in a trade-in today. I was quoted $700 from my dealer, granted with many more miles than you. So with zero monthly depreciation, $20/month car insurance, and a blended mpg of 27, I’m driving her until the wheels falloff. Which actually could have happened based on my front axle/cv boot fix!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The car is almost fully depreciated. If your goal was to maximize resale value, then you should have dumped it about 70,000 miles ago.

    If your car has been reliable thus far, then chances are pretty good that you got lucky and just happened to have purchased a good example. It happens.

    When a car has as much mileage as yours, you can pretty much throw average survey data out of the window and just focus on how well your individual car as performed to date. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d run out and buy another ten year old Jetta with 100+ thousand miles on the clock. But you do know the history of this one car and its quality of service; since you already own it, you have a known quantity that you can judge on its merits.

    If I were you, I’d keep it and set aside the savings in order to buy its eventual replacement, whenever that happens to be. Keep up with the routine maintenance and be willing to replace certain peripheral items, but avoid costly cosmetic upgrades and be prepared to throw it away if it blows the motor or transmission. If you can, garage it as much as possible and rent cars for trips out of town, so as to keep unnecessary mileage off of it.

    With the book value that low, you may also want to dump any comprehensive insurance coverage. Of course, you should carry liability, but paying extra funds only to get a tiny payout in the event of a crash may not be worth the expense.

  • avatar
    BPF

    I remember walking on a VW lot and up on the truck carrier was my next 3 year fling. Love at first sight, it was destined to be – I had to have that car!!! – a 2002 VW Jetta wagon with 1.8T engine and sport package, 5 sp manual. I drove that car for 3 years and put on 85,000 totally trouble free miles. It was driven hard too and I have very fond memories of taking on Boxsters, a C320 and Z4s and would blow their doors off on the highway. I believe the car had 170 – 180 hp that HAD to be underrated by at least 40 hp. That car was solid and a blast to drive. Great in the snow too. I believe the wagons were built in Germany and the sedans in Mexico. My aunt purchased a 2003 Jetta sedan assembled in Mexico and that car was junk. Paint peeled, window seals stripped off, coil springs left her abandoned and she ended up dumping the car a year later. I sold my Jetta 3 years later for a good chunk of change too……one of the best cars I’ve ever owned.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    The decision has already been made, but if you were worried about reliability, a move from an older VW to a newer Audi is at best a lateral move (but with a more complicated car and more expensive parts and dealer service)

    I’ve had enough friends and family members with VW and Audi products to know that those cars are meant to be leased under a factory warranty. Not one person I know that has ever owned a VW or Audi buys another one, with many going on tirades about their experience. Still, it’s like a hot woman that’s crazy, they’re still hard to resist.

    Financially speaking, if you’ve owned a car for over 100k miles, it almost always makes sense to just drive it until the wheels fall off. The difference in price between a car with 110k miles and 140k miles is negligible in depreciation. The risk is if something major goes out, but even still, it’s usually a lot cheaper than a new car payment.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Hey Sajeev, I’ve got a suggestion. I know you’ve got quite the backlog of these questions and some of them are weeks/months old. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to start answering some of the more recent questions first? Sure, maybe theres some older ones that spark more interesting comments, but I’d think it’d be better to offer suggestions to someone who hasn’t made a decision yet, as opposed to someone like A Caving Ape that traded his car a month ago.

    Just sayin’.

  • avatar
    TAP

    I believe that the transverse 1.8T has an oil cooler as well as the larger oil capacity, both absent in the Passat 1.8.
    When my brother-in-law’s ’01 Passat got an extended warranty and my ’02 Jetta 1.8T didn’t, I called the regional office and was “enlightened”.
    Still, I’d sell! That’s what I did, with no regrets.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Its not like you just bought a Jag with 200K on it’s clock.

    A Jag with 200k would be the aisle over from the unicorn section.

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    I don’t have pricing in front of me, but can think of a few characterful alternatives that you might pick up for ~$7K…

    – Used first-gen Mazda3? They’ve been around since 2004, the older ones must be cheap.

    – 2002-2005 Impreza 2.5RS, from back when they felt like Subarus?

    – 2003-2005 Pontiac Vibe GT/Toyota Matrix XRS with the bonkers 8000RPM 2ZZ? Bizarre cars, but far from bland, least of all when the revs are up.

    I’ve got a couple of friends with aging VW products (New Beetles, on the same platform) where the lack of budget for serious 100K+-mileage repairs is really starting to take a toll. Ownership is getting seriously ugly for these folks. It sounds like you’ve beat the odds–sell it while it’s still worth something and it hasn’t eaten your funds for a replacement.


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