By on June 18, 2009

TTAC commentator Windswords writes:

Sajeev, My oldest son has been bitten by automotive wanderlust. He is about to go off to college this fall and has decided that his grandfathers’ hand-me-down 4 cylinder 2000 Accord with only 30,000-ish miles is just not cool enough. Also, it needs new tires and a battery.

So he has cast his wondering eyes on a 5-speed 2000 VW Golf GLS 2.0L hatch listed in AutoTrader. It looks like a nice enough car but then I start thinking about VW’s reputation for reliability vs Honda, not to mention the size of the potential repair bills and I start to do what any normal parent would do—worry. Should I be worried? If the B&B here can’t convince him to stay with Honda is there anything I should have him be on the look out for trouble-wise on the Golf?

Per AutoTrader Ad, here are some noteworthy facts on the Golf:

Mileage is 82,413. One owner car modified with cold air intake, honeycomb grill, fog lights, clear side-marker lenses, stubby antenna, Neuspeed exhaust, Neuspeed short shifter, RS 17″ alloy wheels, Euro headlight switch, brushed aluminum interior trim kit, Tokico sport shocks, drilled Brembo rotors, Audi TT foot pedals and foot rest, painted brake calipers and vinyl decals.

The oil changes were done every 5000 miles, tires were rotated/aligned/balanced last year, battery was replaced last month and car is current with NJ inspection (thru 09/2011). Vehicle is clean inside and out, given its age, with minor wear and tear on the interior and light scratching on the exterior. One of the fog lights was hit with a stone and cracked, but still functions normally. The lid to the armrest/storage compartment is broken, but sits in place.

One of the arms on the glove compartment broke, so it falls down on one side when opened. The interior has some staining along the door edges and light wear in heavily used areas, but nothing severe. This car has treated me well for almost 10 years and never needed serious repairs. It runs just as well today as when I drove it off the lot (better, actually, with the addition of some of those aftermarket parts). It has never failed inspection, has practically no rust, gets around 25 MPG and starts on the first try no matter the conditions. CAR SOLD AS-IS.

Sajeev replies:

When I was a little kid, my mother told me to NOT touch the waffle iron while making waffles. She was clear, but I was unbelievably hungry. And that thing was chrome plated and had an amber light on top: it was begging to be touched, dammit!

And touching that waffle iron hurt like hell. I might have cried because it temporarily crippled me: it was a pain I’d never felt before. Which leads to my question: will you kiss the owie like Moms do, or is he flying solo when selling a chronically reliable, cheap-to-fix Honda for a somewhat-drastically tweaked VW that wasn’t exactly a pillar of strength and value when it was new and unmodified?

Best of luck with that answer.

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87 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Waffle Iron and the Vee-Dub...”

  • avatar

    The answer is simple: sometimes the kid just needs to touch the waffle iron to get it. Let him sell the Accord and get the Golf. Make it clear that you are washing your hands of the deal. When the Golf breaks and he comes crying for cash its “too bad so sad.” He’ll learn.

  • avatar

    Yes, the VW is way cooler and the accord has no soul. But, if he can’t afford the upkeep (and their will be much) keep the accord and the peace. Buy, him a bodykit and some cool shoes for the accord and a CAT back, so he can play fast and furious.

  • avatar

    I can see if the kid wanted something fast, but a slow econobox is not going to be much different than an Accord. Tell him to save his money so he can buy something that’s actually cool when he graduates

  • avatar

    The question I have is your son buying the VW with his own money? Will he maintain it with his own money? Insurance? If so I would let him do what he wants with his own money. He’ll learn a very good lesson soon enough.

    Now if he’s asking you to do with with your money I’d suggest you tell him it’s the Accord or nothing. Hell, I didn’t even have a vehicle for several years when I was in college. If he’s going to a college of any decent size a vehicle is a luxury, not a necessity.

    I own an Accord of that same model and engine and can confirm that it is very reliable. The most I’ve ever spend on it was the 100,000 mile timing belt/tune up overhaul. Now with well over 150,000 on the odo it still runs flawlessly and easily maintains 30+ mpg’s on the highway. That car with only 30k on it can easily last your son through college and into his working life. By then there will be vastly better cars than modified VW’s available and with all the $$$ saved over the years he’ll be able to afford one.

  • avatar

    I think the only lessons he needs are the ones he’ll be learning at school. He doesn’t need the hassle of car repairs. I’d tell him that he will have to keep the Accord for at least a couple of years and if his grades and progress toward a degree are on track you’ll talk about another ride then.

  • avatar

    I’ll be happy to take that uncool Accord off your/his hands.

  • avatar

    This seems like an easy answer at first. Of course talk him into keeping the Accord.

    But then I think about the kid, and his asprations. By cutting him off in the early stages of car enthusiasm, are you taking the wind from his sails? Are you teaching him that the answer should always be to take the safe path, not the advenurous one? Will this decision be the first of a trend that will eventually lead this kid to a safe-but-boring job in some cubicle somewhere, typing up TPS reports all day?

    There’s a life lesson in here somewhere.

    Or I could be thinking too much into the whole thing.

  • avatar

    So, let me get this straight? He’s being GIVEN an Accord with only 30k miles and doesn’t want it? I agree with the above posts. As long as the Vee-Dub purchase is with his own money (and that includes ALL upkeep and insurance), then let him do it…sad that a kid can’t be grateful for a grandfather’s gift as nice as that. And ditto on closing the checkbook if he so decides to buy the VW. If he’s “man” enough to make the purchase, then he is “man” enough to take care of whatever comes (gee, that sounds very familiar to a speech my father gave me years ago…).

  • avatar

    Too funny, MrBostn,

    I was going to offer to buy it too!! Hell, a 9 yr old Honda Accord w/ less than 40K? These are the cars you love to buy…especially if it was driven by Gramps :)

  • avatar

    When I was going to college my dad wanted to buy me a older (can’t remember the model year) BMW 320i. True it was a BMW but it seemed so old to me at the time. Instead I talked him into a slightly more expensive ’87 Accord LX. At the time it made total sense, but looking back I should have taken the 320i. That said, though I love my Jetta, that Golf sounds like a bad bet with all those modifications. The kid should take the Accord, he’ll definitely appreciate it in the long run.

  • avatar

    By cutting him off in the early stages of car enthusiasm, are you taking the wind from his sails?

    Spending more time with your VW mechanic than your girlfriend can also take the wind out of one’s car-enthusiast sails.

  • avatar

    I’ll give you $3,500 cash.

  • avatar

    If this is even an option: If you trust his son, think he’s safe and responsible… get him a (smaller engined) motorcycle. And keep the Accord. He’ll have his cool factor, something reliable for trips home and to the grocery store and if he drives the bike to school will have the best parking spot on campus – as long as the school doesn’t have strict rules about motorcycle parking – at MSU we could park next to the bicycles. If you think this sounds insane, then disregard the bike. Tint the windows in the car, get a nice aftermarket stereo and a nice looking set of wheels before you replace the tires – at least offer to modify the Accord a bit, make it look a little “younger”. The Golf will lose all cool factor when it breaks down on the side of the road and his date is picked up by her friend with the “boring sedan” that she brought to college. Or when the glove box falls off. I’d possibly question whether regular scheduled maintenance was done given the state of “little things” wrong with the car or whether it was abused.

  • avatar

    I disagree, at least somewhat. While VWs of that vintage have iffy reliability, the 2.0 (2.slow as VeeDubbers call it) it a boat anchor, and exceptionally solid. I would be a lot more concerned if your son were looking at a 1.8T, especially a modified one.

    The low performance envelope of the 2.0 (mods or no mods) also limits the potential for high speed hijinx.

    That said, I’d still take an Accord with 30K miles and known provenience over a VW with 80K likely hard driven miles.

  • avatar

    If he can deal with some electrical hiccups, the deteriorating interior, and a timing belt/water pump replacement very soon, I say take the Golf. I would check out any maintenance records it has to get a better feel if it was a problem vehicle though. I had a ’97 Jetta with the 2.0L and that thing was a blast to drive. The engine and transmission were perfect when I gave it up at 150k miles.

  • avatar

    In terms of the vehicle discussion, this one is pretty clean cut. It depends 100% on the answer to “my money” or “your money”, and whether or not you are the type of parent willing to let your kid make multiple thousand dollar mistakes.

    Though I don’t blindly buy into legendary Honda reliability, anyone thinking the upkeep and risk on that VW is even in the same ballpark is a bit daffy.

    I will add that in my opinion, people who truly take good care of their vehicles (proper maint, regular oil changes, etc.) generally don’t put up with broken interior parts and such.

  • avatar

    The only reason someone would mod the car out that much is so they can drive it hard. Run far away from this piece of junk. The owner may change the oil regularly, and who doesn’t when they are trying to sell a car, but the fact he has all the aftermarket stuff makes me very weary. I have a rule when buying used.

    Aftermarket Mods = No Deal

    One more thing. From the sound of your post it sounds like you live up north where rust could be an issue. If your son is dead set on something new and you want to get it for him, I recommend looking elsewhere for a used car that is nearly 10 years old now. You will have a hard time finding rust free in your area and it might be a fun pre-college road trip to take with your son flying somewhere to pick up a car and driving it home. A good experience he will remember for the rest of his life. Having lost my dad in college I remember a road trip we took before I went and it was the best exprience of my life.

    There are plenty of auction places that offer airport pickup, of course always opt for a third party inspection before you fly anywhere, but I have bought from a company called Texas Direct Auto multiple times as have friends and as long as you catch any problems before you leave they have been more than happy to fix them. I am sure there are other companies out there that offer similar services and the prices are low and no haggle and the salesman’s only job is to give you the keys, not sell you the car they don’t even go along for the test drive.

  • avatar

    It’s simple — keep the Honda and don’t even think about a motorcycle.

  • avatar

    If cool he wants, that Accord would look mighty nice with a tweaked suspension, a relatively conservative body kit and alloys. lets face it The Accord has potential if Ricing is what the kid is looking for. The Golf is not remotely as cool and reliable over the long run (given the age and mileage of both cars)

  • avatar

    My college-bound kid just had his first after-high-school disappointment – the university doesn’t allow freshmen’s cars on the campus.

    Have you checked that minor issue with your son’s college?

  • avatar

    I agree with 200k-min and threeer. If you’re paying for maintenance, insurance and other operating expenses, you make the choice based on what you know will be best for him and your bank account (the Accord).

    If he’s spending his own money, let him learn a valuable lesson. Tell him he can get what he wants – but with the understanding he’s responsible for the consequences of his own decisions. He’ll have to pay any maintenance expenses that may result from buying a higher- mileage modified car that has a questionable reliability rep to start with, and if he can’t afford it, he can walk or ride a bike.

    If he’s worried that he’ll look “uncool” (or however kids nowadays phrase it) driving an old Accord, he can be assured that there will be lots of worse-looking cars on campus.

    Cory Farley had a great column in Autoweek last month about what kids today consider “good enough” when it comes to cars.

  • avatar
    John R

    Might I suggest you take your hand and move it swiftly up the backside of your son’s head?
    I WISH I had a car like this when I was in college.

    As others have said: If it’s your money, put your foot down. If it’s his, let the baby have his bottle – only advise him not to come crying to you when it does break.

  • avatar

    I think dubtee1480 is on to something. Spend a few hundred to make the Honda a bit more cool. Since it needs new tyres, change the wheels as well for instant street cred. The best of both worlds (cool vs. reliable). A real win-win, if I can use another cliché. Old VWs are just trouble, ask me.

  • avatar

    Common problems with that model include excessive oil consumption, and broken window regulators. They extended the warranty on the window regulators, but I think it would have expired by now. There are other common problems, but I’ve (thankfully) blocked those out of my memory.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Based on the quality of the cars alone and the style in which they have been driven in their lifetimes, I would run far, far away from the VW.

    Heck I had a plain Jane Camry at about the junior year of college. I paid for half of it. Getting the Camry through graduation, 11 years of work, and 239,000 miles before selling it for $2500 enabled me to learn about cars (the easy way) and get financially established. I also had plenty of dates and managed to get married and become a dad twice before selling it.

    Bank account? Healthy
    House? Yep
    Scholarships for not having to worry about cars during my college years? Yep
    Cruises and long vacations? Plenty

    Would I pick a VW like that if I had to do it all over again? Hell no!

    Perhaps chicks dig Camrys? But somehow I think my personality and workouts had a far bigger impact on my social life than the car I drove. Driving a ‘boring car’ also enabled me to talk about a lot of things that are far more interesting to the opposite sex.

    So having beat this decision into a fine red mist, let’s consider the quintessential question…

    “Can YOU afford to have him make a stupid financial mistake that could impact his long-term success in life?”

    The two of you need to figure that out first. By the way, plenty of young enthusiasts here would be more than willing to pay a premium for the Accord you describe. He should consider that too.

  • avatar

    To all of us who never had it this good at that age, this is simple: He gets the Accord and that’s the end of it till he graduates and gets a job. That’s called ‘self-control,’ a good thing to learn at some point.

  • avatar

    I’ll see davids’s $3500 and offer $4500, cash/certified bank draft for the Accord, safetied and emissions.

    Shit, I’ll even pick it up.

    On a serious note, explain it in simple terms:

    1. The Accord is free (I’m assuming, due to “Hand me down” status)
    2. Beer is not

    What would he rather spend money on; a car note (and repairs), or babes, blunts, and brewski?

  • avatar

    I think you guys are missing the main point: How is a 2.0L Golf any cooler than an Accord?!? They’re both thoroughly boring cars. If the kid wanted a Mustang GT or something, it might (probably not) be worth the extra expense and hassle so he could have the coolest car amongst his friends, but why go through the trouble for a Golf? I don’t get it

  • avatar

    CRC menitoned the VW’s timing belt which will be your immediate concern.

    The belt should be replaced at 80,000 miles. This car currently has 82,413 miles. The seller mentions a new battery he bought last month, but conspicuously omits any mention of the timing belt. I wonder if he is selling the car because he would rather not pay this repair bill himself?

    Have your son call a VW dealer and ask how much it will cost to replace the timing belt. He should also ask what will happen if the belt is not replaced. This may curb his enthusiasm for the Golf.

  • avatar

    College and cool cars don’t mix. If he shows up with that he will be the guy who has to drive around all the kids wo cars to the parties and it will get trashed, maybe even before the VW gremlins get it. The Honda is the perfect School car

  • avatar

    There is a reason that I own three Civics and a CRV.

  • avatar

    If he’s really dead-set on getting a Golf, don’t let him get that specific one at least. Aftermarket mods like that probably means it has been driven hard for those 80,000+ miles, and if VW has a dubious reputation to begin with, that car will be in even worse shape.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Accord, it still has potential as a sporty-ish car. Show him these:

    Honda Accord Forum
    Temple of VTEC

    And then he’ll see that there’s more fun to be had in modding his own, reliable Accord with a good history instead of somebody else’s already-abused, unreliable Golf.

  • avatar

    I agree with thetopdog-

    The Golf GLS isn’t nearly nice enough to make it worth your son’s trouble. Stick with the Honda, and spend your money on something else.

  • avatar

    The VW is only slightly less square than the Accord so why bother? Get him to save his money for graduation and get a used S2000 or something worthwhile.

  • avatar


    With all due respect: Is your son F-ing nuts?

    That Honda will run for damn near eternity with good maintenance. It also is not a bad looking car to boot. It is the PERFECT college car – reliable and economical and that means more beer money in his pocket.

    I owned TWO MK4 VWs – a 2000 Golf GLS 1.8T and a 2000 Jetta GLS 2.0L. Both were wonderful cars to drive, but a disaster to own. I’ll spare you the lengthy entire service history of the vehicles, but here were the highlights:

    – All four front window regulators failed and needed to be replaced.

    – Multiple MAF and O2 sensor failures on both cars led to the dreaded “check engine light”.

    – Glove box doors were replaced multiple times in both cars – all failed at the hinge the exact same way.

    – The 2.0L was burning 3-4 quarts of oil between oil changes by 65,000 miles. Evidently some 2.0L engines had piston ring issues during assembly (this one was made in mexico).

    – Blown plastic water pump impellers at around 60,000 miles on both cars. As a result, both cars got early timing belt services (the belt drives the water pump on these cars).

    – Various parts of interior trim either were peeling or outright failed and fell off the car.

    – Brake light switches failed multiple times in both cars.

    Your particular vehicle candidate will need a timing belt service at 100,000 miles, that is the recommended interval, but I would do the timing belt service IMMEDIATELY. These belts have been known to break well before 100,000 miles, and VW/Audi was even sued in class action due to premature belt failure. This replacement could easily run $1000.00. While you are in there, you may as well replace the stock plastic water pump with an aftermarket one made of brass – so add another couple of hundred to the timing belt service.

    Timing belt failure on zero clearance heads will mean either a costly top end rebuild at the least, or an entire engine replacement at the worst.

    The particular vehicle you are looking at has a 5 speed transmission – that’s good. The automatics from this era were sealed units that were not to be serviced – they usually started failing at 80,000 miles and needed replacement by 130,000 miles. The manual transmission in this car will probably also need a clutch in the near future if this car has been driven hard. I suspect by the modifications list, this car has been driven very hard.

    Wheel bearings are another weak spot in these vehicles if driven hard. Usually they go after 100,000 miles.

    All this aside, VWs do drive very well. You can’t beat German handling. It is the reason I now own a 2008 GTI.

    German cars are very rewarding, but VERY high maintenance.


  • avatar

    I bought a 4-yr old accord with 12,000 miles on it from a 76-year-old man. I agree it’s very uncool and boring as a car, but the fact that my parents never gave me more than $5 at any given time makes me appreciate anything I own. Perhaps it is a lesson worth teaching?

  • avatar

    I loved my Golf GLS and it’s still serving my ex very well at 160k miles with very few problems. Some of the same listed here as well as window regulators, and water pump. Of course the fanboys here will never accept that as fact, but it is I tell ya! The car is probably the most solid feeling vehicle (even now at 160k) this side of a new MB. I’m not so sure where everyone gets the idea that VWs are any more expensive to repair than a Honda, but they are not especially on major items, not the Golf/Jetta anyway. (This from running a chain of repair shops in SoCal) Hondas are plenty expensive too.

    As a college kid though, you want a car that’s going to get your from A-B with as little fuss and as reliably as possible for the least coin. The ‘invisibility’ of the Accord may also be an advantage with Johnny Law as well, as well as with the theives that tend to congregate around college campuses. My vote is for the Honda. It sounds like a really nice car. Plus from a pure dollar standpoint, the “trade” makes no sense at all.

  • avatar

    As many others have pointed out the most important question is who’s money is being spent. If it’s your money, than Junior gets the Accord. If it’s money that he has earned himself, then I guess he gets to make a multiple thousand dollar mistake.

    I know from personal experience what comes from picking the “cool” car instead of the pratical car. When I was preparing to go to college, my parents bought me my first car. I got a new 1994 Chevrolet Beretta. We searched all over central Alabama to find one the color and options that I wanted. My dad mentioned that the 4 door Corsica might be more practical, but I insisted on the coupe.

    The Beretta was a perfectly good car. It was dependable. I had the 3.1 L V-6 and it had enough power to keep me satisfied without getting into trouble. It never gave me any major mechanical headaches and I kept it for 12 years and 130,000 miles before I sold it to my brother who needed a beater. But to this day I regret not picking the Corsica instead for my first car.

    The reason is that having a 4- door car at that point in my life would have been such a benefit long- term. I noticed it almost immediately when I got to college. It was always such a pain in the ass to have people climb in and out of the backseat. On one late night run to Denny’s I accidentally let the door go as a girl was climbing out and clocked her in the head with it. It was always easier to let somebody else with a 4 door car drive instead.

    The lack of four doors got worse after I got married. I had just gotten my first job and wanted to buy something sporty. I bought a 2 year- old Firebird Formula and we kept the Beretta for my wife to use since she didn’t have a car when we got married.

    Two months after I got the Firebird, my wife got pregnant. After our daughter was born we were stuck with two two- door coupes, trying to wrangle a baby in and out of the backseat. We put up with it for about six months and then I had to trade the Firebird in for a something with four doors. I ended up leasing a GMC Sierra, which was a lousy deal, and finally got out of that for a S-10 that I still have today, along with a Honda Odyssey.

    The point is, as parents, we do know what’s best for our kids. In a few years Junior is probably going to be wrangling kids and kicking himself for having a two- door car.

  • avatar

    A few thoughts:

    – as others said, he only gets to make the call if he’s spending his own money. However, that means for tuition, too. It’s all one pool of cash, and if a substantial amount of it is yours, you decide the big items.

    – Used car with mods? NFW.

    – If your son is going to live on campus (or near it), and eat at the dining hall, he doesn’t need a car at all. ANY car costs thousands to own and operate annually. Be sure to check out parking charges on campus – he can take a lot of cabs for that money.

    – A car is a huge distraction during the first couple of years, and because your son has wheels he will attract “friends” who want to go places – like the liquor store. Ask me how I know. He’s better off hitting the books.

    – I have a motorcycle. Owning one is a cost item and an obligation, not a convenience. Its utility is minimal. I ride for enjoyment and touring.

    – I also have an old Accord. Wonderful car for the last 18 years, and an excellent choice for anyone on a budget.

  • avatar

    If you haven’t signed the Accord over to the kid already–don’t give him the car! Give him use of the car for the next 4 years.

    Tell him that he can experiment with any cars that he alone can pay for,and that the only form of bailout he gets is that the Honda will still be there at home for him as long as he’s in school. Stand firm against requests for direct loans or co-signatures of bank notes to either purchase or repair some car other than yours.

    Personally, if the mileages were reversed, I’d still take the vehicle with the known good history.

  • avatar

    As an owner of a very cool and fun to drive VW Golf 2.0 (non turbo)5 speed with some mods, I offer this: Let him buy the VW have fun, and look cool. You take the Accord to have as a spare when the VW is in the shop.

    I love my vw, I really do, but it has not been cheap to run. You need also a very good mechanic – this is ESSENTIAL, who is familiar with the mods installed. You (or your son) will overpay for oil changes just to have the mechanic look it over while it’s there, pointing out potential problems. If you do these things, you stand a chance. While hooning around in my car, and hearing a strange sound, I long for a boring reliable car that will actually deliver me to my destination in peace and comfort.

    In the mean time, the VW is gobs of fun at legal speeds. And will get u noticed, which is important, especially at that age.

    I suppose it comes down to this: Is your son the kinda guy who needs to be noticed? Or does he like to q-ship around? If he wants to be noticed, he might as well get used to paying for and caring for relative exotica now. This will spill over to clothes, girl or boyfriends, and other such mundanity of life.

    Good luck.

  • avatar

    I found the car on Autotrader. It’s a silver hatch that needs some work, costs $5,500 and it’s in Oaklyn, New Jersey. He might trade in the Accord for $5000 and get this Golf for about that much.

  • avatar

    who has the title of the accord?
    Gramps, you or son?
    Is there any $$ involved with the transfer of the accord from gramps, or is it totally free?
    Tell Gramps to sell the car privately, take a 5000 dollar vacation and tell the ungrateful grandchild to pay for any wheels he wants for himself or to find a carpool for trips home.

  • avatar

    Blue387: Link please!

  • avatar

    Our son will start college in Fall 2010. We have delayed replacing our cul-de-sac beater until we know where he is going, whether it makes sense to have a car given the school’s location, and whether the school allows freshman to have cars on campus.

    There’s a reason most colleges require freshmen to live in dorms. It’s so they can become acculturated to the life of a student. Having a “tuner” look car will acculturate him to tuner culture, not studious young person culture (I concede that they are not mutually exclusive).

    Our attitude is that while we are supporting our son (and paying for school if he doesn’t get a scholarship), he has one job: perform well as a student.

    One thing you don’t address is how motivated your son is about college. If you have to cut him some slack (bribe him) just to get him to go, then the VW may be part of your solution.

  • avatar

    I could sure use a Honda Accord like that right now. Would he be interested in a trade for a motorcycle. Runs great, looks great and gets 50 mpg, plus it will get him laid.

    I did the same thing to my parents. I was dead set on getting and Alfa spider and I did with my own money. It was great fun and lasted me a long time compared to the POS Honda Prelude lemon I had in high school.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    This is easier to resolve than one might expect. Call your insurance agent and ask what the cost difference is in coverage. And let him know he gets to pay. Then price out a decent set of rims and tires from Tire Rack. Let him apply his cost savings on insurance towards that purchase.

    It’s pretty hard to argue with presidents, even if they’re just pictures of presidents.

  • avatar

    If the kid wanted a Mustang GT or something, it might (probably not) be worth the extra expense and hassle so he could have the coolest car amongst his friends

    The cool kids at most any college are going to be driving the Range Rover Sports, M3s and Boxters they got for their High School graduation.

    Also, if you think a Mustang GT makes you cool are you from RI or NJ by any chance?

  • avatar

    I live in Romania and own a 2002 Volskswagen Passat, 1.8T 150 bhp with the 5 speed manual. Right now it has 120k miles, and I can say it still runs PERFECTLY. I have only had one major problem really, which was a replacing the clutch at about 100k. Other than that, just normal servicing, brake pads, and I think a wheel bearing. The interior feels perfect, the perforated grey leather is like new. Only cosmetic problems might be that the leather around the gear shifter is a little worn out, and the leather on the back of the steering wheel is discolored. Nothing rattles and all the hinges are perfect. It can still cruise at 120 mph no problem! Of course, the car was always serviced at the dealership at 10k intervals, each running about 400 $. Honestly, I am very pleased with the car, a Volkswagen, and that’s why I just got a brand new Volkswagen CC 1.8TSI, which feels like new after 1 year. I don’t understand why everyone keeps bashing VW’s, and I can only assume that the quality in the US leaves something to be desired. (I just wanted to say that I have only had excellent experience with VW, having also owned a ’98 Passat, which still runs with more than 170k miles) Anyway, I agree that your son should keep the Accord as it’s clearly the best thing to do, and honestly I would prefer the Accord instead of a 2000 Golf, which would look very outdated when compared to the Honda.

  • avatar
    H. Koppinen

    Usually I would be all about buying the car you love, but that Golf sounds like a bomb. And it would still be just a Golf, not that much cooler than a Honda.

    his car has treated me well for almost 10 years and never needed serious repairs.

    Translation: No major maintenance has been done. So you would have to replace a whole lot in a car like that.

    Your money or his money, it’s all the same. If he wants a cool car, tell him to find another.

  • avatar

    I had that golf without the mods. In macro terms it was reliable: it always started, drove, was great in snow, protected us when we got T-boned. In micro terms, it sucked: the glove box broke exactly as described in the ad, as did the rear cupholders, both front window thingies broke (under extended warranty) some mysterious vacuum hoses developed leaks and cost $900 to replace, headlights died all the time and CANNOT BE REPLACED BY THE AVERAGE OWNER, windshield had a strees crack from the factory and on and on. I loved that car, true, but stupid things failed all the time. In other news, while it had great acceleration to about 40 mph, that was it. No power whatsoever. But on the other other hand, it’s a hatch and a hatch trumps a sedan any day. FWIW.

  • avatar

    While many posters have said ‘if it’s his own money, let him spend it as he likes,’ few have recognized the following: College is not cheap anymore, and financial aid offices take into account parental assets as well as student money when deciding on scholarships and loans.

    If your family is going to be stuck with a significant tuition bill, above and beyond any scholarships and loans that the student gets himself, then it probably is fair to pool together any money that both the parent and the student bring to the table. Even if the Honda and the VW are both the same value, and can be swapped for little or no cash-in, the higher upkeep costs on the VW — even if paid out of “junior’s” pocket — means that there is less money in that pocket for school and living expenses, leaving more for Mom and Dad to pay.

    At the same time, if the plan is for junior to have a certain amount of spending money each month (from what he’s earned, or given), he could get the VW and learn the joys of spending his entire monthly allotment on that instead of pizza, beer and women. But that might be taking “learning the hard way” a bit too hard.

    Personally, though, I feel that until a child is entirely self-supporting and not relying on any parental contributions (and most college students do rely on parental contributions these days, as noted above), then the parents have every right to a veto over big-ticket decisions like this, and should be, well, paternalistic about it. And I’d veto the VW.

  • avatar

    jerseydevil :

    Since when does a Golf get you noticed? I must be missing something, because in my opinion a Golf has never been “cool” at all. Since when are hatchback econoboxes “cool”.

    jmo :

    I’m from neither RI or NJ although I did go to college in NJ. Regardless, a sporty-looking, fast car with a V8 is pretty cool wherever you’re from, unless of course you and your friends are rich enough to be owning M3s and Boxsters right out of high school.

  • avatar


    Mustang V8 /= Cool. Mustang V8 = Whiskey Tango.

  • avatar

    My main driver is an Accord just like that with 160k miles on it. It is still dead reliable. So the kid wants this hopped-up Golf? Sure he does, he’s a kid.

    I’m with the majority opinion here, I think. Whose money is it? Will he live in a dorm? Can he even have a car as a freshman? Is he the kind of a kid who can learn from the experience of putting up with the frailties of a VW product without it adversely affecting his college career?

    And my last question: Can I make an offer on the Accord if he doesn’t want it?

  • avatar

    Give him the Accord and tell him he can purchase a used Golf when he graduates and gets himself a job.

    82k is about when major parts begin to fail on a VW (steering rack, fuel pumps, transmission, etc). I had a GTI that I drove from 30k-130k so I speak from experience.

  • avatar

    You did not mention where your son will be going to school. University of Nebraska in Lincoln vs. Columbia University in NYC will have different transportation issues.

    My parents paid for my undergraduate education instead of buying me a car. Going to school in Boston made a car unnecessary and more of a liability than an asset. The cost of four years at MIT buys pretty much any new car these days. The only thing more expensive than a good education is not having one. Education comes first, cars later.


  • avatar

    I call dibs on the Accord, since Windswords told me about it first. I could make some Steven Lang worthy bank on selling that ride to a more rational-thinking college student. For real.

  • avatar

    It’s amazing how things have evolved. My first car which I bought new on the strength of a job offer letter my last semester of college was a 1987 Corolla FX16, I loved that car it was great fun, but by today’s standards it would be considered a shitbox. (it was reliable and fun but small with very few features, no power windows or mirrors, etc).

    To the poster who said that there would be worse cars on campus, when I visit my alma mater 20+ years later I am shocked by how many of the students’ cars are newer, nice, and pretty expensive. WTF? In my day (yes, this is a “get off my lawn you damn kids” moment) all the student cars were beaters and if new they werethe most basic of the basic — Tercels, etc.

    Things have definitely changed and our perspective on student cars may be sadly obsolete. I agree the Accord is a no-brainer but I’m in my forties, not my teens.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Dear Son:

    Congratulations on graduation! And now, off to college. Because your mom and I are so sensible, you have this tremendous journey laid out ahaead of you – study hard, play easy, and work on those business skills so when you graduate with your degree in 4 years (no 5/6 year option), you’ll know exactly what kind economic sub-system you can support with your purchase of a VW. Meanwhile, take loving care of Grandad’s mint Accord so we pass it down to your (sibling) in 4 years.

    Much love,

    Parental Unit(s)

  • avatar

    Freshman year?

    Under NO conditions does your kid need a car at college. Period. The odds of him getting distracted and flunking out are great enough as is (check into the stats of the average freshman making it to sophomore year). He makes it to sophomore year, that’s another story.

    No VW. No Accord. Especially no motorcycle. If he’s going to wine about having transportation, get him a bicycle. Make it a fixed gear, and he’ll be just as hip (if not more so) than in a Ricer.

  • avatar

    Since when aren’t Accords “cool” anymore? Granted I’m 27, and have been out of college for a few years, but there was no shame in owning an Accord. There are also plenty of mods. out there for Accords if that’s what he’s into. Doing the mods. yourself is a much better proposition anyways.

    Now if Gramps was driving a LeSabre, Camry, or a Dynasty we’d have a coolness problem.

    I’ve never owned a VW, but I can only relate that when I purchased my Mazda, a couple who had just bought a Mazda as well started telling me about the boatloads of trouble his wife’s Jetta gave them, and how unfairly the dealership had treated them on the repairs.

  • avatar

    One other factor regarding college: Where will you park it?

    Most non-commuter campuses have very limited parking, and Freshmen’s cars are banished to the far edge of campus in unattended megalots. For this type of parking situation, you want the most anonymous vehicle you can come up with to avoid thefts and breakins. A 2000 Honda Accord would be just the ticket. A typical student living in a residence hall will rarely need a car except to go home to mama & papa every now and then.

  • avatar

    Accords, boring? Maybe they don’t look all that hot, I suppose (not that they’re bad). But have you ever driven one hard?

    They like it. They really like it.

    Granted, this is grandfather’s car and that probably means a 4AT, which would sap a lot of the soul out of the car. Still, it’s a Honda and this is a kid presumably without a lot of spare money. Car maintenance is a real bitch on most German cars. These Accords will go forever.

    Frankly if I were this person, I’d live with the Accord until I graduated, and then I’d upgrade. Even then I might be tempted to buy myself a really fun used car like an MX-5 and use the Accord as the practical car. It probably has another decade or more of good life left in it.

    I’m not the petrolhead some of the TTAC users are, but I like a good car as much as the next person. I’ve driven more soulful cars than my ’07 Accord but when I push this car, it still makes me smile. Some minor modifications and this 2000 one might be a surprisingly fun car to drive.

  • avatar


    My red VW (with some mods) gets noticed all the time, especially when shined up. ALL the time, i tell you, even – and especially by the local constabulary. A little lowered, a little more exhaust noise, nice wheels and tires – works wonders.

    Between these two cars, if u wanna get noticed, buy this VW. If not, get the accord. My VW has inspired passion in me that the accord simply does not have. My ex-partners Accord was good to sleep in, and I mean that in the best possible way. No one sits around at parties to discuss the accords driving dynamics. At best, a quick exchange of mileage numbers, how cheap insurance is, then on to compare washing maching statistics.

    It might just be about passion. I had my heart broken by a 1976 Fiat x1/9. It fell apart in my hands. I was bitterly dissapointed. But I recovered.

    Its better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.

  • avatar

    First – I am you. Or I was you. With a $4k budget. Total. Maybe because I have a daughter (instead of a son) going to college next week, or maybe because I’m a pistonhead – I picked. She got the 9 year old car with 27K miles, boring but reliable (and cheap to fix – a 1999 Ford Escort). I replaced the little but very important stuff – fluids, belts, hoses, brakes, batteries and tires (mileage is low, but age isn’t kind to any of those), and even had enough cash to get the windows tinted and a nice little iPod compatible stereo and 4 speakers from Crutchfield. Short of a brand new car, I feel it’s the best shot at keeping her safe and off the side of the road (given my limited budget, and my requirements; an automatic, A/C, ABS car).

    Oddly, my coworker IS you (us?), too. He has a son. And his son picked. He got the Golf. It’s been 4 months now, and about half of it spent on jackstands. But it’s good “bonding” time, as both learn the ins and outs of VW repair. I feel like I know way more about VWs than I should just by listening to him. Were I his manager, I’d be pissed – he’s constantly wasting time on his son’s car related problems.

    WTF are you thinking? Oh, how I wish I had a crack at a Honda like that for my child.

    This is a non-decision unless your son is totally self sufficient.

  • avatar

    Hey everyone, thanks for the great advice. I have an update to this but first a few facts. Some asked if it was his own money and yes it would be. The Accord would have stayed in the family and gone to the next eldest son in line, who is about to get his drivers permit. My eldest is going to Rider College in NJ on a scholorship majoring in math and education. So if he does well and graduates he has a secure future. I don’t know what their rules are on freshman cars.

    Now about the Golf. He wisely asked the family mechanic to go with him to look over the car (I was not there) and he remarked that the car would need a timing belt, pronto. Cost would be as much as $700, if I got the story right. Without trashing the car my son could tell the mechanic was not enthusiastic about it. His mother was with him and she didn’t get a good feeling about it either (you know how mom’s are with those feelings). So after due consideration he decided against it and will (at least for now) keep the Accord. I knew he was a good kid! So the Golf is still available. Any takers?

  • avatar

    maybe because I’m a pistonhead – I picked. She got the 9 year old car with 27K miles, boring but reliable (and cheap to fix – a 1999 Ford Escort).

    A death trap? Nice responsible parenting there.

    IIHS rating: Average. 3 out of 5 stars.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    A happy ending to all. Well, except the Golf owner.

    Some lessons can only be learned in hard and expensive ways.

    Like going to school.
    Like modding your ride.

    And then trying to sell it.

    But after all that, you’ll be sure to appreciate the ‘Accord’ things in life.

  • avatar

    Students with cars in college get lower grades than those without cars.

  • avatar

    The VW 2.0 is a pretty solid unit. I drove one nearly 200k miles with no issues. The 1.8T and the 2.5 are the problem children in the VW stable. (and the 1.9 TDI likely the best of the whole bunch)

    That said, the rest of the situation of that Golf is in a word: scary. The Honda may be dull in comparison but I have to agree with the others. If he keeps the Honda he’s smart, if he sells it for the VW he’s on his own.


  • avatar

    “A death trap? Nice responsible parenting there.

    IIHS rating: Average. 3 out of 5 stars.”

    I am currently 26 and looking to return to college….

    You know I drive a 92 Integra (Still !) so that must be the mega/ultra/super death trap. Last year the ABS stopped functioning. No airbags. I have seat belts.

    Some of you need to get off your high horse it seems.

  • avatar

    So after due consideration he decided against it and will (at least for now) keep the Accord. I knew he was a good kid!

    And now you get that wonderful sense of pride knowing that you raised him to make the right decision.

  • avatar

    Some of you need to get off your high horse it seems.

    Given the chances of teens/college students being killed in a car accident – if you have the means, not buying your kids a safe car is highly irresponsible.

  • avatar


    Take any car and make it safer for the kids; remove one of the spark plugs. Or, if you have the resources, re-chip it for minimum power.

    On the trade… I wouldn’t touch the Golf and I’d sure appreciate a low-mile Accord sedan. Especially for free. But I’m older and wiser.

    I can see my youngest son going for a deal like this, though. But he’s an idiot. I say that as a loving but frustrated father.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    As a college student (who drives a Volvo 240 Estate!), I can assure you that if your son feels he needs a car to be cool then he’s been woefully misguided by some tool. Most college kids with any substance do not give a shit what you drive, how fast it is, or how cool you look driving dangerously. The quicker he distances himself from people who do think it’s cool the better off he is in the long run.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    I have a 2000 Accord that I bought 9 years ago new this month. Best car I’ve ever owned period and I’ve had and driven a lot of them. Its an EX V6 in the same Signet Silver color in the pic above. Meanwhile, I’ve watched countless friends, co-workers, family and neighbors have nothing but wallet draining experiences owning VW / Audi’s from around that model year.

    College is NOT the time to be worried about having a “cool” car…..

  • avatar

    If its your money, give him neither. Tell him no car until he he’s a Junior. Explain to him that you think it may take him 2 years to learn how to appreciate things given to him. Then say you will give him a small LOAN to purchase a quality 10-Speed bicycle.

    If it’s his money…tell him he you will not be helping out with as much college costs this year as you had hoped. Tell him it is will be about (insert asking price of VW here) less than you would have hoped.

  • avatar

    I’m pleased that your son was smart enough to make what seems like a very intelligent decision, but why does he need a car for university? I’m not attempting sarcasm, nor am I trying to be facetious, I just am truly curious. When I attended, and when my son attended university, a car was not required. There wasn’t/isn’t enough parking, so the rule of under-supply/over-demand inflated the cost of the extra parking that was available. Insurance costs more for a immature driver, and would certainly be more expensive for the Golf. No matter what you intend for your son in regards to the car, you also must realize that valuable study time will be spent either in working on the car, or driving the car. Worse will be that he becomes the limo driver for all the syncophants he’ll accumulate because he has a car.

    Have him leave the Accord at home (or better yet sell it, and I’ll wire you a money order for $500 more than the last offer) and have him send you X-amount of cash each month that he would have otherwise spent on the car, invest it for him in a moderately risky portfolio, and when he graduates give him the $40,000.00 he will have saved, and let him buy whatever he wants!

  • avatar

    The Accord is faster than the VW, handles better than the VW, gets better fuel economy than the VW, is more reliable than the VW, has more room than the VW, is cheaper to fix than the VW, has less miles than the VW and is downright BETTER than the VW in every way, shape, or form.

    Oh, and its COOLER than the VW too.

    Send him to the Accord forums. He’ll be a Honda fan in no time.

  • avatar

    Tell him he can’t sell the Accord, but he can buy the VW. After he’s owned the VW for six months, he can do what he wants with the Accord.

    Depending how it goes, he’ll sell the Accord to fix the VeeDub or he’ll sell the VeeDub and appreciate the Accord. And, while he saves up the money for the VeeDub, he’ll learn to appreciate the Accord, so may never buy the VeeDub.

    Of course, if he’s legally an adult and the Accord is in his name, you can’t do anything except advise him — in which case advise him to do what I’ve suggested so that he has a reliable car for transportation and a “fun” car for weekends.

  • avatar


    Glad to hear that outcome. And for the record, my grades didn’t get better or worse when I had a car. Or didn’t. Some youngsters aren’t like that.

  • avatar

    so, it’s a MKIV Golf with a 2.0L 8v. Umm, I know it’s a VW, and TTAC commenters are required to say that VW’s are shit, but what exactly can go wrong with this car?

  • avatar
    The Anam Cara

    i think this might be better used as an opportunity to teach the oft-neglected “want vs need” lesson to your kid, regardless of whether it’s his own money or not. the accord is the much wiser choice and would serve him well over the next 100,000 miles. he can spend his time and money on tuners when he graduates.

  • avatar

    Mrb00st : so, it’s a MKIV Golf with a 2.0L 8v. Umm, I know it’s a VW, and TTAC commenters are required to say that VW’s are shit, but what exactly can go wrong with this car?

    I’d suggest you read zerofoo’s post. And the one made by jerseydevil. Or veefiddy’s.

    Unless you are a mechanic and/or love VWs…you simply do not go there.

  • avatar

    I’m no American, so the perception is probably different, but to me a 2000 Golf is pretty much the German equivalent of that 2000 Accord. It doesn’t get any more dreary than that.

  • avatar

    rainless : I’m no American, so the perception is probably different,

    Very different, I’d say!

    We should put that disclaimer: the comments posted on this episode of Piston Slap only have relevance to those that live in the US (and Canada?). Or maybe any country far from Europe where VW has a more limited presence.

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