VW Jetta service record?
July 31, 2006 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Are VW Jettas really that bad?

Can the AskMefi universe relate their direct experiences with Volkswagen Jetta service records?

I'm thinking about purchasing a used 2000-2004 Jetta and in my discussions with family and friends, people have told me that they've heard the Jetta and VWs in general have a pretty bad service record. They've heard that Volkwagens have to go in for service often and when they do go in, repairs and parts tend to be expensive.

Is this true? I ask you guys because no one I've heard these rumors from has actually owned a Jetta or VW. I'd especially like to hear directly from people who own Jettas or VWs.
posted by yellowbkpk to Travel & Transportation (51 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I had a co-worker who had a nightmarish experience with a Jetta from that timeframe. It turned out to be a very common problem (IIRC, they would intermittently refuse to start). Worse, her dealership didn't seem too concerned about it. She swore off VWs forever after that experience.

J.D. Power surveys also don't have good things to say about VW quality, at least from that era.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:52 PM on July 31, 2006

My Jetta (a 2000) has been fantastic, hardly needing any repair beyond a regular oil change. However, in the last year it has needed a little bit of work, and in both cases the parts were more expensive than they might have been for another car.

I love the car though. If my experience is representative, I say get it.
posted by BackwardsCity at 8:01 PM on July 31, 2006

I too have a coworker who had a nightmarish experience with his 2000 TDI and a series of insolvable electrical problems that started from day 1 and eventually made him ditch the car.

I on the other hand have never had anything significant happen to my 2001 1.8T from a maintenance perspective. Two blown sensors and some replaced brake rotors in the last 6 years, half of it covered by warranty.
posted by cardboard at 8:05 PM on July 31, 2006

I've not had personal experiences, but again had someone I know who had a 2003 (I believe) Jetta. I can't recall the details of the situation, but it was a "turbo" engine, and there was an issue where the fuel chamber (I think) was not large enough for what the turbo engine needed, and thus broke... And despite it being the manufacturer's fault, they refused to either take the car back or repair it or reimburse her for the repairs. She ended up getting rid of it, despite still making payments on the loan, and buying a Hyundai instead.

Anyway, very anecdotal, and very imprecise, sorry. But I thought I'd chime in - I've heard bad things, too.

Then again, I very much like VW Jettas, and am thinking about eventually getting one myself... but it will not be from those years, nosirreebob. So take it as you will.
posted by po at 8:06 PM on July 31, 2006

My brother has a passat in that timeframe and complains that something expensive needs replacing every time he takes the car in for service.

Not sure if you care about this, but my mom has a beetle from that time frame too, and both the passat and the beetle have a lot of trouble with the interior falling apart. In my mom's case, she hardly even drives the car and finish is rubbing off of the door handles.
posted by clarahamster at 8:06 PM on July 31, 2006

I have a 2003 Jetta TDI station wagon, and have had no problems with it at all. Note that (unlike most VWs for sale in the US) it was built in Germany, as opposed to Mexico. I don't know if it's TDIs that are built there, or the station wagons, or the TDI station wagons. I also don't know if there's a significant difference in the build quality between the two countries. But you wanted anecdotes, there's mine.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 8:07 PM on July 31, 2006

None of the recent German cars are getting super high marks for reliability, IMO. I'd stay with Japanese cars if reliability is your primary concern.
posted by knave at 8:07 PM on July 31, 2006

(its my understanding that the diesel jettas are much more reliable [and much more rare] than the gasoline-powered version)
posted by iurodivii at 8:14 PM on July 31, 2006

I had a 2001 Jetta 1.8T and it was phenomenally good in the reliability department. I had it for four years, drove it hard winter and summer, in commuting scenarios and extensive city-to-city highway driving and never had a single maintenance problem. It was one of the best cars I've had - far better than the Subaru Legacy I had for a few years and the older Jetta I had before that.
posted by mikel at 8:15 PM on July 31, 2006

OK, you have heard me complain about my Jetta, er, EX-Jetta if you've been reading threads. That vehicle was a '96 Jetta and thus quite a bit older than what you are considering in car-years anyway. In the 8 months I owned it I replaced the manual tranny and the clock screw and I argued with the dealership about master keys and whether or not I had a glovebox. No doubt that parts are more expensive than comparable Ford parts. My only experience with newer Jettas is a friend who managed to drop the oil pressure and thus screw up the engine (he *swears* it was Jiffy Lube's fault).

Bottom line, get a dealer certified used Jetta with a warranty if you are committed to Jettas.

/me hugs her Honda.
posted by ilsa at 8:22 PM on July 31, 2006

My sisters had a VW something- something similar to a Jetta if not a Jetta- and it worked fine, until one day we were driving down the highway and the engine caught fire. We were lucky it didn't explode.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:23 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

To add to the anecdotal evidence, I have an '04 Jetta and have never had a lick of trouble with it. Nothing, nada, zilch. I've been quite happy with it...so far =)
posted by handful of rain at 8:28 PM on July 31, 2006

I have a 2002 jetta wagon (again, built in germany), with the slightly pokey 2.0L 4 cylinder. In the 4.5 years we've had it, we haven't had a single engine problem. The airbag controller needed to be replaced early on, and that was a trouble-free warranty repair. Right before it went off warranty, they replaced the door seals for us because they had frozen shut and been torn pulling them open. I was expecting to pay for that, but it was covered.

I remember reading that a part of the reported reliability issues with the jetta were related to people not screwing the gas cap on all the way, resulting in a check engine light. Can't find that now, it may have been a forum. At any rate, it's the most reliable car I've ever owned.
posted by ulotrichous at 8:29 PM on July 31, 2006

Love my 2000 Jetta GL but if I could go back in time I would probably not get it. Then again, I think it's gotten all the kinks out by now. However, so far
- cupholders replaced twice
- two front grills fell out
- both splashgards flew off on the freeway
- one time the passenger door randomly stopped working
- key is taped together
- glove compartment is finnicky

And as for the great gas mileage it's supposed to get? 18.5 mpg last time I checked.

If you want one, go 2003 or newer. I think they figured it out by then.
posted by radioamy at 8:30 PM on July 31, 2006

I own a 2003 Jetta wagon with a 1.8 turbo engine, and have not had a single problem with it. The only work other than routine maintenance it's had is a recall on the power seat. It's been driven daily and hard in all kinds of weather.
posted by padraigin at 8:31 PM on July 31, 2006

My sister had a 1998 Jetta. It was fine for a couple of years and then all kinds of problems happened. The exaust pipe started lowering somehow, it wouldn't start, the molding kept on falling off, etc. (Since then, every Jetta built around that year we saw had its molding off). The VW shop wasn't helpful.
It was totaled when a Porsche slammed into her (his fault, thankfully.) A few weeks later, she got a card in the mail from the shop. "Celebrating..." "One more year with your car"

But she just had to have it, because everyone else was getting one. I think they improved since then...
posted by daninnj at 8:32 PM on July 31, 2006

I have a 2004 Jetta and have had no problems with it. When I was researching the Jetta, I did see that Consumer Reports said that Jettas built prior to 2003 had lots of electrical problems and weren't a good buy. I *think* the 2003 model year was considered a better year for them, but if I were you I'd play it safe and get a 2004.
posted by stefanie at 8:43 PM on July 31, 2006

I'm pretty sure I've heard they guys on car talk say some negative things about Jetta's reliability (and the cost to repair them), but I'm not finding any examples at their website. Might still be worth perusing.
posted by chndrcks at 8:43 PM on July 31, 2006

I had a 2000 Jetta for five years. It was the stripped down model, so I had no turbo issues to deal with (I believe there were some minor recalls?), and no power windows to deal with (there ARE power window problems).

-O2 sensor (recalled)
-Mass Air Flow sensor replaced
-Glove box broke (didn't fix - whole front panel cost $325)
-Cupholders replaced twice (not under warranty - spendy)
-Front & rear driver's side door locks stopped working
-Headlamps, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signal lights on the left side burned out CONSTANTLY. Repair shop could never find any electrical issue
-I also got crap gas mileage.

I agree with radioamy - go newer. Many kinks were worked out. Parts are spendy, though. If you're in Portland, OR, I can recommend a great shop!
posted by peep at 8:46 PM on July 31, 2006

I've had a 1996 Beetle (built on the same chassis as the Jetta, I think) and now have a 2004 Beetle (I crashed the other one in a snowstorm :-[ ) and I've loved them both. Neither of them had to have any significant repairs, and I'm pretty hard on my cars. My dad likes to tinker with simple maintenance (oil changes and the like) and always comes up from under my car remarking about how well-made it is.

Incidentally, when I totaled my first Beetle, I walked away without a scratch... even the highway patrolperson was impressed.
posted by chickletworks at 8:47 PM on July 31, 2006

This is one of those times where a bunch of personal anecdotes are no substitute for cold, hard data. Hie thee to a bookstore that sells Consumer Reports guides, and look at the page for Jettas in the relevant age bracket. That will tell you more than any number of personal stories here.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:50 PM on July 31, 2006

My wife and I paid money to get rid of our 2000 Jetta Wagon. It had all kinds of screwy problems, all of the time. A window would just fall out. Gas would just start pouring out of the bottom of the car. It would just crap out.

I have three friends that had VWs at the same time, and all of them had the same type of experiences; none of us own VWs now.

God, did I hate that car. My wife was dying to love it, wanted to love it, thought it looked charming, but eventually couldn't take it anymore. That car was such a peice of shit that she felt bad about the fact that some other person would have to own it someday when we traded it in.

posted by popechunk at 8:54 PM on July 31, 2006

My 2002 Jetta wagon is the single most reliable car I've ever had. It's also frickin' FAST, as evidenced by a recent thread here wherein I moaned about a ticket I got.
posted by luriete at 8:56 PM on July 31, 2006

I have an 02 Golf GTI 1.8T. Golfs are just the hatchback version of the Jetta - same engines, same body.

Overall, I love my GTI. The things that have gone wrong are what were expected to go wrong (window regulators, engine coils), but were covered under warranty. My stock radio also died, but that was covered under warranty as well. I now have almost 120,000 kms on her, and besides replacing the clutch (my fault, I learned to drive stick on this car) and the brakes/tires, I've only had one other minor issue with a seatbelt sensor that I've had to pay for myself. THat being said - I know there's some suspension issues I will have to deal with in the near future, and some other minor repairs that will be needed to be done relatively soon, as well.

That being said, when things do go wrong, they are very expensive. Almost stupidly so; it cost me $250 just to have the aforementioned seatbelt problem fixed, and $2000 for the clutch and flywheel. iAs always, you'll also pay more f you get your work done at a dealership. And VWs do have a lousy track record, mainly for their electrical problems. I'm not sure of the new ones are better, but the older ones (Mark IIIs so pre-1998) are notorious for electrical weirdness.

That being said, I would not have a problem buying another VW. The thing with cars is, you only hear about the lemons, cuz their owners complain the loudest. The guys happily driving their Jettas and Golfs day in and out rarely bother to come online and tell their stories.

Random piece of advice - check the location of the cupholders! It's the little things that can drive you nuts - on my car (and hence the 02 Jetta) the damn things block the stereo controls. Sometimes, you really have to wonder what those German engineers were thinking....
posted by cgg at 8:59 PM on July 31, 2006

I have a 95 with 150K miles on it. I bought it used. There were a number of known problems with this vintage Jetta from Mexico (door locks, heater control panel, ignition wiring, control panel wiring, hood latch etc.). Luckily on the car I got all of those things had already been replaced and it has run like a champ ever since. I get 30+mpg and it's fun to boot.

I have a great mechanic who says this is often the case- just as people get everything fixed they give up on these cars and sell them.

It looks like shit though, the trim fell off and the paint job is pretty awful.
posted by fshgrl at 9:05 PM on July 31, 2006

I have a 2002 VW Jetta GLS (sedan). I have had no engine problems with it. However, I had one major repair in year 3 - the clips that hold the windows up snapped and my window fell into the door. It was a factory recall issue so it was a free repair - they did both doors for free. I have also had to replace the radio antenna because I kept leaving it on during car washes and it snapped. And it was fracking expensive - so I'll agree that the repairs and parts are pricey - oil changes were always a bit pricey at the dealer.

If I had to do it over, I would have bought the Golf for the additional trunk space, but I have no regrets about buying a VW.
posted by Cyrie at 9:23 PM on July 31, 2006

check the VIN. Made in mexico? stay away. made in Brazil or Germany? As good as any other car with similar mileage. Too much for you? Walk away. VW has quality control problems in Mexico. They still do, even if they say it's settled.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:50 PM on July 31, 2006

We just totalled a 1997 Jetta GLX. We had it for about 5 years. Mechanically it ran very well. We had no problems with the engine or transmission. What we did have problems with were lots of random things. Windows that would break and no longer roll down. Ignition switches that would crap out. Turn signals that would stop working. A CD player that skipped if we went over 75 mph. Lots of little stuff like that. The problem was that all that stuff would cost like $300 and keeping up with it all got expensive. There was lots of stuff that we learned to live with, like the rear passenger window not working. But, you shouldn't have to live with that stuff.

In the car accident we got T-Boned by another car moving at a high rate of speed. The jetta did hold up like a champ, but, I was kind of glad to be rid of it in the end. It was a really fun car to drive, with the V6 it was really fast. But, the cost to own it was too great. We have now sworn off the Farfurnugen and got a Subaru Outback XT.
posted by trbrts at 9:56 PM on July 31, 2006

2001 Jetta. Death by a thousand paper cuts.

- electrical problems with dash thrice (lights, radio)
- engine warning light recall
- brake sensor recall
- both front windows fell into doors, different times
- center console latch broken twice
- alarm system malfunctioned so that car horn sounded continuously while driving, without exception. (Please try to imagine the horror of having to drive home with the horn honking all the way.) Estimated $1000 to fix. I now have to disengage alarm with key each time I unlock the car.
- finish rubbing off handles, switches, etc.
- one more recalled item that I can't remember
- front splash guard coming off
posted by shifafa at 10:39 PM on July 31, 2006

I agree with ROU_Xenophobe here. Your best bet is to check out consumer reports. I myself have looked at consumer reports for VW Jettas, and I can tell you, it's not pretty.
posted by Paul KC at 10:56 PM on July 31, 2006

i've voiced my complaints before about jettas on askme. And yes, THEY FUCKING SUCK. my family and myself have driven/owned saab, lexus, jeep, suzuki, toyota, nissan, infinity, and mitsubishi, and never has anything been as crappy and exasperating as owning the VWs.

jettas were pretty common "learning cars" in my town, and like 1 out of every 10 kids had them in my high school. my father did something completely crazy, and bought both me and my twin sister *matching* (used) jettas the first year of college. Both of us got rid of them after like 6 months because they were the most unpredictable and problem-ridden cars we had ever driven. also, they spent like half the time out-of-comission at the dealer getting fixed for the same problems. over and over.

The worst part of the jettas is that they seem to hit a certain point and everything just falls apart. i'm talking locks, belts, gears, windows, electrical systems...they all just *stop functioning* after a certain point. in high school, before my good friend finally got rid of her jetta, she was climbing in-and-out of her car every morning through the passenger-side back door...because it was the only door that worked anymore.

i hope you can see that like 10 years later, i still have nothing but angst towards the fact that i had to drive that death-trap.
posted by naxosaxur at 11:49 PM on July 31, 2006

You can tell from reading these responses, but VWs of that era seem to be a mixed bag. I have a 1999 Passat V6 and when it's on, it's a fairly good car. Tolerable. But when it's off, it takes forever to get it fixed, and it costs a fortune.

For a used one, make sure it's got meticulous records. You only want one that was owned by an anal guy who wrote down the service manager's name, the dates off the mechanic's graduation certificates, and what kind of donuts were in the waiting room every time he brought it in for service. Make sure it was in for every single scheduled maintenance, on time, and wasn't in for anything else.

But that's only if you're set on owning one. If it was me, I wouldn't take another VW built after about 1970 if you gave it to me with an all-expenses-paid chauffeur and free gas. I'll never buy another VW, and wouldn't wish one on anybody but a U.S. senator or somebody from the executive branch.
posted by spacewrench at 12:23 AM on August 1, 2006

I had a 2000 Golf I bought new.
As I was driving home with my first new car my engine light went on. It saw the dealership about 45 times in the next 3 years. And only about 1 year of that was under warrantee.

-Engine light (they said O2 sensor most of the time) only went of for a day or 2 after the dealership.
-The headlights burned out constantly. I know it seems minor but changing these about every 3 months at 20 bucks for each headlight was costly.
-The window motor busted
- A spark plug mysteriously popped out of the treads
there was - from the day i picked it up- there was a leak SOMEwhere that puddled water in the rug on one side of backseat floor. Smelled musty all the time.
- I bought it apparently with a locked caliper. I brought t it back to the dealership the next day (after I bought it) and had them drive it because I said it felt strange like the emergency break was no - they claimed i was nuts. (I test drove a different car- exact model.) I had the breaks looked at a year later and only the locked caliper break had any wear.
- the cup holder I barely ever used stopped working.
-The radio would sometimes not turn off and the display was all messed up.
- I know there is a lot more. It was constant and i am pretty gentle on a car.

I've had a nissan for a couple years now and it has not needed one thing and it is such a relief to not have to bring it to the shop constantly, miss work and inconvenience friends.
posted by beccaj at 4:41 AM on August 1, 2006

My comments don't really apply to VW, but Euro cars in general -- which probably isn't fair. We owned a Land Rover Discovery - bought it brand new in 1999. There were things leaking or not working more often than my oil changes. The dealer was close and had great service, with free loaners -- but it wasn't worth it.

We got out of the lease early (by paying extra) and got a 98 Lexus LS used certified lease. After a year, I said "oops!" as I had forgotten to get even one oil change. I was so used to going to the Land Rover service department and the Lexus NEVER had one issue in 3 years.

I'd love another European car for looks, style, etc - but I just can't do it.
posted by thilmony at 5:46 AM on August 1, 2006

I probably won't find the file but at some point I put together everything I had to have repaired on my '99 Jetta GLS. The ones you are hearing about are what were then called "New Body" Jettas. They came out in mid-99 and I got one of the new body ones, brand new with 8 miles on it. Driving off the lot I got 200 yards and the sun roof broke. I'm not kidding. The car was a nightmare from then on, and yet nothing broke 3 or more times so I couldn't take advantage of the lemon laws. It ate a quart of oil every 2000 miles or so. The body was so low it was nearly impossible to keep the front fender on even when I was being paranoid about it. At some point the check engine light went on and it turned out to be the mass airflow sensor. I met a girl with a 2000 Jetta who had the check engine light on and correctly predicted it would be a faulty mass airflow sensor based soley on how many miles she had driven it. The front side windows kept failing if someone closed to doors too hard. It would just slide down into the door. I had three of those.

My two favorites... 1) The brake sensor failed. No problem you'd think, but since the car couldn't sense the brakes weren't on I couldn't get it out of park. By chance the tow truck driver got it to work and we were able to tow it to the dealer. 2) Late at night, car full of friends. Denny's for some food. We get into the car, turn it over, and boom! The battery blew up. Smoke... the whole deal. Good times.

Service was horrible. The brakes squeaking meant nothing. Heater broken was just normal wear and tear. That was a cold winter. The scary thing was I tried a bunch of dealers and mechanics and all of them were bad. The guys I use now finally got that thing working decently but I dumped it for a Toyota and haven't looked back. The only time I'll touch a VW again, as a passenger or a driver, is if I'm in an accident with one.

Do yourself a huge favor and check consumerreports.com before you buy anything. You can get a one month subscription for a lot less than the repair costs. It is worth it. Compare what you are thinking about with a Corolla. The differences are staggering.

I also used carsurvey.org to see what had happened to other folks so I would know what to expect. Remember the reviews on there are just going to be folks who want to talk about their cars so the sample will be biased. Consumer Reports seems to have a more representative sample.
posted by jwells at 5:52 AM on August 1, 2006

2001 Jetta owner. So far, it's been excellent and essentially hassle free. Love the car.
posted by Amizu at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2006

I had a 2000 Jetta and still cannot spit hard enough when talking about the car. Pretty much the same things voiced above -- check engine light (which was sometimes fixed by loosening, then tightening the gas cap), sensors ($$), etc. The service was inept at best from the dealer.

And it's a bitch to get those wheel covers off when you have to change a tire.
posted by Atom12 at 6:34 AM on August 1, 2006

1999 Jetta, the first year for the 'new' Jetta:

All four window regulators have broken resulting in windows falling down into the door. After the first, VW paid for this repair - it was/is a known defect with the windows in the 1999s (and from reading here, later models as well.)

There is always some light burnt out on a Jetta. I think this is supposedly true of other VWs, and Audis as well.

There is a spring, possibly from one of the seats, under the front passenger seat, unattached. I don't know what it did or where it should be attached.

Door locks are screwy - it takes two clicks of the door lock to actually lock the front door. If you do one, the door will open, but the alarm will sound.

Cup holders - broken, and costly to repair.

Random recalls.

Mirror knob snapped off.

There is a big dent in the side where somebody backed into it (ok, cant really blame VW for this.)

That said, the car has mechanically been pretty reliable, and my wife and I still have it - most of the problems occured under warranty, and those that haven't we've learned to deal with. It's definitely a 'beater' car that we would prefer not to drive if given the choice.
posted by drobot at 6:40 AM on August 1, 2006

I must advise you against the Jetta. We had a new one in 1996 that eventually developed the problem of stalling when coming to a stop and registering abysmally low oil pressure.

On top of that, my dealer, no longer in business, tried everything including reseating the timing belt. Evenutally the culprit was deemed to be the OIL PUMP, which was an extremely expensive repair, and we were advised engine damage had occurred over this period.

We dumped it as soon as we could.
posted by toastchee at 6:41 AM on August 1, 2006

I have a 2000 Passat. It's been great. I had the water pump go on me recently but it was covered by the powertrain warranty somehow, so it didn't cost me anything. Other than that it's just the little stuff you'd expect with any car.

I agree with others about the parts though. When you do have to have something replaced, depending on the part, it can be more expensive. Like take just the coolant for example. Before I finally went in for that water pump fix (which I didn't know was going to be covered), I had an ongoing slow leak. Instead of fixing it, I just kept putting more coolant/water in. Coolant usually costs $6-8-10, so I was shocked to find that the "special" kind my car had to take cost $20. Maybe regular stuff would work fine, but they say you need this and it's pricey. Same with transmission fluid. Accidentally drained that once instead of the oil. Had to get a shop to pump it back up in there and I flipped when I saw the parts bill. The fluid was so dang expensive. Apparently VW's need a "special" kind. Grrr. Found the same thing with various parts here and there. Why you gotta be so complicated, Germany?

Lastly, I agree with others saying not to rely on anecdotal evidence here. For example, one person upthread talks about how something expensive had to be replaced on their jetta everytime they took it in. This could be because something really broke each time, or it could be that their mechanic was screwing them and inventing expensive repairs, as often happens. My ex-dealer tried to do that to me every time too and it was often bogus. So, you, reading that person's post, can't know whether it was the mechanic, whether that particular car was just lemony for some reason, or whether it was representative of VW quality in general. Go with aggregate reporting by methodical testers for the most reliable info.
posted by kookoobirdz at 7:13 AM on August 1, 2006

If you want even more anecdotal evidence, check the forums at VW Vortex. If you can avoid the ride-pimping teenage crowd, you'll get some solid advice from people who know their VWs.

As for me, I'm a VW fan through and through, but even I would say that if you're looking for reliability first and fun factor second, go with a used Honda or Toyota. VW had plenty of issues to deal with early in this decade, and they're just now coming out of that slump (or so it seems). Add to that a pretty poor dealer network, and owning a used VW can be a chore.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:21 AM on August 1, 2006

My mom's entire family works in the auto industry, from dealerships to repair shops, and when I was looking to buy a new car last summer, the one piece of advice they all unanimously gave me was "don't buy a VW!"

I purchased a Toyota Corolla, and could not be happier with it. As many others have said, though, this sort of anecdotal evidence won't help; get a Consumer Reports or visit Edmunds.com and see what they have to say about VW's reliability (it will likely be all negative).
posted by bostonkevin at 7:27 AM on August 1, 2006

Oh, and yes, parts and fluids are pricey. As kookoobirdz notes, VW requires "special" -- hence more expensive -- power steering and transmission fluids. As for parts, I had to replace the exhaust system on my 1995 Passat, and it was actually cheaper for me to pick up a stainless steel sport exhaust than to get the OEM exhaust from VW. Even if you go OEM, don't rely on the mechanic to supply the parts, if at all possible. Order them up from places like German Auto Parts and bring them to/have them sent to the mechanic. Usually a better deal.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:29 AM on August 1, 2006

I sold my 2002 in 2003 just before the warranty was up (I put a lot of highway miles on it in the year and a half that I had it). It would be unfair to say it was in the shop more than it was on the road but it certainly felt like it.

It was a very nice car. Pleasant to look at and enjoyable to drive. I spent the year and a half of ownership dreading the repair costs that I'd be hit with when the warranty expired.

One thing I can say for the VW though is that it held its value. I was able to make nearly a straight trade for a well-appointed brand new Pontiac Vibe (made by Toyota - same car as the Matrix) that I'm finding much more versatile than the VW was though the ride's more rigid.

One more thing: the first thing everyone would say to me when they saw my VW was "it must be so good on gas!" to which I'd have to reply "not really - it's not a diesel". I think the diesels have their own expensive maintenance requirements that can really offset any gas savings.

Last thing: The dealership support was abysmal. I moved cities while I owned the car and managed to try four different dealerships. Each was worse than the last.
posted by ChuckLeChuck at 7:39 AM on August 1, 2006

I'll echo a lot of the negative remarks about VWs in this time period. My wife and I have a 2001 Golf 4-door (low-end, made in Brazil). We'll never buy another VW again because of our experience:

- Air conditioner broke
- Snap for driver side visor broke
- Latch for arm rest compartment broke
- Both interior front door handles are flaking rubber or vinyl
- Car would not get out of Park and had to be towed because something failed with the brake system (not the actually brakes, but a sensor I think)
- A cassette tape got stuck in the Monsoon Sound System, they were not able to repair it and suggested a whole new radio for $500; we got a third-party stereo instead, but had to replace the entire system (incl. speakers) because of incompatibilities
- Rear passenger window has problems going up and down (has a mind of its own)
- Rear driver's side window's glass separated from the mechanism so it actually did not roll up
- Poor real-world gas mileage for a small non-turbo car: 21 city / 24 hwy

The build quality of our Golf is just so shabby. I love the way VWs are designed, but I just can't see myself buying another one.
posted by lunarboy at 8:26 AM on August 1, 2006

I had a 98 Passat and loved it. One of the best cars I've ever owned.

In 2001 I traded it in for a Passat Wagon (the baby was born and we needed a bigger car) and that thing was a pile of crap. After 55K miles the engine broke and VW wanted to chanrge me $5,000 for a new one. After _lots_ of serious bitching I got the engine replaced for free but it took them a month to get the parts in and during that time I was in a rental. I sold the car about a year ago and I'm in a Toyota Matrix now.

posted by DragonBoy at 8:28 AM on August 1, 2006

Wow. A lot of the complaints about Jetta's sound like the Cabriolet I had in the late 80's. Horrid constant problems with that car it's whole life. But I loved it anyway. It was a complete pain in the ass and fun. I'll never buy another VW though. I'll just love them from the passenger's seat.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:38 AM on August 1, 2006

'02 GTI VR6 owner here with some more anecdotal evidence. my problem set has been mostly electrical in nature - heated seats shorted out (annoying), coilpacks have been replaced several times (cylinder gets dropped, significant power loss), the control unit/computer that controls the cooling fans died (stranding me with an overheating vehicle, fortunately not far from home), and of all things my AM reception keeps crapping out, resulting in the repeated need to replace the antenna (no red sox, omg!), and a door lock broke once.

the real bummer is that it's a great car to drive, as the drivetrain/suspension/brakes have been bulletproof. the interior is really great, too - both from an aesthetic perspective and a materials perspective. i kind of have a love/hate relationship with this car - when it's sailing along problem free it really is a ton of fun to drive. but i know something is going to break again, and i reach for my glove box to double-check that my AAA membership is paid up. the end result for me is that when the warranty runs out (if not sooner), this car is gone too, and on that day i will be both relieved and sad.

if reliability is your thing, i would look elsewhere.
posted by the painkiller at 12:19 PM on August 1, 2006

I have a 2001 Passat GLS 1.8T and I lovelovelove it. I believe the new body style was introduced in 1999 and by 2001, the major kinks were worked out.

The only "big" problem I've had was a catalytic converter issue, which was related to a known recall. It made the "check engine" light come one. Aside from that, the car has been a champ and, as someone mentioned upthread, it's fast as shit. I plan on driving it for years yet and it's been very good to me (and I have been good to it).

I would recommend going for it. However, if you're looking to go new(ish), as with any car, I wouldn't buy the first year of the new body style because if they're tinkering under the hood as well, you just don't know what you're going to get.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 8:02 PM on August 1, 2006

For more information of issues pertaining to VW on this thread - I recommend reading "Getting the Bugs Out" by David Kiley.

Interesting Read.
posted by jacobean at 7:22 AM on August 2, 2006

I had a 2001 Jetta VR6 which I ditched after 7 trips to the service center in less than 8 months of my owning it. My particular problem seemed to center around the mass airflow sensor. Or so they thought. They never could figure out exactly how to fix it, and eventually said to ignore the check engine light unless there was something "obviously wrong" with the car. The front window actuators on both the passenger and driver side also needed to be replaced. I would never recommend a Jetta from that time period to anyone.
posted by woj at 5:19 PM on August 2, 2006

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