Yet Another Car Thread

I’m finally in a place where I can start looking at buying a decent used car. Yay, me.

A friend was selling an 05 Passat TDI, and I was very tempted, but the timing wasn’t right. Mileage and comfort are the biggest factors. I have a long commute, and the fuel savings on a good mileage car (i’m in an 18MPG explorer currently) would be really, really useful.

I’ve mainly been looking at VW diesels or a Prius. Looking to spend ballpark 10k, so 2004-2006ish models seem to be my ballpark.

I’m really just curious what other models I should be considering. I like cars that are a little nonstandard – diesels and hybrids appeal to me a lot, but I wouldn’t refuse a standard gas engine on the right car.

IMHO, if you have 10 grand to spend, want high gas mileage and great reliability, look for a used Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic.

I understand this at a gut level, but I can’t stop being bored to tears when I consider these cars. From a practical standpoint, my father had a recent Civic and I didn’t find it very comfortable to drive. The Passat I drove, on the other hand, fit me like a glove and I loved the feel of the TDi engine.

The Civic hybrid appeals to my conceptual tastes better, but I can’t see any reason to prefer it over a Prius.

the time would never be right. The '05 Passat is unreliable garbage. In fact I’d avoid any used VW, period. A Prius would at least be reliable, but the state of the battery might be an unknown.

Can you elaborate / cite? I’ve generally heard good things about specifically the TDi VW models, and the friend in question never had any trouble with his car in the year and change he owned it. Only sold it because he moved out of the US.

Literally everything VW/Audi has ever made is badly designed, shoddily built junk. This is fairly well known amongst car people. For example, your B5 Passat has the following widespread failures that I can think of:

  • TDI engines came from the factory with a defective balancer shaft/oil pump module. Costs about $3500 to replace if there is no other serious engine damage. VW has never acknowledged this.
  • TDI engines came from the factory with ceramic glowplugs that often break apart and destroy the engine. There was eventually a recall for this after enough engines were destroyed.

  • All B5 Passats had a defect in the drainage channel of the sunroof and the cowl that often allowed water to leak into the footwell and short out the Transmission Control Unit and the Body Control Module. There were improvements made over the years but there was more than one leak and I don’t believe they ever addressed all of them.

Class action lawsuit on this issue.

  • Anecdotally from discussions with people who own these, all the VW/Audis from this era (well, probably today too) that had the 5 link front suspension ate suspension and driveline parts like candy. Suspension control arms every 30k kms, CV boots, driveshafts, wheel bearings, tie rod ends etc. The whole thing is made of spit and dreams and costs European prices to replace.
    Other than that, the electrics and the cooling systems are all dodgy, which is par for the course for German cars. Overall I guess you are right that the TDI model is relatively reliable compared to the other engines - the 1.8T gas engine has another list of major problems all by itself and is the subject of another 2 or 3 class action lawsuits. I was surprised to learn that the FWD Passats even had a primitive torsion bar rear suspension, something that virtually every other carmaker has abandoned since the 1980s in this segment. I don’t really understand why anyone would bother with them - at the end of the day they are still slow ass FWD midsize sedans, it’s not a Ferrari or Maserati, even if nothing breaks, what does it do that a Toyota Camry doesn’t?

TL;DR Buy the Passat, it’s a great choice.

since CR is subscriber-only, I can only say there are a lot of black dots for the '05 Passat. Whether it’s TDI or not is irrelevant since there is tons more to a car than just the engine.

Food for thought. Eliminating my top choice isn’t quite what I was hoping for, though. :slight_smile:

I’m worried about the mileage and batteries on hybrids available in the 10k range.

A car that comfortably hits 35+ MPG highway is really the big key here. Not really sure where that puts me.

there are a lot of C-segment cars which can do that, depending on how you define “highway.”

My commute is about five minutes of stop and start traffic, then a straight, uninterrupted shot up the freeway at 60-70 MPH. My 95 Explorer currently averages about 16-20 MPG commuting.

most cars at a steady cruise at 65-70 easily beat the highway rating on the window sticker.

Sure. Any recommendations of models worth looking at?

nope. I stopped recommending pretty much anything. bit me in the ass enough times.

At today’s gasoline and diesel prices, you could drive 47,800 miles for $10,000 if you keep the Explorer. You’d need to spend $14,700 to get the same distance out of a diesel Passat (plus new plates, higher insurance, etc.)
Of course if you’re willing to spend $14,700, then you could go 70,300 miles in the Explorer instead, which would cost $17,000 to do in the Passat.

You get to the break even point at around 91,000 miles (around $19,000), so if you don’t think you’ll have the Passat for that much time, you’re better off staying in the Explorer. Of course that depends on fuel prices being what they are today as well.

The hitch: the Explorer probably won’t make it 5,000 more miles. It has internal engine damage, electrical problems, and a whole handful of other right-around-the-bend problems.

Also, the break even is somewhat less important for me than the moment-to-moment costs. I’m financing the purchase through a private loan. If I halve my fuel costs, even with payments I’ll come out ahead – and a little extra headroom matters a lot right now, financially.

Like any such blanket statement, that’s just not true. Audis and VWs aren’t perfect by any means, and of course they have their share of common and sometimes infamous problems. But the same can be said for one model or another from every manufacturer.

On the other hand, I’ve never had a major mechanical failure in any Audi or VW I’ve ever owned, spanning model years from the early 80s to a 2011. I’m defining “major” as anything that keeps the car from being driven, or requires the engine or transmission to be turned inside out. The closest thing to a “leave me stranded” issue I’ve ever had was a late-90s 2.0 liter VW engine that ate water pumps for breakfast. But even then, it was just a matter of spotting a rapidly worsening coolant leak and getting it repaired before it couldn’t be driven. And even for the non-drivetrain related stuff (suspension, body, electrical, HVAC, etc), I’ve never had a history of problems that would lead any impartial observer to accuse one of my cars of being shoddy or junk. They’ve help up better, in both critical and non-critical components, than most of the cars my friends and family have had in the same time.

I recognize that I’m not in a position to make an unbiased argument, because I’m a big fan of Audis and VWs. In fact, I’ve only ever owned one car that wasn’t one of the two makes (my current autocrossing project car, an old Mazda Miata). So I don’t expect to convince anyone of anything, since I’ll rightly be accused of fanboyism. But you can’t honestly say that “literally everything” they’ve ever made is junk. That statement is too extreme and absurd to possibly be true, especially in light of the company’s continued growth. If “literally everything” they’ve ever made was absolute shit, they’d have been driven out of business a long time ago.

So your evidence to the contrary is that some of the parts on some of the VWs you’ve owned haven’t failed yet? All right then.

VAG’s North American operations have been losing money for years and they were almost chased out of the market in the early 2000s. They fail consistently in market like the US where people actually want reliable, well built cars and can get them.

VAG’s global growth in recent times has almost entirely been due to their political connections with the Chinese Communist Party. They control a very large share of the Chinese car market due to a larger and earlier presence, favorable joint ventures with Chinese state owned firms, and sweetheart deals with Chinese government fleets. The current head of the Chinese ministry of Science and Technology is a former Audi senior executive. It’s not a coincidence that their recent good publicity has always been on the coattails of massive Chinese economic growth.

Never heard anyone speak ill of Audi before.

To the OP, if you can find a used dealer, Skoda now has a Lexus-like reliability and owner satisfaction. Based around VW designs and engines, including the diesels. They do a Passat sized model and one a half size smaller.

(plus “non-standard” credentials in spades)

Skoda isn’t sold in the US.

“conventional wisdom” is to never own a german car w/o a warranty. it will cost you dearly.

That is kind of silly, VWs have always been well reviewed by the motoring press. VW have had a reputation for building solid cars over the last 30+ years, and generally that is born out by the figures from customer surveys and warranty firms. I know lots of people who’ve owned VWs for years without problems. Audi’s reputation is a bit more patchy, in particular they had a lot of problems in the early 2000s. When things go wrong they aren’t cheap to fix, and that is going to be especially true in the US, where parts need to be imported.