Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

1980 vw rabbit diesel safe?

I want to buy a restored 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel (from my grandfather). I am a new driver and I would be driving to school 22 miles each way every day. My dad had this same car and got amazing millage and outstanding reliability. I feel like this would be a perfect car for me. My mom is a little skeptical on the safety though. I think it’s safe enough, even with out airbags, and the diesel won’t be able to get me going fast enough to get in too much trouble, and it’s a smaller car so it’s a smaller target. Is this car safe enough and will it be a good car for a high school student driving 44 miles everyday?

Yes I think it would be a great car for you. While air bags are a nice for safety. Being a good driver is sill better. You will hear from others on here that I think are afraid of their own shadows. Some people think you need every safety feature thats available. My first car was a 1966 Dodge Dart 2 door. I survived as did many others. I have seen a VW Beetle go head on into a 75 Fleetwood Caddy. The Beetle sill drove and the guy walk away on hurt. The Caddy was towed away and the driver was hurt. I have seen airbags not save people too. The best protection is be aware of the cars around you. Drive safe and enjoy your Rabbit. Oh and make your Grandfather proud and take good care of it.

If the car is not overly priced and is mechanically sound then I would say go for it. These cars are simple to service and have been known to get 55-60 MPG.

If you buy this car you might consider carrying an extra glow plug fuse along in the glove box and learn how to change it; just in case. The fuses are cheap, easy to swap, and learning how to do this procedure would be a good idea.

Newer cars will have air bags and crumple zones to keep the driver and passengers safer. But if you drive defensively, You will make it through just fine.

Exceedingly safer than a “Smart Car.” Powerlessness is a bit of a concern. I remember picking relatives up at Logan airport with our in the 80s and been scared by only getting to 25MPH out of the tunnel and on to interstate 93 (all up hill) when traffic was running at about 60 or so. Anyhow, it always started no matter how cold and never gave any mechanical trouble. The mileage was always tracked and rarely dipped below 50MPG. So we think we’re so advanced with technology and mileage these days…I’d say not really.

“the diesel won’t be able to get me going fast enough to get in too much trouble”

And, unfortunately, it also doesn’t have enough power to get you out of trouble either, which is something that I will explain later in this post.

Accident avoidance involves multiple factors, with being a skilled, defensive driver at the top of the list. Without trying to offend you, I have to point out that having little experience behind the wheel translates to not being as skilled a driver as you will be in a few years. That is just reality.

The other factors in accident avoidance include:

Having excellent brakes (I have no idea of how the brakes on this car compare to those on a car built more recently than 3 decades ago, but…)
Having excellent handling (The VW Rabbit did have good handling in its day, but you need to make sure that the struts are in good condition, and that you have good, identical tires on all 4 wheels in order to really have the type of quick handling that can get you out of trouble in all weather conditions.
Having enough acceleration to be able to get out of the way of other hazardous (intoxicated, reckless, out of control, etc) drivers. Clearly, this is one area where this car will be sorely lacking.

Without question, even the cheapest cars sold in the past decade have better crash resistance and better occupant protection than this 32 year old car. Those more modern cheap cars also have better acceleration, and likely have better brakes. And, I think it is only logical to realize that a 32 year old car IS going to have some reliability issues, simply because it is…32 years old.

But…if you have already convinced yourself that this is the perfect car for you, far be it from me to try to convince you otherwise. Just keep your Mom’s fears in mind as you drive, and be sure that you never use a cell phone while driving, that you never play the audio system so loud that you can’t hear sirens, that you keep your eyes moving constantly from the road to all 3 mirrors and back to the road again, that you always use the “3-second rule” in terms of following distance, and that you drive defensively at all times.

If you don’t know what The 3 Second Rule means, you can Google it, and learn about it. Suffice it to say that the majority of drivers are tailgating at any given time, but if you follow that rule, you can be safer than the majority of drivers.

If you do these things, you can maximize your safety. Trust me, this strategy works. I have driven accident-free for the past 41 years by following these guidelines.

Sincere good luck with your Rabbit.

A 32 year old car is a 32 year old car. “Restoring” a car does not make it a new car. It might turn out to be reliable transportation and it may turn into a money pit …It’s hard to say…

A SMRT car is worlds safer than the VW in question.

Yeah, I saw some articles on the Smart car, and it looks like they reinforced the cabin, and figures after several years showed fewer fatalities than larger cars. People guess because it’s small it’s unsafe, and that is not necessarily true.

I have been driving a 1.6 non turbo VW diesel for more than 20 years. We use it as a daily driver but have two much newer cars as well.

The acceleration is adequate. We do most of our driving on urban and suburban freeways and also city streets and have no problem. Merging into freeway traffic is no problem. One of our cars has about 260 HP, the other 150 and my VW has about 51 and I freely change among our three cars.

The brakes work very well and I like how the VW steers better than our newer cars.

Sooner or later, something will happen even if you are a perfect driver, especially in an urban area. Someone else will hit your car with theirs and it will be nothing you could have prevented.

Beyond that, no, your proposed old car and my old car are not as safe as newer cars having stronger bodies and air bags unless you drive in a light traffic rural area. The only help you might get to improve safety is to know that you are somewhat of a flea in a herd of elephants and must drive accordingly when indicated. If something unexpected happens beyond your realization, you could be lost. As a new driver, it might be better to hold out for a newer, safer car.

Make sure you wear your seat and shoulder belts in this car. It is old and has virtually -0- safety features compared to cars of the cars built since 2005. It will get good mpg, it should handle OK, and the brakes should be OK, likely no ABS though.

The 22 mile commute is all about where are these 22 miles? This is not a car I’d want to be riding at 75 mph on an interstate and get tangled up with an 18 wheeler. I’d give mom a chance to voice her concerns. Then see if you can ease her concerns, showing how you have been responsible in the past would help.

It wasn’t exactly the “Dark Ages” of automotive engineering–at least in terms of safety. Some are making it sound like a death trap and that is certainly not true. Chrysler offered antilock brakes in the early 70s and made goverment-issue cars with air bags in the early 70s. Many of the safety features mandated today were in effect back then as well.

While I agree that there are differences in the safety of different cars, I would worry far more about the driver than the car.

IMO the safest is the car with the best driver.

insert overly posted Volvo/Renault crash video here

Liked a Rabbit from its inception,just dont expect to much from this car ,she is pretty dated-Kevin

That era Rabbit had only the steel needed to let it roll down the road. A fraction of the crash protection of a modern one. I had an '83 for 12 years, I was very familliar with it. So I would not recommend it to a new driver, ever.