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2003 VW Passat with 100,000 miles should I buy?

My ever faithful 1988 Volvo is in ICU…please take a moment.
I’m not a mechanic or have a mechanic in the family, so its time to move on.
I have the chance to own a 2003 VW Passat with 100,000 miles for $4,000 in LA that’s a good deal.

Am I walking into a waking nightmare?

What should I be looking for to go wrong with this car?

Thanks for looking and for your advice! You all rock!

A very poor bet, reliability-wise. Older VWs (and Audis and most other European cars) will have more problems, and more expensive problems, than other cars.

If you’re used to the high cost of keeping an old Volvo running, you should be ok with paying VW’s higher costs as well.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

The Passat, especially in station wagon form, is a very attractive car. Don’t let its beauty fool you.

This is not a good move.

What should you be looking to go wrong with an '03 Passat? Everything, especially at 100k miles.

First of all, it needs a timing belt NOW. Not tomorrow, today. $600-$750, or more. You didn’t tell us which engine this “good deal” has, but it doesn’t matter. It needs a new timing belt before you buy it, or right after you buy it, but before you drive it.

If the timing belt breaks the engine will suffer very expensive internal damage. I’ll bet that’s why the original owner traded this gem when he or she did. They didn’t want to pay for the timing belt service.

Neither do you.

The potential problems with an '03 Passat are to many to list. Don’t walk, RUN away from this car.

Find something else. There are other, better, options.

Check in Consumer’s Reports Car Issue. Go with what they say. Some VW’s get good reliable ratings, others, not so good. If CR says this year and model has been unreliable, stay away from it. Otherwise, take a chance.

If it were me though, and I was mostly looking for a car that would get me there safely and reliably with good gas mileage, and low repair costs, I’d look for a 2003-ish Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. If you wanted something more sporty, maybe a Miata.

You say you are not a mechanic nor do you have one in the family, but you appear to be drawn to cars that, well…need mechanics frequently.

At 100K miles if you can’t confirm via service history records or a sticker under the hood that a new timing belt was installed, then you are looking at a timing belt job immediately, $600 to 1,000. VW’s of this era have more than average electrical problems, radio, switches, power windows, etc. VW’s claim their auto transmissions never need a fluid change, but the transmissions are prone to failure at about 60K and more miles. A new transmission is $2,000 to 3,500 and at 100K miles I’d expect to have to replace a transmission anywhere from a month to 2 years after you buy the car.

These are ‘much worse than average’ according to CR.

Is the VW you are considering a V-6 or a turbo charged 4? Is it a manual transmission or an automatic?
Did you purchase your Volvo because it is fun to drive or was considered a safe car back in 1988 or for some other reason?
Think about what you liked about the Volvo and then match your next purchases to your driving style.

If the Passat has the 1.8 liter turbo engine, you should check out the following web site regarding a recent settlement extending the engine warranty to 10 years or 120,000 miles due to a chronic engine sludge problem.