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2010 VW Jetta Gas and Diesel

Hi, we are Jack and Liz, a pair of 70-year-olds who lease one car every three years - we are retired can only afford the one, so we shoot for reliability. Until recently we have been driving Honda Accords and Civics, but recently we took test rides in the vW Jetta gas and diesel. Liked them very much, especially the MPG on the diesel. Then we started reading user reviews on sites such as Edmonds and are confused. Some people complain about the brakes, errant engine lights and minor defects. We really like the car, which is cheaper than the Honda but are concerned about the reliability factors. Would really be grateful for some comments to help us decide. In your comments comparison of gas versus diesel engines would be welcome. Thank you.

VW’s in the 90’s and 00’s had sort of Jekyll and Hyde reliability. Some of them were just total basket cases, with annoying electrical problems being the worst culprits. But then you’d get another car, same year, model, options and all, and it would be just great and run hundreds of thousands of trouble-free miles. However, they are getting a lot better, and even at the height of their troubles I still don’t think they were so bad you should have discounted them just for that reason. They are fun cars, especially for the money.

As for the diesel, reliability should be about the same if not a little better, and the cost of maintinence will be a little higher (although is that paid for by VW these days?). How much more does the diesel cost to lease? If you’re buying, you usually have to drive a LOT in order for the fuel savings to ofset the extra cost of the diesel-- just be sure to figure out about how much your fuel savings will be over the term of the lease and make sure it’s more than the extra you have to pay for the diesel!

Also, I don’t presume to lecture here, but you do realize that leasing is the most expensive way to own a car, right?

Many thanks for your helpful advice and comments. My wife has been telling me for years that buying a car is more economical than leasing one. In our retirement years, we have few luxuries and being able to have a new car every three years has been one of my treats, but I am not so sure anymore. Frankly, I have been afraid of being stuck with a lemon. This way, if the car has problems, I can get it covered by a warranty until I can dump it and it will be someone else’s problem. You are right about weighing the relative costs, so I will consider buying a car this time. We do not drive that much. I only have 35,000 miles on my current car, the lease of which expires in August. The gas version of the Jetta may be the best bet. VW will pay for the normal maintenance for 36,000 or three years. That is a good deal. Oh, I forgot to mention that the govt gives a $1300 tax credit for diesel engines so I will have to factor, too, that into my calculations.

I still will look at the Honda Accord and CRV. Not so good gas mileage but either seem to be solid cars. If you have any thoughts on those, I would welcome them. Thanks again for taking the time to write, jack

Consumer Reports puts out an issue once per year with their reliability ratings of all cars. Find that and take a look at it. I don’t know what it says for VW these days, but historically they haven’t been great.

Why are you leasing your cars? There are much cheaper ways of getting a ride. Other than for commercial use, leasing does not usually make economic sense.

As for reliability of the VW’s: They are not high on the reliability list, of course in three years all cars are reliable and covered by a warranty. I have had several VW’s including my current 2002 diesel Beetle. I have had very few problems and they were minor.

While reliability information is interesting, I have to be somewhat skeptical about most data. Professionally statistics was a large part of my life. Every study I have seen is suspect in one way or another. For example, the best data I have seen is Consumer Reports. However like almost all others, it relies on voluntary responses. Do owners of this or that car respond as often? Let’s face it the typical Rolls Royce owner is likely to have different characteristics than a Yougo owner.

The choice is yours.

Agree; your aversion to risk (leasing) is costing you a bundle! Anyone on a fixed income should figure what the lowest cost is to own a reasonably good car. Fuel economy is important but ony 1/3 the total cost, if that.

As Joseph says, Consumer Reports will list those cars that have a CONSISTENTY high reliability record. Choose from the ones listed. The next step is chosing a car that’s cheap to operate. A Lexus, although it has excelllent reliablity, is not an economy car.

Seniors I know who want to drive economically are driving Corollas, Honda Civics, Mazda 3s, Hyunda Elantras and my super frugal retired neighbor has a Ford Focus. Once you pay for these cars they are all yours and only the ongoing operating costs have to be met. Think of all that lease money you will be able to use for holiday trips and some other luxuries.

As we often recommend, you can put all that lease money (after you’ve paid off the car you BOUGHT) into an account and take money out for repairs as they occur. I wager you will take out very little compared to what you put in.

I would stay away from Volkswagens, or any other European car, unless you are very car savvy. These cars cost al lot to keep running as they age. No frugal retiree I know of here, owns a VW.

I had a 2002 diesel Beetle, which I loved. For some reason my wife did not think it was a family car, so we sold it. I still miss the MPG, power, torque, and handling (we now have a Vibe, which scores low on those categories).

I’m a big fan of both VWs and the modern diesel engine. We have a 2005 Passat TDI we bought new, and it’s been awesome. We used to own a Vanagon Syncro with a TDI motor in it – fabulous vehicle. I’ve driven tons of TDI VW Golfs, Jettas, Passats – the modern diesel is a marvelous engine, and it’s a shame that more manufacturers don’t offer them here (like they do in Europe). But I’m getting off topic. Get a Jetta (hey – that rhymes) and preferably a diesel – they are built beautifully, have the Euro ride and handling magic, can get close to 50 mpg on the highway, and look 100 times better than the average Corolla or Civic. Oh and we burn biodiesel in ours…

Always keep in mind 2 things when you hear bad mouthing of VWs. With a complaint there is often a story behind that complaint and in most cases the entire story is never told.

Consumer Reports only surveys a small percentage of vehicle owners (paid subscribers at that) and bases their opinion on the even small number of responses they receive back. CR, as per the above, does no investigative work behind any complaint to even see if that complaint is justified or not.

I’ve worked for 2 VW dealers and I think VWs are no worse than any other car based on the sheer fact that I never saw them as being more prone to non-maintenance type repairs than the other makes of cars that we carried. This would include Nissan, Honda, Subaru, SAAB, Mazda, and Fiat. Six of one half dozen of the other and speaking for myself and a couple of top notch mechanics I know, we pretty much love the Jetta line of cars.
Just my opinion to use as you see fit and hope it helps.

If you lease it for 3 years you have nothing to worry about with regards to build quality and reliability. You mention that a new car is a “treat” for you and if you find the Jetta to be a treat compared to a Civic or a CRV I would say “go for it”. Peace of mind is also worth something so buying new or leasing - although the most expensive option - may be right for you. I personally would get a 1 or 2 year old car that has already taken some depreciation hit.

When it comes to diesel vs. gas I would look at the number of miles you are driving. The more miles you drive the more you will benefit form the diesel’s fuel economy. If you drive under 15K miles a year I would think that it’s not worth it. But with all the tax incentives I could be wrong.

By the way: If I remember it correctly the Jetta has been voted “car of the year” by quite a few publications and TV shows in 2009 (e.g. by MotorWeek, I think) . It is a very nice car.