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Advice on used AWD sedan/coupe purchase

I am looking for a used car. I live in a very snowy part of the country (almost 200 inches of snow last winter in my city). I have about a 25 Mile drive to work so I want AWD and good gas mileage.

I currently drive a 2008 FWD Ford Focus with 110k miles and don’t have much issue getting to work in the winter, so good MPG is more important to me than awesome AWD/4x4 capability.

I have found a 2003 Audi TT with 50k miles listed for $8,900. What should my concerns be for looking at a 2003? I love the look of the car, but the most important thing I want to consider is getting to and from work for years without issue.

Any other suggested cars? That is about the top of my price range.


If an AWD drive used vehicle has problems it can get real expensive quick. Save your money up until you can buy new and in the mean time purchase winter tires and wheels .


I used to live in an area that got that much snow and got everywhere I needed to go for normal driving w/ my front wheel drive VW Rabbit. I expect any front wheel drive econobox will work fine to get you to work in an economical fashion. If you also want to use it for winter ski trips and the like, where you have to drive on steep snow-slick roads, then something like an AWD or 4WD Toyota RAV 4 would be better.

I tend to shy away from Audi’s, Saab’s, Volvo’s, BMW’s, etc. I get the idea that those type vehicles often have higher maintenance costs, higher parts costs, etc. I do know I’ve seen some very nice looking Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes vehicles scrapped, presumably because they were too expensive to repair whatever mechanical issue they have that did them in. To be fair, I don’t see very many Audi’s or Saab’s in this part of the country at all, so I may be mistaken in grouping them into the “semi exotic, niche market, costs too much to own and operate” class.

Found here at
Buying a used mk1 TT

There are a few things one needs to look for when buying a mk1 TT. The most important thing is to check as to whether or not the timing belt has been serviced. The factory service interval is stated as being 100,000 miles, but it is well-known that the 1.8T’s timing setup is THE major weak point of the engine (specifically the hydraulic tensioner), and that it should be changed by about 60,000 miles; original plastic waterpumps also were known to fail. If you are looking into buying a TT with less than 60,000 miles get the belt setup serviced, otherwise its nice to get it done if higher in mileage and service records are unknown. The reason replacing the timing setup is so important is because the 1.8T is an interference engine and if the tensioner fails you can expect to need a rebuilt head or engine. It will cost about $300 DIY or $900 at a shop for a timing belt job, but in either case that is cheaper than a new engine.

Other small problems persist in mk1 TTs, though generally 2000-2002 are more finicky than the 2003-2006 model years. The glovebox latch is problematic, as they can get stuck because the mechanism fails, or the entire latch can simply pop off. The fixes are pretty easy (such as using a nail for a latch axle). The manual transmissions can have some grinding issues but they are almost always solved with new fluid and realignment of the shifter cables. The DSG has its own reputation, but the majority of issues come from early DSGs, and they can also be flashed to improve performance.

Another issue is rust on the two roof strips, but not the actual roof, which is part of the double-galvanized unibody; taking care of the rust only requires removal of the roof strips and a respray. Finally, other common problems are squeaky suspension bits or interior panels; if you hear a strange creak when you hit a bump, you probably need new bushings, and squeaky panels can be quieted with sound deadener.

► Various things to check when looking at a used TT coupe or roadster

  • Driver seat left bolster for excessive wear
  • Under the front and rear bumper for damage from curb stops
  • Door sills for damage from people climbing in and out of car
  • Speaker grills and bottom of door card for same damage
  • Correct function of windows, lights, blinkers, hatch/gas release, locks
  • Missing lines on gauge info display, correct gauge function, etc
  • Correct function of the radio, all speakers and 6 disc changer
  • Working glove box latch, functional softtop
  • Complete toolkit and spare tire parts
  • Solid hoses/connections in engine bay
  • Condition of the battery in the spare well on a 3.2

I knew a woman who had an Audi TT of that era, and although she found it enjoyable to drive, she didn’t enjoy the frequent, weird, electrical problems. After taking the car back to the dealership numerous times for non-operative windshield wipers, the mechanic finally took her aside and showed her the exact place on the top of the dashboard where she should pound her fist if she wanted her wipers to work.

Sure enough, that solution worked, but her overall frustration with the car’s continuing electrical issues caused her to dump it after the warranty ran-out.

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Don’t do it. The Audi, while a great car, is 5 years older than your Focus. Even though it has lower miles the age will give you more problems than the mileage. Audis are also expensive to service and to repair, especially with all wheel drive.

Order a second set of steel wheels with winter tires mounted and balanced. Internet stores like TireRack and others will mount, balance, install TPMS sensors and ship them to a local installer that can mount them for you. You car will drive like a mountain goat in the snow. Remove the wheels in the spring and store them until the next winter.

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Thanks for all this information everyone. This talked me out of an impulse buy. I think I can get 2 more years out of my Focus without much issue (I put about 20k miles a year on it). I had no issues at my last state inspection, we will see how the rust looks after winter.

I have an 09 Focus that has been a wonderful workhorse with only a few problems over the past 9 years. I think you’re making the right decision skipping the Audi. I agree with the suggestions above about getting a set of snow tires and mounting them on separate wheels that you can just swap yourself, they make a difference!

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A BIG +1!
In addition to the obvious factor that winter tires make a huge difference in allowing you to get moving, what is even more important is the dramatic difference that they make in shortening your stopping distance on snowy/icy roads. That is a true safety advantage.

  • The term “snow tires” is now considered to be outmoded, and the term that is used nowadays is “winter tires”. Unlike the snow tires of yesteryear that had heavy, lugged tread segments, modern winter tires look almost like “regular” tires, and have fine siping in the tread. That siping–along with a softer tread compound–allow them to provide traction on ice–unlike those old snow tires.
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Good catch, I meant to say winter tires (this is what happens when you’re a few cups of coffee behind in the morning! :coffee:) :slight_smile:

Here’s one more vote for a set of winter tires on steel rims. In the long run the only added cost is the rims, and the time or money you spend twice a year to do the switchover.

See the site and Consumer Reports November issues for test results.

You’ve gotten by with your Focus for years. If you really plan to replace it in two years, I wouldn’t buy rims and winter tires for it. Wait until you get your next car, then get the extra set of wheels and snow tires. Expect to spend about $400 for the set. You may not be able to use the winter tires on your next car. I’d wait on that expense since you seem to get by with what you have now.