Buying a 2011 VW Jetta with 100k miles?

Hi, my name’s Elizabeth.
Here’s a little background: I’m currently own a 2002 Kia Sportage that I’ve had many problems with, and I started looking at cars a few months back as a backup plan for the Kia going out

Last week I found a 2011 VW Jetta 2.5 SE (not diesel) with 110,000 miles on it. Most of the miles on it are highway miles. The car is in great shape, drives really well, and it’s within a good price range for me. My boyfriend is worried about reliability, and would hate for me to buy it and it not last me but a couple of years.

Anyone have any opinions/insights on VW’s reliability? And what about buying a car with so many miles on it?

Thanks in advance!

I would not have a problem with the mileage. Especially highway miles as they are very easy on the engine. This engine has a timing chain rather than a belt so that would help reliability.

If everything still works on this 4 year old car, you should be OK. The internet shows some issues with brand new cars being sorted out under warranty but cars beyond that have a pretty good history.

VW does not have the best reliability. But experts here feel that when buying a used car, what is most important is how well the vehicle was maintained. Was the oil changed on schedule, and other scheduled maintenance performed as required? If the seller can produce paper records on this, then that is a big plus.

The other thing you should do is take the car to a good independent mechanic and have them check it over. this would cost you about $100. If the seller won’t let you do this, run from this sale.

“Was the oil changed on schedule?”

…and, just as importantly…Did the previous owner use the UBER-expensive European-spec motor oil that is required for VW engines?

I have heard of VW owners who cheap-out when they hear what the required oil costs, and while they don’t have too many problems as a result of using cheaper oil, the next owner winds up with significant engine repairs.

If I was in the market for a used German car, I would not buy it unless I had documentation of proper oil changes, i.e.–on schedule and with the use of the correct-spec motor oil.

Elizabeth, this is off topic but I would like to ask what prompted you to come to the CARTALK web site for advice.

Edmunds estimates about $9000 for maintenance and repairs for this car over the next 5 years. They estimate $6800 for a Honda Civic over the same period. If the extra $440 or so each year doesn’t bother you or is covered in large part by the purchase price, the Jetta could be a good buy. just make sure it really is in good shape with a prepurchase inspection.

Overall, expect it to be less reliable than a comparable, Toyota, Honda, even Hyundai and Kia. The big question as always is the price. Are you getting a great deal? Can you buy a more reliable brand with the same money?

We once bought a used Dodge Minivan. I knew it was less reliable than the Toyota/Honda offerings, but it also cost us less than half of the T/H versions. That upfront savings went in the piggy bag to pay for potential repairs down the road.

@galant did you have to dip into those funds much? I’ve driven company owned, but regularly maintained, ChryCo vans that were pushing 400K miles with no major issues, not even the supposedly risky transmissions.

My limited experience with VWs is that they seem to develop little electrical gremlins with age.

@“MG McAnick” I did the ATF 4+ changes religiously and the transmission was smooth all the way. A lot of other stuff nickle and dimed us, the list is lengthy. I think between 60K miles to 180K miles the car cost me $5+K and that is a lot of DIY by myself. I think cost wise we were still ahead, but the peace of mind was not there. At the time I sold it, all the seals were seeping, there was an O-ring leaking a bit of coolant each night. I felt the car was getting to be a health hazard for the fumes we were breathing, for the time I was loosing working under it. The local parts stores knew me by my first name and were giving me the mechanic’s discount.

Minivans are heavy cars and have a lot more wear and tear I guess. Also worth mentioning that a lot of the miles were local, rough miles with my wife doing the kids hauling duty. I believe it you put an hour factor on the engine, the car had “way more miles”.

I hope the OP will have better luck with VW/I still think it all depends on the price and money at hand.


All that work you did yourself . . . just imagine if you had to pay somebody to do it


I think an important question to ask is "How will you use the car? " Will you be commuting 100 miles or more a day to work? How,many miles do you drive a year? Are you planning a cross country trip in the car? Do you enjoy driving or is a car strictly a means of transportation? Do you keep up the maintenance on your car? How many passengers do you normally have with you?
If you enjoy driving and are good at following the maintenance, this VW, if the price is a right and an independent mechanic gives it the o.K. on an inspection, this,may be the right car. If you are having to transport more than three passengers, particularly if they are large, this may not be the right car. If you live out in the boonies where the only vehicle the local mechanics ever see is a Ford Pickup, you may want to do reconsider.
I say this because the cars I would like to own don’t fit my needs, and the vehicles that fit my needs, are not much fun to drive.

If you are looking at a 10+ year investment, that car probably won’t provide the best reliability of all the car available in that price range. But you only live once, and if that’s the car you like, and you are willing to take the risk of higher repair and maintenance bills, go for it.

If you want to judge how much risk is involved, take a visit to your local public library and see what Consumer Reports used car guide has to say about it, compared to other similar econo-boxes.

From the comments we get here, VW products tend to be pretty reliable in the first 5-10 years, but after 10 years don’t fare quite as well as some of their competitors. Particularly the electrical systems, electronic gadgets, etc.

You didn’t say which of the two 2.5L engines this car has, but on the CBTA equipped version of the 2.5L for this car, there appears to be 3 recalls in place, for the rear trailing arm, exhaust tip, and an electrical circuit modification. If you visit a VW Dealership, they could probably show you a list of all the technical service bulletins.

CR will tell you which cars are more reliable, but won’t give you any idea of how much more a car will cost to repair. They also don’t provide maintenance costs, and those typically are higher than repair costs. CR does provide useful data, but it is not detailed enough to use alone.

This VW Jetta you are conaidering is 5 years old by the model year. It has gone 110,000 miles. I would think that the troublesome areas would have been taken care of by this point.

Thank you everyone for the input. I’ve owned 2 cars in my life, and both of them I bought from my parents as they were upgrading. I mostly travel around town (to work, school, ect.) and average probably 10,000 miles a year. The car is a great price, about $3000 less than most of the prices I’ve found online, and low enough that I can buy it outright and not have to worry about payments (which is ideal for me).

I want something that will last me the next 5 years without any major issues. The Kia I have now has had a lot of problems; I had to replace the transmission 2 years ago and I still have a lot of problems getting it to start up once the weather gets cold despite taking it to several places and no one finding out what’s causing it.

And VOLVO, I came the the CarTalk community because I don’t know much about cars, and I really enjoy listening to CarTalk on NPR. I visited the website the other night to see what it had to offer and found the community. Everyone seems very knowledgeable and helpful. Thanks again everyone for the input!


Based on 10K a year, will you be doing mostly freeway driving?

Is the car automatic or manual?

You mentioned “a great price” . . . the car has a clean title, correct?

When you mention $3K lower than online prices, you are referring to advertised prices? To see what a similar car would go for, check ebay towards the end of biding on a similar car. Also, get out and test drive a few cars and try to haggle on the prices. This should give you a better idea.

Also, another word of caution; the cars your parents sold you were probably well maintained and in decent running condition (I assume your parents would not sell then to you if this was not the case). Now, buying a used car from someone else, be ready and budget for a few surprises.

…and, just as importantly…Did the previous owner use the UBER-expensive European-spec motor oil that is required for VW engines?

What’s expensive? Adding $20 to a service that’s required 2, maybe 3 times a year can’t really be considered expensive, can it?

“What’s expensive? Adding $20 to a service that’s required 2, maybe 3 times a year can’t really be considered expensive, can it?”

While you and I may not consider that to be expensive, there are people who do, and as a result they use cheaper non-spec oil in their VWs, BMWs, and Benzes. It is clearly short-sighted, but some people do things that are not in their best interests. Just yesterday, I saw a BMW sedan that appeared to be well-kept, but the owner had mounted the cheapest Chinese-made tires on it. The bottom line is that some people do things that are not in their best interests (or in the best interests of the next owner of the car) just to save a few bucks here and a few bucks there.

When I was at the dealership, I always laughed when I saw expensive Benzes coming in with Chinese tires and brake pads

The Chinese tires usually had an extremely noisey tread pattern

And the Chinese pads tended to eat up the factory rotors

Remember those “flags” that you stick in/on your car’s side window . . . the kind that has a groove and is jammed in place between the top of the window and the window seal. And flag has “your team’s” logo on it

Some of the “worst” cars showed up with ALL of these items

noisey Chinese tires
noisey Chinese brake pads
those flags I mentioned, but in tatters, almost unrecognizable
cheap window tint, flaking off, and/or full of bubbles
"Good guys" sound system
sports logo T-shirts stretched out over the front seats, used as a seat cover
ugly and cheap-looking fake “chrome” exhaust tips
cheap and ugly stick-on Pep Boys exterior body mouldings
those mega-wide “blind-spot eliminating” interior rearview mirrors

To be fair, I realize some of the things I mentioned are functional, but they’re ugly