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In the market for used Jetta - what year to look for?

Hello, all! I always get wonderful advice here so hope for more:)

I have had my 2002 1.8 T Jetta for 12 years now and it has done very very well. I understand that is a 4th generation Jetta which, apparently, have been the best Jettas.

Anyway, I am going to replace my old Jetta with a new one. I started looking at other cars, but realized I am in love with Jettas.

As I am looking for a certified pre-owned Jetta (that’s how I bought last time), which year would you recommend? Any particular changes that Jettas experienced in the last 2-4 years?

Also, would you advice a diesel engine? I would love higher MPGs but I have never had a diesel car.

Finally, I love the premium features on my old Jetta (sunroof, heated seats, 180 hp) - which recent model would be the closest to having all that?

Many thanks!!

Did you miss the story where VW was caught cheating on their diesels ? Avoid them. Why not just get a new one with full warranty and lower finance rates. You kept the last one 17 years so do it again. As for best year , forget that and just have a mechanic look at the one you want to buy.


2018 was a transition year. Apparently some Jettas were sixth generation and some were seventh generation. Avoid the seventh generation Jettas since it was the first year of the new generation.

Prior to the new 2018 generation was the 2011 generation. Overall reliability 2011-2017 has varied from average to much worse than average, never better than average or much better than average. Source: April 2018 Consumer Reports.

There’s lots to like about VWs, but not their reliability or durability. But remember, about 1/2 of cars are, by definition, below average, and about 1/2 above.

Have no idea where you are but I looked at a dealer web site here in the Midwest. Jetta prices are so reasonable that I would not even consider a used one . 6 year warranty and a lot of equipment for yor money . I might even think of a lease then decide to buy it or turn it in .

The difference between average and much better than average in CR evaluations is small. I’d be willing to consider anything from worse than average and up because of that. The dividing line between much worse than average and worse than average is 4% reporting problems. CR tells the reader this in their ratings explanation. The buyer has to decide if a 2% problem level (average) or worse is a deal killer when weighed against the things you like about the Jetta.

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The best strategy for buying and keeping a used car for as long as you’ve kept yours is to buy one that is 2-3 years old.

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According to

worst years are 2009 to 2015
best years are 2016 to 2018
Avoid 2019 because of transmission seal oil leak

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Late VW engines use all-aluminum engine block with Alusil ( coating on the cylinder walls, which generated a flood of complaints when it was initially introduced.
It looks like by now they more or less improved it into a reasonable durability, but do not forget, this is still all-aluminum cylinder wall, no cast iron sleeves, so it wears off very easily if low-quality oil was used or oil change intervals were long.
Another weak spot of VW engines is in their timing chain mechanism: it stretches too fast and their tensioner mechanism has no retainer/stopper, so every time engine is started, tensioner is pushed back and it results in jolts when engine is started and until oil pressure will get it snug again, contributing to chain stretch and early failure.
All things considered, unless used car was meticulously maintained, has low mileage and all records are available, I would not buy it.

In the area where I live, it is very apparent that you will see “very old” VWs from the generations before Alusil became their new base technololy and then all “new” VWs are eitehr new and shiny, or they disappear. I wondered why until I’ve found the two things I explained above. These cars work nicely for the first 100K-150K or so (until all extended warranties end?), then they become impractical to repair after failure.

You got me thinking about how to interpret and weigh CR’s methods. I looked into their car reliability FAQs on their website and do not find the information you cite. Can you direct me to the CR discussion that includes that statement?

Is worse than average 2% reporting problems, and much worse than average is 4% reporting problems? What, then, of 3.5%? I’d like to see a fuller description of CR’s ways of categorizing their survey data. Thanks in advance to anyone who can lead me to it.

My opinion is probably at odds with many but I consider VWs to be decent cars. The Jetta has been around for 40+ years.

One should always take internet complaints about a certain model of car with a few grains of salt. If someone’s VW (or whatever else…) suffers and engine or transmission failure due to abuse or neglect the vast majority of people are going to instantly adopt a “not my fault dude” attitude and no one on Earth will convince them otherwise.

My information comes from the 2016 CR Used Car Buying Guide on page 99. When they tell you how to read the charts, they define what the red and black dots mean. CR even tells the reader that vehicles with a solid black dot rating (worst) are not necessarily unreliable, just that they had a lot more problems than average. That is probably why @common_sense_answer (that scamp) tells us how reliable his GM and Chrysler products have been.

When my mother bought her 2015 Jetta a couple years ago, I told her it wasn’t a car I’d have chosen for myself due to the high cost of maintenance and predicted reliability, but as she often does, she bought an extended warranty. She’s put so few miles on the car that it only needs the oil changed once a year.

The more I drive my mother’s Jetta, the more I appreciate that they designed it to be fun to drive. It’s no sport car, but in spite of the fact that it gets great fuel economy, it is considerably more fun to drive than my Civic.


Thank you, all! I do not drive much and my current 17 year old Jetta has just 82K miles. And it has never given me any problems and has been very fun to drive. I appreciate all your opinions!