Should I buy a diesel?

I’m looking to buy a New Beetle, I’ve always wanted one. I have two that I’m very interested in and have been trying to decide which is a better buy.

The first is a 2003 Volkswagon Beetle GLS TDI, manual, with 64,407 miles, and it’s priced at $8,987, it’s listed as getting 42 mpg city and 49 highway

The second is a 2002 Volkswagon Beetle GLS Turbo, automatic, with 50,421 miles on it, and it’s priced at $9,980, it’s listed as getting 23 mpg city and 29 highway

The other variables are that the first car is almost two hundred miles away from me, in VA (I live in NC). Also, I just started learning manual, I’m catching on fast but still pretty new to it. If I get the TDI I have the added hassle of having to go the 6 miles, 13 minutes, from home to the closest station that has diesel. I know the diesel gets better mpg and is cheaper, but is it the better buy?

Help me out, I want to make sure I make the right choice!

Owning a diesel requires a very knowledgeable car owner. They are different and any Volkswagen requires more care than your typical Japanese car.

Agree that gas prices will go up again but if you think that owning a VW diesel will reduce you overall car costs, you are wrong. The little you save on gas will be eaten up rapidly by the higher maintenance and repair costs.

If you decide to proceed, shop carefully and have a qualified mechanic check out the car you want to buy first.

I have to disagree with Docnick. Modern diesels are very little different to the owner than gasoline cars. To the mechanic they are different, but not to the owner. That is assuming the owner knows to use diesel and not gasoline.

That said, I would wonder about that 2003 TDI. That is low mileage and likely indicates the driver was running it hard, or has neglected maintenance. My 2002 NB TDI gets about 52 - 65 mpg and it has over 80,000 miles so far. I think I would skip that one, or at least have someone how knows TDI’s give it a good check.

I suggest stopping by and asking around there. Be sure to indicate where you live and maybe someone local would be willing to take a look at it with you. Often no charge. There is a very strong North American support group.

As for cost of maintenance and repairs, I would suggest they are not much different than gasoline cars.

Good Luck

I’d stay away from the gas engine Beatle with the turbo. Unless you really need more performance look for a normally aspirated gas engine, a non-turbo. The turbo motors need to be carefully maintained, specifically oil changes on schedule (at least every 5,000) with no gaps. This means you need to see a complete service history and most used cars don’t have it. The turbo also requires premium gas I believe. Perhaps you can find a slightly newer and lower mileage non turbo Beatle. The non turbo uses regular 87 octane.

By the way diesel fuel is significantly MORE expensive per gallon than gas. In Europe diesel is cheaper but not here in the US. Much of the better miles per gallon advantage of the diesel is negated by paying almost a dollar more per gallon for diesel fuel. Check prices in your area.

I agree with UncleT - do not get the turbo gas, it’s been troublesome. The TDIs have been average in reliability, a good rating for a VW. Diesel is now about the same price as premium gas. For a while, there was a major extra cost for diesel fuel, but that’s gone (for now). Do you have a local trusted mechanic that can deal with the TDI?

Texases, I haven’t called and talked to my mechanic yet, I think that will be one of the next steps. I’m going to call this coming week.

UncleTurbo, right now the diesel in my area is only about 20 cents more than regular 87. So it’s not really a big difference.

Joseph, how would the previous owner have been running it hard with low mileage? I’m not sure I understand. I spoke with the dealer who has the TDI and it was originally purchased from them so they have lots of records of all tune-ups and work that would have been done.

Thank you guys so much for your input!

As Joseph said, a stop by would be the first place to start on your diesel homework. Finding a local tdi guru (mechanic) can make all the difference between a car that’s fun to drive, or a car you bad mouth down to your third generation. :slight_smile:

My 2004 Jetta (Chick car, I get that) is as fun to drive as the first day I got it. I have a 700 hwy mile cruising range, 10k mile oil changes, and the only problems is an O2 sensor and 1 glow plug go out in 182K miles. I have a Caterpillar fuel filter upgrade and filters cost $15 to replace.

The 2003’s and earlier tend to have the intakes clog up, taking time and effort to get it cleaned. Also, the dealerships will charge an arm and leg for changing the OEM fuel filter. VW isn’t known for their automatic transmissions (I’ve had no problems with mine) so taking an extra look at the manual tdi would certainly be worth it.

Right now, diesel is 1 cent cheaper than regular in my area $1.96 for diesel, $1.97 for regular. However, the price will go up, for both, in about 2 or 3 months and stay up there for 3~5 months and come back down when it starts to get cooler.

I went to and found a shop that works on diesels that some users recommended and it’s the next town over so getting it to a good mechanic shouldn’t be too hard. I want to try to find someone who knows more about diesels to come with me to look at the bug and make sure everything looks like it’s in good shape. Thank you all so much for your comments.

If gas costs $2.00/gal and diesel costs $3.45/gal. you just about break even given the average of he city/highway mileage you quote. Since the diesel is less expensive to begin with, you make out even better. Make sure that the price is acceptable. Check Edmunds, NADAguides, and KBB on line. Be prepared with the exact model, all the options, mileage and condition. It appears that you are half way there with your post. Also have the zip code of the seller so that you can include any local variations.

I don’t don’t disagree with you Joseph; my issue is the people who successfully own diesels are a dedicated lot. Where I live cold weather starting is a major issue, for instance. My previous neighbor ran a VW Rabbit diesel for 8 years. Other than waking us all up at 6 am (they were noisy) he took great care of it and had no major problems. That Rabbit was built in the US with an imported German diesel, a good combination.

My main issue with OP’s decison is buying any kind of used VW, even if the engine itself is sturdy, the rest of the car is not.

Without sounding too super critical, the only reason I would buy a VW is for the diesel. They don’t have to be intimidating for the average consumer as long as you are generally aware of a few minor operating differences. And they are differences not deficits. If you are set on a VW and have a trustworthy service area, I would highly recommend the diesel. You’ll adapt to filling at diesel available stations during normal travel and become a diesel owner “snob” like the rest of us.

What kind of cost difference are repairs for a diesel? And are oil changes done at the same intervals?

A well maintained diesel should be more reliable…the ignition problems found in gas versions don’t exist. The diesel engine they use is quite stout and should easily out last the gas version. Oil changes are important as they are in all internal combustion. Your concern should be of the reliability of VWs in general other than the motor. Again…if you feel you must have a VW…the diesel would be the engine of choice.

What would you say is a better choice than a VW? What would you go with?

It should be mentioned that the older TDI’s weren’t that powerful. The one you are looking at has about 105 HP and 173 torques. The turbo gas model has about 45 more HP and 165 torques. The TDI model will be pretty slow, and give the diesels inherently narrower powerband, you’ll be rowing through the gears more as well. It may not be a deal breaker for you, but it?s something to consider.

My 1976 Rabbit diesel would start at 27? below while none of the gasoline cars would start. Yea, the old Rabbits were noisy when they first started up when cold, but the new ones don’t have that problem.

I have only owned on used car in my life so I don’t worry much about how reliable a used car would be. You may have a point there. I give my cars good maintenance, but not everyone does and I would not be surprised to find out that current VWs are sensitive to poor maintenance.

What kind of cost difference are repairs for a diesel? And are oil changes done at the same intervals?

Most of the cost is similar. Oil changes on my current diesel are the same time as the current gasoline car, but an oil change will run a little more because of a larger sump, more expensive filter and more expensive oil. Maybe $10 or $20 more per 10,000 miles.

If you want a diesel, there is no other real choice in that price range. If you’re considering other fun 2-doors, there are many. What are you interested in?

Yes, Joseph, the new Volkswagens are immensely more complicated and require a lot of tender loving care. The 1976 Rabbit was a very simple car with a very simple diesel. My neighbor did not use a block heater, but kept his battery right up and the glow plugs in good shape. He offered th car to my wife when he traded up to an Acura, but she did not want the diesel hassle and the stick shift.

In short, you can’t ignore a VW diesel, especially one with a turbo.