To donate or to keep? VW Jetta 2002

Greetings, friends.

I have a 2002 Jetta 1.8T. I am the second owner and it has only 82,000 miles. It runs great, but I had to put $2,000 in it in September to get minor things fixed - like a window power button that was stuck, and a couple of other things. Otherwise, the car was in great condition, according to the mechanics. This past weekend the engine light went on and a VW dealer just ran the diagnostic to tell me that it is the thermostat. I am looking at $650 to replace the thermostat (I am in D.C., prices bite here.) So I am wondering if I should donate the car at this point or it is still worth putting money into. I must admit I really like it and it runs great. So this decision-making process pains me.

Thank you, all!

A 16 year old Jetta will need much upkeep in spite of its low mileage.

I would sell or donate it.

i donated a $1k car about 7 yrs ago? i think it had a crank sensor issue. would start when it felt like it. i believe the donation process resulted in no tax benefit. it has to be more than xx percent of your gross income or taxable income? dont recall the details. i just did the thermo on my kids car and the job is 4hrs due to its odd placement. a 4cyl vw motor has same issue?

Get estimates from repair shops other than the dealer. You could get the repair done for a lot less. If you don’t know good mechanics, ask everyone you know for recommendations. Eventually a couple will be mentioned a lot. Ask them for an evaluation. Just describe the problem you have and let them diagnose it.

Check with the IRS to see if you can still deduct the car as a tax writeoff. It used to be that you could only write off the amount on the receipt that the charity gives you after the sell it. Some charities keep the cars or give them away after repairing them to needy people that can’t afford a car. In that case, you can deduct the fair market value that you choose.


Not that simple. The tax rules require a lot of documentation . Also unless the person itemizes their return it will not help . Even at that only about 25% of donated value counts and the charity has 3 years to sell the vehicle.
A local charity tried asking for donated vehicle and gave up after two years as it was more trouble than it was worth.

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I’d fix the car and keep it. $650 seems more than a little steep to change a T-stat, BTW.


$650 to replace the thermostat?

Sounds like someone has a boat payment due.



I found this great video It looks easy enough that most people with a bit of mechanical skill could do it in less than 1 hour.

Without seeing the repair estimate it is possible that there is more then the thermostat being the only work. The same could be said for the OP’s other repair also.

Volvo-V70 is right. Donating is a PIA. That car sounds like a great car for a young person who needs a car to get started on. Sell it to them for a discount and their promise not to bug you about the problems. Those Jettas were really fun cars. They felt great on the road. Now I’m thinking keep it!

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The labor guide shows 3 hours labor plus parts and coolant, plus whatever else may be on the estimate.

If you have it repaired the check engine light should be out and you will have a warm heater or you might defer the repair until it is necessary.

If you give the car away you won’t have a car, seems like an extreme action for an annoying warning light.

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I do not have to repair it right away? It is freezing here now, so I was thinking the car should not overheat easily without a properly working thermostat? I am not mechanically-inclined in any shape or form. So I am grateful for all your advice!

It depends.

Is the thermostat stuck open or stuck closed?

Because if it’s stuck closed, the engine will overheat no matter the ambient temperature.


Did I say check with the IRS? Yes, I did. I never said anything was simple.

The cooling system temperature is monitored by the computer, if it fails to reach operating temperature in an expected amount of time/distance a fault will be set in the computer.

Your car will fail an emissions inspection with this problem. If the engine does not reach operating temperature engine problems can develop over several years. If you are willing to give the car away now, it probably doesn’t matter what condition the engine is in 5 years from now. If this were my car I would replace the thermostat in the next few months.

Chilton labor times shows 3.3hrs regular and 3.5hrs severe

The hourly rate at a dealer will be WELL over $100/hr in my area, sometimes $130/hr or more.

So let’s say $450 in labor. Figure another $50 for 2 gallons of coolant. Maybe $30 or $40 for the thermostat itself, maybe more, don’t forget the thermostat seal itself. Plus tax. I could see that eventually adding up to $650.

Shop around. You should be able to easily save $100 - $150 by having it done at an independent shop, which has lower labor rates and will charge less for parts

$2000 seems like a lot of money to spend for “minor things”

Yes! The VW dealer quoted me $1,007 and an independent shop - $650. Now I found another independent shop farther away that would do it for $388. I just want to make sure I can get there with this issue (a 28 miles drive).

What fault code do you have?

If it’s P0128 or P0125, you’ll be fine to drive 28 miles to the cheaper shop

Your engine coolant is not getting up to proper operating temperature within the required timeframe

I suspect you need this fixed, in order to pass smog and/or inspection, correct?

I do not know what code it is - it is just the yellow engine light lit up. Is there a way to see the code? The car passed the state inspection in August. I do not need to pass anything now - I just want the yellow light to go away:)

Are you getting plenty of heat out or your heater?