Volkswagon Beetle vs Chrysler PT Crusier?

Hello! I am a 16 year old new driver and am currently looking into these models (open to others though just love the retro stuff!), and was wondering which is better a PT Cruiser (what year as well) or a Beetle (same as before)? I really prefer the convertibles but am okay with the normal models. My budget is 4,000 AT MOST, because I’m buying it all myself. I live in Michigan so some snow is to be expected. I’d like a safe and reliable car that will last me till I get on my feet. Thanks for reading!

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That’s simple


Since you live in Michigan, I’m wondering if anything in your price range might be too rusty

You’re better off . . . in my opinion . . . buying something common and boring, such as a Ford Taurus, Chevy Malibu or something along those lines. They were plentiful, easy to work on, probably lots of them in the junkyards to scavenge parts from, and so forth

I have a feeling money’s tight for you, so a domestic vehicle will be much cheaper to operate, work on and repair, especially if you’re doing any of it yourself

Who’s going to be insuring this vehicle?

You may want to consider which vehicle is cheap(er) to insure, as well . . .

Yes money is tight as I’m still doing school and only have a retail job. Thanks for the recommendations I’ll look into them!

I would not buy either of these models. Look instead for a used Toyota Corolla, the newest and lowest-mileage that you can afford, which is in good condition and not a salvage title. I have a 2004 Corolla, owned since new, it is really a great car. The 2003 and 2004 models are identical, btw.

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My only other comment is I prefer more hatch back/ SUV style cars any recommendations in those styles?

Sure. Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe.


The PT cruiser would be the better choice but you’re probably going to end up with the normal one rather than a convertible for your budget. Particularly if you’re going to leave a little breathing room for repairs that more than likely will come up. Co-workers have had decent luck with these but it really depends on how well you take care of the car. The new beetle owner that i know is basically his own VW mechanic and has better luck than most .

The Matrix/Vibe would be a really good choice as well.

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My mother would but I would be paying her the difference in the costs.

@bcohen2010 @wolyrobb As for the Matrix any specific year on that I should look at?

A used PT Cruiser is never a good choice for someone on a tight budget. They require a lot of expensive maintenance, which most second and subsequent owners cheap out on.

They also use a rubber timing belt, and due to the design of the chassis, this is one of the most difficult models to change the timing belt on. Around here, shops charge $1200-1300 to do a timing belt job on this model. Most people selling a used PT Cruiser have no idea if the timing belt was ever changed, and if you ask them, they’ll either lie or change the topic.


I’ll second @bcohen2010’s comment about a Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe. I used to have a 2004 Vibe and it was great. Excellent gas mileage and it has a Toyota motor in it. The last year it was made was in 2009 but I am confident there are still decent ones out there. You can’t go wrong with these models.

Any specific year you reccomend for the Vibe?

If I was buying a used Matrix/Vibe–and I have considered them–I’d choose the 2003-2004 models, because they have certain features which appeal to me, but probably not to you. For your needs, any year would be fine.

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The one in the best condition you can find for your budget, You’re going to get a 1st generation from 2003 on for this sort of money. It’s a Corolla wagon in essence so it’'s more likely to be reliable than the Chrysler or VW but you should try to find one in good mechanical condition with good looks a bonus. We don’t have to worry about rust so much out here. Know several who’ve owned one and they are good cars.

The design has changed just twice. The first generation 2003-2008 is good. The second generation ended early just because GM shut down Pontiac. I had the 2004 for almost 3 years and put 60k miles on it. Never had an issue.

I worked at a Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep dealership for a number years so I know more about the PT Cruisers than the new Beetles. Guess I’m not clear on if you are talking about the old rear engine Beetle or the new front engine models when you say you like the retro stuff. The PT was such a big hit when it came out that GM hired the designer to build the HHR which was actually a better vehicle in most regards. I remember that we ran out of PTs many times due to how popular they were at the time. I must ay that the PT Dream Cruiser was pretty cool too! They were usually sold before they got to the dealérship. Regardless of either choice it comes down to what you prefer and can afford to get fixed and keep up, maintenance wise. Both the PT and new Beetle, made for US sales, were assembled in Mexico. Not that it matters but just a point of information. PT parts and service are MUCH less expensive for sure. VW parts and service are much more. Many mechanics and shops have told us they won’t work on them due to being such a pain to work on and diagnos and tell us to go to a dealership. My girlfriend has an 08 EOS that’s a pain in the butt, as many are from others we’ve talked to. She has taken it to the shop countless times due to a check engine light that no one seems to be able to diagnos. They send it out with the light off then before she gets home it pops back on again so no inspection sticker again over and over and over. It has a 2.0 turbo that is VERY quick and the retractable hard top is cool! It looks like Transformer when it operates. I believe the new Beetle was offered with the same engine as a choice as well but I’m not totally sure. Her’s is an 08 and the interior panels are seperating, the glue doesn’t hold the faux leather to the panels anymore and there are countless other issues both cosmetic and mechanical. She’s had bad luck with it and we’ve heard so many horror stories from others about similar newer VWs, that we won’t be getting one in the future that I can see. I remember at the Dodge dealership our used car sales manager would extremely “lowball” the trade #'s on the new beetle that customers brought in because he said they just weren’t worth it. These are just my experiences with VW in the past decade so you can see my obvious prejudice against them. Maybe someone else on here can give you better info than I can but they aren’t for me. Now, the older VWs? Heck yeah! Reliability, nostalga and easy to work on. I’ll buy a good used Rabbit (very rare to find), Beetle, Karman Ghia or bus any day! The original Beetles… 4 bolts, some wires to disconnect, fuel line and 2 people could lift the engine to a stand or table to work on if needed. I’ve had 3 VWs in the past. My dad had 2. All were a blast! The newer models… No thanks. Again, just my opinion and bad personal experiences.

I was leaning towards the PT. As for when I’m looking what year do you recommend for both the normal hatch back and for the convertibles. I’ve read the main problem with the PTs is the belt. Any other big issues with them that you know of and how to avoid them. Thanks for your input :slight_smile:

From what I’ve read I believe 08, 09 and 10 models were basically worry free. At a certain point the belt will need to be replaced apperantly and is pretty labor intensive if you can’t do the work yourself. It’s best I defer that to someone else with more technical knowledge though. In that case I would try to find one that you can verify when it was last done which may be difficult to find out. I’ve always disliked timing belts. Why couldn’t a chain be used? Anyway, good luck.

I owned and loved a 2004 PT Cruiser, mine was dead reliable. I bought it new and an idiot on his cell phone totaled it at 7 1/2 years old. I will say, it protected us well, we only got bumps and bruises. The only repairs I had were one wheel bearing and the oil pressure sending unit.

Having said that, these cars do not age well. The TIPM under the hood is especially troublesome. It controls almost everything electrical and experiences many internal solder failures. I have two granddaughters that owned them, they were both rust free examples from Florida. They were cheap to buy because the marketplace does not regard them well. The duel mileage is bad, the maximum I ever got on the highway was 22.

As for the timing belt, I never changed mine. It is not really an interference engine, the valves will not hit the pistons. I talked to an engineer and asked why some references list it as one. He said there is a remote chance of the valves hitting each other if the belt breaks at high rpm. I never drove mine at high rpm, it is not even remotely a performance car.

In the vibe or Matrix, avoid the 2.4 engine, it is also a gas hog.Vibes are usually cheaper in the same condition.

My big concern no matter the vehicle type is the rust issue because you live in Michigan. It may be difficult to find a decent 10 or 15 year old car that the rust weevils have not devoured half of.

I’m sure there are dealers in Michigan who do just what they do in OK. Dealers here will buy rust eaten cars on the cheap from the Rust Belt, slather them with 50 pounds of Bondo, shoot a bit of paint on them, and hope no one looks underneath before handing over the money.

I tend to agree with db4690 about getting something a bit more common and domestic and I hope that insurance costs do not cause sticker shock.

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