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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone! I am considering purchasing a '99 tdi and found this forum while doing research on it. I found one I really like for $3850 that appears to be in excellent condition-everything works, drives smoothly, etc... The only issues are some cosmetic things-small tear in the leather seat, some paint chips, front emblem is peeling. It has 230K miles on it, but apparently that is low for a diesel engine. It appears to have been very well maintained, and the Carfax seemed great-no accidents, and around 30 instances of it being brought in to various dealerships.

I was ready to buy the car, but I read all the reviews on Edumunds and they are almost all terrible, now I'm thinking all those visits to the dealer on the Carfax mean it's going to be a huge hassle. I've really wanted a New Beetle since they came out, and the 40+ miles per gallon of the tdi would be amazing for my daily commute. That said, I also need something that will be reliable as a daily driver, and I would love to be able to finally go on road trips without worrying too much about breaking down. My other car is a 1970 Ford, which while I love it to death, gets probably less than 15 mpg, and is needing some repairs because I trusted my Dad to take care of maintaining it (which did not really happen). A large reason I am buying a newer car (other than mpg) is so that my Ford can rest for a while and I can repair all the damage done to it from lack of maintenance, while hopefully only paying maintenance costs on the newer car, otherwise I probably wouldn't be able to afford working on my old car.

So I guess my question is, is this model year (99) really as terrible as the reviews make it seem, or were there just so few people on the internet at the time that there aren't enough reviews to get a fair understanding of the reliability? I'm honestly not too concerned about stupid things like the power windows going out, as long as the car actually continues to run.

Any input on this would be greatly appreciated, as I am going to need to be making a decision on this very soon! Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Also, is there anything that I should double-check on the car before going through with the purchase? I'm definitely going to at least get a 3-month powertrain warranty on it, but that may be all I am able to afford since this car is a little bit more expensive than what I was initially planning on.
 

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5/23/10 <3
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What transmission does the car have? When was the timing belt last done? Those are my 2 biggest questions.

What problems are people talking about? A lot of problems stem from poor ownership. These are quirky cars, I won't lie. But my '99 2.0 was a great car. Just keep in mind that its now a 14 year old car with 230k on it. Yes, the TDI engine itself is fine at that mileage, but the rest of the car doesn't change between gasser and diesel.

Keep in mind that maintenance is key with these cars. Correct oil must be used, fuel filter changed every 20k, timing belt needs to be kept up with, etc.

If this an automatic, I would lean against staying away. The early autos are pretty awful and tend to fail. If its a manual, then its much better.

Also, just because its been to the dealer for service doesn't mean much. The dealer doesn't have the best of reputations for servicing TDIs well or correctly. A good independent shop that knows TDIs well (also referred to as TDI Gurus by those at TDIClub) is much better.

If you are looking for cheap and reliable with decent MPGs, I wouldn't discount a good old Honda or Toyota to be honest. I love VWs, but they can be needy and aren't the cheapest to maintain. Sounds like you are on a tight budget, so I would definitely would keep a Civic or something on the radar.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It has a manual transmission, so that hopefully won't be an issue. The timing belt and water pump were last done at 180K.
It seems like mostly people were complaining about electrical issues, mainly with accessories, but giving really terrible ratings. I think window motors and headlights and whatnot I could fix pretty cheaply myself or through one of my mechanics. I was just concerned because people gave such low ratings on Edmunds, and KBB's reviews lump all the model years together, so that seems to be the main site for reviews. I guess I'm mostly just hoping that as long as I maintain it properly it isn't going to leave me stranded.
I have also been watching for Civics and Toyotas, but, like I said, I have wanted a New Beetle since they first became available, so it is an incredibly tempting purchase. It's easier to pass on the gas engine Beetles, but the mpg on the TDI could be pretty life-changing for me, so it's a difficult choice.
 

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I second what Smileybug said about the timing belt. The recommended TDI service interval is 40k miles. The diesel injection pump is run by the timing belt so the belt is subject to a lot of wear compared to a gas engine. The belt change is more costly than a gas engine as well. Couple that with the extra parts (sensors, plumbing, electronics, ect.) associated with the turbo and it is definitely a higher maintenance vehicle. I did an analysis one time (and I have heard the same thing from others) that showed the TDI won't save money when the extra maintenance is factored in, even if you do it yourself.

There is a website especially for the TDI that you should check out:

Fred's TDI Page. TDIClub.com. VW TDI Enthusiast Community
 

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5/23/10 <3
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40k is for an auto. 60k is the interval for a manual. And there are 100k kits out there. But time is also a factor.

The belt job now has 50k on it. So in the next 10k you should be thinking of getting the job done.

Electrical issues are certainly a VW quirk.

I understand the want of a NB. I loved mine. But if you are strapped for cash right now, I'd get another car for now and save up for a NB that is newer and with less mileage. But thats just my opinion. Also, if you've never owned a diesel before, definitely read up at TDIClub. They are different animals compared to gassers.

Now, 2 of our 3 cars are diesels (all 3 cars are VWs too :)) so I do enjoy the diesel. It can be great. But getting into an older higher mileage car can be far less cost effective.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you both for your input! I have been reading over the TDI site, and it is very informative!
 

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Any car will have its quirks, look at the f250/f350 with the 6.0 diesel. That said, my '98 beetle had more quirks/issues than my '05 beetle. It is all about the previous owner and maintenance.
 
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