Reader Question: TDI VW Cautions?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Greg asks:  I read your article about the previously “banned” TDIs becoming available.  I currently drive a ‘98 Avalon and need an upgrade.  Is there anything about the TDIs that you would shy away from? Maintenance, reliability etc?  Any tips on how to get the best price from the dealer on these?  Would you go for the VW or an AUDI and would the upgrade be worth it?  I haven’t bought a car in a really long time so any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you!  Long time reader and supporter. You’re the man!

My reply: I have two cautions for you, one general and the other specific.

With any used car – regardless of the make/model or the type of engine it has – the most important consideration is condition. This will be a function primarily of how it was treated, as well as how well (or not) it was maintained. A higher-miles car that was well-treated and well-maintained will almost always be a better bet than an otherwise identical car with lower miles that was treated poorly and not well-maintained.

Judge condition by such things as maintenance records as well as by a close physical inspection of the car by someone who knows what to look for. Do not go by appearances. Used car dealerships excel at the art of “detailing” cars – prettying them up for display on the lot. Beware. Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it is good.

As regards VW TDIs, specifically: These are excellent cars, whether you go for a Golf, Beetle, Jetta or Passat. The one caution – aside from condition – is to avoid VW’s Direct Shift (DSG) automatic transmission. There were some problems with the early versions and they are very expensive transmissions to replace. I personally would prefer the available manual transmission anyhow as it’s much more fun and you will be able to get the best mileage with this transmission.

Also: If you shop a “new” 2016 (one of the cars held in abeyance while the scandal sorted itself out) I’d want to be sure the tires weren’t flat-spotted from sitting and that the engine oil/filter had been changed.

Otherwise, tally ho! Ask anyone who owns one of these cars; I’ve yet to encounter anyone who didn’t love theirs.

The Audi versions, too. As to whether they are worth the extra money, that’s a subjective call – based on whether the additional luxury amenities that come with the Audi badge are worth the extra cost.

Keep us posted!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Our local VW dealer has an offsite used car overflow lot with 5 TDIs sitting there rotting, all with big yellow NOT FOR SALE signs on the windshield. Two 06-2010 Jettas, one manual. One 2012+ Passat with a manual. A Golf with an automatic. And a Sportwagen. Looks like they have been sitting a while. All have annual inspection stickers that expired early this year or in 2017. The tires are starting to dryrot and some of the tires are completely deflated. Some spider webs. Some rust on the rotars. But honestly they still look pretty good. I don’t think these ones have been fixed yet. I just want to buy them all, keep one for myself, and sell the other four to people that would appreciate them.

    Reminds me of viewing all the unique trade-ins during cash4clunkers, except that these TDIs (hopefully) won’t be completely destroyed, just neutered (hopefully that will eventually be reversible).

    • Morning, Brandon!

      It pains me that EPautos hasn’t got the financial backing to do things like that… to buy those cars, rescue them… and then make a big whoop showing the world what’s been lost by doing video/road tests, pointing out the 50–plus MPGs on the highway these cars are easily capable of.



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