Sometimes market conditions completely outside the control of an automaker can radically adjust the resale value of their vehicles years after they have been released from the factory. This has been the case during the recent fuel crisis, which has seen the value of compact fuel misers remain remarkably level while larger vehicles have suffered significant depreciation. In some ways, the efficiency of these used vehicles can even lead to secondhand prices which are mere thousands below the full sticker of a brand new vehicle.
Volkswagen has seen its used vehicles undergo an interesting re-valuation of their own, thanks to the company's installation of a turbo-diesel engine in many of their compact vehicles and mid-size sedans. With fuel economy measured above 40 miles per gallon, these oil-burners quickly became sought after by frugal buyers interested in their superb mileage and decent driving performance. This was a pleasant change from the reputation Volkswagen had worked hard to shake in the used market, that of vehicles which were instantly plagued with hard to diagnose electrical issues once their warranty had expired. By focusing on build quality, the German automaker has been able to improve their more recent products and win back a sizeable number of former buyers.
This article examines the three least expensive new vehicles currently sold by Volkswagen and compares them to their used car equivalents in terms of features and price in order to determine where the best value can be found for buyers on a budget. Used car prices can of course vary from one part of the country to the next, and are dependent upon the condition of the vehicle, but the numbers quoted here should serve as a good starting point when looking at a vehicle in excellent shape with relatively low miles.
2004 Volkswagen Golf versus 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit
The 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit is priced at just $15,890. For that price, the small hatchback provides a 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower, a 5-speed manual transmission, 10 speaker stereo and a folding rear seat. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are also standard. The Rabbit is relatively comfortable but doesn't go out of its way to include any luxury features, as it is intended as basic city transportation.
The 2004 Volkswagen Golf might have a different name, but the new Rabbit platform is the evolution of this tried and true hatch's underpinnings. This edition of the vehicle hails from a previous generation of the economy car, but the presentation is largely the same. The base engine for 2004 is a much less powerful 115 horsepower 4-cylinder displacing 2.0-liters, also matched with a 5-speed transmission. It is also not an easy vehicle to find used. However, in the interests of a fair comparison, it is instructive to look at the market prices for the base GTI and TDI models. The GTI is a sports edition which has a tuned suspension and a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine producing 180 horsepower, while the TDI makes use of an excellent 1.9-liter turbo-diesel. The GTI can be had with less than 50,000 miles for around $12,000 - a savings of almost $4,000. The TDI, on the other hand has held its value well and is difficult to find for less than the price of a new base model.
When faced with a multi-faceted choice like this on the used market, buyers must take several things into account. While the appeal of a sporty GTI is strong, it is hard to recommend a 5-year old Golf over a brand new Rabbit on the basis of a 10 horsepower differential. The Golf TDI presents a trickier issue: is it worth paying new pricing for an older vehicle which gets 10 more miles per gallon? Given the extreme reliability of diesel engines, a case could be made to opt for an older Golf TDI over the 2009 Rabbit. Essentially, buyers must decide for themselves whether efficiency or a new platform and body style is more important to them, and purchase accordingly.
2004 Volkswagen Jetta versus 2009 Volkswagen Jetta
At $17,340 the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta is the most affordable sedan found in VW showrooms. Like the Rabbit, it makes use of a 2.5-liter, 170 horsepower 5-cylinder engine and a 5-speed transmission. Power windows, door locks and cruise control come with the base Jetta S, as do a CD player and anti-lock brakes.
The 2004 Volkswagen Jetta has a more rounded, less aggressive shape than the newer model, and a bit less interior room. The base Jetta GL sedan is outfitted with a 4-cylinder engine producing 115 horsepower, making it a slower performer than the new vehicle. However, pricing is quite low - in fact, as low as $10,000 for a low mileage example with an automatic transmission, sunroof and a premium sound system. These extra features combined with an $8,000 price difference can easily tip the balance towards a used Jetta.
Like the Golf, a diesel version of the 2004 Volkswagen Jetta is also available, and if buyers are willing to overlook mileage that hovers in the 60 to 70,000 mile range, they can score a vehicle that gets over 40 miles per gallon for around $3,000 less than new - not exactly a deal for a vehicle of that vintage. The strong value of clean turbo-diesel cars can make it frustrating for drivers looking to score secondhand deals, and has driven most buyers back to Volkswagen showrooms and behind the wheels of 2009 vehicles.
The 2004 Volkswagen Jetta's low purchase price makes it difficult to ignore, especially considering the extra equipment that comes with the used sedan's higher trim levels. However, for some, the 65 horsepower difference might be a deal breaker. In terms of daily commuting to work and back, the used Jetta's 4-cylinder engine will perform more than adequately, and this in combination with the excellent savings to be found when purchasing used makes the older vehicle the better buy.
2004 Volkswagen New Beetle versus 2009 Volkswagen New Beetle
The 2009 Volkswagen New Beetle is a fun compact car that retails for just under $18,000. There is only one trim level for the New Beetle, and it provides a 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine which produces 150 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Inside the car, a 6-speaker stereo system with CD player provides the entertainment, while heated front seats are also standard. The New Beetle sees 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 on the highway.
The 2004 Volkswagen New Beetle is for all intents and purposes an identical car. Save for subtle exterior tweaks and different engine choices, the New Beetle has remained largely unchanged since it first went on sale in 1999. The base 2004 New Beetle is outfitted with a 115 horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission. Prices for the cute compact have been driven down, and even convertibles with less than 50,000 miles have been selling for between $10,000 and $12,000. Higher mileage turbo-diesel editions of the New Beetle can also be found for just over $1000 more, and these models include niceties such as leather seating and an automatic transmission.
Priced at $5,000 to $6,000 less than a 2009 model, the 2004 Volkswagen New Beetle is definitely appealing for buyers on a budget. Given the fact that it is almost impossible to tell the two vehicles apart, and that a convertible edition is also available in the same range, clearly a used New Beetle provides excellent value for the money. Choosing a 2004 Volkswagen New Beetle is a great way to add a unique automobile to the stable without having to pay an arm and a leg. If the difference in power is a major concern, the best advice is for buyers to test drive each model and see if it is possible to live with the 35 horsepower gap. Chances are, the savings will speak louder than the minor bump in performance.
New vs Used: Volkswagen Cars