I thought I would start this topic to look at the good and the bad about our much love Bugs and |I'm going to kick it off with a few thoughts of my own. Hopefully, you will have come to grips with the fact that you are looking to buy an "old" car. And "old" means that it WILL, almost inevitably, require some work when you buy it or soon after. If you have some mechanical experience and some tools and ambition, well, plan on setting some time aside on the weekends and getting greasy. If you have no experience, tools or intentions of getting your hands dirty, well, plan on finding a good VW aircooled mechanic and set aside a few hundred; for starters. You should not have the mind-set of "IS there anything that would need to be fixed".
Instead you should be thinking of "WHAT will need to be fixed",
and how much that might cost. Now don't let me scare you off. It IS possible to find a cherry, well maintained and/or mostly rebuilt Beetle that doesn't need to go under the spanner right away, but don't fool yourself. You will likely pay big money for such a find and sooner or later it will need your attention (or money). So plan on having to spend some money on your Beetle after you buy it. And here is perhaps some more hard reality. Even the best of Beetles requires many times the maintenance of today's cars. I don't mean to scare you off, the maintenance is relatively simple, and even fun. But don't expect a Beetle to be a car that will carry you 200,000 miles, through all sorts of conditions with nothing more than some oil changes like the cars of today. The air-cooled Beetle, in all its years, is mostly a car developed with 1940s technologies. It is crude and simple. But hopefully that is why you want one. And you might have a particular year in mind when you go out with your wad of money, but be flexible; it's not like you will pick from a row of cars, one from every year, and they will all be in exactly the same condition. No, you must take your intentions, your preferences and your budget and then go look to see what is available. Your intentions are especially important. If you want high vintage value, don't have to drive it immediately (or at all) and are willing (and able) to take on a bit of a "project", you might look for one thing. On the other hand, if you need and "immediate driver", you should look for other things too. Below are some of the important things to look for both a "Project" and "Immediate driver". "Is a Beetle What I Really want?"
It has come about as I see more and more folks new to Beetles, considering, or even buying them, thinking that they are just as reliable and driveable as the 15 year old Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla that they looked at. They are not, I assure you. Yes, they can be cheap transportation, but they are not the same as other cars. Now some of this is my opinion, but here's how Beetles are different from other £1000 "mainstream" used cars that you might consider:
They will require much more maintenance, both periodic "preventive" maintenance, and repairs
They drive differently
The ride is harsher (because the car is lighter)
They are much louder in terms of engine and road noise
They handle much differently, with significant over steer (Rear heavy weight distribution)
They are not as safe
People will often want to stop you and tell you about "back when" they had a Beetle
Many parts will be much less expensive than other cars
Mechanically, they are simpler.
It may be a surprise to some that I said that the Beetle will require more maintenance and repairs than a "typical" car. What? The car that won the world over and was the icon of bulletproof reliability and economy? Yes, that car. In 1967 it was the gold standard for reliability and economy. In 1999 however, when compared to a 1984 VW Rabbit or '82 Civic, it is a quirky, needy, noisy, ill handling antique that can't help rusting. Remember folks, this car was designed in the 1930s, the gross functional changes made in the 40 years between 1938 and 1978 to the suspension and drivetrain are insignificant. The Beetle, no matter what year of manufacture, is a 1940s car, at best.
Point is, if you really want a Beetle, it better be because you want a Beetle, not just some cheap wheels that have a little character. And you better really know what a Beetle is, and what it isn't. To summarize, I think a Beetle is for you if:
You are comfortable with things mechanical, own tools and are willing work on these cars (or, have a big wad of money and good garage nearby who will do this stuff for you)
You admire, respect and enjoy "vintage" automobiles
You are willing to put up with less-than-current technology ride characteristics and/or won't drive the car all that much
You will not (have to) drive the car in salty, winter weather
You really, really, really, really, really, really, really like them
Conversely, I think a Beetle may not be for you if:
You are not comfortable with things mechanical, do not own tools and are not willing work on these cars
You just want "jump in and drive" transportation that you can depend on for years at a time without having to deal with any maintenance or repairs
You like to drive fast and aggressively and will not be happy with an underpowered car that has a tendency to spin out if you swerve to miss something
In order to buy it, you would have no money left over for any immediate repairs
You can't decide between the Beetle and a Ford car in the paper for £500.
You get the idea. Yes, Beetles can be very reliable. But you need to keep them mechanically happy, well maintained and even if nothing breaks, you still need to have tools and manuals (They can "sense' if you don't have repair capabilities and will break by themselves. They like to be "touched" often). And yes, they can be made to go fast and handle pretty well too, but that can cost big ££££££. And lastly about that driving in the snow comment. Beetles actually drive very well in the snow, but they cannot survive the salt of winters. No matter what you do, paint, undercoat or fix, salty roads will eat them up. Newer cars of today are able to deal with this problem much better.
So make sure you know what you are getting into. Even if you are older and used to own, or had in your family, a Beetle, assess this decision carefully. Drive the new prospect as much as you can. If you are really a Beetle fanatic, you will want to by a Beetle because of all these things.
Over to you I need a snack now