"Owned my Passat over 6 yrs. Bought used with 25K miles on it for $15,500 in 2002 (a steal in my opinion). I now have over 140,000 miles. No major issues to report. Still runs and performs exceptionally well and gets 25-27mpg's (same as the first week I owned it).
I spent $3,000 in my 6 years of ownership for the routine stuff: oil changes, timing belt, hoses, tires (I'm on my 3rd pair), brakes, air filters, oxygen sensor, mass air flow sensor, and wipers. The catalytic converter, oil sludge issue, oil filter & tray, and plugs were replaced by VW dealer and covered by VW under warranty.
This is a fine car! It is not the fastest sedan out there, but the Passat handles very solidly and passes other cars with ease at highway speeds. This car was built for the Autobahn and welcomes any bad weather challenges. I don't have AWD so I use snow tires (but they're not needed) in winter just to provide me with more added stability on snow and ice.
This car steers and handles just like the high-end German luxury sports sedans that you would pay $40K more for. And with it's nice Euro-sedan styling, you won't feel embarrassed to hand over your keys to a valet.
The reason for the bad reliability issues with VW is this: Americans mistakenly interpret a check engine light coming on as a reliablility issue, which is not what the Germans intended.
My Passat has been extremely reliable. It idles as cleanly and quietly and starts as quickly since the first day. My father-in-law who is a mechanic and owns a garage agrees on VW quality and still can't beleive I've had no issues with my car at 140K miles. He said VW's reputaion and reliability issue is undeserved. From his 30+ yrs experience fixing cars, newer VW's (2000 models and newer) are superbly constructed cars of BMW, Toyota, and Honda quality. He said he would avoid the Jettas assembled in Mexico which are lemons, but would highly recommend the Passats, Golfs, and Jettas assembled in Germany.
Most people get dooped and stuck with costly and perhaps unnecessary repairs because they don't get a second opinion or shop around for estimates. I would try to avoid dealers at all costs because most dealer mechanics work on commission and not with you or your car's best interests in mind.
I've yet to read a VW review about reliability where their VW would not start or the engine died or stalled.
I will soon buy the newer VW Passat 2.0T and will probably buy a used one just off a lease."
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