Advice on first TDI

dieselfanboy

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Location
Nevada
TDI
None...yet! :D
Howdy all, I'm brand new to the forum and to TDIs. I'm looking for your advice. I've got a family of 4 (my wife and I and two toddlers). We probably will have one more child in the next five years. I'm looking for a vehicle for a daily driver and for family road trips. I'm sick of gas prices, and I sure don't want to drive a Prius. In my mind a TDI sounds like the perfect option, but I know almost nothing about them. I've obviously been browsing the forum for a while and learning what I can, but you all will be able to help me narrow what I search for a lot quicker if you're willing. Here's what we'd hope for in a car:
  • Big enough for a family of 5 (two carseats with space for an average adult between, or three carseats in the back).
  • Good fuel economy, I'd like to get 50+ mpg on cross-country trips.
  • I'd like to spend $3-5k.
  • Reliable and low maintenance is always a plus. I am not a big fan of Diesel Emissions control...
What years would you recommend? I think I'd like to stick with Volkswagen unless you can convince me why not to. What models?
Where is the best place (websites) to search for the right vehicle online? I live in a rural area, so TDIs are rarely for sale near me. Thanks in advance!
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Given the size of car seats these days I'd look for a '12-14 Passat. But you're not likely to find one of those for $3-5K. More like twice that.

You could also look for a '96 or '97 B4 Passat, but ones of those that aren't really tired are hard to come by. And you'll have to be content to drive a manual, as there were not automatics available in that car.

You could also look for an '11-15 Jetta, which probably has enough room to meet your needs, and might cost a little less than the Passat.

Regardless, be aware that VW TDIs aren't exactly low maintenance cars. Durable, yes, but they need attention now and again.
 

saCusa

Active member
Joined
May 20, 2020
Location
USA
TDI
mk.IV Golf BEW M5
Anything pre-09 will be great for not having any emissions equipment that you have to worry about, but I hope you're mechanically inclined because these Mk4/5 cars are 20+ years old now and will require money and work to keep them going. As said above, they love maintenance, and they love people who love maintenance. If you think about your car more than your family, then these cars are perfect for you!

That being said, they will still be just fine with minimal maintenance, but I wouldn't expect them to last as long. Of all the cars I've owned, this one has soaked up more time and money than any other car, and they have a sneaky way of turning you into an enthusiast. You've been warned!
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
I love MKIV and V cars, but I didn't include them because there's no way you can get two car seats in them with the front seats in a normal position, and you won't fit a third person in the back with 2 seats in there. They're just too small.
 

dieselfanboy

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Location
Nevada
TDI
None...yet! :D
Okay, makes sense! I realize my budget is pretty restrictive. There's a guy with an 02 Jetta, 202k miles that I just found for $5900 a few hours away from me. Would that be a decent option, or are the older Jettas too small for a family?

So from you guys' experience, are the maintenance costs expensive enough that I should just settle for driving a gasser with 30mpg? Or, do the cost savings on mpg outweigh the extra costs? I'm mechanically inclined, and ready to learn, so I'm not afraid of working on it myself, I just don't want to spend thousands more than a comparable gas car. Thanks for bearing with my total inexperience.
 

dieselfanboy

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Location
Nevada
TDI
None...yet! :D
I love MKIV and V cars, but I didn't include them because there's no way you can get two car seats in them with the front seats in a normal position, and you won't fit a third person in the back with 2 seats in there. They're just too small.
Gotcha! And the 02 Jetta would be an Mk4, right?
 

Lightflyer1

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Sep 13, 2005
Location
Round Rock, Texas
TDI
2015 Beetle tdi dsg
MK4 yes. But you will not fit 5 in there as you stated you wanted. You will need a Passat sized car in my opinion. Having a trusted mechanic near is helpful too. You will spend money on the car and then for catchup maintenance as needed and then regular recurring service costs whichever car you choose. As IBW stated one is too expensive for you and the other choice is old and difficult to find one in good shape.
 

saCusa

Active member
Joined
May 20, 2020
Location
USA
TDI
mk.IV Golf BEW M5
Okay, makes sense! I realize my budget is pretty restrictive. There's a guy with an 02 Jetta, 202k miles that I just found for $5900 a few hours away from me. Would that be a decent option, or are the older Jettas too small for a family?

So from you guys' experience, are the maintenance costs expensive enough that I should just settle for driving a gasser with 30mpg? Or, do the cost savings on mpg outweigh the extra costs? I'm mechanically inclined, and ready to learn, so I'm not afraid of working on it myself, I just don't want to spend thousands more than a comparable gas car. Thanks for bearing with my total inexperience.
That's pretty pricey, but it all depends on the overall condition of the car. These cars are pretty narrow, though they would fit 4 grown adults pretty comfortably, at least in the golf.

I have an 05 with 150k miles on it and I've easily put double the money into it than I initially paid for it, just from fixing problems as they arise and staying on top of them.

I find them very easy to work on, however it's a German vehicle so be prepared to have to buy certain specialized tools. Things are just done slightly differently.

If you're looking for something you can ride hard and put away wet, and never have to worry about it, a gasoline car may be better suited for you. If you think you could make a hobby out of a vehicle, then I could think of no better platform than these cars.
 

Brokk

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2005
Location
Selah, WA
TDI
'04 GLS TDI JETTA
I think it will be pretty hard to meet all the points you mentioned. I ended up getting my wife a '12 Highlander so we could put one kid back in the 3rd row to keep the 3 of them from fighting as much. It was also nice to have more room in the back to stack extra suitcases.
 

drew_t

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 7, 2022
Location
SF Bay Area
TDI
2013 Passat TDI SE
In your circumstance I'd probably be looking for a minivan. I had a Caravan years ago and while it wasn't sexy, it was extremely practical and surprisingly reliable.
OP is going through the Seven Stages of Surrender to Minivan Ownership. He’s currently at the “Distraction” stage, where one becomes fixated on a vehicle perceived (usually on the basis of scant knowledge) as presenting a cool, quirky, fun, but somehow still workable alternative to the minivan, thereby avoiding the loss of sense of self associated with minivan surrender.

Typically, the spouse provides the pin which lets the air out of the Distraction balloon, but in this instance, the OP may be brought back to reality simply by driving past the nearest gas station and noticing how much more expensive diesel fuel is than even premium gas.
 

Ragdude

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2021
Location
Phx
TDI
2015 VW Golf SEL TDi
Howdy all, I'm brand new to the forum and to TDIs. I'm looking for your advice. I've got a family of 4 (my wife and I and two toddlers). We probably will have one more child in the next five years. I'm looking for a vehicle for a daily driver and for family road trips. I'm sick of gas prices, and I sure don't want to drive a Prius. In my mind a TDI sounds like the perfect option, but I know almost nothing about them. I've obviously been browsing the forum for a while and learning what I can, but you all will be able to help me narrow what I search for a lot quicker if you're willing. Here's what we'd hope for in a car:
  • Big enough for a family of 5 (two carseats with space for an average adult between, or three carseats in the back).
  • Good fuel economy, I'd like to get 50+ mpg on cross-country trips.
  • I'd like to spend $3-5k.
  • Reliable and low maintenance is always a plus. I am not a big fan of Diesel Emissions control...
What years would you recommend? I think I'd like to stick with Volkswagen unless you can convince me why not to. What models?
Where is the best place (websites) to search for the right vehicle online? I live in a rural area, so TDIs are rarely for sale near me. Thanks in advance!

Those of us with older (or grown) children understand what you're going through, however you're just not gonna be happy trying to cram everything that goes along with growing families into a small sedan. Do yourself a favor and look at a used Caravan, they were designed with families in mind, plus there are a lot of them made/available, get decent mileage, pretty reliable, inexpensive to maintain, inexpensive to insure. Just my .02
 

Ragdude

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2021
Location
Phx
TDI
2015 VW Golf SEL TDi
I think it will be pretty hard to meet all the points you mentioned. I ended up getting my wife a '12 Highlander so we could put one kid back in the 3rd row to keep the 3 of them from fighting as much. It was also nice to have more room in the back to stack extra suitcases.
lol Same reason we bought a Ford Excursion
 

Zak99b5

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2021
Location
Albany NY
TDI
2003 Jetta TDI
He could find a ”cool” minivan—Vanagon or Eurovan, Toyota Previa or VanWagon, Mitsubishi Delica (Even diesels to be had).

Heck, here’s a diesel Toyota highace under ten grandLINK
 

Brokk

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2005
Location
Selah, WA
TDI
'04 GLS TDI JETTA
I am trying to find a photo of a modern concept chevy minivan and cannot. I am pretty sure I have it saved on my camera roll someplace. Was very cool. Someone mocked up a nice a-team version but the one I am thinking of was mostly silver.
 

AndyBees

Top Post Dawg
Joined
May 27, 2003
Location
Southeast Kentucky
TDI
Silver 2003 Jetta TDI, Silver 2000 Jetta TDI (sold), '84 Vanagon with '02 ALH engine
Howdy all, I'm brand new to the forum and to TDIs. I'm looking for your advice. I've got a family of 4 (my wife and I and two toddlers). We probably will have one more child in the next five years.
So, that third child is in the future and likely 5 years from now.......... if so, an MK4 Jetta would probably fit your needs now. I'd try to find an 04 - 06 and preferable an 04. You should have 9 months to trade-in/sell the Jetta and up-size.

Things to look for:
-documented maintenance history, including name brand oil used
-last time the Timing Belt was changed and was it a complete Kit (belt, tensioner, water pump, idlers, etc.
-does the AC work
-if it has a sun roof... sniff for moldy odors (not a killer, but the drains will need to be cleaned (unplugged)
-look for warning lights in the cluster (Check Engine Light, flashing Glow Plug Light, ABS, Air-bag light, etc.

Any diesel that gets 25 MPG highway is not worth it. There are better option gassers....
 

dieselfanboy

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Location
Nevada
TDI
None...yet! :D
Thanks to all who are answering! It's very helpful. I'm laughing in my office reading about the "Seven Stages of Surrender to Minivan Ownership"! ha You're not wrong that a minivan or certainly a large SUV (like an Excursion) would better fit our needs for space. I just have my reservations about fuel economy. If we have a vehicle that fits us all but we don't want to go anywhere because it guzzles fuel, what's the point of that? I've got no desire for an electric car.

I'm not opposed to going minivan, but I've never seen one for under five grand that's new enough to get halfway decent fuel economy. Also, I really like having older vehicles that I can work on myself... But, not being broken down on the highway's also nice (cause I'm probably not as good a mechanic as I like to think).

Diesel here in northern NV is a dollar more than regular unleaded. My thought was that a diesel car getting 40-50mpg is gonna be still much more economical than a gasser getting 30mpg, especially if the diesel were closer to 50. The only gas vehicles I know of getting close 40-50 are a Prius (not necessarily opposed, just skeptical) or they're tiny, and still only getting 40 if you're nice. Diesel seems much more efficient. Maybe I'm just dreaming...
 

Lightflyer1

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Sep 13, 2005
Location
Round Rock, Texas
TDI
2015 Beetle tdi dsg
You are just dreaming. Most people don't report anywhere near 50mpg unless your travel is all Interstate type driving, nonstop (maybe). My lifetime average for the Beetle in city and urban driving is right at 33 mpg. Mid to low 30's to mid 40's usually. Getting the things worked on can also be a chore as not everyone has the knowledge and/or experience to do the job as it calls for.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
My son (who has a 20 month old with another on the way) has a '15 Passat that cost about 3x your budget, and that was before used car prices went crazy. Probably gets about 40 MPG (he doesn't check often) and has plenty of room for 2 or even 3 car seats. But that's way over your budget. I don't think there's another diesel that would be more suitable than the NMS Passat (12-15) unless you start looking at much more expensive Mercedes or Audi diesels.
 

AndyBees

Top Post Dawg
Joined
May 27, 2003
Location
Southeast Kentucky
TDI
Silver 2003 Jetta TDI, Silver 2000 Jetta TDI (sold), '84 Vanagon with '02 ALH engine
You are just dreaming. Most people don't report anywhere near 50mpg unless your travel is all Interstate type driving, nonstop (maybe). My lifetime average for the Beetle in city and urban driving is right at 33 mpg. Mid to low 30's to mid 40's usually. Getting the things worked on can also be a chore as not everyone has the knowledge and/or experience to do the job as it calls for.
My formerly owned 2000 Jetta TDI had a life time average above 50 MPG when I gave it to my son at roughly 345k miles on it. My commute was 85 miles round trip plus I drove it on the job. All of my driving was mixed, even two lane secondary roads that required down-shifting due to local circumstances. My county road out to the main highway is 5 miles which 4th gear is tops. I documented about 14 years of data in an Excel Speadsheet. Every single fill-up was vented. However, I very seldom got up to 75 MPH. I always drive the speed limit posted. It has about 388k miles on it now. My son says he only checks MPGs occasionally but when he does he's never seen anything under 45 MPG.

My 03 consistently gets over 48 MPG. My last fill-up (vented) was almost 51 MPG. Yes, it is not as good as the 2000 model.
 

Lightflyer1

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Sep 13, 2005
Location
Round Rock, Texas
TDI
2015 Beetle tdi dsg
My formerly owned 2000 Jetta TDI had a life time average above 50 MPG when I gave it to my son at roughly 345k miles on it. My commute was 85 miles round trip plus I drove it on the job. All of my driving was mixed, even two lane secondary roads that required down-shifting due to local circumstances. My county road out to the main highway is 5 miles which 4th gear is tops. I documented about 14 years of data in an Excel Speadsheet. Every single fill-up was vented. However, I very seldom got up to 75 MPH. I always drive the speed limit posted. It has about 388k miles on it now. My son says he only checks MPGs occasionally but when he does he's never seen anything under 45 MPG.

My 03 consistently gets over 48 MPG. My last fill-up (vented) was almost 51 MPG. Yes, it is not as good as the 2000 model.
Unfortunately none of the cars you speak of would do what the OP wants (size wise). Granted the older cars got better mileage than the newer cars do. None of the Dieselgate cars that I have read of consistently get anywhere near 50mpg. The Passat is the only car that may satisfy the requirements, but it won't get 50mpg consistently either. The older Passats IBW spoke of might get that but finding one is like hunting for unicorns.

Many don't get that kind of mileage even in the older cars.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Unfortunately none of the cars you speak of would do what the OP wants (size wise). Granted the older cars got better mileage than the newer cars do. None of the Dieselgate cars that I have read of consistently get anywhere near 50mpg. The Passat is the only car that may satisfy the requirements, but it won't get 50mpg consistently either. The older Passats IBW spoke of might get that but finding one is like hunting for unicorns.

Many don't get that kind of mileage even in the older cars.
All true. Andy, your driving conditions seem pretty ideal for an ALH. I do see 50+ in my Wagon, but I also know that's unusual. My Golf gets mid-to high 40s. So does my B4.
 

noob_tl

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2012
Location
Central Indiana & Western Illinois
TDI
None, sold my 2003 NB
...
I'm not opposed to going minivan, but I've never seen one for under five grand that's new enough to get halfway decent fuel economy. Also, I really like having older vehicles that I can work on myself... But, not being broken down on the highway's also nice (cause I'm probably not as good a mechanic as I like to think).

Diesel here in northern NV is a dollar more than regular unleaded. My thought was that a diesel car getting 40-50mpg is gonna be still much more economical than a gasser getting 30mpg, especially if the diesel were closer to 50. The only gas vehicles I know of getting close 40-50 are a Prius (not necessarily opposed, just skeptical) or they're tiny, and still only getting 40 if you're nice. Diesel seems much more efficient. Maybe I'm just dreaming...
We bought our Odyssey new in 2004 because it was too expensive to drive the Suburban around town. The fuel mileage on it is still around 25mpg even after 320k miles. Our 2020 Odyssey gets about 27mpg (45k miles.) Older minivans aren't much less efficient than newer ones.

Diesel here is $6.00, RUL is $5.00. Our NB gets 40mpg, and at those prices it costs the same as a gasser that gets 33mpg. Yes, fuel prices will change, but diesel has been more expensive than gas for quite a while.
 

AndyBees

Top Post Dawg
Joined
May 27, 2003
Location
Southeast Kentucky
TDI
Silver 2003 Jetta TDI, Silver 2000 Jetta TDI (sold), '84 Vanagon with '02 ALH engine
Yes, fuel prices will change, but diesel has been more expensive than gas for quite a while.
I've been driving VW diesels over 42 years. Diesel prices, on average, went above RUG during and right after Katina in 2005 which was also about the same time EPA regs kicked in requiring 15 PPM sulfur vs 500 PPM............... Right now, my 2003 Jetta is costing me between 11 and 13 cents per mile for fuel. ($5.799 / 50 mpg = 11.598 cents per mile). It constantly gets 50 plus MPGs ........... average mixed driving!
 

dieselfanboy

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Location
Nevada
TDI
None...yet! :D
You guys are helping me a lot. I'm tempted to go minivan, but I think I'd have a lot more fun working on a VW ;)
 

dieselfanboy

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Location
Nevada
TDI
None...yet! :D
I've been watching the market closely in our area, and a 2011 Jetta (Maybe Sportwagen? Not sure how to tell. It has the hatchback.). It's got the TDI auto transmission just came up for sale. It has 141k miles on it, and the guy is asking $8k, but he said he'd give it to me for $6k this weekend. What would you guys do? He said he gets 40mpg city, 45 highway. I'm very tempted to pick it up. Any reasons not to?
 
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Mongler98

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
COLORADO (SE of Denver)
TDI
98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
Why not get a Euro Van and put a TDI in it or get one with one already in TDI config if you can find them.....
$500 for a used engine dropped on the sub frame with everything you need.
$5 to $7 grand for the van.... another 2 grand in make it work stuff and what not.
or just pay the 12k if you can find a TDI van. BUT i can say that they are just as unhealthy of a relationship as a mk3 vr6.... they suck.
 
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