Who hasn't heard of the VW Beetle? This "people's car" was the original Volkswagen and has been an advertising tool, film star and free love icon. Whether you hanker after the original Bug or the new Beetle cars, here is a little help and advice to make your purchase easier.
The original Beetle
The history of the Beetle is far too long to do justice to in this article. We'll concentrate on the basics that you need to know when buying these classic cars. Some of the millions of these that were made are now over 60 years old, so you cannot expect them to drive, handle or be as reliable as a newer car. The characterful air-cooled engines in these cars are wonderfully simple to work on. This means that, although you shouldn't be too worried about buying one that needs some mechanical work, there really is no excuse for the previous owner not keeping it in top condition. Rust is the major Beetle killer. Key areas to examine carefully are the front bulkhead, the A pillars and the heater channels. This doesn't mean that the other areas of the car should be overlooked on the assumption that they'll be ok. Beetles can and do rust everywhere: Floor pans, front boot floors, wings, all these need to be checked. The key areas are the ones that are extremely difficult to repair correctly and, if you can find one on which these are solid, buy it because they are very rare.
The new Beetle
1998 was the year that saw the VW group release the new Beetle. Based on the MkIV range of Golf cars, the new addition was an instant hit. Such impact did it have that VW dealers struggled to fill orders for some considerable time. Buying a used Beetle still requires care, as it hasn't been without it's faults. If buying an automatic version, it is absolutely vital that you check the service history for evidence of repair or replacement. These units fail within very small mileages and the problems are well-known within the trade, so accept no excuses for lack of documentation. Other problems are more to do with electrical "gremlins", for example the need to carry out a dealer reset if the battery is flattened or changed. Watch, as well, for expensive VW servicing charges for apparently simple items. The design of these cars means that access is awkward, so check the cost of the labour as well as the parts before giving the go-ahead. Finally, if in the market for a convertible, check the roof mechanism works correctly in every way (including the associated window lifts), as these are notoriously unreliable.