Is Volkswagen a Good First Car? Excellent choice here’s why


For a car to be a good first car, a few things need to be considered. Driveability, cost, insurance, reliability, and safety. Let’s look at how Volkswagen fairs over these points.

A Volkswagen car is generally easy to drive, safe, reliable, economical with relatively low maintenance & repair costs. As such a Volkswagen is a perfect choice for a first car.

When buying or selecting the first car, you want to make the correct choice, you want something reliable but also a bit of street cred. Let’s look at whether a Volkswagen will fit the criteria.

Is a Volkswagen Easy to Drive?

If you are considering buying your first car, you more than likely, up to this point, have been driving a parent’s car. You have your license and are going to take the plunge and buy your own. You want to choose a car that is easy to handle. Easy to park.

A Volkswagen will fit this yardstick. There are several models to choose from within the Volkswagen range. Let’s look at a selection.

Jetta:

The Jetta is also a good choice but to me is about mom about town car. It depends who’s buying the first car, you or a parent. I suspect if my 17-year-old son were choosing, he would pick the Golf, and I would select the Jetta! However, it has had an overhaul and now includes an infotainment screen across all specs, including the basic S.

The automatic is a much smoother drive than the stick. This is by no means a sports car, but it has a lot to offer, even on the basic S model.

Golf:

The Golf is a small compact car but has enough comfort and street cred to be a great first car. It has a really sturdy feel to it. From 2022 only the GTi version will be available as new. It has 3 driving settings, Comfort, Normal, and Sport. No matter which you choose, the drive will be smooth.

Both the automatic and stick shift handle well both on the open road and city driving. The compact shape makes it easy to maneuver and park.

Beetle:

The Volkswagen Beetle is an iconic car. It certainly has a charm around town when you see one, and so will be a talking point. The Classic is certainly for a particular driver. It doesn’t have any luxury add ons and only comes in a stick. But the new model has all the accessories.

FWD (Front Wheel Drive) is a major plus for inexperienced drivers as they have more control, especially in inclement weather. It’s quite compact and so easy to park, and easy to drive in the city.

Tiguan:

Everyone wants an SUV. They’re the flavor of the month. And I can understand why. They are roomy, easy to get in and out of, easy to drive, but not at all sporty. The smaller version 1.5l is a better choice for a first-time drive, as it’s a bit punchier to drive, but it may come across as a car you’ve borrowed from your mom.

Cost of a Volkswagen

This is probably the best reason a Volkswagen is a good first car. Well, one of them anyway. They are German engineered and so are very well built and built to last. But they don’t have the enormous price tag of other German-built cars.

Jetta

The best value for money is the Jetta. A new Jetta S (Basic model) starts at $18,895. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but as a first car, it is a good choice. The repayments will not break the bank, and the MPG range is really good for the car’s size.

Golf

The Golf, unfortunately, is on the way out, although the GTi is and will still be available. Lack of sales and the popularity of crossovers in the US has the Golf on a very dodgy life support machine. In saying that, it is a good value at less than $25,000, but as I say, it will be discontinued in 2022. The GTi is an additional $6,000 at $31,000, which is a lot for a first car.

Beetle

The cost of a Beetle is under $20,000. However, Volkswagen has discontinued making the Beetle for the US market since 2019. Many on the second-hand market have low mileage, but it may be wiser to pick a car that is still in production.

At $20,000, it’s good value, but you don’t get as much bang for your buck. You’re paying for the look of the car. To stand out from the crowd. But realistically, it’s all just window dressing. Although it has Apple Pay and Android Auto, the infotainment is not as good as competitors’ models.

Tiguan

The Tiguan price tag is a little heftier at $30-39,000. You need to consider the ongoing monthly repayments and your budget for a car at this price. The higher-spec models come under the luxury car tax, and the MSRP goes up accordingly. Tiguan is a little harder on gas than the rest, which is understandable for a larger-bodied crossover vehicle.

So what kind of money would you expect to pay for 3 or 5-year-old Volkswagen?

The five-year-old cars still carry quite the price tag considering the age, but that’s down to the build and reliability of the car that allows them to hold their value.

Obviously, if budget allows, I would recommend a new car purchase, but this isn’t always possible. Before you purchase any car, I would advise you to check out what your insurance would be with each model. It could be the deciding factor.

The table below shows the average costs:

Model20182016
Jetta (S)$18,000$12,000
Golf$20,000$14,000
Beetle$24,000$21’000
Tiguan $25,000$16,000

Are Volkswagen Good On Gas?

ModelCity/MPGHighway/MPG
Jetta (S)3040
Golf2936
Beetle2633
Tiguan 2329

As said the Tiguan’s larger body being both heavier and less aerodynamic is no surprise the hardest on gas.

Insuring a Volkswagen

As with all insurance, it depends on your age, location, and driver history. As this is your first car, your driving experience is quite limited in the eyes of insurance companies. Young drivers don’t have a great reputation, and so this drives the cost up across the board.

According to Zebra.com, the average Volkswagen insurance is $1548. A Jetta is slightly less than the average at $1400, a Golf is approximately $1600, and a Tiguan is $1700.

As I say, this is dependent on age and where you live. Michigan has the highest insurance costs in the country, where a Golf, Jetta, or Tiguan could set you back $3000. At the same time, North Carolina has some of the lowest insurance costs at under $1,000.

The younger you are, the more expensive it’s going to be. Insurance companies just don’t trust young drivers, and if you are male, they trust you even less. You have to do a probationary couple of years and earn your lower premium.

Is Volkswagen Maintenance Expensive?

VW garage

It would be wonderful if the cost of our new car ended with the purchase cost, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. So apart from the fuel and insurance, we also have to consider the general upkeep of our vehicle. Like how much is a service.

The average yearly service costs for a Jetta, Golf, and Beetle runs at around $600. The Tiguan is slightly more at $730.

These costs include:

  • Oil Change: $128 – $154
  • Spark Plugs: $184 – $252
  • Filters: $64 – $108

Tires also need to be rotated (every 10k miles) and changed every 40k. Tires can cost from $150 each up to $300 each, depending on the make of the tire and the model of your car.

A service is recommended by Volkswagen every 10k miles. As the car starts to clock miles and years, additional maintenance will be required, such as timing chain replacement, oil problems, engine lights showing airbag faults, or faulty sensors.

These are pretty standard on all used cars. If you are considering buying a used Volkswagen, you need to know the full-service history. There is a major flaw in the 2.0 TSI gas engine, the model between the years 2008 – 2013. The timing chain tensioner fails, resulting in engine destruction.

This was a full recall by Volkswagen, but not all cars were submitted, and so not all cars were fixed. If it’s not listed in the service history, walk away from the deal.

Are Volkswagen Safe?

No matter your first car or you’re tenth, you want to buy a safe car. How does Volkswagen fare in the safety standards? Volkswagen scores are continually high in the NHTSA. In 2020 and 2021, the Golf, Jetta, and Atlas scored 5 Stars out of 5.

All models come standard with a full suite of airbags, emergency braking, post-collision braking, pedestrian detection, and blind-spot monitoring. These features are on most new cars today, but Volkswagen also includes as standard Apple Pay / Android Auto to reduce the risk of driver error whilst on the phone.

The Tiguan didn’t score highly for the 2018 -2019 model. During a Side Impact test, the driver door popped, which could lead to a possible driver ejection. This has been addressed in newer models. The Beetle doesn’t fare too well in the IIHS tests, where it only scores Marginal (second-lowest rating) in the Drivers Side Front Test.

Is Volkswagen Reliable?

Volkswagen built their name on reliability, and although they have had reliability issues in recent years, the company still markets itself as a reliable brand. But how good is it actually? Well, according to JD Power, they rank pretty well.

JD Power surveys owners about their cars at 3 years old and rates their performance based on the number of complaints each model had per 100 owners. See the chart for the dependability ratings.

Model 2018 Model Dependability 2017 Model Dependability
Beetle1st5th
Jetta (S)5th4th
Golf11th9th
Tiguan 9th8th

Going Electric with Volkswagen iD4

The last point I’ll mention is the option to go electric. Volkswagen has three different electric vehicles, however, only the iD4 is available in the US.

The iD4 new comes in at a whopping $41,000. It’s a mix between a compact and a small SUV. On the plus side, all new owners get 3 years unlimited charging at Electrify America, eight years battery warranty or 100,000 miles, and 2 years free maintenance. So although an expensive outlay to begin with there are future savings to be made.

In Conclusion

Volkswagen is a good choice for a first car but like all major purchases, it’s important to do your research. Steer clear of recall years and make sure the service history is up to date. The Jetta, in my opinion, is the one to buy but most young people would prefer the Golf, which is equally as good, if not a touch more expensive.

Before buying any vehicle, it’s always worth investing a few dollars to check the VIN number against a database. An audit with a company like VinAudit (links to VinAudit) will guard against Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuilds, Title washing, and Vin cloning.

Check the Edmunds.com Volkswagen link below to see what Hot VW deals are on offer right now, but be warned, I sometimes lose an hour or more to all the eye candy on offer.

Volkswagen

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

Recent Posts