The Volkswagen Beetle is a reliable compact car that’s also known for its iconic, signature look. While the Beetle has existed in some form for almost a century now, we’re only going to talk about the New Beetle and the A5 versions that were released in the late 1990s onwards in this article. Despite the Beetle being a well-loved car, the production of its A5 version was finally halted in 2019. If you’re interested in driving a 2019 Beetle, the five-year depreciation rate of this particular model year is 40%, according to CarEdge.com.
Are Volkswagen Beetles Reliable?
The Volkswagen Beetle is a reliable compact car. In fact, RepairPal.com gives this model a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0. Despite this above-average reliability score, the Beetle ranks 24th in RepairPal’s lineup of 36 compact cars.
The average annual cost of maintaining a Volkswagen Beetle is about $610, which is a little over the average for compact cars ($520) but less than the average for all vehicle models in general ($650). You may need to bring this model to the shop for major repairs around 0.4 times per year, which is around the average for compact cars (0.3 times per year).
Top Volkswagen Beetle Problems
Despite being a reliable car, the Volkswagen Beetle has a few serious issues that potential owners need to be aware of. Below are some of the most common Volkswagen Beetle problems:
Engine failure is one of the top 2013 Volkswagen Beetle problems, according to CarComplaints.com. According to one of the affected owners, they brought their vehicles to the shop regularly for maintenance and repairs. One day, however, their vehicle stalled and stopped working. The mechanics who diagnosed the issue said that the timing chain failed, causing severe damage to the engine. On average, it took the owners an average of $19,500 to fix this issue.
One owner said that there was a litigated settlement from Volkswagen regarding the timing chains on 2013 Beetles. According to TimingChainLitigation.com, the settlement was granted final approval on December 14, 2018. This settlement covers certain 2012-2014 Beetles and Beetle Convertibles, as well as other Volkswagen and Audi models.
Faulty Power Locks
While not as serious as engine failure, faulty power locks are definitely annoying and can be inconvenient for affected owners. According to an affected owner on CarComplaints.com, their power locks malfunctioned intermittently. When the mechanic replaced some faulty latches on their vehicle, the power locks worked perfectly again.
Faulty Power Windows
Faulty power windows are the most reported 2009 Volkswagen Beetle problem on CarComplaints.com. According to one of the owners who encountered this problem, the windows on their 2009 Beetle made grinding noises and got stuck as they were being rolled up or down. After replacing the window regulator, the owner experienced the same issue again in the middle of winter. All the other affected owners had similar stories. On average, owners encountered this power window problem at around 65,000 miles and it took them about $760 to fix.
Volkswagen released a technical service bulletin (TSB) to address the Beetle’s glitchy power windows on January 24th, 2014. TSB #TT 64-14-02 contains diagnostic procedures and service tips to fix the power window issue. There are no recalls for this specific issue, but some Beetle owners on forums tried to file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) back in 2009.
Headliner Falling Down
While this is a comparatively minor issue, it was definitely annoying for the owners who experienced it. According to the reports, the owners encountered this issue at approximately 50,000 miles. One owner complained that the dealership asked for $300 to have the issue fixed, so he just put construction adhesive on the sagging material to temporarily patch things up.
Annoying as it is, this isn’t the only 2006 Volkswagen Beetle problem. This model year was actually part of Volkswagen Recall N4 that affected over 1 million vehicles. The issue is that the brake lights could malfunction or remain illuminated even after they were turned off. This could potentially lead to a crash, so Volkswagen announced this recall back in February 2007.
Transmission failure is the worst 2004 Volkswagen problem and the worst Beetle issue overall. According to many of the reports on CarComplaints.com, there was no warning that anything was wrong with the transmission or the vehicle. One owner has reported that their vehicle suddenly lurched as they were shifting from fourth to third gear. This owner said that it felt like the engine was trying to jump out of the vehicle. On average, owners have reported this problem at around 90,000 miles. For many, the only solution was to replace the entire transmission, a repair which cost them at least $5,000.
Volkswagen released TSB #TT37-06-06 back in June 2013. This document contained information on what to do in case the transmission needed to be replaced. CarComplaints.com also has a list of transmission-related TSBs for the 2004 Beetle.
Owners of 2003-2007 Volkswagen New Beetles filed a class-action lawsuit in 2011 about the allegedly defective Tiptronic automatic transmission that Volkswagen allegedly refused to deal with. However, the case was dismissed by a federal judge in June 2013.
Slipping Transmission and Limp Mode
A few owners of 2003 Volkswagen Beetles have problems with their transmission and their vehicle going into limp mode. According to one owner, they knew that transmission issues were a widely reported problem in 2003 Beetles, but their 2004 Beetle had all the same symptoms.
The reports were all the same—the transmission was either hard shifting, jolting into gear, or slipping intermittently. The transmission also leaked after exhibiting these symptoms. According to a couple of the reports, the affected owners spent about $4,000 to repair their transmission. CarComplaints.com lists some of the TSBs released by Volkswagen to address a variety of 2003 Beetle transmission issues.
The 2003 Beetle was also part of a recall that affected more than 75,000 vehicles. Volkswagen announced recall #R6 on April 17, 2008. The issue was that the front air bags may deploy more forcefully than designed in low-severity frontal impacts. This issue increases the possibility of injury to out-of-position front seat occupants and is a potential safety hazard.
Air Bag Light On
Air bags are a vital safety feature of vehicles today. That’s why having problems with this part is a serious matter. Unfortunately, despite being a reliable vehicle, the Beetle has a few air bag-related issues. For the 2000 Volkswagen Beetle, the problem is mainly about a malfunctioning air bag light. According to the affected owners, their air bag lights suddenly illuminated while they were driving. When they had their vehicles checked, the attending mechanics said that the sensors were faulty and needed to be reset or replaced. Needless to say, this issue worried many owners.
Aside from the 2000 model year, 2012-2014 Beetles also had air bag problems. These model years were a part of the massive Takata air bag recall that affected approximately 100 million vehicles around the world. As of writing, Volkswagen already recalled approximately 105,000 2012-2014 Beetles with faulty Takata front driver’s air bags and inflators.
Volkswagen also agreed to a $42 million settlement with U.S. owners over the Takata air bag issue. This settlement covers 1.35 million vehicles that are equipped with the potentially dangerous Takata air bag inflators.
As long as you’re aware of the potential issues you may encounter with the particular Volkswagen Beetle model you’re planning to buy, choosing this car comes with little risk. If you’re looking to buy a used Beetle, research the most common issues with the model that you you’re looking at, and make sure the seller has cleared everything up before you make your purchase.