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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated Dec. 18, 2023

Older Volkswagen Jetta Overview, Reliability, Possible Maintenance Problems, Overall Pros And Cons

Related: How To Get The Lowest Price On A "Brand New" Volkswagen Jetta

While historically high new and used car prices have forced many car buyers to look for "older" vehicles that may have aged well as a way of saving money, the issues of reliability and dependability have become even more crucial.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta SEL

History has proven that a well-maintained Jetta can last in the 200,000 mile range, and some have done 250,000 - 300,000. But the key is "well-maintained" because reliability is also very dependent on the proper care and driving habits of previous owners.

So here, we'll review the features of several older Jetta generations, as well as possible mechanical issues to be on the lookout for prior to possibly buying one, and then review the overall pros and cons of an older Jetta.

But first, and very importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Jetta

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

And My #1 Price Tip: Please, always get online price quotes at auto sites such as and (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business does amazing things to prices, and it's so easy. It really does make a difference.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.

Sixth Generation (2011 - 2018) Jetta Overview

The 6th Generation Jetta debuted for 2011 and was produced through the 2018 model year. VW took a different strategy here, making this version less expensive and more mainstream in an effort to boost sales.

However, while this is a solid competitor, it sacrificed the upscale interior of previous models and some performance as well. That said, on the plus side this version is again larger than its predecessor and has a roomier backseat. It also worked out some of the mechanical kinks of the prior generation.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta

This production run had few significant changes and can be found in six trims: base, S, SE, SEL, SEL Premium and TDI. The base model is fairly sparsely equipped and even lacks a radio and air-conditioning, although at least it does have power windows and door locks. The S offers an audio system (with a CD player) and A/C along with power mirrors and keyless entry.

Powering both of these lower trims is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers an uninspiring 115 horsepower. You can get a livelier engine by choosing a SE, SEL or SEL Premium model: a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower. These upper trims also have more standard and optional features.

The TDI is equipped like an SE and is powered by an impressive 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine (all 50-state compliant) that's good for 140 horsepower. These can be found with either a 6-speed manual transmission or Volkswagen's DSG dual-clutch automated manual. In addition to its very respectable performance, the TDI also gets outstanding gas mileage of nearly 40 mpg.

2011-2018 Volkswagen Jetta Possible Mechanical Problems

The sixth-generation Volkswagen Jetta, produced from 2011 to 2018, has had a few reported mechanical issues that owners have encountered. These issues aren't widespread and may vary from car to car due to factors like maintenance history and driving conditions. Here are some commonly reported problems:

Transmission Issues: Some owners experienced problems with the automatic transmission, such as rough shifting, slipping, or hesitation. These issues might require software updates or, in severe cases, transmission component replacements.

Engine Problems: There were reports of engine-related issues, including misfires, oil leaks, and premature timing chain wear. These could lead to poor performance, engine noise, or even engine failure if not addressed promptly.

Electrical Problems: Like many modern vehicles, electrical gremlins could arise, including problems with the infotainment system, power windows, or other electronic components.

Suspension and Steering: Some owners complained about suspension issues, such as clunking noises over bumps or uneven tire wear, as well as steering problems, like a loose or unresponsive steering feel.

Cooling System: Issues with the cooling system, such as coolant leaks or overheating, have been reported by some Jetta owners.

Brake Problems: Premature wear of brake pads or rotors, along with occasional complaints about brake system malfunctions, have been noted by some drivers.

Fifth Generation (2006 - 2010) Jetta Overview

The 5th Generation included some particularly fun-to-drive Jettas, especially the turbo and VR6 versions, although we like them all as long as you can find the relatively lower-mileage ones still out there. And having driven many, frankly, we think of them as sort of a "cheaper" BMW, meant in a very positive way. Just an outstanding drive with excellent handling and plenty of oomph.

Volkswagen Jetta SEL (2008)

As said of these older models back in their day, "The Jetta offers a near ideal balance between ride and handling, and premium cabin materials make it one of our top recommendations to small-car buyers".

This production run had been enlarged from a compact car to a midsize and produced a ride that was smooth and quiet, yet still quite performance capable. There became plenty of room for passengers in the back seat and the fit and finish of the interior features definitely added a more "premium" feel.

The Value Edition and 2.5 models are powered by a 150-horsepower 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine. This is a significant improvement from earlier base models and are still very well equipped. For better gas mileage, the TDI trim has a 100 horsepower 1.9 liter diesel engine which boosts mpg into the 30's.

Car Buying Tips:

Learn to Negotiate Low Prices

Do This For The Best Trade-In Price

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Used Car Reliability Ratings

Stepping up to the 2.0T or GLI most certainly ups the "fun factor". Both are powered by a direct-injected 200 horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with quite amazing torque band, while still getting better fuel economy than the base engine. However, it's the tighter suspension and quicker steering provided in the GLI that really makes better use of the turbo engine.

It should be noted that for the 2008 model year, Jetta models were changed to S, SE, Wolfsburg (with the 2.0T engine) and SEL choices. Power in the base engine was boosted to 170 horses, while the GLI became a seperate model. Also, more standard equipment was added for 2009 (including stability control, heated seats and heated washer nozzles) and also improved the optional navigation system.

The 2009 model year also provided the only opportunity for getting the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine in the Sportwagen (with the SEL trim), while for 2010 Volkswagen upgraded the interior and also offered the sport-tuned TDI Cup "Street" Edition.

2006-2010 Volkswagen Jetta Possible Mechanical Problems

The Fifth Generation Jetta had a somewhat mixed reputation for reliability. Overall, this generation has earned average to slightly below-average reliability ratings compared to its class competitors. It's important to note that not all owners experienced these issues, and many had relatively trouble-free experiences.

Areas to check before buying include:

Transmission Issues: Owners reported problems with the automatic transmission, such as rough shifting, hesitation, or in some cases, complete failure.

Electrical Problems: Like many modern cars, the fifth-gen Jetta had occasional issues with electrical components. Problems with power windows, door locks, and the vehicle's electronic systems were reported by some owners.

Suspension and Steering: Some drivers complained about problems with the suspension system, including issues with struts, shocks, or tie rods. Steering issues, such as a loose or imprecise feel, were also reported by a few owners.

Engine Problems: There were reports of engine-related issues, such as oil leaks, premature coil pack failures, and occasionally, problems with the timing belt or chain. These issues could lead to poor performance, rough idling, or even engine failure if not addressed promptly.

Brake System: Premature wear of brake pads or rotors was reported in some cases. Additionally, a few owners experienced problems with the brake system, such as ABS module failures or issues with the brake light switches.

Fourth Generation (1999 - 2005) Jetta Overview

These are obviously getting harder and harder to find in good condition and with lower miles, although they turn up from time to time.

It should be noted that throughout this production run, front seat-mounted side airbags were standard, while full-length side curtain airbags weren't added until 2001.

2003 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8T

Like the Fifth Generation, this is an entertaining car to drive with very good build and feature quality. However, the base 2.0-liter engine during this generation was not particularly lively and offered only average fuel efficiency.

Because of this, the Jettas equipped with the very capable turbocharged 1.8T four-cylinder make a better choice. This engine was available in the sedan beginning with the 2000 model year and in the wagon beginning with the 2002 model.

Also of note for older Jetta shoppers, power on the 1.8T was increased from 150 hp to 180 hp in 2002. And for those wanting still more, the VR6 engine was available initially with 174 horses and then boosted to 200 for the 2002 model year.

For 2004 and later, the sportier Jetta GLI, with its firmer suspension and sport-biased body revisions, also was offered with this engine. GLI models can also be found equipped with the 180-hp 1.8T engine.

The Jetta TDI diesel sedan was also available throughout this run and the diesel wagon was produced for the 2002 - 2005 model years. The power output of the 1.9-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder was increased to 100 hp and 177 pound-feet of torque for 2004 (from 90 hp and 155 pound-feet).

1999-2005 Volkswagen Jetta Possible Mechanical Problems

The 4th Generation Jetta was generally known for its solid build quality, but it has had its share of reported mechanical issues. Some common problems reported by owners that should be inspected include:

Electrical Issues: Various electrical gremlins were reported, such as problems with power windows, door locks, interior lights, and dashboard displays.

Transmission Problems: Owners reported issues with the automatic transmission, including rough shifting, hesitation, or occasional failure. Manual transmissions have been generally more reliable.

Engine Reliability: There were some reported issues with engine components, including coil pack failures, timing belt concerns, and occasional oil leaks.

Suspension and Steering: Some drivers complained about suspension-related problems like issues with struts, shocks, and ball joints. Steering components occasionally experienced wear or problems as well.

Brake System: Premature wear of brake pads or rotors, along with occasional issues with the brake system, were reported by a few owners.

Despite these reported issues, many fourth-generation Jetta owners had positive experiences and found these vehicles to be reliable, durable, and enjoyable to drive.

Overall Older Volkswagen Jetta Pros And Cons


Lower Purchase Price: Obviously, older models tend to be significantly cheaper than newer ones, saving a substantial amount of money upfront. However, this savings has to be weighed against the increased risk for possibly higher maintenance and repair costs going forward.

Potentially Lower Insurance Costs: Insurance premiums for older cars tend to be lower than for newer models, potentially saving money on insurance.

Lower Depreciation: Older cars have already experienced most of their depreciation, so they might hold their value better compared to newer cars that depreciate quickly.

Easier Maintenance and Repairs: Older cars often have simpler technology and are easier to work on, which can result in lower maintenance costs, especially if you're inclined to do some repairs yourself.


Higher Maintenance Needs: Older cars typically require more maintenance and are prone to more frequent repairs due to wear and tear. As a result, ongoing maintenance costs might add up.

Reduced Fuel Efficiency: Older models might not be as fuel-efficient as newer cars due to advancements in engine technology.

Safety and Technology: Older cars often lack more modern safety features as well as the advanced features found in newer vehicles, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) or modern connectivity options.

Potential for Rust: Depending on the region and climate, older Jettas may be prone to rust.

Lastly, Suggestions For Getting The Lowest Jetta Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" Jetta if the price was really good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Car. This works just phenomenally well.

And checkout our Facebook page for more tips, car news and fun.

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