Volkswagen Beetle has had a long and colorful history from its inception to its discontinuation in 2019. Beetle has large popularity in Europe, South America, and the US. Even though the German factories shut down in 2011, those established in Mexico continued to produce Beetles for another eight years. But just how long do Volkswagen Beetles last?
A Volkswagen Beetle can last for at least 10 years, or 200,000 miles. However, the life expectancy varies, with German-made Beetles having better production and quality control than Mexican-made Beetles for the US market.
Brief History of The Beetle
Volkswagen is generally known for its reliable, albeit slightly expensive cars for the middle class. It was in the 1930s that Adolf Hitler ordered Ferdinand Porsche to create a factory that will produce a car for the people ( Volkswagen is a German word for people’s car). Designed by the same man who made the Porsche 911, it’s no wonder why Beetle remained popular over decades.
However, that was not the only reason why people liked the Beetle. At the time, most car manufacturers in Germany focused on the production of luxury models. The worldwide recession after the war meant that a highly affordable, and cheap to maintain car such as the Beetle would become a primary option for many customers on the booming market.
The shadow of its past didn’t loom over Beetle for long, as the Hippy & Flower Power movement of the ’70s completely changed the way Beetle was looked at. It has also the progenitor model of all dune buggies, as they made for a perfect platform to create a fun beach vehicle.
The New Beetle was put into production in 1997 for the model year 1998. It retained the original styling of the beetle, but the engine was moved to the front. For over twenty years, the New Beetle retained its cool factor due to its unusual design, despite the lack of practicality in comparison to VW Golf.
The VW Beetle vs Competition
Volkswagen Beetles are very reliable cars. They come from the golden age of VW manufacture where simple and reliable systems were a priority. Because of that, even it needs repairs, VW Beetle isn’t very expensive to maintain.
Edmunds has created an ownership cost breakdown for the 2019 Beetle bought new and used for 5 years. I’ve selected the main competitors to a VW Beetle and created a table with the yearly and total cost of maintenance.
|2019 Model||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5||Total Maintenance Cost|
Hyundai Elantra is the only model that has a considerably lower cost of maintenance. VW Beetle is between Honda Civic and VW Golf by a few hundred dollar margins, while the Mini Cooper is drastically more expensive to maintain. The next table follows the same pattern, but instead of maintenance, it displays predictions for the cost of repairs.
|2019 Model||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5||Total|
Edmunds predicts that VW Beetle from 2019 will cost the same to repair as a VW Golf while being more expensive than Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic. Mini Cooper is again the most expensive to repair, due to its poor manufacture quality.
By looking at the two tables from an objective standpoint, Hyundai Elantra is the best choice. However, we have to consider the cool factor of the Beetle, which is in some ways matched by Mini Cooper and Honda Civic. Mini can be immediately eliminated from the competition as it’s $3,000 more expensive in maintenance and repairs when compared to the Beetle, in more so when compared to the Civic.
So that leaves us with two options: VW Beetle, and Honda Civic. The differences in maintenance and repairs are marginal as the exact cost can vary depending on how the vehicle is driven and some luck. Because they’re both vehicles with a cool factor, simply choose the one you like more. Civic is more futuristic and faster-looking, while Beetle has a retro and calm look to it.
Owner Experiences with The VW Beetle
The statistics provided by Edmunds are valuable because the same standards are used for each vehicle. However, it’s important to see what owners are saying about their cars and what their experience with owning a VW Beetle is like.
By 2014, an owner of a Gecko green 2008 Beetle has crossed 99,000 miles with 60% driven on the highway. Aside from regular oil, air & oil filter change, the owner has only replaced a single set of brake pads.
Another owner has driven a 1999 Beetle for 185,000 miles over 15 years, on the original starter, alternator, and clutch. They’ve only had to replace the timing chain and water pump, which is expected, and the air conditioning compressor. They’re still running on the second set of brakes.
Most of the owners are very satisfied with their Beetles, with the timing belt/chain, water pump, and brakes being the only things that need to be replaced before reaching 200,000 miles.
How Expensive is The VW Beetle to Maintain
From the extensive research, I’ve tracked the common parts that need to be replaced on a VW Beetle, as well as the regular service intervals. I’ll list them off in a table for better readability. Overall, the Beetle is very light on maintenance during the first 100,000 miles if it’s using a chain.
The timing belt and timing chain are the most expensive of common maintenance parts. When replacing either, swap out the water pump as well, as the cost of labor to replace the water pump exceeds its value. Clutch and transmission can last 200,000 miles if the transmission oil is changed regularly.
|Component||Replacement Interval||Part Cost||Labor Cost||Total Cost|
|Brake System||40-70k miles||$80 – $130||$90 – $120||$170 – $250|
|Wheel Bearing||60-100k miles||$50 – $150||$160 – $200||$210 – $350|
|Clutch||100k+ miles||$950 – $1,100||$650 – $820||$1,600 – $1,900|
|Transmission||100k+ miles||$1,300 – $3,400||$1,000 – $1,800||$2,300 – $5,200|
|Battery||3-4 years||$150||$0 – $50||$150 – $200|
|Timing Belt||40-80k miles||$300 – $370||$300 – $380||$620 – $750|
|Timing Chain||100-150k miles||$100 – $120||$900 – $1,150||$1,000 – $1,250|
|Water Pump||100k miles||$170 – $280||$340 – $425||$500 – $700|
|AC Compressor||60-80k miles||$580 – $870||$180 – $225||$760 – $1,100|
The VW Beetle Value Depreciation
Despite being officially discontinued, VW Beetle still has above-average value retention in its class. The 2019 model is now a prime offer for a used car, as it’s lost 25% of its value while still being a relatively new car. In fact, any model between 2019 and 2015 is a great choice for a used car, with the cost of a 2015 model being half the original price.
Is a Volkswagen Beetle a reliable car?
Based on the RepairPal survey, VW Beetle ranks above average in terms of reliability and takes 24th place out of 36 compact cars analyzed. Their annual repair cost estimate is $612, above average for its class. However, major repairs are rare, so the majority of visits to the mechanic will involve minor components and regular service.
What problems do Volkswagen Beetles have?
The main disadvantages of the Beetle in comparison to other cars in the compact class are the inferior fuel economy and passenger safety, as well as the lazy automatic transmission. However, most of the problems have been ironed out with the Mexican-made A5 Beetle.
How many VW Beetles have been sold in the US?
Since the release of the A5 Mexican-made Beetle, the total number of sales in the United States has reached 186,616 units. The following table has the yearly sales breakdown:
|Calendar year||Coupe||Convertible||Total Sales|
|2012 VW Beetle||28,654||520*||29,174|
|2013 VW Beetle||25,084||18,050||43,134|
|2014 VW Beetle||17,414||11,768||29,182|
|2015 VW Beetle||13,025||9,642||22,667|
|2016 VW Beetle||9,830||5,837||15,667|
|2017 VW Beetle||8,627||6,539||15,166|
|2018 VW Beetle||8,636||5,775||14,411|
|2019 VW Beetle||7,704||9,511||17,215|
- *2012 VW Beetle Convertible sales figure refers to the original New Beetle Convertible.
VW Beetle is still a very popular car due to its unusual design and interesting history. It might not be the best in terms of safety, fuel consumption, or maintenance cost, but it makes up for it with its style. If you’re still unsure whether the VW Beetle is the right car for you, why don’t you check out our other lifespan breakdown articles for compact cars, and see if you find a better option!