My Volkswagen GTI has been a nightmare and I need to replace it. Which car should I buy?

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Picture: VW

Alex lives in Chicago and bought a 200,000 mile GTI during the pandemic. His maintenance and repair costs are more than what he paid for it, so it’s time for him to cut his losses and move on. He has a budget of $ 10,000 to get something that is this fun, but that won’t be a drain on the wall.

(Welcome back to Which car should you buy? Where we give real advice to real people on buying cars. )

Here is the scenario –

TL / DR: I bought a VW GTI trash can during the coronavirus and it’s too expensive to maintain, but I love driving it! What am I replacing it with?

We’re usually a one-car family (Chicago city residents), but I bought a second car during the pandemic when my teacher wife returned to teach in person in the classroom. Driving is the only reasonable option for her, so she takes our main car. I am an interior designer in a small office so the safety of working in person is manageable. Taking the train with the rest of civilization was not manageable so I needed another car.

I did a bad job, however. I bought a 2008 VW GTI with 200,000 miles for about $ 2,600 and then spent about four times as much on maintenance over a 6 month period (this includes a really bad pothole impact which has destroys half of the suspension). It is now clear that this car had not been serviced at all, and anything that I did not replace looks set to fall apart soon.

We’re going to sell this car, but the Delta variant means everyday commuting is still tough, especially when the weather gets cold and I can’t bike that much to get to work. Plus, I really enjoy driving the GTI! So, do I get another GTI? What should I spend to get a more reliable example? Is there another car I should consider?

Fast facts:

Budget: up to $ 10,000

Daily driver: Yes

Site: Chicago, Illinois

Wants: Fun, manual, fairly reliable

Will not : Another financial pit

Expert 1: Tom McParland – Older and Expensive, But Probably Worth It

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Photo: Craigslist

Alex, you may have noticed through various WCSYB articles that the GTI is generally the correct answer. I will even go that way until to say that for most people, a GTI is a better answer than a Miata, but there are cases where the GTI is the wrong answer. You seem to have figured this out with an example from 2008 pushing 200,000 miles. To this $ 10,000 at this price point it will be a challenge to find something so fun to drive, without the same level of reliability risk.

By a stroke of luck, a fantastic Honda is available in your market. This is a 2001 Honda Prelude. Yes, this car is twenty years old and the seller wants $ 10,000 of it. However, it is only about 80,000 miles and appears to have been very well maintained. There are a few tweaks, although nothing looks weird or seems like a red flag. These preludes put out around 200 horsepower, similar to the GTI, but you’ll have to activate the VTEC at the highest revs to really feel it. The engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox which was in fact oone of the best levers of sensation of the time. And unlike your current GTI, this Honda probably has a lot more life.

Expert 2: José Rodríguez Jr. – Mazda’s Hot Hatch

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The GTI or Miata are usually the answer in situations like these, Alex. The GTI came out, although I will say your budget might still be within reach to fix your current car and make it as reliable as you want it to be. But if you’re bored of the GTI and want a change, think about this 2008 Mazdaspeed3.

This Mazda hatch is closer to your VW than that of Mazda Miata in terms of approach to driving pleasure. You may have needed a hot hatch from the start; Yesou just got it wrong at the start! It’s as close as you can get to the front-engine, front-wheel drive formula of the GTI in a car from Mazda.

The ’08 Mazdaspeed3 is in your city, and within your budget. It comes with a rebuilt engine. It deserves a good discussion with the previous owner. I would like as much information as possible to avoid more money shenanigans, but if the execution of the engine rebuild matches the excellent condition of the interior of the car then you will have a hatch that has just taken over a new life.

Expert 3: David Tracy – Give your ride a little soul

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First of all, let me laugh a bit at your plight, as it mirrors that of so many Volkswagen owners of the time. Things are just absolute crap boxes, to the point that it’s now a common joke in the car world, even though I can feel your pain.

Either way, you’re commuting around town I guess so you’re unlikely to find yourself on smooth canyon roads, which is why having a fast, maneuverable car really shouldn’t be the priority. . If you don’t want an electric vehicle for maximum efficiency (and probably solid reliability), but want something really fun for commuting around town, I suggest something with soul – something that will put a smile on your face even on grid roads. Something that, even if you’re only doing 10mph behind a long line of Uber and Lyft Toyota Camry, you enjoy.

You should buy an old car. Something simple bone that will never die, and that you can mend with a flathead and a pair of vise. Do not spend the $ 9,900 requested by the seller of the Chevy truck above Facebook market; it’s too much money. But this type of machine is what you should buy. Find something that’s already made up if you don’t want to tinker around (the truck above clearly needs a little love), then enjoy the airflow through those shift windows; take your wife on a romantic date with a weekend drive-thru movie and share popcorn on this bench seat; Shift through these three gears on the ground to add a bit more spice to your traffic jams.

It won’t be the most comfortable, but the the trips will feel special. It might not be what you want, but I am will always suggest pleasure over practicality.

Expert 4: Mercedes Streeter – Reliable And Sporty

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Let me start by saying that I know how you feel. Inexpensive, high-mileage Volkswagens are alluring, and it’s easy to end up with a money pit that is always in a “service position”.

This 2001 Toyota MR2 could be the perfect car for getting around Chicago. It features a rear-mounted 1.8-liter 1ZZ-FE four-cylinder that makes 138 hp transmitted through a manual transmission. Despite the power deficit, the MR2 reaches 100 km / h as fast as your GTI, and despite some potential catalytic converter and fuel oil combustion problems such as Kevin Williams of Car Bibles writes, is a fairly reliable machine.

As you know, we face a lot of temperature variations in this area. It looks like one day might be 80 degrees while the next might be 30. The MR2 is ideal for those hot days where you might be throwing the top and enjoy a going down Lake Shore Drive, or for cold days with the roof down (just put on snow tires in winter). Ta MR2 is a small car, which makes it easy to park in town which is a big problem.

Here’s one a short drive into Michigan for $ 7,900. They say it needs minor work, but I bet it will stay out of the store for a lot longer than your GTI.

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