I recently dropped $2,900 on a diesel car that somehow beat the odds to be dirt cheap: a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI. This wagon wasn’t just cheaper than the Cash For Clunkers Nissan Versa that David Tracy bought, but it’s in great condition with 12 years of service records and extra parts. Here’s another example how there are still some deals in this garbage market.
As you all know, I spend a lot of time looking at high-mileage cars when I could be doing anything else. Cuddle under some blankets and watch Star Trek? Why do that when there’s a deal to be had somewhere? Then again, even my future wife has caught the bug, and she’s almost always looking for some old-school front-wheel-drive GM stuff to drool over.
Back when I first joined Jalopnik, I wrote about my ridiculously high-mileage 2012 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI. The white diesel wagon had just two owners in its incredible 350,000-mile life and was in good shape. I got it in July 2020 for $2,900. It wasn’t a manual, but I couldn’t say no to that price. Since then, it’s served me well and all it’s needed was a dual-mass flywheel.
Just a few weeks ago, I found myself scrolling through Facebook Marketplace, and I spotted another suspiciously cheap Jetta SportWagen TDI.
Listed just three minutes before I tapped, the seller for what would become my car noted a folder of service records since new, 229,000 miles, a clean title and even a spare set of wheels with fresh snow tires. All for the same $2,900 I paid for my other one.
If diesels are your vice, you likely know that these newer Volkswagen diesels are often listed for steep prices regardless of their odometer readings. I’ve even seen salvage title TDIs listed for a couple of grand more than this car.
But you miss every shot you don’t take and I fired off a message. The seller told me that I was the first message out of what would become three hundred. The car was in Grand Rapids, Michigan and she received messages from as far as the tip of Michigan’s mitt.
Grand Rapids was a four hour drive from my Illinois home, and you bet that wasn’t going to stop me.
Upon arrival, I learned that it is in even better condition than my other one. It has fewer dents, less rust and far fewer amateur paint repairs. Inside, the gauge cluster showed fewer miles than advertised at 225,000 miles.
And unlike my other Jetta, this one has not just both keys, but the valet key and the owner’s manual, too.
A test drive revealed no squeaks, rattles or the sounds of a dying flywheel. The only problem is a check engine light for emissions equipment efficiency. But guess what? It also has some Dieselgate warranty remaining so that shouldn’t be a big deal.
The seller thought that the manual transmission made it less desirable, and she priced it for what she wanted for it.
The onslaught of messages proved the former to be wrong. I paid her asking price and drove away with a huge grin.
This wagon is basically the same inside and out as my other one, but it’s so much more fun to drive. And you don’t have to sit in a box of low-grade everything like you would in the Versa.
The shifting isn’t quite as notchy as a Honda, but the gear lever still has a satisfying tactile feel.
Up front is a 2.0-liter common rail turbodiesel four making 140 HP and 236 lb-ft torque.
It drives the front wheels and while the horsepower isn’t impressive, that diesel torque makes a recipe for a good time.
The only problem I’ve run into thus far is with license plate mounting. The holes on the tailgate were drilled in a place that makes no sense. My fix is a bit silly.
I took an old plate, cut it up, then bolted it down. The plate on top uses thumb screws through the other plate’s holes.
Of course, now I have a problem where I now have two of these things.
I’ve pretty much completely stopped driving the DSG after picking this one up, so I’m considering giving it to my fiancée — who recently fell in love with diesel — or letting it go for something spicy. Maybe an Audi S4 with its V8 or an S6 with its V10?
Either way, this car market may seem pretty doom and gloom and a lot of times it really is. But if you wait long enough and don’t care about mileage there are still deals to be had out there.