Classic VW Beetle Buying Guide
So you are thinking of buying a Beetle? That's good but remember there are millions of them out there so think carefully before parting with your hard earned cash. Before you start to look for the car of your dreams you firstly have to decide how much you are prepared to pay? The next think to decide is what sort of beetle do you like, do you prefer the idea of running a sound early car which, despite poor lights, almost no heating and seemingly a total lack of power, has masses of character and will possibly increase it's value if you look after it? Or does the idea of a McPherson strut suspension, disc brakes and a heater that actually demists the windows sound more like your choice? But if you set your heart on a Karmann-bodied cabriolet, then you can expect to pay a lot more than you would for a sedan version of the bug.
What to look for
Every buyers guide we do starts like this: look for rust! But the first thing you want to look at is the panel between the door and the rear fender, are there signs of rust along the bottom of it? Rot here is a indication of the wheel arch has rotted through in front of the rear wheels, allowing water to enter through the sills. Rust in this area gets into the rocker panels, heater channels and eventually the floor pan as water enters the car. Look down between the running boards and the rocker panels for signs of the outer panel rusting through, waggle the running board and listen for sounds of crumbling metal. Check under the front wing behind the wheel, again rust is very common here and if rusted through it can allow water to enter the vehicle through the heater channels. Thoroughly check the condition of the front beam, the spare wheel well is another weak spot and should be examined, also look at the rubber seal round the edge of the body work for signs of rust or rot. At the rear of the car look at the rear bumper mountings, as they are prone to rust as dirt and salt are thrown up by the rear wheels. While you are under there look at the condition of the body mounting panels adjacent to the top of the rear shock absorbers for corrosion. Open the doors and check the condition at the bottom of the door pillars (right) if there is signs of rot then this can be an expensive job to put right, look under the carpet by the foot well and see if the floor is wet and if the heater channel is rotten. Lift up the rear seat and take a good hard look at the the state of the body down in the corners near the heater channels (left) by the regulator on later cars. Lift up the carpet under the rear window and take a look for signs of rust on the floor of the luggage area. One final check is underneath the battery as this is another favorite area as battery acid eats it's way in to metal
Beetles are as close to indestructible as VW ever got. That's not to say they don't go wrong-just not that often. The biggest problem area is often the steering. Check for excessive play at the wheel and underneath to see if the steering swivel pin mounted on the beam has any play. New pins and bushes are available but can be tough to fit. Brakes are often pretty good and cheap to repair if not. Look for scored discs on late models. Servo brakes were fitted to later beetles; check the servo for leaks as replacements will be pricey. Gearboxes are rarely problematic , even the automatic variety. Just check the CV joints for clonks and wear. Engines in beetles will have had a hard life. So look for oil leaks, smoke and excessive crankshaft movement. 1600cc motors are essentially the same as Beetle units and are cheap and easy to repair. Look for worn carburettors, oil leaks around the pushrods and check for oil pressure. Heater boxes and exhaust pretty cheap to replace on these vehicles. Listen for leaks