Reader Enlists Ray's Help in Choosing the Better Car

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 28, 2017

Dear Car Talk:

I'm taking advantage of the VW buyback, selling my diesel car back to VW. If I decide to give VW the benefit of my loyalty and stay with its product, it has two cars on the lot I am considering. One is a brand-new, 2017 fully loaded Passat for around $26,000. The other is a 2012 certified used Touareg with 52,000 miles -- also fully loaded, for the same price. Which do you think is the better choice? -- Stefan

The Passat. It's brand new. It comes with a warranty. And you can get the Passat with at least some of the modern safety features that we strongly recommend to all of our readers.

You should be able to get a "loaded" Passat with blind-spot monitoring and at least low-speed automatic emergency braking. Those features save both lives and sheet metal. We also strongly recommend high-speed automatic emergency braking to anyone buying a new car, but unfortunately that's not available on the Passat yet.

The Touareg, on the other hand, will have none of that stuff. Plus, the Touareg has had very questionable reliability over the years, with lots of complaints about its electronics. In fact, our very first introduction to the Touareg, years ago, started ignominiously: The manufacturer left a test version in our driveway, and when we went out to start it, it wouldn't start. We figured the battery had died, so we got out the jumper cables and popped the hood -- no battery.

Turns out the battery is in the back, in the cargo area. So we went to open the rear hatch to jump the battery, and the lift gate wouldn't open because -- the battery was dead. So VW had to come and drag it on four locked tires out of the driveway, and flatbed it back to the dealership for repair.

And even now, when a Touareg comes into the shop, all my guys run and lock themselves in our one-stall men's room, hoping someone else gets that repair ticket. We're not against good used cars, Stefan. But I'm not sure a 5-year-old Touareg is a hobby you really want to commit to.

The Passat, on the other hand, is brand new and comes with a 36,000-mile warranty on everything, and 60,000 on the drivetrain. Plus it's a nice car to drive, and you can enjoy it until the warranty runs out, and then hope for another buyback.

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