I'm buying my first car: Scion or Beetle?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2005

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am 25 years old and buying a car for the first time in my life, and I live in a city. I am trying to decide if it would be better to buy a new Scion xA or a Certified Pre-Owned Volkswagen Beetle. I have no experience in fixing cars or knowing how to identify a good used car, so buying a random used car from somebody intimidates me, and could be costly. I have heard good things about VW's Certified Pre-Owned program, though. The purchase price of the Scion xA is within my budget, but as with any new model, I'm concerned about what long-term problems it might have. I like the design and handling of both cars equally. Which would be the better buy? -- Melissa

RAY: I'd lean toward the Scion for you, Melissa.

TOM: The key, to me, is that you have no experience owning a car, and therefore you want something as simple and trouble-free as possible.

RAY: You can't get much more trouble-free than Toyota, which makes the Scion. We drove the xA and loved it. It's a perfect little car for a city. It's economical, fun to drive and even pretty versatile. It's got four doors, plus you can open the hatchback and fold down the rear seats, and move your stinky futon sofa every September for the next few years until you settle down.

TOM: The main advantage of the Volkswagen is that it's undoubtedly a safer car in an accident, being 500 pounds heavier and generally more substantial. However, VW has had a poor reliability record over the past half-dozen years. And buying a used one means you're almost certainly going to have to deal with fixing stuff.

RAY: Whereas the Scion is not only more reliable, but it's brand-new and comes with a new-car warranty. So you're all set for the next three years -- actually, five years, on the major engine components.

TOM: Our one requirement is that you get the optional side air bags and side-curtain air bags, Melissa. Unfortunately, they don't come standard on the Scion, and your parents wrote to us and made us promise to insist. But with that addition, the xA should be everything you need.

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