It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a campus commuter?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am a student who needs a car to get around campus. I am contemplating purchasing a Volkswagen Bug since it is a relatively cheap car that's good on gas. What is the right year to get and what things should I look for in a used bug?

RAY: Well, Joseph, our first instinct was to try to talk you out of getting a VW Bug. There are much better, much safer cars you can buy, even if you just want an old puddle-jumper for getting to class and back.

TOM: But then we realized that you didn't pick a Beetle for mechanical reasons. You're looking for something more than a car. You missed the '60s, didn't you, Joseph? And you feel that by driving a Bug, you'll be able to do a little time travel and share in that experience (you'll be transported back to the days of barbaric, cheap, unsafe cars).

RAY: So if you have your heart set on a Bug, the first things to look for are a body and a frame. Most unrestored bugs are literally rotting away at this point. If the body and frame check out, have the front end thoroughly inspected--the ball joints in particular. You might also look for a Super Beetle, rather than a standard Beetle. The Super Beetle, which became available after 1971, is a little bigger and has a few other modern-day conveniences (like a fan for the heater, and a rear window defroster).

RAY: I wouldn't worry too much about the engine. Oddly enough, old VW engines are pretty easy to come by, and aren't very expensive to buy or install if need be.

TOM: If I were you, Joseph, I'd be most concerned about checking for the proper lineage. Bumper stickers are often the best clue. A McGovern, No-Nukes, Save-the Whales, or Mondale sticker would assure you that you're getting a purebred.

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