1999 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T from North America
To buy or not to buy? Here's the answer
Various front suspension repairs. Costly (very).
Transmission electronic component. Not so costly, under warranty.
Various door/windows actuators. Very costly to repair and in parts. Typical issue.
Ignition coils. Expensive and typical issue.
Other glitches, mostly electrical that are often time expensive to repair in labor time and parts.
Front brake rubber (flexible) fluid lines cracked and broke while braking on the highway. The vehicle totally lost its braking power; managed to slow down using the hand brake. If you notice the front flexible brake lines to be slightly cracked at their lower end (where they connect to the brake caliper), replace immediately. This is the same for all 6-7+ year old vehicles.
This is a comfortable car, best suited for highway driving. It's economical (on the highway), very comfortable, including for tall persons, and the driving position is perfect and extremely well designed. The driving pleasure is relatively good, but again, especially on the highway. The car has some character about the driving feeling, and generally speaking it's very well balanced and put together.
Mechanically speaking, the engine and the transmission in this car are generally problem free. Some other components of the vehicle are also built to last.
However, there are some specific expensive components in the VW that are not built to last. Those include suspension components and several parts (actuators) that involve electronics. Please note that there are many suspension components, and quite a few electrical parts, so do not think there are only 2-3 parts that are going to break.
Do not buy second hand if you are going to have the repairs done at the VW dealer. I repeat, do not. Buy it only if you have a local mechanic specialized in European imports. It has to be specialized, because the labor on this vehicle is very specific. There are a lot of things that are very hard to figure out how to replace, compared to other vehicles.
If the car has been regularly serviced, the suspension components are OK, and the doors and windows actuators have been repaired (they usually fail after 7-8 years), this might be a good buy. I would suggest not to buy a vehicle that has more than 100K miles, or at least do not pay too much for it, say $2000-$3000 over that mileage.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 3rd July, 2013
Your pretty much are right on the money, although I might question some of the repair intervals, as being overly lenient. I've owned both a late '80s Audi and late '90's VW Passat TDI. The TDI definitely had the best engine mechanically. The window and door mechanisms on both were ridiculously poor designs. Failed multiple times in under 200K miles. Electronics were more like Lucas than what VAG touts as German Engineering. Unless they are really proud of failures?
The dealer I originally bought my Passat from was the only good VAG dealership I have ever dealt with. All others were just a money pit. I eventually ended up doing all the work myself; at least then I was only getting ripped off for the part cost. And there are various online sources for genuine VAG parts, that are slightly cheaper than dealers. And yes, specialized shops are probably your best bet otherwise. But expect to pay well for the repairs.