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Unreliable Vehicles to Avoid: Volkswagen GTI

BY: Andrew Giorgi
A man on the side of the road with the hood of his vehicle open

When shopping for a new or used vehicle, it’s only natural to seek out a high-performing and reliable car that will last you for years. Unfortunately, there are some automotive vehicles that, on the surface, seem like an excellent purchase decision, but the reality is much harsher. These unreliable vehicles are more prone to issues and mechanical breakdowns than other vehicles when put to the test of time.

One such vehicle which has received mixed reviews for its reliability over the years is the Volkswagen GTI. While not all GTI owners are guaranteed to experience issues with their vehicle, those considering purchasing one in the car buying process should perhaps think twice.

Learn everything you need to know about the Volkswagen GTI and its unreliability, including how to stay protected even if you already own one.

Common Issues with the Volkswagen GTI

While Volkswagen Automotive may initially strike your mind as a reliable brand, a fact which is true with some of their vehicle models, the GTI is a miss overall. In fact, RepairPal gives the Volkswagen GTI a rating of 3.0 out of 5.0 for its reliability, ranking it 34th out of 36 for compact cars. The reason for this ranking is that there are a number of common issues that impact Volkswagen GTI owners. Some of those issues include the following:

Engine Problems

It should go without saying that the engine is one of the most important parts of your vehicle. Unfortunately, golf GTI owners, along with owners of other GTI models, have reported two common issues with the GTI engine.

The first of these issues is a problem with the timing chain tensioner. This part is prone to wearing quickly, which can result in the timing chain loosening, thus leading to engine failure. The timing chain synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft, allowing the engine valves to open and close properly when driving, which is why the failure of this part is so catastrophic.

The second reported issue with the GTI engine is carbon buildup under the hood. The GTI features a direct injection engine, which is prone to carbon buildup over time. If enough time passes without addressing the issue, this buildup can lead to major performance issues.

Transmission Problems

Moving onto the transmission of the GTI, even the best versions of the model have some reported issues. For those with an automatic transmission, simple gear change problems have been reported over time. Naturally, you want your vehicle to shift properly as you drive, but a faulty automatic transmission can result in a rough ride and even more dangerous outcomes if left unchecked. Those with a manual transmission have reported reverse gear failure most often, along with strange noises emanating from the transmission over time.

Electronic System Problems

The clock spring and sensors are the two main parts of the electrical system on a GTI that have reported issues. When the clock spring fails, it can disable the driver’s side airbag, horn, and potentially some of the steering wheel controls. Recalls have occurred in the past for this issue, but it can still plague some GTI owners.

The second of the two reported issues concerns sensors under the GTI’s hood. The mass air flow sensor and coolant sensor are particularly prone to failure. Should these parts fail, you will immediately notice a check engine light, which will have a major impact on your GTI’s performance. Without proper airflow or coolant moving throughout the vehicle, performance impacts are inevitable.

General GTI Problems

Finally, there have been some general issues reported with the Volkswagen GTI, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Faulty power windows: It has been reported that window failure occurs in many GTIs over time, leaving drivers unable to control their windows
  • Problematic leaks: Oil leaks are the main culprit for this issue, often coming from the camshaft chain tensioner and valve cover gasket, though coolant leaks have also been reported historically
  • Headlight issues: One major issue with Volkswagen GTIs is premature headlight bulb failure.

Volkswagen GTI Maintenance Challenges and Costs

Taking all of the above into account, it’s only natural to be a little wary of purchasing a GTI, regardless of whether it’s a new car or a used car. However, if you are an enthusiast, then you may not yet be dissuaded. This is why looking at the maintenance costs of fixing these issues, as well as general maintenance costs, is so important.

The primary challenges that GTI owners face across different model years are above-average repair costs, higher potential for repairs, and the requirement of specialty parts to make repairs. Speaking to the first point, to show the discrepancy, the total cash price for an average GTI falls at around $25,000, but the true cost of ownership is calculated to be closer to $53,000. Repairs and maintenance combined make up just over $10,000 of that additional estimated cost.

Naturally, as evident from the above, the potential for repairs of a GTI is also higher than other vehicles on the market. However, the GTI often requires specialty parts, given its build, which are more expensive to ship to repair shops, thus adding even more cost to the maintenance of the vehicle. Additionally, none of the above takes into account the fact that there will also be standard maintenance tasks to be handled on the GTI, which adds even more costs to the overall ownership.

GTI Ownership Costs Over Time

Diving a little bit more into the additional $28,000 that makes up the total cost of ownership beyond the purchase price on the GTI, there are some costs to expect. On a five-year scale, you can expect the following average ownership costs:

  • Depreciation is estimated to be around $11,150
  • Taxes and fees come out to around $2,870
  • Financing costs will run you about $4,837
  • Fuel over the five years will cost around $15,881
  • Insurance will break the bank for about $7,151

The remaining amount is the repair and maintenance costs described above. Clearly, given these costs, it’s reasonable to not want to expect to pay that much in the long run. While some of the above costs are more flexible than others depending on the vehicle, the repair and maintenance section is where you can really save money by making a smart purchase decision.

Extended Warranties Are Worth It for GTI Owners

For those who already own a GTI or perhaps simply have their heart set on the vehicle no matter what, consider adding protection. An extended warranty contract can be an excellent way to mitigate the potential repair costs you may be faced with. Extended car warranties work by protecting you against stated mechanical breakdowns, covering some if not all the cost of the repair.

Depending on the type of extended warranty contract on your Volkswagen Golf GTI or general hatchback, you may pay monthly or yearly for the benefit. Certain contracts offered by third-party providers, such as an Endurance Advantage plan, even offer maintenance benefits on a yearly basis, meaning routine maintenance costs will also be covered.

Extended warranty contracts come in all shapes and sizes, with some offering coverage for only the most important parts under the hood, whereas others offer more comprehensive coverage for your vehicle. Reliability ratings aside, an extended warranty contract can be beneficial for any vehicle, even one with high ratings, given the fact that breakdowns can happen at any point. When considering cars to avoid, whether from Ford, Subaru, Volkswagen, Mazda, Hyundai, or some other common brand, think about adding an extended warranty contract for protection.

Making an Informed Purchase Decision

Choosing the right vehicle can make or break your driving experience for the next few years. This is why ensuring you ask all of the right questions during the buying process is important. To that end, here are some crucial items to consider when making your purchase decision:

  1. What kind of car do you want, and what capabilities are you seeking?
  2. What kind of car do you need, given your daily driving habits?
  3. How many people do you carry in your vehicle on an average basis?
  4. Where do you live, and what type of weather patterns affect your area?
  5. What do you do for work, and how reliant will you be on your vehicle?
  6. What is your estimated budget for the vehicle you’re considering?
  7. What compromises are you willing to make during the buying process?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to stray away from vehicles that have a poor reliability rating. In the event you can’t, for whatever reason, think about adding an extended warranty contract to the vehicle so that you don’t need to worry about repairs.

Choose Endurance to Protect Your Vehicle

Nobody wants to find out that the vehicle that’s on the top of their wish list is unreliable, but it’s better to find out now rather than after you make the purchase. Mechanical breakdowns can cost both time and money, leading to annoying headaches in the future. Take the time to properly research any vehicle you are considering purchasing before making the decision so that you know how reliable it will be.

In the event you are already the proud owner of a Volkswagen GTI or perhaps another vehicle that has proven to be unreliable, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Endurance Warranty. Adding an auto protection plan to your vehicle can be a great way to protect against the unknown. Endurance offers customizable vehicle service contracts (VSCs), meaning that you can tailor a plan to suit your unique needs, whether those require only high-level stated coverage or something more thorough.

To learn more about how Endurance can protect you, reach out to our knowledable plan advisors at (800) 253-8203 for a FREE quote. You can also shop online to see your plan and pricing now.

Visit the Endurance blog for more tips on other automotive brands, such as Audi, Honda, Toyota, and Ford, and the best cars to buy for your road trip plans.

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