Final decision - VW or Mazda??

lolo76lolo76 Member Posts: 4
edited December 2013 in Mazda

I've been car-hunting for almost a month now, since my 2005 Honda Accord went to the big highway in the sky... the clutch burned out, on top of a few other issues, so I decided to sell it "as is" for a fair amount of cash.

I pretty much have things narrowed down, but can't decide between two specific choices. A little about my driving habits and wish-list first: I commute almost 40 miles round-trip usually in light freeway traffic (I live in the Bay Area but work odd hours/days), no snow or ice falls here, and I take frequent driving trips to Southern California + occasional Tahoe/Reno trips. I've driven a manual transmission since forever and would like to stay with that, since I just find them to be more fun & like being in control. I don't want anything huge, but do want the extra cargo space of a hatchback, since I have a 47lb dog and large-ish musical instrument to carry around regularly. And if it matters, I am a 37 year-old single woman with no children, who likes to drive as fast as safety/traffic allows. So no "tin can" cars!

My credit union approved me for a loan up to $15K, plus I have another $3K for down payment, giving me a total budget after tax & title of $18K - but I REALLY don't want to spend that much!! So here are the two specific cars (actually on lots nearby) I need to decide between ASAP... comes down mostly to price vs practicality/longevity, since I like how both drive and look.

2010 VW Golf 2-door hatchback, 5-speed manual w/ 30,689 miles - $12,995

2011 Mazda3 s Sport hatchback, 6-speed manual w/ 35,176 miles - $15,777

Both are at big-name car dealerships, and the Mazda is a certified used car (so comes with a limited warranty and inspection). I think the VW is a better deal, but the Mazda might be a better car with longer-term reliability, safety, etc. On the other hand, I've had a VW before ('99 Passat), and absolutely adored it for the first 5ish years... after that it started to have problems, but I've heard the product has improved in the years since. Is that true? Keep in mind that my budget is VERY tight, and that extra $3000 even over 5 years of payments would make a noticeable difference. Is it worth that extra money for the Mazda?


  • lolo76lolo76 Member Posts: 4

    A couple more things to add... I checked the CarFax on both of these autos, and they checked out okay. The VW was a lease return with noted "structural damage" which was apparently fixed, and the Mazda3 was another lease return with clean history. The VW has been on the lot for over 3 months now, and since nobody drives a stick around here, I can probably negotiate for even less than they're asking!

  • crkyolfrtcrkyolfrt Member Posts: 2,345

    Given your tightish budget, buying a used stick can be risky since you have no idea how the original owner(s) drove it. Technically a bad stick handler can take out a brand new clutch in only one day. No exaggeration...unfortunately. But in 'most' (not 6 speed HO Matrix models...they had a weak clutch) clutches (the OEM original) in the right hands can last well over 200, even 250k miles, even with a reasonable amt of stop and go city.

    So since we have a significant potential repair bill if you had to re and re a new clutch prematurely, I think your offer should take that into consideration. I'm not sure on those prices as I'm from Canada, so ask qbrozen or one of the mods their advice on the numbers.

    Also keep in mind that mainstream type cars like the two you are considering do not sell easily when they're sticks, so your offer should take that too into acct.
    Good luck!

  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 187,579

    I'd kick the VW to the curb, if it has truly had "structural damage". There are too many used cars out there to start out that way. Otherwise, I like VWs as well, and that would have been the way I would go.

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  • lolo76lolo76 Member Posts: 4
    edited December 2013
    Thanks for the input! I thought a Golf or Jetta would suffice, since I've owned a Passat (1999) and loved it - but the cheaper models are more in my budget these days. Sooo after driving a few Golfs and Jettas in both stick & auto, a local dealership lent me a 2013 Passat automatic for 24 hours. Guess what? It not only reminded me why I fell in love with the old Passat (which is SO much better than their cheaper models), but it also may have convinced me to get an automatic. Any opinions on a 2012-13 Passat? Thinking it might be the practical choice for me at this stage, seeing as I'm mostly just driving back & forth to work via freeways 90% of the time. And boy is it quiet and smooth!
  • gogogodzillagogogodzilla VirginiaMember Posts: 707
    edited December 2013

    Another thing to consider is the cost of routine maintenance. VWs are pretty expensive to maintain in comparison to Japanese or US brands.

  • lolo76lolo76 Member Posts: 4
    edited December 2013
    That is true... but I found one with only 17K miles, so hopefully it won't need major maintenance for a while! Should also have some warranty left, but not sure how much. Other than that, do you think it would be a better choice than the 2011 6-speed Mazda3?
  • gogogodzillagogogodzilla VirginiaMember Posts: 707
    edited December 2013

    Honestly, I've owned both a VW GTI and a Mazda3. I really liked them both. And they didn't really need much work done on them.

    That said, oil changes for the VW were in the $60 range, while they were in the $40 range for the Mazda. And that carried over to all the major routine maintenance items (ie: alignments, etc).

    Also, in my experience, German cars need to be looked after. If you aren't willing to pop the hood of your car and routinely check your fluids, oil, and belts... then be prepared to pay for it later on down the road.

    As for the Passat... I don't particularly like the current model version. It reminds me more of a Chevy Impala in driving characteristics. But the last model style drove quite nicely.

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