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August 24, 2006

Buying a VW Beetle

14820054_177387bab7_m_1 by Jennifer Simpson

I bought my first car, a twelve-year-old white 1971 SuperBeetle, from my granddad. I loved that car. It was me. It even survived six winters in Chicago, diligently keeping my left ankle warm in below zero weather. My next car was a three-year-old 1991 Pontiac Grand Am. I got a good 10 years out of that Grand Am.  The eleventh year, however, wasn’t so good.  An un-diagnosable radiator problem sent me looking for another car.

I decided on another Volkswagen, a classic, going-back-to-my-roots car. A convertible.  The perfect California car. I even picked out the one I wanted. A hot tamale red 1973 convertible in near pristine condition I spotted in an underground parking garage in downtown San Diego.  I turned to my friend, pointed and said, “That’s my car!”

When I actually found this car for sale online, the actual car I had spotted just days earlier, I was convinced it was fate.  Unfortunately the owner of the car didn’t see it that way, stringing me along until a better offer came through. Every other Volkswagen convertible after that looked like junk: ragged roofs, crusty edges, strange aftermarket steering wheels and bad Mexican paint jobs.  And the ones that lived up to my expectations were well over my budget.

Greenbeetle_1“How about a new Beetle?” my sister asked. Sure, it was cute, and yes they came with amenities like heat throughout the entire car, and air conditioning not to mention power steering, but I resisted. It wasn’t a “real” beetle, but rather a retro mod version of a classic.  And the thought of car payments scared me.

I started looking online anyway, to get an idea of what a used new Beetle would cost. The more I looked, the cuter they looked. They were safer and offered better gas mileage, I told myself.  So I read reports on, and scanned listings on eBay and the AutoTrader before heading to my first dealership looking for a pre-owned certified used car, cyber green, manual shift, a sunroof and some assurance that I wasn’t getting a junker.

The first dealership I shopped had one used Beetle on the lot. It was white, not green, and though I tried (and so did the salesman) to convince myself that white was okay, it wasn’t.  Even a test drive in the zippy little 5-speed didn’t change my mind. It did however, solidify my desire for a new Beetle. It was fun to drive, and had a heck of a lot more pick up than my old SuperBeetle. I left my name and number with the salesman and asked him to call me if he could find a green Beetle.
I never heard from him.

The next dealer I shopped had a green Beetle, that had not passed the 112 point inspection. The salesman, eager to get me into a car, pointed out a nearly new blue Beetle that had just arrived.  It was expected to pass inspection Tuesday, so I arranged to come in then. I wouldn’t buy it if it didn’t pass, but I fully expected to own that car. Blue Lagoon was my color now, and with black leather seats, a sunroof, and low mileage I couldn’t go wrong.  I gave him my name and number.  Before I left work to go to the dealership, I called the salesman to make sure he would be there.  He was; the car was not. I never heard from him again.

The third dealer I went to, well over 30 miles away, didn’t have a green Beetle, but the cheerful yellow one was pretty close.  Until I got there.  I finally realized that if I was going to pay over ten thousand dollars, I was going to get the car I wanted.   I left my name and number, and I never heard from him again either.

WhitebeetleFinally, I ended up at a dealer 50 miles north.  They had the car I wanted. It was actually more than I wanted-- turbo and heated leather seats both of which I swore I’d never use.  And both of which I now would say I can’t live without. 

The best piece of advice I can offer anyone shopping for a new (or pre-loved) car is to know what you want and don’t settle for less. In the three years I’ve had my 2000 cyber green Beetle, I’ve been happy. People smile at you when you drive a cute car, and smiling is contagious.

by Jennifer Simpson
Jennifer Simpson works at, Inc. (  as an online marketing guru by day (or so she likes to tell her boss), and as a writer by night. She is a regular contributor to San Diego Blog and maintains her own blog at

She has written articles for community newspapers featuring local events and people and has published technical articles in national trade magazines.

"Super Chicken to the Rescue," her first (and let's be honest, her only) short story was published as part of a collection of short stories from Mrs. Tanaka's 2nd grade class in Aiea, Hawaii. She is currently working on a creative non-fiction piece entitled, "Reconstructing My Mother."

Jennifer also enjoyed the movie, Little Miss Sunshine, which features a VW bus.

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