Having been with my wife since we were 16, I been involved with her full car history and the bad luck she’s had with them.

1. 2001 Nissan Sentra - 3 years

This one may have been the most reliable of the bunch. A first car from her parents, it served her well without much of an issue until she was a sophomore in college. I don’t recall why they got rid of it, if there was an issue or if her parents just wanted her in a more substantial car for her long drives to and from college.

2. 2006 Nissan Maxima -2 years


Her parents bought her this car since it was the best bang for the buck. A big Japanese luxury car for a good price. It had all sorts of creature comforts, heated steering wheel, leather everywhere, nice cushy ride. Overall my only complaint about the car was gigantic and had a god awful turning radius.

This car had its AC compressor go out around 80,000 miles so we had it replaced. Not long after that, while braking from 55 on dry roads the ABS started kicking in. This went from an occasional oddity to a common occurrence in not too long of time. We took it into the dealership who explained the ABS module had gone out and would be about $2,000 to fix. After doing some research I learned that water would build up in the hubs and rust out the speed sensors. This confused the ABS module which then wore itself out. With the ABS out and the recent AC fix all under 90,000 miles, the confidence in the car was low so they decided to trade it in.


3. 2005.5 VW Jeff’s 2.5L - 1 year


After plenty of resisting, I finally talked her into looking at a VW. I knew it was a good blend between affordable and also a step up in feel from other cars in the price range. There were a few warning signs that should have scared us away, but we were young and inexperienced car buyers so we went with it at 79,xxx miles. They always say not to buy the first model year of a car, this one is the poster child for it.

While driving it the 5 miles home, the check engine light came on. It was something having to do with the catalytic converter. Having been driving a VW myself for six years, I knew exactly what to do. Clear the check engine light and see if it comes back. Stupidly, I did that before I realized that the warranty on emissions systems runs out at 80,000 miles. The check engine light didn’t come back on again until 82,000 miles. There was also a loud rattle from the rear. Turns out the cat disintegrated internally. We had an aftermarket one installed with the guarantee it’d perform like oem. We were stuck with an exhaust whistle from then on because of different internals.


About a year after purchasing it, she came home and said the car was running really rough and the check engine light was flashing. Those of you familiar with the early 2.5s know where this is going, the timing chain stretched and jumped a few teeth. Stupidly, I decided to limp the car to the dealer rather than getting a tow, it somehow made it without grenading. It’d be $3,000 to repair. We had no interest in keeping that car.

4. 2011 VW Golf TDI - 2 years (still own for now)


Since I don’t learn from my mistakes, I was still devoted to VW. I always loved the diesel Golfs and it’s the car I would have bought for myself if I didn’t want a sports car. So when she said she loved it, I was overjoyed. Great mileage, great practicality, and great resale value. We bought it CPO, I figured 2 years, 24,000 miles would be enough time to get a feel for the car’s reliability. It was pretty much trouble free until it was 4,000 miles outside the warranty. Now the AC is out during our 90 degree Midwest summer. I’m sucking it up and fixing it myself since we can’t make it to fall without AC.

We’ll see what we do with the car when the buybacks and recall work (if any) start rolling in this fall. Any other car won’t have the combination of practicality and gas mileage, nor will it have the great DSG gearbox. I love that transmission, even if it expensive to service every 40k miles. But if the numbers that have been released are accurate, we’ll get pretty much exactly what we paid for it two years ago back.