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The Secret to Finding a Cheap Classic VW Beetle

Mary shares experiences from 20 years in the auto industry selling classic cars internationally with her husband.

Herbie VW Beetle

Herbie VW Beetle

My favorite car has to be the old style Volkswagen Beetle. What is not to love about these little cars. I think my love affair started with this car when my mother took us to see Herbie, The Love Bug at the drive in. Watching the antics of Dean Jones and his Beetle started a life long love affair with this iconic car.

For me, it's their simplicity that makes them so special, unlike cars of today where you need a degree in rocket science just to use the radio. I have owned several older style Beetles, both convertibles and hardtops. Each had its own quirkiness but I loved each one.

If you're thinking of purchasing a classic Beetle, there are certain things you need to look for to ensure you don't pay for a pile of rust. Forewarned is forearmed they say, and if you're wanting to find a good car for the right money, then it is necessary to know where to look and where you might find the best value for your money.

Rust on Classic VW Beetles

There are usual places where rust will start. These will be on the runners, bottoms of door seals and along the edge of the hood, but these are just the areas that you can see. Find out where to look for rust on your Beetle.


VW Car repair

VW Car repair

Beetle Engines

If you still don't feel confident enough to know what to look for when buying a classic VW, then you should take a reliable mechanic with you. If the body is suspect, you will also need to take a VW restorer with you. Be prepared to pay for their time. If they advise you to walk away from your find, heed their advice. In the end, the car would have cost you too much, both in money and mental strain to restore.
One of the advantages of a Beetle engine is they are basic and straightforward to repair or relatively inexpensive to replace. However, this cost would need to be considering before making an offer on the car.

It is also worth noting here if you're buying the Beetle to resell, the original engine makes the car more valuable.

VW Beetles on eBay

EBay is a great place to look but it is a good idea to narrow your search unless you plan to drive a long way. Remember if you buy a non-runner, you will need a trailer or have it towed back.

EBay requests you put your zip code in your search details. This will then be used to inform you how many miles away the car is from your area. Most but not all, will have a 'buy it now' price or a 'reserve'. As always with eBay, the items for sale are constantly changing. It is a good idea if you see something you like, place a bid or at least verify the finish date of the auction. Cars are often withdrawn earlier, because they will have had someone click, 'Buy it Now.' and are then removed from the listings.

VW interior

VW interior

VW Beetles From California

Often you'll see a car that is promoting itself as a car from California or from Arizona, where the climate is dry with low humidity. In both of these states you will get solid, normally rust free cars. It's still a good idea to check as mentioned before. It could be from the coastal areas and you could get a problem with salt.

The salt in the air near coastal regions exacerbates the rust on cars. Also if the car is from an area where salt is put onto the roads in winter during icy conditions, this is something to consider. These will all lead to rust.

Other Places to Look for VW Beetles

Although eBay is a great place to look, it isn't the only place. You can also search for a classic VW Beetle in the classified ads of other online sales sites. If you visit car shows you might think that this is an excellent place to buy. Yet again, you could buy there, but it still may not be the best place to look unless you want to pay more than it's worth.
Below, I will tell you the secret about finding a great car, at a great price. With patience and the gift of the gab, you will discover how you can find your perfect car or make some money buying and selling them.

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Classic VW

Classic VW Beetle

Classic VW Beetle

The Easy Way to Buy a VW Beetle

To find a great deal on a VW Beetle, go for a drive on a Saturday or Sunday. People are generally at home, doing chores, and have their garage doors open.
You'll be able to see if they have a classic VW Beetle tucked away. It may be undercover, so you need to develop a keen eye for recognizing the shape under a car cover.

If you see one, stop and strike up a conversation with the person in the yard or near the garage. If this was a car they bought to 'do up,' it could have been sitting there for years. It is a good idea to ensure his wife comes out and joins in the conversation.
Once the wife realizes that she can once again have space in the garage, consider that seed planted.

Ok, I know this sounds a devious way to buy a car, but we women like garage space. Men like to start projects, like woodworking, car restoration, or boat repair. Usually, these end up in the garage, and the poor wife has to stand in the driving rain or snow getting into her car. She will coerce, cajole, and yes even nag, her husband, saying your offer is a sensible one. She will tell him all the positive things they could buy with what you will pay for this piece of unused metal that is currently sitting in her parking spot in the garage.

Your buying team has increased by another very persuasive saleswoman. Always suggest that the better half be present if there is the slightest inkling that the car can be purchased.

If he doesn't want to sell, ask if he knows someone else who has another VW Beetle like his. Often you will find that people who have Beetles may know someone else. This is, of course, just a ploy to get him to understand that you are ready to buy, and he shouldn't miss this opportunity to sell. How often does the golden goose (that's you) arrive on the front lawn wanting to buy something that has been forgotten about for quite some time?

Ask the owner what he thinks his car is worth. He will say, something like, "I saw one at a VW car show, and they were asking $25,000!"

"Really!" you say, "Was that in the same condition as yours?"

He will admit that the other was in better condition.

"What do you think it will cost to do it up to that standard?" you question him, turning the knife even more.

At this point, the man will look at the ground and kick a nonexistent stone. He knows his wife won't let him spend another penny on the car. He'll say, "Yeah, but this is a classic, they don't make them like this any longer." The man is grasping at straws, not wanting to admit defeat.

His wife will be standing next to him, her arms folded tightly across her chest while she glares at him for not accepting your offer. He has already dug his grave, and his wife has already mentally spent the money.

Leave your phone number, with the wife if possible, and make your exit. Your tag team partner, his wife, will start where you left off.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: I've been wanting a 'little classic' like a square back, or a notch. I've never owned a German car and I plan to use it as a daily driver. I also live in Texas, where the actual speed limit is as high as 85mph! What I need to know is can a classic V dub, cruise at that speed, or will I need a custom engine to get all 300 lbs of me up to 85mph?

Answer: I don't believe that a classic VW is right for your needs. They are not fast and by today's standard's not reliable. Because of your weight, if you want a classic German car, I would suggest a Mercedes. You will have a much more comfortable ride. With any classic car though, daily driving may take its toll on the car. This is why people often only drive them on sunny, dry days on the weekend.

Although the classics are beautiful to look at, the motor industry has improved by leaps and bounds making safer, more comfortable, and more reliable cars.

Question: What year is a Volkswagen beetle considered a classic?

Answer: The term is used loosely but it refers to the older style Beetle. The new VW Beetle came out in 1997.

Question: I'm looking to buy a cheap, rusty, classic VW Beetle. Actually I only need the front or rear end. I want to use it as yard decor in my back yard. Where should I look to find such yard art?

Answer: My suggestion would be a scrap yard, or perhaps look for one that has been sitting and rotting in someone's field. They will probably be glad to have you take it away.

Question: Do you know about Samba? Is that website the best place to look for early Beetles and parts?

Answer: If you're referring to the website, yes I know of it. Besides, that site, also online sites like eBay, Craigslist, etc. Even browse the local newspaper (or online) for parts. If you have a junkyard near you, they too could be a goldmine for parts. However, I have notice some traditional junkyards or breakers yards are now selling online.

Question: I have a 1953 VW Beetle that I am trying to find a front drivers side door to replace the one I currently have, any suggestions?

Answer: It could prove difficult. I would suggest looking in the spares section of a classic car magazine either online or in print. Secondly create an alert on eBay so that if one is advertised or someone is selling any parts off, you get a notification.

Also if there is a local VW show, go to it and start asking around. Someone may have one. If you don't feel it has to be 'original', speak with a good welder.

Question: I’ve inherited a 1974 bug that needs restoration. What should I expect to pay? Assuming it’s in decent shape with some rust?

Answer: There are too many variables to answer that.

It will depend things such as:

•your location

•availability of parts

•whether you can do some of the work, mechanical, bodywork, or painting

• condition of the car

Start asking around your area for recommendations of people who can do the work you can't or are unwilling to do.

Then, ask yourself if the restoration is worth the resell value of the car. If not, then you will have to ask yourself if you want to do it for sentimental reasons.

© 2012 Mary Wickison

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