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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. Forearmed is forewarned 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.

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 that 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.

Original or Customized

Now, the question is, do you want to keep it original, or do you want to customize it? This car lends itself to customization, take a look at some of these VW's, and see just how special they can be.

Customization Gone Mad

Some of these customized cars are fun, others are functional, and some are just plain wacky. Which is your favorite?

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

Are you a fan of the classic Volkswagen?

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on February 07, 2020:

I'm sure you'll find the perfect Beetle to suit you. Just be patient and the right one will come along.

Good luck to you.

Darrell Hamilton on February 07, 2020:

Thank you for your insightful share on buying a Volkswagon Beetle cheap. My first experience in ownership occurred in Santa Monica, CA. I bought a 74 from a resident who did her own tune-ups. It was sold for to me for $900.00. I immediately got busy refurbishing the interior seats, the dash. It had the original Porshe engine, and sounded powerful. The simple air cooled engine worked great in cooler climates during the winter months in Southern California. I sold it to pay tuition after fixing it up. The most expensive repair was replacing the front axle.

Years later in Sweden I was shocked to see a few Super Beetles on their clean roads. i wanted one then, but Med school was on the forefront, so I had to let it pass.

The third experience was seeing an elderly couple leave their garage in their 72 Beetle. It was clean and sounded as if it had all the stock parts. They regularly took it out for a drive on Sunday. I thought, 'now that's livin'! A cost saving, reliable source of transportation. So it makes since to look for my own again since I retired.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 02, 2019:

It is something I've never done, so I had a look on the internet. It sounds too complicated and costly to make it a viable option.

Patricia on November 01, 2019:

Can I get an automatic transmission put into a vintage beetle?

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on August 17, 2019:

Hi Nancy,

If you don't feel confident to buy one yourself, pay a mechanic to go with you when you look at it. It will be money well spent. Not only will they know if the engine is sound, but also will be able to advise you about body work.

Nancy Ekelulnd on August 16, 2019:

I am seriously thinking of buying a classic Beetle. I have one that is a 2016 and I love it. How can I get the best deal...no cosmetic and engine trouble.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on September 12, 2018:

Hi Pauline,

Look for local sponsors, business owners etc who want to see a 'festival of VW's'. If you can show them that the volume of people will impact their trade now and in years to come, they may see the potential.

I would also suggest getting the local council involved, perhaps this is the start of something big.

If there are any VW owners clubs, contact them. Include people who do body work, upholstery, anyone whose business could benefit from either VW owners, or those who want to attend the event.

I have been to various VW events, some larger than others and they always bring in a good crowd. Contact surfing organizations, locally and even abroad and see if you can get any interest going.

Promote on the internet, and in local media. Write the copy and include photos and send it to the local newspaper.

Don't forget YouTube, start building an audience of VW fans now.

Pauline Palmer on September 02, 2018:

We started a old in the 60s up VW classic show in jamaica the past 2 years so far we have people from the 14 parishes where we met every august its getting better and better every year we would like to know how we get sponsers to have our classic VW keep going and be remembered?

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on February 22, 2018:

Hi James,

I will tell you now, your location is against finding a junkyard or graveyard car of that age in good condition. Rust is the bane of every classic car and unfortunately in your area cars will have it if left outside.

You have to remember those earlier cars weren't protected in the same ways as cars of today are. Paints, anti-rust treatments, and construction methods of today's cars are far superior to those on older cars.

Don't get discouraged though, people are hoarders and many will have put them into garages or barns. These are your best bet. Keep your eyes and ears open. Strike up conversations with people in your area who are into classic cars. Some people don't regard the VW's as a classic (they are of course wrong) and will casually toss this information to you.

Also, keep money available because when a bargain comes along, you have to move fast. I believe there is someone who wants to be rid of a car which has been stored but doesn't want the hassle of putting it up for sale.

Consider running an ad in your local paper or put a message out to friends on social media in your area. If you are only wanting to spend, $3,000 you don't want to be driving far, as it is unlikely to be running and the cost to tow isn't cheap unless you opt to do it yourself.

Be pro-active and good luck with your search.

James Eckenrode Jr on February 13, 2018:

I need more information old Vw bugs in USA and plus I live in md under 3,000 dollar from 1958-78 junkyard or graveyard let me know thank you

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on December 08, 2017:

You should try Craigslist. Photograph them, and ask about $1,000 each. That will get you some cash and your garage back.

Laura on December 07, 2017:

I have the opposite problem. I have a 1968 vw beetle and a 1970 Karman Gia that are in pieces in my garage. My stepson was "going to fix them up" for the last twenty years. I now need to get rid of them and would hope to get a few dollars from them. Any suggestions?

daniel on July 17, 2016:

thank you for all of the advice I will definitely take it all into consideration, I hadn't even thought about making money from the project. however I really would rather keep the beetle for a long while as it has always been my dream car and it is my first car

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on July 17, 2016:

Hi Daniel,

Congratulations on your purchase. Let me tell you a bit of my background. My ex-husband and I use to buy and sell classic cars and we have owned everything from a Beetle to a Lamborghini. Although I enjoyed an Aston Martin we had, VW Beetles have always held a special place in my heart.

If I could make a suggestion, don't get attached to that Beetle, do it up, sell it, and buy another. You are at the perfect age to learn everything you need to know about them.

Regarding buying one for spares, if you have the space and are committed to doing up your newly purchased one, then okay. Remember though, if you are still living at home, that decision doesn't affect just you but your whole family. Also remember any spares which you don't need can be sold on Ebay.

Regarding the electrical problem you have, I have no idea but we had a similar problem on our VW Kombi that I currently drive. Where I live in Brazil, we have a man who works with electrics and always charges the same, about $3.00. He wired my ignition to the horn button when I had a problem with my ignition. Now it works perfectly. Perhaps your problem is your alternator or a loose fan belt. You have to be a bit of a detective when it comes to cars.

The good thing about VWs is they are simple and once you can get your head around them you could be looking at not just a way to make your own car better, it could be a career or a profitable sideline. I know of a man who does nothing else than doing up and selling VWs in the UK.

In the short term regarding the electrics, have a look on You Tube for a similar problem and their solution. After you learn how to do that, watch a few more. Then let people know that you have fixed yours and you can do the same for them. You will of course be charging them for this. You can't believe how many people do not think to look on the internet to solve their car problems, they simply take it to a mechanic and pay.

Moreover, another thing to consider is to video the work you are doing. Edit it and put it up on You Tube, you could begin to earn a passive income from ads which will be placed on your video. If you are personable and your videos are enjoyable and informative, you will begin to get a following.

Okay Daniel, you are sitting on a wonderful opportunity here. You have a lot of options open to you and it is down to you to educate yourself using the internet. Although your friends may be using their time on social media and other time wasting activities, you can opt to do something different. So many entrepreneurs started at about the same age as you, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Duncan Bannatyne to name just a few.

I wish you the best of luck.

Daniel on June 19, 2016:

i am 16 and am just starting my own beetle project, I bought it for $100, (almost got it for free until mum got involved) I don't know the most about them but am eager to learn, have you got any tips for someone just starting out? also would you suggest buying a second beetle for parts? p.s. the thing ran when I got it but pulls a lot of battery power, so much that it cant run any of the electrics although can when it is turned off. any suggestions there?

thanks also for the buyers guide I found it quite helpful when searching

Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on August 01, 2015:

Hello, Ms. Mary! Reading this hub makes me sentimental because the old-style VW Beetle was the first car my late husband and I had when we were newly married. Now, the car has been passed down to my nephew.

I also enjoyed watching the 1968 version of Disney's "The Love Bug". I thought Herbie was really cool!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on June 11, 2014:

Hi womentips,

They are actually roomy than they appear to be. I drove a Riley Elf for awhile and it made me realize just how much bigger a VW Beetle was.

Wonderful to hear from you.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on May 30, 2014:

I remember playing slug bug, LOL I haven't thought about that in at least 40 years!

I know here in Brazil they have recently stopped making the VW Kombi (van ) but I am not sure about the Beetle or the Fusca as it is known here.

I am also not certain about Mexico. One thing I do know is the quality of the metal used is different. Here the metal used is very thin. Where we live there is a high concentration of salt in the air, and everything rusts. We have had our van welded with a very thick plate of metal to prevent any more rust than necessary.

Thanks for reading and the vote.

moonlake from America on May 30, 2014:

There use to be so many VW on the road the kids played the slug bug game in the car. I heard you could buy new ones in Mexico. I don't know if that is true. Voted up.

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on April 13, 2014:

Hi, Blond Logic,

I soaked-in this story. Very good reading. I voted up and all the way. I am an old VW fan from days gone by. Fact is, I wanted a VW for my first car at age 17.

But with no job at the time, and parents who were working class people, and (I was and am proud of it), that dream vanished into smoke.

Thanks for rekindling a fond memory.

I just left you some fan mail and I meant every word. I am also following you and Cordially Invite you to check a few of my hubs and be one of my followers.

That would make my day.

Happy Monday, April 14.



Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on March 26, 2014:

There is something so special about them, isn't there. They almost have a personality. Thanks for stopping by.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on March 24, 2014:

Thanks for the pointers on what to look for when buying an old beetle. My first car was a beetle and I loved it. It's a car with spunk.

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on February 14, 2014:

Hi cclitgirl,

Glad you enjoy it. It is a good day out when you are 'car spotting ' together.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on February 14, 2014:

My husby fixes up old cars - including a 1971 Beetle he just finished - for a living. What fun! We actually do go out for drives and I'll help him spot a potential car for fixing up. :)

Love your suggestions. I need to show the video to my husby. :D

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 30, 2013:

Hi Deborah-Diane,

You have the perfect climate for it down in Southern California. They are really what driving is all about, making the journey fun.

Great to hear from you, glad you like the article.

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on November 30, 2013:

I drive an 11 year old VW Beetle convertible and absolutely love it. Thanks for writing this wonderful article. I learned a lot!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on August 08, 2013:

Hello Suzanne,

It almost sounds like a movie, 'A bug called Boo'.LOL Great name.

They have a loyal fan base of all ages and so many people love to do them up. In fact, I don't think I have ever met anyone who said they didn't like them.

Thanks for your kind words and vote.

justmesuzanne from Texas on August 07, 2013:

I had a wonderful classic baby blue Beetle in the late 1970s. I think it was a '61. I got it for $500 and drove it for years until it was hit by a Cadillac and then it was never the same again. Its license plate was 092 BOO so it didn't need a name. I replaced it with a slightly newer red Beetle whose license plate was 492 HAT. It was not as good, though. It had an oil leak, and the engine blew up in short order so I sold it to a guy who jazzed it up. Voted up and awesome! :)

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on May 12, 2012:

Hello Skymaster, I agree, sometimes keeping it simple works best.

Hi MJKearn,

Thanks for the comment. It is true, the wrought iron car is something. I have put a link to your site on my page, I hope you get some extra views from it.

Thanks again.

mjkearn on May 12, 2012:

Hi Blond Logic,

Great Hub full of great advice. Especially liked the video, some great cars, some not great cars and some definitely, why did they bother, cars. The Wrought Iron Beetle is an amazing piece of art,


skymaster on April 22, 2012:

I just love this car

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on April 21, 2012:

Hi Eric,

Your very welcome. I hope we push the plagiarists down where they belong.

Thank you for stopping by.

Eric Hartman from Greensburg, Pennsylvania on April 21, 2012:

Thank you very much for the above link to my Hub! Greatly appreciated! Unfortunately, my Hub has been plagiarized and spun by quite a few people lately, so I really haven't seen many page-views.

Your Hub is really great also. My love for Beetles started much the same as yours did, however I saw Herbie as a re-run on TV when I was younger. None the less, I was hooked from that very day.

Once again, thank you for the link. I will definitely be linking back!

Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on April 12, 2012:

Thanks Teaches12345,

Who would have thought about making an RV out of a Beetle? I can't imagine what the headroom is like.

We still have a VW but not a Beetle, now we drive a Kombi. Every time I pass a Beetle (or Fusca as it is called here) I miss having one.

Thanks for the comment

Dianna Mendez on April 11, 2012:

We owned a blue VW bug when we were first married and my husband still misses that car. They are pretty reliable and worth the money. Enjoyed your hub topic and loved the video (an RV? Loved the pink convertible)!

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