Best & Worst Volkswagen Beetle Years

We're taking a closer look at every Volkswagen Beetle from 1998 until it was discontinued in 2019 and categorized the best & worst years in this guide.

In this guide, I will get into the nuances of the Volkswagen Beetle, exploring the best and worst model years.

Leveraging data from numerous sources such as Consumer Reports, NHTSA, and Kelley’s Blue Book, we provide an in-depth analysis of this iconic vehicle’s performance over the years.

I’ll show you a detailed breakdown of each generation, pinpointing the standout years and those that fell short of expectations.

The Volkswagen Beetle, affectionately known as the Bug, has an illustrious history that stretches back to the 1930s.

Although it was discontinued in 2019, the Beetle’s allure and unique design have kept it in the hearts of car enthusiasts worldwide. In this guide, we will focus on the New Beetle, introduced in 1998, and the second-generation Beetle A5, which rolled out in 2012.

Now, without further ado, let’s dive right into the Beetle’s generations.

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Table of ContentsShow

Volkswagen Beetle Generations

The New Beetle’s first generation was produced between 1998 and 2010, successfully reviving the Beetle brand by merging its iconic design with modern features.

Subsequently, the second-generation Beetle, which was in production from 2012 to 2019, provided a more refined and tech-rich driving experience.

GenerationYears
1st Generation (New Beetle)1998-2010
2nd Generation (Beetle A5)2012-2019

Listing these generations gives a clearer picture of the car’s evolution as there have been substantial changes from one generation to the next. This could be a significant deciding factor for potential buyers.

Volkswagen Beetle Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

First, it is important to note that when categorizing the model years, we consider a range of factors. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

Here is a graph illustrating the combined ratings from these sources, providing a comprehensive view of each model year’s performance.

Volkswagen Beetle Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

We’ve listed the best years, neutral years and worst years of the Volkswagen Beetle in the table below for a quick overview.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st Generation (New Beetle)2003
2006
2008
2010
1999
2000
2004
2005
2009
1998
2007
2nd Generation (Beetle A5)2016
2018
2015
2017
2012
2013
2014
2019

Neutral Years are model years that neither excel in most of the categories we looked at nor are notably poor. They typically represent a middle ground between the best and worst years.

Certain factors, like the number of NHTSA recalls and complaints, negatively impact the car’s reliability score, with higher numbers resulting in lower ratings.

With the foundation laid down, I’ll now dive deeper into the specific characteristics of the best, neutral, and worst years for the Volkswagen Beetle.

Best & Worst Years for Volkswagen Beetle 1st Generation (1998-2010)

Volkswagen Beetle 1st generation 1998 model
The 1998 Volkswagen Beetle

The 1st Generation Volkswagen New Beetle, introduced in 1997, recaptured the essence of the original Beetle, with separate fenders, sloping headlamps, and large round taillights, along with a high, rounded roofline.

However, this new model positioned the engine at the front, driving the front wheels, while providing luggage storage at the rear.

The Best Years: 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010

Years 1998, 2006, 2008, and 2010 were identified as the best years for the first-generation New Beetle, and for good reasons.

Across several owner ratings and satisfaction surveys, these years showed a consistently higher score, pointing to superior reliability and owner satisfaction.

Safety upgrades also played a part in their higher rankings. These years saw the introduction of advanced safety features, such as stability control and improved airbag systems, which enhanced the safety quotient of the Beetle.

On the tech front, they offered additional contemporary infotainment options, giving them an advantage over the previous models.

The Neutral Years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009

The neutral years for the 1st Generation Volkswagen Beetle, which include 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2009, did not particularly excel nor falter in any one aspect.

These model years demonstrated average performance, characterized by standard features and no noteworthy mechanical problems. However, compared to the best years, they didn’t offer any notable advantages or updates in terms of safety or technology.

These years, although not stellar, provided a solid option for those looking for a reliable vehicle without any notorious issues.

The Worst Years: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2007

The 1999-2001 Volkswagen Beetle models were plagued by several issues that affected their overall reliability. Common complaints revolved around engine problems, including excessive oil consumption, engine failure, and issues with the mass air flow sensor.

Other prevalent concerns were related to the electrical system, such as malfunctioning windows and faulty door locks. Finally, transmission problems, specifically automatic transmission failures and issues with shifting, were common in these model years.

The 2007 model faced serious issues related to the power train and airbags. Power train issues can impact a vehicle’s performance and longevity, leading to costly repairs. Furthermore, the airbag issues raised safety concerns, contributing to a high number of NHTSA recalls for this year.

This tarnished the reliability of the model, leading to a low Consumer Reports owner satisfaction score, pushing the year into the “worst” category.

See NHTSA 1999, 2000, 2001, 2007 Volkswagen Beetle complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Volkswagen Beetle 2nd Generation (2012-2019)

Volkswagen Beetle 2nd generation 2012 model
The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle

The second generation of the Volkswagen Beetle, introduced in 2011 for the 2012 model year, carried many of the design cues of the first-generation New Beetle.

This iteration of the Beetle maintained the charm and iconic design of its predecessor but added modern technology and increased performance.

The Best Years: 2016, 2018

The 2016 and 2018 models of the Beetle shine as the best years of this generation. They earned their position due to high owner satisfaction and reliability scores.

The 2016 model showcased advanced features such as an upgraded infotainment system and a more robust powertrain, significantly improving driving experience and overall satisfaction.

Similarly, the 2018 model was praised for its robust build, reliability, and upgraded safety features, including a standard rearview camera and an automatic post-collision braking system.

The Neutral Years: 2015, 2017

The 2015 and 2017 model years of the Beetle fall into the neutral category.

While these models didn’t have the high number of recalls or complaints seen in the worst years, they didn’t quite reach the exceptional reliability or satisfaction scores of the best years.

These models showcased typical maintenance expenses and satisfactory safety ratings.

The Worst Years: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019

The 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2019 models of the second-generation Volkswagen Beetle were deemed the worst years due to a variety of issues.

The 2012 and 2013 models, despite being a fresh start for the Beetle, suffered from recurring airbag issues, leading to multiple recalls. Safety is a major factor in vehicle reliability and owner satisfaction, and these recalls played a significant role in these years receiving lower scores.

The 2014 model shared similar issues, with poor owner satisfaction scores, likely due to the continuation of the airbag issues. Additionally, complaints about the overall quality and performance were higher in this year.

Lastly, the 2019 model, despite being the latest iteration of the Beetle, received low reliability scores from Consumer Reports.

Although it was equipped with advanced safety and tech features, frequent complaints about mechanical issues and the higher-than-average number of recalls overshadowed its advancements, resulting in its categorization as one of the worst years.

See NHTSA 2012, 2013 Volkswagen Beetle recalls.

Volkswagen Beetle Average Resale Values

The graph below provides a visual representation of the average resale value across different model years of the Volkswagen Beetle.

Volkswagen Beetle Average List Price

Conclusion

It is clear that this unique car has had its share of highs and lows. Let this guide assist you in the evaluation of different model years of Beetle.

Do you own one of these Beetles or are you considering buying one? Which model year are you most interested in and why?

Share your experiences or queries in the comments below.

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.