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Cost of maintaining squareback
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Spencer238
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:58 pm    Post subject: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Hello everyone! This is my first post so please forgive me if I make any mistakes regarding site etiquette.

I am a 20 year old college student living at home and I've been eyeing getting a squareback for a while now, but up until just recently, the financial side of things was just too impractical.
However, I'm now realizing that I may actually be able to afford one! Since this would be my first vintage car and my knowledge of fixing cars is rather limited (but eager to grow!) I'd be looking for a car in decent condition--I was thinking a price limit of $10k.

This leads me to my main question: for a car in decent condition (i.e. does not require any immediate maintenance, runs and drives fine), what would I be looking at regarding yearly maintenance costs? I would love to get some advice and thanks in advance!
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bobhill8 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Welcome - sounds like an exciting plan. You have asked a nearly impossible question, but I'm sure you'll get a lot of thoughtful answers. What I will say is that you can get a squareback in good shape for less than 10K. Be as patient as you can stand to be and a nice one will appear. However they are not nearly as common as vanagons or beetles so it might take a while. I have owned one for almost 4 years and have had great luck with it, although it is not my daily driver. Whatever one you get will be around 50 years old however, so things will go wrong. They might be little things or it might be the transmission. In my opinion, your best bet is to buy one from someone who has owned it for a while and done a lot of the tough stuff already. Don't be fooled by the cosmetics - a car that's a little imperfect but runs will make you a lot happier than a pretty one stuck in the driveway. Good luck.
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Spencer238
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

bobhill8 wrote:
Welcome - sounds like an exciting plan. You have asked a nearly impossible question, but I'm sure you'll get a lot of thoughtful answers. What I will say is that you can get a squareback in good shape for less than 10K. Be as patient as you can stand to be and a nice one will appear. However they are not nearly as common as vanagons or beetles so it might take a while. I have owned one for almost 4 years and have had great luck with it, although it is not my daily driver. Whatever one you get will be around 50 years old however, so things will go wrong. They might be little things or it might be the transmission. In my opinion, your best bet is to buy one from someone who has owned it for a while and done a lot of the tough stuff already. Don't be fooled by the cosmetics - a car that's a little imperfect but runs will make you a lot happier than a pretty one stuck in the driveway. Good luck.


Thanks so much for the advice! Really appreciate it.
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KTPhil
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Three tips:
- Buy the most complete, and RUST-FREE car you can find. Bodywork costs you a bundle unless you can weld and paint yourself. Mechanical issues are cheaper to address.

- Budget $1000 for first-month repairs to deal with the stuff you missed or the seller hid from you.

- The issue with driving an old VW is not so much cost (which is manageable if you follow the two tips above), but the TIME required, unless you are made of money. The joke is that there are no VW owners, there are just VW owner/mechanics. You must be willing to learn and perform your own maintenance, and old VWs require a LOT more maintenance than modern cars. Tune-ups, including valve adjustments, oil changes, and general adjustments take longer and are more frequent. They are very satisfying if you can spare the time, very frustrating and expensive if you can't.

Is this a daily driver? Have a backup plan (car, bus, friends) for the first year or two, until you get tools, spares, and confidence in your ride.

Get good manuals. A good combo is the Muir "Idiot" book (though it's not great for the Type 3, it is good the the newby VW owner), and the Bentley owner service manual appropriate for your year.

Find a local VW club and listen to everyone and volunteer to help them fix their cars for the learning experience. Where in California are you? There are club listings here on the site.


Last edited by KTPhil on Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Spencer238
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

KTPhil wrote:
Three tips:
- Buy the most complete, and RUST-FREE car you can find. Bodywork costs you a bundle unless you can weld and paint yourself. Mechanical issues are cheaper to address.

- Budget $1000 for first-month repairs to deal with the stuff you missed or the seller hid from you.

- The issue with driving an old VW is not so much cost (which is manageable if you follow the two tips above), but the TIME required, unless you are made of money. The joke is that there are no VW owners, the are just VW owner/mechanics. You must be willing to learn and perform your own maintenance, and old VWs require a LOT more maintenance than modern cars. Tune-ups, including valve adjustments, oil changes, and general adjustments take longer and are more frequent. They are very satisfying if you can spare the time, very frustrating and expensive if you can't.

Is this a daily driver? Have a backup plan (car, bus, friends) for the first year or two, until you get tools, spares, and confidence in your ride.

Get good manuals. A good combo is the Muir "Idiot" book (though it's not great for the Type 3, it is good the the newly VW owner), and the Bentley owner service manual appropriate for your year.

Find a local VW club and listen to everyone and volunteer to help them fix their cars for the learning experience. Where in California are you? There are club listings here on the site.


Thankfully I live with my parents and already have a reliable daily driver (2010 honda civic hand-me-down). I really appreciate the feedback, thanks! I'm in south Orange County--I'll take a look at the clubs.
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Bobnotch
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

KTPhil wrote:
Three tips:
- Buy the most complete, and RUST-FREE car you can find. Bodywork costs you a bundle unless you can weld and paint yourself. Mechanical issues are cheaper to address.

- Budget $1000 for first-month repairs to deal with the stuff you missed or the seller hid from you.

- The issue with driving an old VW is not so much cost (which is manageable if you follow the two tips above), but the TIME required, unless you are made of money. The joke is that there are no VW owners, there are just VW owner/mechanics. You must be willing to learn and perform your own maintenance, and old VWs require a LOT more maintenance than modern cars. Tune-ups, including valve adjustments, oil changes, and general adjustments take longer and are more frequent. They are very satisfying if you can spare the time, very frustrating and expensive if you can't.

Is this a daily driver? Have a backup plan (car, bus, friends) for the first year or two, until you get tools, spares, and confidence in your ride.

Get good manuals. A good combo is the Muir "Idiot" book (though it's not great for the Type 3, it is good the the newby VW owner), and the Bentley owner service manual appropriate for your year.

Find a local VW club and listen to everyone and volunteer to help them fix their cars for the learning experience. Where in California are you? There are club listings here on the site.


^^This^^
Just to add, try and get a bunch of metric tools too. You can use them on both your new to you VW and your Honda. Wink I only say that, as it's hard to fix a car without tools. While some will chastise me for saying it, Harbor Freight does offer some decent starter tools. You'll quickly learn which ones you'll need better of too. I know I've worn out about 5 1/4 drive ratchets over the years, but then I use those tools not just on my VW, but also on my Toyota, and my wife's Honda.
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Tvättbjörn
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

It is a basic car compared to any newer car. No computer / control units (Older models) , no power windows , no ................. What the car does not have - does not go bad.

Find the best possible car you can buy and do some research about the prices. Every car has wear and tear items like brakes , plugs , oil changes , ball joints , steering components , clutch ... but once replaced it is usually good to go for a long time.

Just like KTPhil said. $1000 for the first month should take care of a lot of things on a car.

Maybe you can have a pre-buying inspection done at a VW specialized repair place. Let them show you the bad / worn out parts while the car is on the lift. Look at it with YOUR own eyes and take notes.

Get a bentley manual and start reading. Maybe you are even able to go a local high school and take some automobil classes.

Where part of CA do you live?
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gt1953
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 6:54 am    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

The squarebacks are out there in great drivable condition for dollars. I happened to find one parked for ten years, a complete car. A year later driving fine and dandy. Yes it needed a lot the wiring was not all hacked up, did have to replace the right battery tray pan but the sale price was only 850 bucks.
When looking at them look them over top and bottom and drive them, do yourself a huge favor and check many as you can. Ok one my be sold but keep looking for what will fit your needs.
How I found this one

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

and now after complete engine work, interior work etc.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Would sell if for your budget too.
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Numbers Matching VW's are getting harder to find. Source out the most Stock vehicle and keep that way. You will be glad you did.

72 type 1
73 type 1
72 Squareback
({59 Euro bug, 62, 63, 67, 68, 69 type ones 68 & 69 type two, 68 Ghia all sold})
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knewknew
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 7:45 am    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

I'll echo what the others have said...

Finding a car without rust issues is key. Also, I have noticed that everyone's definition of 'rust' is subjective. I have seen some rotted out cars that were advertised as 'the rust isn't so bad' or even 'rust free', and these were from experienced VW guys. Do yourself the favor and speak with people who restore old cars on the regular. It doesn't have to be VWs. Get a feel for what level of rust is acceptable. Also, learn how to inspect a car that has been previously restored. There are ways you can use a fridge magnet (ie not too strong) that you can place on the body to see if there is a heavy amount of bondo being used. If the magnet sticks on the upper portion of the doors and fenders but not the lowest parts (where rust like to live), you are likely looking at a patch job.

Also remember that they are plenty out there. Yes, they aren't common, and people will say 'hey kid these are really rare', but you need to remember that another one WILL eventually come up for sale. Don't convince yourself that 'this is my car!' by just photos alone. Inspect a few of them before taking the plunge! Be patient.
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vwfye
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:22 am    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Tools, tools, tools! While many will help you in a pinch, most don't like to lend out tools. You will need multiple 10mm sockets (because they sprout legs and walk off), but as was stated for the casual mechanic, Harbor Freight can get you going.

I used to daily drive (60 miles per day) my type 3 for work and the only big issues on a stockish car were making sure the heater system was correctly sealed to defrost windows and tune up stuffs. They can be greatly reliable cars!

Finally,
Welcome to the addiction!
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Spencer238
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:50 am    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Tvättbjörn wrote:
Maybe you can have a pre-buying inspection done at a VW specialized repair place. Let them show you the bad / worn out parts while the car is on the lift. Look at it with YOUR own eyes and take notes.


How would I go about setting something like this up once I find a car I'm interested in?
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KTPhil
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 10:12 am    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Spencer238 wrote:
Tvättbjörn wrote:
Maybe you can have a pre-buying inspection done at a VW specialized repair place. Let them show you the bad / worn out parts while the car is on the lift. Look at it with YOUR own eyes and take notes.


How would I go about setting something like this up once I find a car I'm interested in?


This goes back 30 years when VW dealers still worked on the cars, but the idea is the same. I paid $50 for a one-hour inspection on a lift at the local dealer, and they gave me a written estimate of all work needed. It came to about $500. That gave me leverage to bargain the seller down about $300, so my $50 investment paid me back $250. If there are other buyers, this may not work, but it does give some leverage. Find a local shop that works on old VWs (dealers won't know shit about these anymore), and do likewise. It also gave me confidence I hadn't overlooked anything.


Last edited by KTPhil on Wed Feb 24, 2021 4:35 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Expanding on what KTPhil said, maybe talk with different repair shops in your area, and see if any will help you do a pre-purchase inspection. If not, contact some of the nearest clubs in your area, as someone might have a good shop that they like or prefer.

Keep in mind that your first year of ownership will be your most expensive, and troubling. BTDT. I only say that, as you'll be learning so much about the car, and what's required to keep it going.
For a first time owner, I'd recommend looking for a carbed car, as they seem to be the easiest to keep running. Yes, there are plenty of FI cars out there that are running great, but a lot of them have also been converted to carbs too.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 4:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

As Bob suggests, I reckon your first step should be to find and join your nearest air cooled VW club. They will probably be able to help with suggested mechanics, might help you with an inspection, will have knowledge and advice to share, and may even know of cars for sale. Might just give you a good start ?
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Spencer238
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 4:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

Bobnotch wrote:
For a first time owner, I'd recommend looking for a carbed car, as they seem to be the easiest to keep running. Yes, there are plenty of FI cars out there that are running great, but a lot of them have also been converted to carbs too.


Thanks for the tip--I've seen a lot of people on the forum claim how unmolested EFI is superior to carbs, but I'm not sure I'd be ready for the level of complexity that comes with EFI. Anything in particular you recommend looking for/avoiding regarding carbs when looking at cars to buy?
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2021 6:47 am    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

My Squareback 1972 came fuel injected then the previous owner (PO) converted it to a weber progressive center mount carb cutting a whole in the engine cover yuk. A mess.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

So thanks to the Samba was able to source the needed carbs intake linkage air cleaner needed to make it stock again. Yes the engine was gone through. Volkzbiz Tim rebuilt the carbs and he is top shelf guy.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Agreed with the fuel injection would have been my choice however the PO ended that.
Minimal rust and you are out west so one will show up for you.
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Numbers Matching VW's are getting harder to find. Source out the most Stock vehicle and keep that way. You will be glad you did.

72 type 1
73 type 1
72 Squareback
({59 Euro bug, 62, 63, 67, 68, 69 type ones 68 & 69 type two, 68 Ghia all sold})
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2021 3:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

gt1953 wrote:
My Squareback 1972 came fuel injected then the previous owner (PO) converted it to a weber progressive center mount carb cutting a whole in the engine cover yuk. A mess.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


This kind of carb conversion is what you want to stay away from.
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Spencer238
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2021 5:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

If anyone is still looking at this thread, I have a quick question on a listing I found:
https://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/d/hayward-vintage-1973-vw-volkswagen/7274666813.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISTPdIqBXHY&feature=youtu.be

What kind of stuff should I be looking for in particular when I see appealing listings like this one? If I got the seller down to around $9000, would that be a good deal? Any and all advice is appreciated!
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KTPhil
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2021 5:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

It looks better than most.

See it in person; never buy over the internet. Be ready to walk if it isn't 100% what you expected.

Check for rust (find threads on Type 3 rust hiding places), and examine engine receipts, maybe call the shop and see what they thought of the car. Does it have a recent compression test?

Not a fan of the carb conversion. Either they gave up or were ignorant usually, and this isn't a good sign. Those carbs suck hot air into the engine (the FI drew cool air from the rear bodywork plenum)

Was there an engine fire? Engine lid insulation and floor look oddly dark.

At that price it should not require anything to be a reliable daily driver. Should. Does it?

Check braking and freeway tracking. See if it feels or smells hot after 15 minutes in the freeway.

Shake the front wheels to check for bearing or torsion arm looseness.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2021 11:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Cost of maintaining squareback Reply with quote

I'd offer that who you buy the car from might be the most important of all.

What kind of person are they?
Do they do their own work or pay someone else to do it?


That red Craigslist car doesn't look like one that the owner does his own work to me.
I could be wrong, but I'll bet you.. Wink
just a gut feeling, but that thing has 'lipstick pig' written all over it.

The thing that's different about a mechanic doing work on the clock to get paid and an owner doing work for the love of it is huge.
Any mechanic has to get the job "done" and out the door in order to earn a living.
Surprises, hang-ups and obstacles need to be bypassed.
The game for them is to get past these any way they can,
not necessarily to stop, ask for more money, try to explain, etc.
That ties up shop space and makes for unhappy customers..
Working as a mechanic, the theme is "Get this car out of here'!

50 years later, and several POs, there's going to be surprises.
You only ever know what you'll find until you tear in.

Owners rarely just say "fix everything you find";
They want X job done for y amount of dollars.
Mechanics will do a job, and get paid for that job.
There's way more to it than that;
A lot more parts and tasks and things to be done..

Hunting for the right parts is a game all unto itself these days.
Many things sold today are substandard.

So,
There's no getting around it,
you'll either do your own work or you'll get done.

It's just been way too long since these cars were new for a mechanic to be able to make a living working on them.
At least on a daily-maintenance driver scenario..
Not enough wealthy people driving these to pay for all the work that needs done now.
A few places make a living doing full restorations.

You have to be willing to do most all of it yourself.
not that hard,
but a lot of work,
Especially if you're new.
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