Why A Classic VW Beetle Makes For A Great First Car

First-time car buyers wouldn't usually think of the classic VW Beetle as an affordable, reliable, and cheap-to-maintain daily driver. But since the evolving trends have made everything retro pleasing to the palates, classic cars are making a comeback. We're not just talking about vintage-inspired new vehicles like the Ford Bronco, Nissan Z, or longstanding Mini Cooper. 

Now that used car prices are posting record-breaking declines, it has never been a better time to get a classic VW Beetle, whether as a first car or a worthy addition to any auto collection. With that in mind, the Beetle's affordable price makes it a prime target for budget-conscious car shoppers.

For example, Classic Cars has a mint and extremely low-mileage Beetle for a whopping $290,000, but you can find a decent model for under $7,000. Considering the average monthly payment for a new car soared to a record-breaking $777 in early 2023 — nearly double the figure from 2019 — Bloomberg is not kidding when it said that exorbitant new car prices have made them unattainable for typical middle-class buyers.

Vintage VW Bug: Cheap and easy to fix

New cars are brimming with more gadgets and gizmos than ever before. However, the ascension of software-defined vehicles has a caveat: fixing them can be out of reach for typical car owners, much less your neighborhood mechanic. You won't need to mess with OBD2 scanners and complicated electronics in a VW Bug. 

The basic air-cooled engine design makes it ideal for novice drivers to fix or maintain, and it only takes 20 minutes on average for skilled technicians to take out the Beetle's pancake engine from its rear-mounted cradle. Furthermore, modifying the Beetle for more power and improved handling is possible with a handful of bolt-on aftermarket parts.

It's why classic vehicles like the VW Beetle grew popular during the post-war era, and it's also why younger buyers are looking to the Beetle for a first car that won't break the bank. They're simple to understand, are exempted from road tax (in the U.K., at least), and are cheaper to insure. 

The bottom line is you stand a chance of spending less money keeping a classic VW Beetle on the road given a modicum of care and maintenance.

The cool factor

The Volkswagen Beetle's "cool factor" is something you won't find in a modern compact like a Mitsubishi Mirage or Kia Rio. The first VW Beetle landed on Uncle Sam's shores in January 1949 as the VW Type 1, but it started life as Adolf Hitler's vision of a "people's car" during post-World War II.

By 1968, the Beetle had cemented its iconic status as Herbie in "The Love Bug" and a worldwide symbol of unity, peace, idealism, and counterculture. The Toyota Corolla could claim to be the world's best-selling production car, but the Beetle's unusual beginnings and place in history are challenging to replicate.

Driving around town in a classic VW Beetle is not without drawbacks. For example, it lacks modern safety features like airbags, ADAS sensors, and the convenience of heating and air-conditioning. Moreover, the stock air-cooled pancake motor lacks reasonable horsepower. 

But for dedicated first-car buyers, the caveats fade to obscurity when onlookers flash the peace sign as you drive along in your classic Beetle.