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The Jetta is famous among affordable sedans. This compact car has been on the market since 1979, so shoppers have plenty of used examples to choose from. However, like all long-running nameplates, some Volkswagen Jetta model years are more reliable than others. Here are the two best options under $20,000 in 2023.

(Note: Regardless of a used car’s reliability score, obtain a vehicle history report and have a trusted mechanic perform an inspection to uncover potential problems before purchasing. Also, prices may vary depending on trim level, mileage, overall condition, and location.)

The 2017 and 2018 Volkswagen Jetta have excellent reliability ratings

2018 Volkswagen Jetta: Most reliable Volkswagen Jetta model years
2018 Volkswagen Jetta | Volkswagen of America, Inc. Newspress Limited

The 2017 and 2018 Volkswagen Jetta are two of this iconic sedan’s most reliable model years. According to J.D. Power, they’re worthy of an 86 out of 100 in the “Quality & Reliability” category. That score is considered “great” and isn’t far from “best.” The data analytics firm bases its reliability scores on the number of defects and malfunctions drivers experience, which means the 2017 and 2018 VW Jetta have very few.

On average, people pay between $11,616 and $17,269 for the 2017 Jetta and $13,344 to $19,948 for the 2018 model, J.D. Power reports.

Volkswagen offered the 2017 and 2018 Jetta with three engine options. The first is a 150-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four. Next is a 1.8-liter turbo-four, making 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Last is a 2.0-liter, harnessing 210 hp. Every 2017 and 2018 Jetta has front-wheel drive, but you can find used models with a manual or automatic transmission.

On the inside, the 2017 and 2018 Jetta have a comfortable and spacious cabin. Some trims also have automatic dual-zone climate control and heated seats. The base model has a 5.0-inch infotainment screen, while other trims have a 6.3-inch unit. These model years also have a USB port.

The 2020 Jetta has solid reliability, but you might have to spend over $20,000

Regarding used Jetta models, the 2020 version is also among the best. J.D. Power gave it a “great” reliability score of 85. That means owners can trust this car to last without significant defects or mechanical issues. On average, people pay between $17,095 and $24,493 for this used Jetta model. So, you might not find one in excellent condition for under $20,000, but it’s still worth considering.

The 2020 Volkswagen Jetta packs a 1.4-liter turbo-four, producing 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. It’s front-wheel drive and has automatic and manual transmission options. Regarding interior technology, the 2020 Jetta has a 6.5-inch composition color unit with a rearview camera.

Generally, the 2017, 2018, and 2020 Jetta are reliable. The 2020 doesn’t have nearly as many engine options as the 2017 and 2018. But the 2020 version is a bit more advanced because it’s newer. However, finding one that comes in under budget could be challenging.

Problematic model years

Conversely, the worst Volkswagen Jetta years include 2006, 2009, and 2011. Also, you might want to beware of 2019.