The Worst Volkswagen Jetta Model Year You Should Never Buy

The Volkswagen Jetta is a solid yet sporty compact sedan. It’s been sold in the U.S. since 1984, and last year Volkswagen introduced the seventh-generation Jetta.

If you’re thinking about buying one secondhand, you might consider the MK5. It’s the fifth generation of the Jetta made between 2005 and 2011. While some model years in this generation were good cars, there are a few model years that you should avoid altogether.

We’ll check out which of these model years was the worst as well as other problematic years for the Jetta thanks to

The Volkswagen Jetta model year with the most complaints

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Owners submitted 150 problems with the 2006 Jetta, the most of all model years. 

Interior accessories problems topped the list. They were relatively inconsequential and included a short in the wiring harness in the driver’s side door, the headliner separating from the ceiling, and paint wear on interior buttons.  

Engine troubles were another significant problem category for this model year. The majority of the problems were minor and were related to the check engine light coming on in colder temperatures.  Two much less prevalent but more serious engine problems were the Jetta’s camshaft failure and the engine cutting out while driving. 

This Volkswagen had almost as many transmission problems as those with the engine. Drivetrain failures accounted for over half of the transmission problems and typically cost Jetta owners almost $4,000 to repair.

Many of these problems occurred at higher average mileages. With the exception of the camshaft and transmission failures, the typical cost to repair these problems was in the hundreds and not thousands of dollars.  For these reasons, the 2006 Jetta fell short of being named the worst model year, even with its plentiful issues.

The worst VW Jetta model year of them all

Attendees look at the the Volkswagen Jetta during the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan
The Volkswagen Jetta | SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Some model years are bad because of costly repairs or issues early in the life of the car. But a dangerous problem can easily make it the worst model year overall.  This is the case with the 2009 Jetta

At the heart of this car’s defects is its anti-lock brake system module failure, which accounted for 31 out of 32 of the brake problems reported. Many drivers reported that the ABS light came on when the module failed. In a few cases, the car stalled.

The most concerning reports, however, came from owners who had accidents or near-accidents because the ABS module caused their brakes and traction control to fail. Owners also submitted 136 complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. They reported 11 crashes, one fire, and three injuries. In late 2016, NHTSA finally issued a recall for the Jetta’s inoperative ABS module and traction control.

86 separate NHTSA complaints about the Jetta’s traction control were also submitted, with eight crashes and three injuries reported. Some vehicles didn’t qualify for having this fixed under the 2016 recall if VW technicians found that the ABS module was functioning properly. The owners of these vehicles had to pay for this repair themselves.

The typical cost to repair the ABS module was $2,320 for those owners who had it fixed before the recall. The problem appeared, on average, at 98,500 miles. But these owners paid a much bigger price for lost peace of mind because their brakes weren’t safe. Car Complaints identified the ABS module failure as the No. 1 worst problem for the Volkswagen Jetta.

Other model years that received many complaints

After the 2009 model year’s terrible problems, you’d hope that subsequent model years would be better. But both the 2010 and 2011 model years are troubled. 

The 2010 model year had 114 complaints, including 34 problems with interior accessories, 22 involving electrical problems, 12 engine problems, and eight fuel system problems. The remaining problems are an assortment relating to the Jetta’s brake system, transmission, body and paint, and other components.

While these many complaints aren’t as daunting compared to the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta’s 150, the huge number of NHTSA complaints against this model year is.

For example, the fuel system has 317 NHTSA complaints, with over half of them related to diesel problems in which the engine died or stalled, or the fuel pump leaked. NHTSA also received 215 engine problems that included timing chain system problems, hesitation, stalling, and even the engine catching fire. Many of these problems occurred with fewer than 75,000 miles on the odometer.

Like the 2010 model year, the 2011 Jetta has a slew of NHTSA complaints even though it has only 108 complaints. Car Complaints has given this model year the “Beware of the Clunker” badge. Also, in this car’s overview, readers are warned about the high number of NHTSA complaints about the sudden loss of power and the failure of the high-pressure fuel pump. It even calls out one complaint about an owner’s Jetta catching on fire in the dead of night despite its engine being cold. 

With this information in mind, there’s no question that you should never buy a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta. And you should stay away from the 2006, 2010, and 2011 model years. But there’s hope if you still want a Jetta. More recent models, such as those from 2015 through 2018, have much fewer problems.