Project Hyper-Miler Part 1: Introduction



Our Choice

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,” as Robert Burns once wrote, is an apt description of our shopping efforts here.  We originally set about our search for a 2000-2003 4 door Golf or Jetta Wagon TDI with manual transmission.  Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people.  So many, in fact, that we often received email blasts from the seller to all interested parties – usually with one hundred or more names – either saying the first person to arrive with cash in hand got the car, or that the car would go to the highest bidder, when responding to any reasonably priced Golf in a 500 mile radius from San Diego, CA.  No 5 speed Golf or Wagon with a clean title stayed on the market for more than a couple of days unless it was priced well north of $10,000.

After months of searching, not willing to buy a car sight unseen, nor pay over $10,000 for a car with over 100,000 miles on it, we settled for a relatively clean white 2000 Jetta GLS with 151,000 miles on the clock from one of our Marines for $3,500.  Luckily, we were the first ones with cash in hand as, once again, the seller received hundreds of inquiries.  The bad?  The car had been smoked in, had a leaking transmission input shaft seal, a small dent in one of the rocker panels, and a dying DMF.  The good?  The car had receipts showing all maintenance was up to date, it had never been in an accident, the exterior was in good condition, was a loaded GLS model with cloth seats, and the interior was clean except for the smoke smell and some scratches on the “soft touch” crap that doesn’t last on these cars.  And yes, we know it’s a girl’s car.

 2000 Volkswagen Jetta TDI MKIV

Our 2000 Jetta GLS had 151,000 miles on the clock when we purchased it and was not without problems.  For $3500, however, it was in pretty good shape, and all problems are relatively minor repairs or items that will be addressed during the course of this project.


2000 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Shifter Interior2000 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Soft Touch Doorhandle
Our car was not without its share of interior blemishes.  Luckily, MKIV Jettas enjoy a strong aftermarket, and interior dress-up bits are plentiful.


2000 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Broken Antenna2000 Volkswagen Jetta TDI dented rocker panel
The exterior had a few blemishes as well.  The antenna was the victim of an overzealous automated car wash, and the rocker panel was somehow dented.  We still can’t imagine what could dent a rocker panel like that without a corresponding dent in the door.  Such are the fun mysteries of buying a used car!

Now, even with a car that has this much interest, there’s always room in the seller’s asking price.  Whenever negotiating the price of a new vehicle purchase, the following negotiating tactics can be useful:


  1. As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay at least 10% less than the asking price. 
  2. If the seller is a dealership, unless the vehicle is rare and you have lots of competition, negotiating over the phone is generally the best tactic.  You have all the power over the phone.  If the seller is experiencing the same kind of interest as described above, save your negotiating until the buyer can see cash in hand.  Often, they won’t want to go through this process again and will cave.  It never hurts to ask.
  3. Discount any discovered repairs or maintenance items not disclosed in the ad or initial dialogue from the seller’s asking price.
  4. Whoever speaks first loses.  When stating your initial offer make certain you don’t cave and change the offer.  Simply state your price and any justification for reduction – maintenance issues, real market value, damage, etc – and don’t say another word until the seller responds.  If you have to shut up for 20 minutes, do it.  It may be uncomfortable, but your silence can often result in the seller accepting your first offer with no counteroffer.
  5. Don’t be afraid to walk away.  Unless you’re replacing a wrecked vehicle and need something now, you can always wait for the next deal to come by.  Drive your dyno queen for another couple of weeks and park at the far end of the lot.  Walking’s supposedly good for you anyway.


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