Hooniverse Asks: Has Rob Made a Big Mistake?

So earlier today I introduced you to my new set of wheels, which I purchased to provide transportation for my daughter who has recently returned from college. Now, I like you enjoy fun cars, as well as those with a little gravitas. That’s why instead of taking the safe choice and buying an old Corolla or Camry beater, I instead bought a 1999 Audi A6 Avant Quattro.
If you’ve read my introduction you’ll know that the car is in excellent shape and sports less than 130K on the clock. You’ll also know that it has a number of minor problems that I’m in the process of correcting, but which don’t really affect the car’s drivability at the moment. At the moment is the key phrase there as a 17-year old car, especially one as complicated as an Audi A6 Quattro, can be a ticking time bomb of problems and eventual buyers remorse. The question for today then – and with a poll! – is, did I make a mistake buying an old Audi as a 20-something’s mode of transportation?

Image: ©2016 Hooniverse/Robert Emslie, All Rights Reserved

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  1. Alff Avatar

    Haters gonna hate.

  2. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    I had a 2007 A3 and loved it. After 100,000 miles and only rear wheel bearings to replace I sold it. Wasn’t looking forward to the timing belt change, but there was really nothing wrong with it and I got a good price for it.

  3. Maymar Avatar

    Let’s just say it’s a good thing one of your daughters is a budding rocket scientist (which, by the way, awesome!) If you’re going to try and keep this running as reliable daily transportation that can pass (yearly?) emissions testing.

  4. stigshift Avatar

    Yes, it will be a huge money pit. But I would take it over a Corolla any day. Well done, sir.

  5. Kiefmo Avatar

    It’s only a mistake if you think it is.
    Will you or the receiving child be supporting its care — or the two of you in combination.
    As the owner of two vehicles that would take every weekend up if I allowed it, I salute your dedication.

    1. Rob Emslie Avatar
      Rob Emslie

      I’ll be doing everything I can, and I have an excellent mechanic for the stuff I can’t/don’t want to do.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        So have you told your mechanic yet? If so, is he now planning on taking a nice cruise? Looking at new cars? Looking for a bigger house? Any of these could be a bad sign.

  6. crank_case Avatar

    I kinda think once you get over 10 years old, usually the design fault related issues have already reared their head, so anything majors already been dealt with. That’s the theory anyway, not sure it plays out in reality. As long as you didn’t buy one with a CVT box anyway, it doesn’t have a CVT, right? ….right?…

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Unless the design faults are built-in (as with some Audis wherein underhood packaging is so tight that a substantial portion of the front end must be removed for a timing stuffs change).

      1. crank_case Avatar

        I was more thinking of the things that inevitably go bang (cvt boxes, oil pumps), rather than the things that are just a general pain.

      2. nanoop Avatar

        To me, tight packaging is not a design fault per se, especially when a workable solution (such as the Audi front drawer) exists.
        When the alternative would be engine-out or “don’t do it” (certain mid-engines’ maintenance tasks and some unchanged spark plugs come to mind) pulling the drawer is actually good design, assuming that the coolant may remain untouched. I think only some engine variants and only few tasks require sliding out the front, but I never examined that.

    2. Rob Emslie Avatar
      Rob Emslie

      No CVT. It’s a 5-speed Tiptronic.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        I think that tipped me onto the no side of the poll, it’s not going to be flawless, but I reckon you’ll be grand, just keep it between the ditches and wheel side on the tarmac. 🙂

  7. HuntRhymesWith Avatar

    When I drove out coast-to-coast a couple years ago, I saw in total about six vehicles broken down by the side of the road. All AUDIs, three of them Allroads.

  8. mdharrell Avatar

    When one of my nieces was in similar circumstances a few years ago, I gave her a 1969 Volvo 144. Since then she has won two LeMons IOEs and consistently turns faster laps than I do. I therefore conclude that yes, a 1999 Audi, or indeed a 1999 anything, is a mistake.
    I’m happy to provide equally helpful advice and opinions in the future. Just ask.

  9. Frank T. Cat Avatar
    Frank T. Cat

    I should be forfeit from judging you. I have three SAABs, and I’m actively looking for a fourth.
    Surely one Audi can’t be worse.

    1. JayP Avatar

      Wanna bet??

  10. JayP Avatar

    I know what it takes to keep one going… just make sure you have a spare car.
    Good luck with the avant. It’ll be a experience.

  11. JayP Avatar

    I was tempted into checking out a used VW CC V6 AWD.
    Great looking car. Low entry price, but I changed my mind and bought a more pedestrian car.
    My one and only Uber ride was in a CC. The driver was telling me her headlight needed replacing. Cost from the part store was $175. Dealer $175. Then she found out it was HID – $300+ for the part.
    It’s stuff like that which keeps me from getting back into VWAG.

    1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
      Fred Talmadge

      That’s common for all the new fancy headlights. I kind of wish we could go back to the old 7″ round lights.

      1. JayP Avatar

        Pedestrian car = $89 for headlights, turns plus bulbs at 1aauto.

        1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
          Fred Talmadge

          Non factory lights for a Accord.

  12. Tomsk Avatar

    Well…it’s not a 2.7T…

  13. Sjalabais Avatar

    We have some good neighbours that just replaced one of these – that was very reliable – with a one year old Landrover Sport HSE Luxury. That is an outrageously expensive car, and as everybody understands, they try to defy convention when it comes to automobile reliability. Sometimes, it works.
    I’m amazed by the vote count above. Just reading comments, the ‘verse is a somewhat cozy club of guys you more or less have an idea about who they are. But 90 votes after a few hours? Wow. Not quite 1500-NPCP-after-two-mminutes-wow, but surprising nonetheless.

  14. Top-dead-centre Avatar

    “Money Pit”
    Audis are popular around Boston. But somehow older ones just don’t seem to survive around here. Once the factory warranty or CPO warranty is gone, the cars seem to migrate away.

  15. mad_science Avatar

    Certainly far from the biggest mistake Rob’s ever made.

  16. marmer Avatar

    I’m right there with you except my Avant is an A4 and I bought it new. 264,000 miles. Repair costs are high but it’s cheaper than car payments, and the car still drives and feels great.

    1. JayP Avatar

      Are you doing the maintenance and repair work?

      1. marmer Avatar

        A lot of it. What I can’t do I take to a local independent VW/Audi shop.

        1. JayP Avatar

          That’s the battle – Labor can be $100-$120 with dealer parts costing $$$$$$. Internet sourced parts and a little grease in your ear will keep a car on the road. Else…. $500/month is a car payment.
          260k is impressive.

  17. P161911 Avatar

    My family has owned one Audi, a late 1980s 5000s. My dad is a sales rep and drives about 40k miles a year. For 20 years he supplied his own car. He would usually buy something 5-10 years old with less than 100k miles and then proceed to drive it into the ground over the next 2-5 years. At the end he might get $500-$1000 out of the car. The Audi is the only car that he has ever had to give away.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      A sales rep who has to supply his own car? Sounds odd, but I’m intrigued by the concept…does he get a fixed amount per distance driven as reimbursement, and that way every inch driven is part of his income with an older vehicle? What other cars has he tried?

      1. P161911 Avatar

        Yes, he got a set reimbursement per mile. Cars that he has used include the following: -mid-1980s full size RWD Cadillac with a 4.1L V-8 (surprisingly reliable)
        –mid-1990s Crown Victoria (didn’t last too long for some forgotten reason)
        -early 1990s Lincoln Town Car
        -1987 Lincoln Mk VII LSC (a favorite that put about 250k miles on the original transmission)
        -Lincoln Mk VIIS LSC (another favorite)
        – mid 1990s S-10 Blazer 4-door (one of the longest lasting, totaled by hail damage)
        -mid-1990s Lincoln Continental (he didn’t drive it too long, paid to have the transmission rebuilt and then got assigned a Dodge Caliber by his company)
        The crappy Dodge Caliber lasted almost 275k miles. His current car, supplied by his company, is an early 2000s Lincoln Town Car whose former owners include the Atlanta Ford plant manager and Truitt Cathy (head of Chock-fil-a).
        He mainly looked for comfort, long term reliability, and cargo space.

    2. JayP Avatar

      Audi’s rep was shot and resell was for crap in the old days.
      Now Audi has a good rep… resell still crap.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        Crap resale is why my dad got the Audi. He got it used right after the whole unintended acceleration scandal. It was significantly cheaper than a similar used Taurus. He should have known when the local parts source was Porsche Audi parts. The Audi parts cost the same as the Porsche parts.

        1. JayP Avatar

          That’s how I was able to afford my 2 5000s.

        2. Fred Talmadge Avatar
          Fred Talmadge

          Back in the air cooled VW/Porsche days. Porsche guys would buy VW parts to save money, exact same part. Then us VW guys would buy Porsche distributors and oil coolers to try and gain some performance benefit. That’s a reason I still think of 356 Porsches as hot rod Beetles. Of course now they are 6-figure hot rod Beetles. Yikes!

  18. Siemion Avatar

    I think everything’s gonna be allright. All kinds of used Audis are very popular here in Poland (mostly 1.9 TDi, but still). There are used cars dealerships at every corner in my town and every single one of them has at least one of these A6’s. Imported form Germany, looking brand new, 199 000 km (~125k Mi) on the clock. “The German guy cried when he sold it, he chased me to the border ’cause he changed his mind…”. In fact they have twice the mileage and are just detailed, beated ex-taxis. Everyone knows it, but people here would kill to get one of these.
    Anyway… It’ll easily withstand 250k Mi if properly maintained, however genuine, quality parts are expensive.

  19. salguod Avatar

    I voted no. But then again, I’m the guy daily driving a 20 year old BMW that’s less than 500 miles from a quarter of a million.

  20. Audi Enthusiast Avatar
    Audi Enthusiast

    um, We can be in this together! I hope it will be fine, as my son and I just bought an identical car except his has 198000 miles. gonna flush the trans and change its filter, and somethings wonky with the brakes, and all the cup holders are broke. Cam belt was changed 10k ago. Clunk up front somewhere. Otherwise it drives nice and a/c is cold and the heat is hot and the seats work and the climate control works. The garage door opener doesn’t, but shouldn’t be a big deal.
    Biggest PITA that I have found so far is the dearth of manuals, Bentley makes one, 80 to 100 bucks for hardcopy, half that for CD that only works on XP or a virtual XP, and best be reading the instructions or your cd is useless, like Bentley’s customer service. And everything is a 100 bucks, wiper blade, 100 bucks, trans oil/filter, 100 bucks, manual, 100 bucks, master cylinder, 100 bucks rebuilt engine 100 bucks, well maybe.
    These things seem to be the harder and more you drive them, the longer they last.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      There aren’t as many manuals but there is the internet with it’s owner/enthusiast forums. I’ve found the internet more useful than the Haynes manual when working on my W124s and with my Lancia Gamma there is no alternative.

  21. PaulE Avatar

    I had one of these (’99 A6 Avant) and sold it about six months back (originally bought to flip, but it stayed around for longer than expected, so I put 20+k miles on it in five months). Great car–I still miss it… to the point I’m actually shopping Allroads.
    1999 is probably the sweet spot in A6-dom, with the 2.8 being pretty stout but not overly powerful (do the timing belt service ON TIME), transmissions seem to be the best of the C5 gen, and used ABS modules are still fairly plentiful in junkyards and easy to change.
    Follow the forums (the Audi forums are good), buy a copy of the Bentley book if you can and buy one of the Chinese VAG1501 clone tools (sub-$50–they work!) or spend much more on VCDS/VAG-COM software. Once you get your head around VAG logic (how stuff goes together and the ‘service position’), they’re actually quite easy to wrench on.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      The ‘VAG service position’ is: wallet open, pants around your ankles, right?

  22. HoondavanDude Avatar

    Bold move, but I like it. As long as there’s a spare car she can use while it’s down for service, what could possibly go wrong:?!? Worst-case scenario, is that she sees you endlessly busting knuckles fixing her car and learns that owning anything German outside of warranty will either require a trunk full of cash, or a lot of sweat equity. I see a ton of ads for German and Swedish (S60R/V70R) cars indicating they recently had +$4-6k in recent maintenance work…so if you aren’t rolling up your sleeves you’ll be in rough shape.
    If my household had a 3rd vehicle, an A4 Avant would be a definite consideration…despite my disdain for VAG.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Clearly she needs *two* A6 Avants…

  23. Sjalabais Avatar

    Don’t know if everyone has already seen this, but I find it very interesting and there are some surprises here – maintenance costs for new cars from different brands in a ten year perspective:
    Very fitting for what’s really discussed here.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      I wonder if the methodology affects the results, though. For example: since MINI is essentially a BMW, how can it be explained that MINI is one of the lowest maintenance costs and BMW is the highest? My simple explanation: the maintenance costs were based on service done by Mobile Mechanics. I would assume that (high end) BMW 7-series owners are more likely to call a mobile mechanic who will drive to their house, while a (low end for BMW) MINI owner is more likely to drive/have the car towed to his/her local mechanic’s shop.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        That would make a big difference, yes. I haven’t checked the methodology yet, but if that is the case, the low Lexus cost would just reaffirm a picture of thrifty and sensible owners (with a certain taste for monster movies, that is)?

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