Volkswagen’s diesel scandal may have a lot of people looking for a new ride soon, as the German automaker is potentially offering 500,000 TDI owners a full buyback.
While loyal diesel Volkswagen owners can opt to get their car retrofitted with a device that will reduce emissions, the fix comes with some pros and cons. While those who opt for the fix will get an extra $5,000 to put in their pockets, it’s reported that the current repairs in consideration will reduce fuel economy and performance.
Alternatively, VW owners can get their vehicles bought back by the automaker. The total price of the car will be calculated using the vehicle’s pre-September 2015 value, before the scandal severely impacted resale value. For drivers opting to get the buyback, let’s take a look at roughly how much money they’ll be getting and what their options for a replacement car are.
While full details of the compensation and fix will be shared in June 2016, VW owners may want to plan ahead.
For our calculations, we’ll use VW’s most successful sales year: 2012, when the brand sold 438,000 vehicles in the United States. Using a resale calculator, we’ll get an above average resale value of the car, to compensate for the difference between 2016 and 2015 value.
From there, we’ll look at what current owners can do with their buyback offer. Listed are three main options: Use the money to buy a similar car, use the money to upgrade to something fancier, or use the money to buy a vehicle with the same or better advertised MPG as the VW owner expected. Buyers may also want to just get the 2016 model year version of their old car, so we included the starting price of new VWs as well. Here are some cars they can put that buyback cash towards. Right now, we’re only looking at cars powered by the 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder, as plans for the V6 haven’t been announced yet.
VW Jetta TDI – estimated resale value of a 2012 model vehicle: $12,376
2016 Jetta starts at: $18,500
Similar: Toyota Corolla (starts at: $18,135)
If you’re looking to stay in the diesel world, there may be leftover Chevrolet Cruze diesels to pick up. A car that’s basically Chevy’s interpretation of the Jetta TDI, it features the same fuel economy, similar performance and a similarly low-key style. If you don’t want a diesel car any longer, the Toyota Corolla may be a great alternative due to its impressive interior space and simplistic design philosophy.
Upgrade: Acura ILX (starts at: $28,930)
Volkswagen owners know that their cars are built to last – much like Honda/Acura owners. The Acura ILX may not sound like much, but it’s an affordable entry-level compact car that could be seen as a moderate upgrade from the sterile-looking Jetta.
Same MPG: Honda Civic 2.0L (31/41 MPG) (starts at: $20,275)
If MPGs are what you’re after, the new 2.0-liter Civic will do the trick, earning 31 MPG in the city and 41 MPG on the highway. Unlike the Jetta though, the transmission is a CVT unit and no manual is offered with the upgraded engine right now, but that’s the tradeoff you’ll have to take if you’re looking to maintain your MPGs.
ALSO SEE: 2016 Honda Civic Review
VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI – estimated resale value of a 2012 model vehicle: $14,556
2016 Golf Sportwagen starts at: $22,445
Similar: Mazda CX-5 (starts at $ 22,695)
There really isn’t a compact wagon on the market that can keep up with Jetta Sportwagen, but the Mazda CX-5 crossover comes close. It features similar cargo and passenger space, and is as fun to drive as the Sportwagen. One positive change is that you can opt to get the CX-5 in a few different engine choices or equip it with AWD for added capability.
If you still want a wagon, then you probably have to spend a bit more on the BMW 3 Series wagon or the Volvo V60, the only entry-level luxury wagons offered in the U.S. While the V60 is undoubtedly attractive, the 3 Series is probably the better choice, since it can be equipped with a fuel-sipping diesel engine, manual transmission or even all-wheel drive. That’s the true upgrade choice.
Same MPG: Toyota Prius v (starts at $27,510)
If all you want is eye-popping MPG numbers and a ton of cargo space, then there’s no better choice than the Prius v. While not exactly a hair-raising driving experience, this hybrid wagon does the trick at the pumps earning a combined 42 MPG and also features an impressive total cargo space of 67.3 cubic feet.
VW Golf TDI – estimated resale value of a 2012 model vehicle: $14,496
2016 Golf five-door starts at $20,995
Similar: Mazda3 Hatch (starts at $19,665)
This is easy: Golf buyers want a practical, fun-to-drive hatchback, and that’s exactly what the Mazda3 hatch is. While our former Car of the Year winner is also available with a ton of technology, car shoppers will really love how impressive the interior is.
Upgrade: Lexus CT200h (starts at $32,200)
There’s only one sporty, fuel-efficient luxury hatchback on the market today and that’s the Lexus CT200h. The Lexus is a tiny bit less practical, featuring less rear-seat room and cargo space, but not by a huge margin. On the plus side, this Lexus is quite fun to drive and can get 42 MPG combined.
Same MPG: Toyota Prius (starts at $25,035)
The Prius is a compact hatchback with amazing fuel economy numbers, easily eclipsing the Golf TDI’s fuel mileage. With the ability to earn 52 MPG combined, there are few compact cars that can keep up with it. A new wrinkle in the Prius’ game plan is that it handles better than the old model.
VW Passat TDI – estimated resale value of a 2012 model vehicle: $13,665
2016 Passat starts at: $23,260
Similar: Mazda6 (starts at $22,315)
The Mazda6 would be the perfect replacement for a Passat because it looks high-end and is great to drive. The Mazda6 is only available with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and it’s not very exciting compared to the old TDI, making just 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, but it makes up for that with its fantastic driving dynamics. The interior is the biggest highlight to the Mazda6, as it’s stylish, simple and packs some premium touches.
Upgrade: BMW 328d (starts at $40,845)
Although it’s technically a bit smaller, the 3 Series diesel would be a nice upgrade to Passat drivers, featuring fantastic fuel economy, great driving dynamics and a luxurious edge.
Same MPG: Toyota Camry Hybrid (starts at $27,625)
High-MPG family sedans are now a dime a dozen, thanks to hybrid versions of popular cars like the Accord, Malibu, Sonata and Fusion, but it’s hard to bet against the tried and true Toyota Camry Hybrid, which earns 41 MPG combined.
VW Touareg TDI – estimated resale value of a 2012 model vehicle: $28,270
2016 Touareg starts at: $43,615
Similar: Nissan Murano (starts at $30,560)
The Nissan Murano is a great option with beautiful styling, a powerful engine and a gorgeous interior. It’s a perfect replacement for the Touareg.
Upgrade: Mercedes GLE 300d (Starts at $53,425)
If you want a diesel mid-sized SUV, the Mercedes GLE is one of the best bets, featuring a 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel that makes 201 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. If you towed with your Touareg, you’ll find the GLE plenty capable, with a maximum tow rating of 6,600 lbs.
Same MPG: Ford Edge (starts at $29,595)
While the Nissan Murano is a solid replacement for the Touareg, the Ford Edge is the better bet in terms of fuel economy. Front-wheel-drive Edge models equipped with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine earn 30 MPG on the highway and 20 MPG in the city, while all-wheel drive models maintain the 20 MPG figure, and get 28 MPGs on the highway.