The Volkswagen Passat is the German automaker’s midsize four-door sedan, serving repeatedly as the company’s flagship sedan. It was once one of the “People’s Car’s” top-selling models worldwide and is known for its premium construction, excellent upscale on-road mannerisms, practical size, and mature styling. Among Volkswagen’s lineup, the Passat always sat at the top of Volkswagen’s non-SUV car lineup, above the compact Jetta, the subcompact Golf, and the quirky Beetle. That is, until the “four-door coupe” CC variant of the Passat, and the limited-production high-dollar Phaeton came to be in the 2000s.
But with the proliferation and high demand for crossover SUVs overtaking the once common midsize family sedan, the Passat fell out of relevancy and into the background shadow of its once former and storied self. So much in fact, that by 2022, Volkswagen of America discontinued the Passat for North American shores.
With our vast collection of data combined with other sources, we’ve sought out the best and worst model years for the Volkswagen Passat. Knowing which models are the most dependable will help you make a better-informed decision when purchasing a second-hand example. To help separate the best and worst years of the VW Passat, we accounted for several sets of data to help determine the most ideal model years using both third-party statistics and our reports from FIXD’s sensor.
|Best Years||Why?||Worst Years||Why?|
Best overall engine reliability, highest safety ratings, best fuel economy, most likely to go past 150,000 miles
Lowest FIXD Reliability Scores, lowest Owner Reliability Score, highest number of DTC codes recorded
Lower annual repair costs than some others reported, highest Owner Reliability Scores, most likely to go past 125,000 miles, lowest chance of a $500+ repair
Lowest FIXD Reliability Score, second lowest Owner Reliability Score, second highest number of DTC codes recorded
Lowest market values, highest value if in good condition, higher than average Owner Reliability Score
Volkswagen Passat Engine Reliability Score, Safety Ratings, MPG, and Value v.s. Maintenance & Repair Costs – Year by Year
To determine the best years of the Volkswagen Passat, we considered all the overall statistics and ratings including the following:
– FIXD reliability score (engine reliability)
– Owner Reliability Score (based on owner survey data)
– NHTSA safety ratings
– Fuel economy (EPA ratings)
– Survey of annual maintenance and repair costs in correlation to market value (from owner survey and KBB market data)
Since the Passat’s worldly introduction in 1973, it’s endured a total of eight total generations over a span of a half-century, at one point becoming the world’s best-selling midsize sedan, selling 30 million units in total worldwide to date and 1.76 million North America alone, VW moved 1.76 million Passats (including the CC) since 1974.
During its first generation, internally referred to as the “B1,” it sold only in Europe as the Passat. On our shores, it was first named the Volkswagen Dasher for its first generation, and the Quantum by the second “B2” generation. The Passat name didn’t arrive worldwide until the third “B3” generation and by the fourth “B4” generation, the Passat finally found its footing in North America in 1994 with the “B5” in 1998 and the “B6” in 2005.
The B7 generation Passat, known as the “A32” and “A33” “NMS” or “New Midsize Sedan” platform Passat arrived in 2012 and we technically received the B8 for 2022, before its discontinuation in 2022. However, it’s still considerably different than the B8 Passat sold in other markets.
Since our data and records only go back to vehicles with OBDII or “On-Board Diagnostics version II,” our observations should begin with the “B4” generation of Passat in the 1994 model year. However, because the “B4” Passat didn’t quite sell to the extent of some of its successors, not many of them are still around and our data mostly starts with the later generation B5 Passat in 1998.
Throughout its production, the Passat earned solid notoriety as a quality automobile, being equipped with a plethora of gas and diesel four-cylinder; and gas-only five, and six-cylinder engines, in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged form. For a limited production run, one Passat received one unique eight-cylinder engine.
The majority of these engines were widely used through Volkswagen’s portfolio with some still being used today. Their ubiquitous use means their problem spots are very commonly recognized and reliability records are well-known. There are a couple of unique motors notwithstanding. But we will get to that shortly.
Because of its German roots as a mainstream vehicle (versus a premium luxury), it was often overengineered in a lot of respects, while under-engineered in several others. Thus, the Passat gained a reputation for being a hit-or-miss in the reliability department.
The Volkswagen Passat also has a reputation for being quirky and not taking kindly to deferred or improper maintenance, neglect, and abuse. A neglected Passat is a troublesome and expensively problematic vehicle, compared to a meticulously owned one. Additionally, Volkswagens are very specific about their maintenance, requiring strict adherence to VW’s guidelines, which makes them more expensive to maintain than other vehicles. Those who meticulously maintained their vehicles naturally experienced significantly better results, longer lasting and far more reliable vehicles.
Overall, in our data and findings, the Passat expectedly matches its reputation for hit-or-miss reliability with both FIXD Reliability Scores and surveyed Owner Reliability Scores being all over the place. Like many of our observations with other vehicles, we also found that they tend to become more expensive to own as they rack up higher mileage numbers.
This correlation is typical for an automobile that sees frequent use as a family vehicle, where road trip vacations may be a common occurrence. Sedans were once a popular choice for the job before crossover SUVs took their spot. Though some model years should be avoided, particularly with the fifth-generation B5 model as they exhibited the highest repair costs.
If you’re in the market for a car, take a look at our article on the USA’s most reliable and cheapest to repair cars in the U.S. Don’t get stuck with a lemon, use our data to help you shop.
Engine Reliability Score – Over The Years
Our in-depth analysis of the Volkswagen Passat’s engine reliability comes from two different datasets: data received based on reports from the FIXD app and results surveyed by owners.
– FIXD Reliability Score (Green): This line in the graph represents the dataset reported through Check Engine Lights, or CELs, registered and recorded with the FIXD app
– Owner Reliability Score (Gray): This alternate gray line represents the dataset collected by owner reports and the Passat’s perceived reliability, with surveys asking how owners are likely to trust their vehicles throughout different trip lengths. Those feeling questionable about short-distance trips rate lower, while those feeling confident about long-distance trips rate higher.
The higher the number, the better the reliability rating, with 10 being the most reliable and 1 being the least reliable.
Generally, Volkswagens are known for reliable motors with very solid internals and crucial parts. When cared for, they can last a very long time and go hundreds of thousands of miles with proper care. But the key emphasis is on proper care. While the internals of their engines are very durable, problems often arise from either electrical issues or lack of proper care. This is heavily reflected in Passat’s reliability statistics. For example, all gas-powered Passats developed a reputation for a high failure rate of ignition coil packs, so much so that they’ve become an expected regular maintenance item (as observed in our collection of DTC codes, P0300–P0306).
While the gasoline four-cylinder engines were the most ubiquitously used, the most ideal and least trouble-free motor is the VR6 gasoline V6 and in some cases, the later TDI turbocharged diesel engines from 2012 onward. The turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder engines are well-known to be very expensive to maintain and demanding with upkeep.
For instance, all turbocharged direct-injected (designated by the “TFSI” and “TSI” badges) four-cylinder engines have unique carbon-build-up issues. Carbon build-up can be prevented by regularly driving the engine hard. Though if too much carbon builds up, it can lead to engine misfires and require a special cleaning process, which may be another maintenance procedure that can cost upwards of $1,000.
Starting with the B4 Passat, Volkswagen equipped its North American versions with the choice of a base 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline four-cylinder, a 1.9-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder badged as the “TDI,” and a 2.8-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline V6 badged as “VR6” models, with the choice of either front-wheel or 4MOTION all-wheel drive.
The B5 Passat came with a total choice of four engines: a base 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline “EA827” four-cylinder (designated by the “1.8T” trunk badge”, and an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel “EA188” four-cylinder (designated the “TDI” model), and a 2.8-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline V6. At launch in 1998 and very briefly, Volkswagen offered a 1.9-liter turbocharged diesel four badged as the “1.9 TDI” but was withdrawn from the market due to emissions regulations.
Volkswagen introduced another diesel on the updated B5.5 Passat in the form of a 2.0-liter turbocharged “EA188 BHW” four-cylinder in 2004 (designated the 2.0 TDI) and a very expensive, but very unique 4.0-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline eight-cylinder, known and badged as the “W8” in 2002.
By the B6 generation, Volkswagen discontinued the unique and expensive W8-powered Passat and the underpowered diesel option, in favor of just a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder (initially an “EA113” 2.0 TFSI and later “EA888” 2.0 TSI) or a top-spec 3.6-liter VR6.
The B7 Passat, or the NMS version in America, Volkswagen offered a base 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline “EA855” five-cylinder, a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel “EA288” four-cylinder (badged as the 2.0 TDI), and the continuation of the 3.6-liter VR6. By 2014, a 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline “EA888” four-cylinder replaced the “EA855” 2.5-liter five-cylinder, marking the return of the “1.8T” trunk badge. For its mid-cycle refresh in 2015, Volkswagen discontinued the diesel amid its “Dieselgate” emissions scandal and introduced a new 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline “EA888” four-cylinder to replace the troubled “EA288” diesel in addition to the base 1.8-liter.
For 2018, Volkswagen discontinued the 1.8-liter turbocharged “EA888” gas four-cylinder and the VR6 with the 2.0-liter gasoline “EA888” turbo-four remaining as the only engine up through the final model year in 2022.
It’s important to be wary of the B5 and B5.5’s ubiquitous 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline “EA113” four-cylinder on 1.8T models, which developed a reputation for oil sludging issues, a problem reflected in our Owner Reliability Score, for Passats up to the B5’s production end in 2005. However, it’s often argued as to whether improper owner care or an engineering flaw caused this oil sludging issue. Both VW mechanics state that if high-quality Volkswagen-approved oils were used and more frequent oil changes were performed, the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder can be a reliable motor.
Diesel-powered B5 Passats should be avoided altogether due to serious issues with the balancer shaft drive and oil pump. The unique W8 eight-cylinder B5.5 Passat is certainly not for the faint-hearted as they are incredibly complex and expensively complicated to maintain. When the camshaft adjuster for the variable valve timing system fails on a W8 Passat, replacing them requires removing the entire engine from the car to access them–a typical $5,000-$6,000 job.
These engine issues with the B5 and B5.5 Passats are corroborated by our FIXD app data, which helps determine the FIXD Reliability Score. In our data collection, we found that 2003-2005 Passats have the highest total number of Diagnostic Trouble Codes, or DTCs, recorded. Later B6 Passats beginning in 2006 saw similar FIXD Reliability Scores and Owner Reliability Scores as they still weren’t without their issues.
In terms of the North America-exclusive “NMS” Passat, Volkswagen’s 2.5-liter five-cylinder today is regarded as one of the company’s most reliable motors. The 2.5-liter also isn’t without its maintenance spots on higher mileage vehicles. Despite the scrutiny and issues the 2.0-liter turbodiesel “EA288” inline-four, or TDI models, had under Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, they are still reliable motors.
Later engines in the NMS have overall higher FIXD Reliability Scores and Owner Reliability Scores due to being newer with improved engineering. Though higher mileage vehicles still registered similar DTC trouble codes and issues as previous generations of Passats with older versions of the same engines.
Anomalies exist for the 2014 Passat where the reliability tanks are. In addition to the typical issues associated with the 1.8T engine and Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, this significant drop is attributed to a recall of the TDI’s heat shield (campaign 17V309000), which would damage the exhaust system and potentially lead to a fire. The 1.8T gasoline engine also experienced a recall related to its fuel rail system, campaign 15V028000.
Another anomaly exists for the 2016 Passat, with another significant drop in Owner Reliability Scores, but this again can be attributed to another similar recall with the 1.8T engine and its fuel rail system, campaign 16V403000. Afterwards, however, the 2017 Passats and newer have the highest scores altogether.
For a quick breakdown of some of the most common causes of check-engine lights in Volkswagen Jettas, which shared powertrains with the Passat, refer to our list of “top 5 causes for the Jetta.”
NHTSA Safety Score – Over The Years
Safety is one of the leading determining factors to vehicle purchases, especially when it comes to family vehicles used to haul children. The Passat was a popular family vehicle for those who didn’t see the appeal of SUVs. An overwhelming amount of owners surveyed claim that they primarily use their Passat as a family vehicle, with many also reporting that they drove a lot and used their vehicles for lots of long-distance travel. Thus, as with any vehicle, safety is of great concern. The safer the vehicle, the safer your occupants are, and thus, they’re more likely to survive a collision, all of which help lower your insurance rates by reducing safety risks.
Thankfully, the Passat has always been rated highly as a very safe vehicle by both government and private crash-testing agencies.
A vehicle’s overall safety is assessed by two agencies: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS. However, we only concentrate on the NHTSA ratings as they’re a government agency federally regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation whereas the IIHS is an independent nonprofit agency.
Overall, the Volkswagen Passat comes from a country where safety takes precedence. As a result, the Passat has always maintained a strong safety record thanks to its high crashworthiness and solid structure. Older Passats from the B5 and B5.5 generations rated highly for the era according to the NHTSA standards of the time in our data collection.
Though ratings started to drop as newer passive and active safety systems began to reach the market. Unlike a lot of its more value-packed competition from America and Asia, basic safety systems that we take for granted today as standard equipment—such as stability control and anti-lock brakes—were still optional or only available on higher-end Passat models for the B5 and B5.5 generations.
To modern standards where today’s vehicles come with ABS, automatic braking, stability and traction control, and tons of airbags as standards, early B5 and basic specification B5.5 Passats are still relatively primitive, which is why they rank lower in Average Safety Ratings.
It wasn’t until the B6 Passat in 2006 that ABS and stability control became standard, along with six standard airbags. From then on, the NHTSA ratings began to take a slight drop as the NHTSA continued issuing new mandates and compliance regulations for safety, which were still a part of the 2001 revision for rollover standards. Even though the mandate was issued in 2001, automakers still weren’t able to immediately redesign and reengineer their vehicles at the time until their generational successors later on.
Other changes also include the 2007 mandate for standard electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring systems, or TPMS, on all vehicles, significant revisions to crash test standards in 2008 as per the New Car Assessment Program, and further revisions in 2010 to crash tests and safety standards, which explain the further dip in our graph.
As the completely new NMS generation Passat arrived in 2012, it continued to fare well to the updated NHTSA testing and safety standards overall, maintaining at least a four-star rating or above. Further revisions to NHTSA safety regulations in 2016 explain another slight dip in ratings
Additionally, in January 2022, the NHTSA announced revisions to its testing standards to account for greater protection and crashworthiness for pedestrians. The change came as part of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s new “National Roadway Safety Strategy,” which accounts for the dip in the Passat’s NHTSA safety rating for its final year in 2022.
If you live in one of the states listed below, we can show you the cheapest vehicles to insure in yours.
|What Used Cars Are the Cheapest To Insure In:|
MPG – Over The Years
Fuel economy has always been a highlight for the Passat, mainly due to its standard gasoline and optional turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engines. As a result, it’s no surprise in our findings and data that the average miles-per-gallon ratings remained above 20 mpg.
Though because the Passat was generally a lighter and heavier car with slightly more powerful engines than its direct competitors, it typically consumes more fuel and costs more to fill up as older gas Passats require premium gasoline.
The B5 and B5.5 Passat’s gasoline four-cylinder engines averaged 20 mpg. Fuel economy improved with the B6 Passat and its direct-injected “EA113” TFSI engine, and then skyrocketed in 2009 with the new “EA888” TSI four cylinders.
With the NMS Passat, the 2.5-liter gasoline five-cylinder produced similar fuel economy results as the previous base turbocharged gasoline four-cylinders. Models in 2013 saw an uptick due to the availability of the TDI turbodiesel engines, which got up to 35 mpg average. Though the fuel economy ratings took a dip in 2016 after the discontinuation of the TDI turbodiesel model due to Dieselgate. They further took a dip as the updated and more powerful 2.0-liter “2.0T” turbocharged gasoline “EA888” inline-four replaced the TDI motor.
The average skyrocketed in 2019, accounting for the discontinuation of the 1.8T and the six-cylinder VR6 engines, leaving the 2.0T engine as the sole engine choice. Another finalized proposition in September 2019 as the NHTSA and EPA established the “One National Program” for fuel economy regulation effective for 2020 model-year vehicles, which adjusted testing standards and greenhouse gas emissions. This probably accounts for the 2020 dip in average fuel economy as engineers likely had to retune the EA888 motor to meet these new compliance regulations.
If fuel efficiency is a concern when shopping for a midsize four-door sedan, there are other more fuel-friendly alternatives such as the hybrid variants of the Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, and Honda Accord. In terms of its direct competition, however, the Passat sits in line with the rest, returning similar based on the combined average cycle rating of city and highway ratings.
(FWD I4 AUTO)
(FWD I4 AUTO)
|Toyota Camry (FWD I4 AUTO)|
|2001||21 MPG||23 MPG||24 MPG|
|2010||25 MPG||25 MPG||26 MPG|
|2020||27 MPG||30-33 MPG||26-34 MPG|
Current Market Value of All Volkswagen Passat Years & Cost Per Year to Repair and Maintain Each
When considering the overall average repair and maintenance costs of a Volkswagen Passat, it’s crucial to consider the reliability of the specific model generations in question. Overall, Passats are premium mainstream vehicles and thus, require cost premiums to repair and maintain. That’s because they utilize VW’s proprietary variant of OBDII known as the “VAG-COM Diagnostic System” or “VCDS.” This proprietary diagnostic system makes it difficult for general mechanics and repair shops to repair Volkswagens properly, requiring a Volkswagen dealership service center or an experienced Volkswagen specialist.
These high maintenance and repair costs explain why generations of Passats prior to the NMS generation in 2012 have the lowest KBB Market Values, as displayed by the green line. They are notoriously expensive cars to fix and maintain, especially when compared to their direct rivals, which is reflected in their overall average higher cost of repairs, as displayed by the gray line.
As exhibited by the chart, older examples also suffer heavily from depreciation, from these typically higher costs of repairs and maintenance. Even for examples that have been meticulously maintained by those who could afford the upkeep, they still have lower residual values likely because they’ve been used quite a bit and racked up considerable mileage, necessitating the heightened need for maintenance and repairs.
In our findings, they also have the highest surveyed repair costs with the majority of the B5 and B5.5 owners reporting having spent at least $1,000 annually in repairs. They also anticipated higher changes of a $500+ repair. Later B6 Passats saw lower annual repair costs well below $1,000, relatively speaking when compared to the previous generation of Passat. The lowest reported annual cost came with a report for a 2021 model at $250.
When the NMS generation Passat arrived in 2012, statistics for annual repair costs remained steady, though owners reported that they anticipated a high chance of a $500+ repair, which is likely due to the Passat’s long-standing reputation for being an expensive car to maintain. They also feature more modern safety and onboard technology, which explains why KBB Market Values for the NMS Passats are generally higher.
Naturally, in our survey, newer examples after the NMS Passat’s 2015 mid-cycle refresh have higher KBB Market Values and reliability scores from improved engineering because they’re less likely to need repairs or extensive maintenance. Some owners reported in our survey having traveled as much as 187,500 miles on some newer NMS models after 2015.
When shopping for a used Volkswagen Passat, it’s important to keep in mind that not all vehicles are cared for equally. To protect yourself from lemons, take along a FIXD Sensor on your test drive. FIXD connects to a free app on your smartphone to tell you more about the vehicle you’re checking out, including check engine lights and other hidden issues that the owner or dealership may be attempting to hide. Click here to learn more and get FIXD for only $19.99 (regular price $59)!
Important Features Timeline
1994: B4 Passat saw the standardization of dual front airbags and seat belt pretensioners
1997: B5 Passat was introduced, sold in wagon and sedan form, 1.9 TDI was offered only for an introductory year and shared a platform with Audi A4
2000: Heated front seats, coded anti-theft keys, brake-pad wear sensors standard on all models; optional dealer-installed CD player available.
4MOTION all-wheel drive becomes optional.
2001: Facelifted B5.5 Passat introduced, including new front and rear designs and lighting, revised interior, and standard front and rear curtain airbags power for 1.8T increases by 20 horsepower
2002: Extraordinarily unique W8 variant introduced with 4MOTION all-wheel drive
2003: W8 gains choice of six-speed manual or automatic, stability control optional for base and mid-tier trims
2004: W8 discontinued for sedan and wagon, TDI diesel engine reintroduced for North America, 4MOTION made available for 1.8T
2006: B6 Passat was introduced on a bespoke Volkswagen platform with more powerful engines, a larger body, and more space
ABS, stability control, six airbags standard
TFSI direct-injected gasoline engines and new Haldex-based 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system introduced
2007: High-performance limited production Passat R36 introduced, aux audio jack added to all models
2008: Passat CC “four-door coupe” variant introduced
2009: Updated 2.0-liter TSI “EA888” gasoline four-cylinder replaces older TFSI 2.0-liter “EA113,” all manual transmissions dropped
2010: DSG dual-clutch automatic introduced
2012: NMS Passat was introduced exclusively for the North American market, manufactured in the new VW plant in Chattanooga, TN; wagon discontinued
2013: 1.8L turbo-four replaces 2.5L five-cylinder base engine
2015: NMS mid-cycle refresh, TDI discontinued, replaced by 2.0L gas inline-four, reverse camera, and MIB II infotainment standard
2016: Passat receives Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink
2018 – 1.8L and VR6 discontinued, commemorated with V6-only Passat GT
2020 – 2.0-liter EA888 engine updated, frontal collision mitigation, automatic braking, blind-spot detection, rear-cross traffic alert standard on most models
2022 – Passat ends production for North America with Limited Edition model with only 1,973 produced
The Best Years of the Volkswagen Passat
Explain that the years/year ranges are ranked according to engine reliability/safety scores and owner surveys
2015-2020 Volkswagen “NMS” Passat
FIXD Reliability Score: 8-10/10
Owner Reliability Score: 5-10/10
KBB Value: $6,757- $25,000
Fuel Economy: 23-36 mpg (gas)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250-$1,000
Safety Rating: 4.3-4.8/5
The 2015-2020 Volkswagen Passat is the last run of the newest, “NMS” generation Passat. It features the latest updates, the most current standard safety technology, and the newest powertrain, making it one of the safest and best value buys of all Passats. Though because the Passat has a rough history and reputation for being expensive to maintain, depreciation hits them hard, with some KBB Market Values dropping well below $10,000 for a seven-year-old example.
Because of this depreciation, second-hand examples make for a great buy for prospective used car owners. However, we cannot emphasize how important it is to find a well-maintained example. A neglected or poorly maintained Passat will be an expensive and problematic vehicle.
Even for those who drive a lot and rack up high miles, owners have reported as much as 187,500 miles on a 2016 NMS Passat, having only spent around $250 annually in maintenance and repairs. Though they also admitted that they anticipated a chance of a $500 repair or more at 100% chance.
Ultimately, it’s best to try and seek out a VR6-powered Passat and to avoid the 1.8T and 2.0T Passats altogether as many owners saw major engine failure around the 60,000-mile mark with the turbo fours.
According to FIXD app engine reliability data, there have been some Check Engine Lights triggered on some of these models, but they have the overall lowest total tally of DTC codes when compared to older Passats. Annual repair costs range from $250 to as high as $1,000, depending on how far the vehicle’s been driven at this point. Those prices are also reflective of the typical costs of several oil changes and scheduled maintenance visits at the dealership.
But overall, these lower maintenance and repair costs are also likely since many of these Passats are still under their original factory warranties if not extended factory warranties from being certified pre-owned vehicles. So any defects or issues that arise under ownership are likely to be resolved at no extra cost to the owner.
It’s also important to be wary of vehicle recalls when considering your next purchase. The 2015 Volkswagen Passat currently has 7 recalls, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat has 5 recalls, the 2017 Volkswagen Passat has 6 recalls, the 2018 Volkswagen Passat has 4 recalls, the 2019 Volkswagen Passat has 1 recall, and the 2020 Volkswagen Passat has 3 recalls.
2012-2014 Volkswagen “NMS” Passat
FIXD Reliability Score: 5-8/10
Owner Reliability Score: 8-9/10
KBB Value: $5,076- $7,063
Fuel Economy: 30-40 mpg (diesel); 24-35 (gas)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $722-$778
Safety Rating: 4.5/5
The older first-series run of the NMS Passats manufactured between 2012-2014 rate the second highest in terms of reliability, and safety, which means they shouldn’t be overlooked. They’re also the second most modern generation of Passat, which makes them still relevant today.
It’s still best to seek out a VR6-powered model or even a TDI model as they are the least troublesome. The “Dieselgate” affected diesels didn’t suffer from reliability issues. Otherwise, the functionality and dependability of the engine remained unaffected and these diesel Passats are known to be some of the more reliable engines of the NMS Passats.
FIXD app Reliability Score varies, from as low as 5 for the 2014 model year, to as high as 8 out of 10 for the 2012 model year, but owners surveyed in the Owner Reliability Score report otherwise, rank their experiences between 8 out of 10 for the 2012 and 2013 model years, to 9 out of 10 for the 2014 model year. With the FIXD reliability score, the 2013 and 2014 models do take a considerable dip, due to the high number of P0300-P0306 DTC trouble codes associated with the ignition coil packs.
Additionally, this model year range of NMS Passats also have at least 2 to 4 recalls related to the powertrain, which likely triggered a higher number of DTC codes before being repaired by the automaker at no expense to the owner.
These older NMS Passats however do exhibit slightly higher maintenance costs than the updated facelifted models after 2015, likely because of age- and use-related wear and tear. In our surveyed data, owners reported well over 100,000 miles on these model-year Passats as well with annual repair and maintenance costs ranging from $722 to $778, which is higher than the updated models.
This is also attributed to the fact that some of these models, which may have been sold as certified pre-owned vehicles, may be coming to the end of their factory-sanctioned extended warranty coverage. This means that there will be a higher chance of out-of-pocket repair and maintenance costs.
Recall-wise, the 2012 Volkswagen Passat has 8 recalls, the 2013 Volkswagen Passat has six recalls, and the 2014 Volkswagen Passat has 9 recalls. These repairs should be covered by the automaker, leaving you with nothing to pay out of pocket.
2006 Volkswagen Passat
FIXD Reliability Score: 1/10
Owner Reliability Score: 10/10
KBB Value: $3,169
Fuel Economy: 23-32 mpg (gas)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $500
Safety Rating: 4.2/5
In general, most Volkswagen gurus and enthusiasts would advise avoiding the B6 generation of Passat as they are notoriously plagued with a wide variety of issues, many of which were a result of improper care and neglect. However, there are very few exceptions to the rule, particularly if the cars were well cared for.
In our data findings, the 2006 model year B6 Passats rates the highest in terms of surveyed Owner Reliability score, scores pegging at 10 out of 10. In contrast, FIXD Reliability Scores place the entirety of the B6 Passat generation at an incredibly low 1 out of 10, which is likely due to the highest total number of DTC trouble codes recorded with the FIXD App.
That said, it’s best to aim for the VR6 models as they are the least troublesome and most reliable, though there could be some good things to be said about the turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder engines. Though beware, they are still expensive motors to maintain and fix.
The 2006 B6 Passat likely rates high among owners due to the use of the V6 or early 2.0-liter TFSI EA113 motor, which have the potential to be very reliable and long-lasting. The early “EA888s” developed a reputation for being slightly more problematic in their own ways, according to VWTuning.co.
For a fully comprehensive list of some of the known DTC codes common with B6 Passats, refer to CarBuzz’s extensive “Check Before You Buy” guide. As these cars are well over 10 years old, age and wear do take their toll on them. But if you can find a meticulously maintained example, regardless of mileage, you may end up with a very nice, reliable, and dependable B6 Passat for very little money.
Overall, owners reported spending between $500 to as much as $1,750 for annual repair costs for these model-year B5 Passats, which is accurately reflective of routine maintenance visits and the need to change out a timing belt or chain for either turbocharged four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine.
In terms of recalls, the 2006 Volkswagen Passat has 4 recalls.
2001 Volkswagen B5 and B5.5 Passat
FIXD Reliability Score: 1/10
Owner Reliability Score: 8/10
KBB Value: $2,630
Fuel Economy: 23-32 mpg (gas)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250
Safety Rating: 5/5
Similar to the B6 Passat, there are only a couple of high points in the B5 Passat’s history worth mentioning, according to our data and findings. Additionally, according to the Volkswagen community, a well-kept B5 Passat can be a solid and reliable car. We still recommend the VR6 and to avoid the diesel (due to balancer shaft and oil pump problems) and 1.8T four-cylinder due to the sludging issues.
Our FIXD Reliability Score for the entirety of the B5 and B5.5 Passat generation run is still at its lowest of 1 out of 10, which is attributed to the second-highest number of DTC codes recorded using the FIXD app. However, Owner Reliability Score still puts the 2001 Passat at 6 out of 10, which tells us that owners who are willing to keep up with the maintenance on these Passats generally found them reliable enough and worth noting.
These Passats however are 20 years old, if not older, which means that if they were neglected or suffered from deferred maintenance in any way, it’s best to avoid them. But if you’re looking for a cheaper used car and don’t mind it being on the older side, and love the appeal of this generation of Passat, you may be able to get lucky.
As indicated by our DTC code data collection via the FIXD app, most of the recorded DTCs were related to the same P0300-P0306 codes thrown when ignition oil packs expire. MAF or Mass Air-Flow sensors are also known to be common wear items on B5 and B5.5 Passats.
In terms of recalls, the 2001 Volkswagen Passat has no open recalls. Other recalls did exist in the 2000s for the B5 and B5.5 Passats, which you can see in CarBuzz’s buyer’s guide. But these were likely already addressed long ago.
The Worst Years of the Volkswagen Passat
2003-2005 Volkswagen Passat
FIXD Reliability Score: 1/10
Owner Reliability Score: 4-6/10
KBB Value: $1,793-$2,027
Fuel Economy: 17-28 (Gas)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $1,000-$1,375
Safety Rating: 4.6/5
While B5.5 Passats have the potential to be reliable vehicles, owners surveyed in our Owner Reliability Score report otherwise, with this year’s set of Passats ranking the lowest according to the owners at 4-6 out of 10. This is on top of the already low FIXD reliability score of 1 out of 10. Because of the B5.5 Passat’s age at this point, it’s probably best to avoid them as they are some of the most problematic of the breed.
Our FIXD data app records the usual P0300-P0306 DTC codes for expired ignition coil packs. We also recorded a high number of P0171 DTCs for failed fuel pumps, ECUs, or other related fuel delivery items. This is corroborated by CarBuzz’s buyer’s guide, where they note that 2003 Passats suffered fuel pump problems that eventually led to a recall and further a P1664 DTC code for a failed fuel pump control module. There are also some high numbers of P0299 codes, indicating the need for turbocharger replacement on the 1.8T and 2.0T models.
This year range also saw the introduction of the extremely unique eight-cylinder Passat W8, which we already noted was a problematic engine in its first initial years. By 2004 and 2005, the W8 was much improved, but it didn’t mitigate the issue that they are incredibly difficult and expensive to work on, so much so that very few Volkswagen dealerships and specialists will not touch them.
2007, 2009 Volkswagen B6 Passat
FIXD Reliability Score: 1/10
Owner Reliability Score: 5-6/10
KBB Value: $3,132- $3,438
Fuel Economy: 21-25 mpg(gas)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $500
Safety Rating: 4.2/5
When it comes to the B6 Passat, unfortunately, it’s mostly a miss in terms of reliability and dependability. In addition to our FIX Reliability Score of 1 out of 10, our Owner Reliability Score rates one of the lowest for our data at 5 to 6 out of 10 according to the owners surveyed.
For recorded DTC trouble codes, we saw one the highest tally of P0441 codes for a problem with the gasoline tank’s evaporative system (which could either be a bad gasoline filler cap to a more serious issue, such as a bad purge solenoid), and P2015 codes involving the intake manifold flap actuator for 2.0TSI models. Another code commonly registered is the P0299 code for turbocharger boost leak, often attributed to the gas turbocharged four-cylinder’s diverter valve. It also should be noted that we recorded a high number of P0420 codes, which is a failure of the catalytic converter for the 2007 model year. There was also a high number of P0171 codes, which translates to issues with the engine’s vacuum, fuel, and emissions control systems, mainly with the PCV or positive crankshaft ventilation valve. P0300-P0306 codes are also prominent for failing ignition coil packs.
This is corroborated by CarBuzz’s B6 Passat buyer’s guide, indicating a high number of recalled Passats for the 2007 year for a fragile vacuum line associated with the power brakes. Additionally, these Passats fall in the range of vehicles affected by the massive Takata airbag recall. No matter how you look at it, B6 Passats are expensive cars to maintain and there’s a greater emphasis on the gasoline four-cylinders, which again are very specific with their maintenance routine. The VR6s are the more reliable and less maintenance-intensive motors.
What years of the (Volkswagen Passat) have engine and/or transmission problems?
With the wide variety of engines used over the Passat’s contemporary generations following the B4 generation from 1997 onwards, the turbocharged four-cylinders and the early turbodiesels seem to have the most problems over all of the generations. While they may have problems, a lot of them were caused by improper care or neglect, which led to even more problems downstream.
The transmissions overall are very reliable, as long as they’ve been regularly serviced with fluid and filter changes every 30,000 miles, which is the general golden rule for any automatic transmission. Never believe a manufacturer or advice given that suggests that a transmission is “filled for life” “lifetime sealed,” or “maintenance free.” This is absolutely incorrect as transmission fluid breaks down over time and use.
The transmissions that do have problems however are the ones that have not had their fluid and filters changed regularly, and the early DSG dual-clutch automatics are known to have some issues, especially if they weren’t serviced every 30,000 miles.
What is considered high mileage for a Volkswagen Passat?
The Volkswagen Passat is known as a very comfortable and practical midsize sedan that’s ideal for road trips and daily duties. This is down to its German engineering and how the vehicle was designed to the standards of the Autobahn. This makes it an excellent driver’s vehicle and one suited for long-distance trips. Plenty of Passat owners who meticulously cared for their vehicles frequently reported getting well over 100,000 miles out of their vehicles and even more than 250,000 miles.
High mileage in general for any car is one that goes past 60,000 miles, which is past the typical warranty coverages of most vehicles. But with VWs, cars with six-figure mileage aren’t really considered “high-mileage” for a Passat, again if the car was properly maintained. While they aren’t without their problems or specific maintenance requirements, owners still happily reported that their Passats are long-lasting vehicles.
What other vehicles should I consider?
The Passat always competed with the likes of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Kia Optima, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, and Hyundai Sonata. All these models are available in the second-hand market. Though like Volkswagen, Chevrolet, and Ford both discontinued their sedans for the North American market due to low demand and the popularity of crossovers and SUVs.
It should be emphasized that the Volkswagen Passat is considered a premium mainstream midsize sedan. That means it sits on the higher end of the spectrum when compared to its competition, offering a more near-luxury experience from its mature driving performance, high levels of build quality, and premium construction and engineering. As a result, Passats have a greater reputation for being premium-like and expensive to maintain and fix.
So if you’re looking to save money or aren’t particularly meticulous with maintenance and upkeep, then a Passat may not be ideal for you. In this case, a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, or Hyundai Sonata may be better suited to you. Passats are costly vehicles to repair and keep on the road. But if you are willing to invest in the vehicle and upkeep, Volkswagen Passats can be very reliable and rewarding.
What owners of the Volkswagen Passat like to use their car for:
Percent based x/5-star: 0-10% = 1, 11-20% = 2, 21-30% = 3, 31-40% = 4, 41%+ = 5
|Frequent Use Categories:||How Useful? (Out of 5 Stars)|
|Lots of Driving (travel/long commute)||*****|
|Office on Wheels||*|
A Note About Data and Information Sources
This article has many details about Volkswagen Passat’s reliability; here’s what we used for our assumptions and recommendations.
- FIXD Reliability Score & Data: Engine reliability information is captured via the FIXD App.
The FIXD Reliability Score is calculated using the number of DTCs per year, weighted by mileage. This is then turned into a scale of 1-10 for easy graphing.
This is an objective score.
- Owner Reliability Score & Data: This data is the result of surveying Volkswagen Passat owners who use FIXD.
The Owner Reliability Score comes straight from owners of the Volkswagen Passat.
This is a subjective score.
To determine the Owner Reliability Score we ask each car owner:
How reliable would you say your Volkswagen Passat is?
a. Just point A to point B driving
b. A Daily Commuter
c. Good for a 100 mile road trip
d. Good for a 500 mile road trip
e. I could take a cross-country road trip, no problem
From here we translate their answers into the Owner Reliability Score:
a. = 2
b. = 4
c. = 6
d. = 8
e. = 10
Keep in mind, owners may think their car is more or less reliable than it actually is.
One potential problem is that people often buy the same make or model they are used to when they go car shopping, just a newer year.
Ford, for instance, has a number of consumer loyalty awards for the Ford F-Series, Ford Mustang, and Ford Expedition.
Car owners may be so loyal to the make or model they currently own that they would have trouble accurately comparing their cars’ reliability to others.
It’s for this reason that we ask car owners a question that is relative to mileage rather than relative to other cars.
Still, be mindful of the accuracy of these Owner Reliability Scores, people’s perceptions and unconscious blindspots can skew data.
We suggest looking at both the FIXD Reliability Score and the Owner Reliability Score for this reason.
- KBB Value: Average private-seller valuations as supplied by Kelley Blue Book (KBB), based on a Volkswagen Passat with typical mileage for that respective model year.
- Fuel Economy: Mileage-per-gallon estimates according to the EPA MPG on Fueleconomy.gov
- Annual Maintenance/Repair: Upkeep expenses as reported by surveyed Chevrolet Equinox owners
- Safety Rating: Crash test data collected and reported by NHTSA. We average all ratings for each year to come up with a simplified, average safety score. This makes it easier to look at on a graph.
- Shepardson, D. (2021, July 19). VW to end U.S. Production, sales of Passat as focuses on SUVs. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/vw-end-us-production-sales-passat-focuses-suvs-2021-07-19/
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Since picking up my first set of MicroMachine toy cars as a toddler, I knew I had a passion for automobiles embedded in my soul. After graduating from Rutgers University in journalism, I’ve devoted my career to becoming a professional photographer and emerging voice in the car industry with columns at Automobile Magazine, MotorTrend, Hagerty, DigitalTrends.com/Cars, GearPatrol, and beyond.