What should I look for when buying a used Audi A4?

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Answered by: Guillermo, An Expert in the Car Buyer Assistance Category
When buying a used car it is essential to know what to look for. Used Audi A4's are not exempt since they are expensive cars that need care and attention. With care and attention, and Audi will return the favor by being a very reliable car with timeless looks. In this article we will be discussing what to look for when looking at 1996-2001 Audi A4’s. This model is often referred to as simply B5. The two most important questions that buyers should ask themselves are: “Do I need a six cylinder or a four cylinder?” and “Should I settle for a front-wheel drive car, or should I get an all-wheel drive?”

Do I need a six cylinder or a four cylinder?

The main differences between the two are gas consumption and reliability. With the six cylinder B5 Audi you will have a choice of two engines. The earlier models (1996 and 1997) come with a twelve valve (or two per cylinder) engine. These are known for being the most reliable without needing the most attention. The drawbacks to this specific engine are that it is slow and does not have much of a modification market. In other words, if you want a “fast” car, don’t buy a 12V. The other engine is the one that came with the later B5’s. This engine is known as the 30V V6 (five valves per cylinder). This engine is still a very reliable engine. The 30V has extensive backing by aftermarket communities.

The other available engine is the 1.8 Turbocharged. This engine was offered from 1997-2001. This is the most popular engine chosen by drivers that want modify their cars. Many people replace the original turbocharger with a bigger turbo (referred to as BT among Audi communities). By doing this, these cars can have double and even triple the original power. With everything good, bad comes. These are known as the least reliable engine for the B5 since they need the most attention. This engine is “unreliable” because many people do not treat them as they should. These engines need maintenance to be on point. This engine is prone to engine sludge if owners do not change the oil every five thousand miles with synthetic oil. However, if the engine is kept up to date with proper maintenance, the car will be as reliable, if not more than a 12V B5.

Should I settle for a front-wheel drive car, or should I get an all-wheel drive car?

Front-wheel drive cars are much cheaper and have better fuel economy, but they have trouble driving in the snow or bad weather. All-wheel drive Audi’s have Quattro which is one of the best AWD systems made for cars. Through Quattro, any Audi will handle much better than their front-wheel drive counterpart. Along with this resale values among Quattro cars are much higher than those among front-wheel drive cars.

When looking at any used Audi A4's there are pointers to keep in mind:

- Make sure the owner has actual records for the service that has been done.

- Check that the car has had major maintenance done at the recommended time interval. For B5’s timing belts are the most important since they can cause the engine to fail if they break (~80,000 miles). For 1.8T’s, oil changes are also very important (~5,000 miles).

- Look for rust, or any body parts that have been replaced or repaired.

- Make sure you enjoy the car. If you feel that it does not feel as it should, take it to a mechanic.

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