As the school year wraps up, I've had a lot of questions from people with plans to buy and convert a Volkswagen TDI to run on vegetable oil. Here's some good information:
The normal price range for a decent TDI is $5,000 to $10,000. They are a little pricey because they last a long time and are in high demand. Don't bother going to the dealership to find one. They will all be gone, and the ones you do find are going to be overpriced. Volkswagen of America has set about buying back TDIs from previous customers, for full market price, so they can keep TDIs on the lot. Thus they are selling them above market price.
Your best bet is private sale. Watch the local classifieds like a hawk. In vermont, I would check Burlington Free Press (also listed in cars.com) and Motor Digest. Don't be in a hurry- it may take a month or two. Check out everyone you see. Find out if the timing belt has been changed, and adjust the value accordingly. It's a pricey ($800-$1000) endeavor that needs to happen before the car reaches 70,000 miles. E-bay is always an option if you can figure out how to transport what you buy, and don't plan on getting any steals.
As far as what you'll be looking at- There are basically 4 categories of used TDIs in america right now:
-The 96-97 Passat ($3,000-$5,000 range). These are probably pretty tired cars, but if you find one that has been taken care of, it's worth it.
-The 98 Jetta ($4,000-$6,000 range). These are good cars. They were kind of a transition between the old and the new. There are a fair amount of these around for private sale.
-The 99-03 Jetta, Golf, and Beetle ($6,000-$13,000). This is what I have. Bought my 02 golf new for $20,000 (loaded) and it is now worth $10-11,000 on the private sale market.
-The 04 and up Jetta, Golf and Beetle. These cars feature new technology and more horsepower. They are selling used for $15,000 - $18,000.
Greasecar conversion kits (greasecar.com) cost $800. Besides that I would keep an additional $200 in reserve to buy some kind of pump and filtering system, as well as miscellaneous odds and ends to keep your operation neat and easy. Rubber gloves, cleaning supplies, buckets, etc.