If you keep in mind that you are buying a small, compact economy car, you will be pleasantly surprised - I am. Great visibility combined with quick reaction and maneuverability in (Los Angeles) traffic with exceptional fuel mileage and only normal expected wear and tear expenses make this a great value. Very easy to park. 5 speed manual transmission is very reliable. 33 mpg on open road. Uses a quart of oil each 1,000 miles based on design, I am told. Michelin Pilot A/S Sports lasted 51,000 miles. Replaced timing belt, water pump and plugs at 135,000 miles. Most parts are reasonably priced. Drive 1800 miles o/w or 3600 miles r/t for trip home each year, sometimes twice. The car is adequately comfortable for those road trips altho there is a bit of road noise. It holds the road well on Interstate roads at zippy speeds. The Monsoon radio has very good sound (remember, it is an economy car) but it would have been nice to have an AUX input or BlueTooth option. Was bumped/rear end 2x in traffic. Other cars sustained damage, the Beetle only lost the license plate lights (easy replaced). The 'soft-coating' on some interior parts starts to peel away but can be removed with rubbing alcohol. Based on car ads, it will return a good price if sold now. If you keep in mind that you are buying a small, compact economy car, you will be pleased.
Drive it. You'll like it! Stiff and European driving performance. Great visibility. Simple design and easy to use controls and knobs. Smart and practical. Sunroof is nice to have, and not windy but noisier of course. Plenty of room for six footers.
Let me start off by saying that I've owned 2 New beetles, one 1998 and my current is 2002. 4 years and a hundred thousand miles really make a difference. I've always been a huge fan of the shape, but driving one is a great experience. What it lacks in power, it makes up for in handling. The car handles like new, very sturdy, minimal vibrations, smooth over most terrains and has good traction in all weather types (granted, I did put new tires on the car recently). Though engine noise is audible, it is not very bothersome, especially at higher speeds where the car really shines. Going 70 mph and over is very smooth in the car. The interior is made of cheap plastic parts that break often, but replacements are easily found online or you can paint the chipping plastic yourself like I have. The seats are extremely comfortable in the front seats, the same cannot be said for the backseats, especially if you are over 5'9. Even though the car has limited room for backseat passengers, the rear seats fold down to create a large amount of cargo space which is very nice. I've also read a lot reliability issues and reviews about this car and similar years, but I have yet to experience any huge problems *knocks on wood.* I have kept up on oil changes and regular maintenance and have found this car to have a very reliable engine. Ive paid for new headlight bulb, new tires, transmission fluid change, brake pads and rotors all around and to have my heater core replace. Mind you this is over the span of about 2 years and about 20,000 miles. I've never had a problem with my car and I will continue to drive it, as it is very eye catching and gets great gas mileage.
UPDATE 6/17 - I've now had the car for 3 years and 40,000+ miles. Recently everything started to break so I had to adjust my reliability score. New throttle body, 4 DIFFERENT mass air flow sensors, ignition coil, spark plugs and wires, control arms, ball joints, struts, shocks, alternator, all 3 engine mounts, serpentine belt and tensioner, catalytic converter and full cat-back exhaust system...and I'm sure I'm missing a few. Literally driving me nuts with the repairs, thinking of selling for something a bit newer.
The Beetle is so cheap to operate it makes it worth keeping. I was a car dealer that mostly bought high end European vehicles and they all had issues. Ding, and another message would appear with an expensive issue. After leaving the business, I rented a friend's 2002 Beetle GL with 112,700 miles for $150 a month until I financed a Benz or Bimmer, that never happened. I bought it for $1,000, replaced the timing belt and waterpump. $10 gets 100+ miles, oil changes are $22, tires are $53, I now have 160,000 miles. It's so easy to clean, and the yellow paint is bright and holds up well. Interior plastics break, there's rattles, it's slow, but who cares it gets me everywhere and barely costs me a dime. I baby it to death, wax it, only run chevron but no premium gas and I don't use synthetic but will now cause I want to just keep it going. I recently sold the Beetle at 167,000 miles for $3,000 and got back every penny I spent on it, bought a Jetta. The beetle is still going strong in the West part of Phx. Buy a manual GL!