Volkswagen Atlas Years To Avoid and The Best Years

Volkswagen Atlas Years To Avoid – Three-row SUVs have become a favorite choice among North American families due to their spaciousness and comfort. In this highly competitive market, the Volkswagen Atlas made its debut as the German automaker’s first foray into the three-row SUV class.

Praised for its generous interior space, comfortable third-row seating, and a plethora of standard driver assistance features, the Atlas quickly gained popularity among SUV enthusiasts.

Its striking design and impressive towing capacity also added to its appeal.

Volkswagen Atlas Years To Avoid

But despite its initial positive reception, the question of reliability looms over the Volkswagen Atlas.

As a used car buyer, you’ll have the luxury of choosing from multiple model years since its release in 2018.

However, not all Atlas model years have stood the test of time, and some are plagued with issues that could be troublesome in the long run.

In this article, we’ll delve into the worst Volkswagen Atlas years to avoid, carefully examining their problems, and helping you make an informed decision when purchasing a used SUV.

So, let’s get started and find out which years to steer clear of while considering the ones that offer a dependable and enjoyable driving experience.

VW Atlas Years To Avoid

The Volkswagen Atlas has made a significant impact in the three-row SUV market, offering ample space, comfort, and impressive safety features.

However, not all models of this popular SUV have proven to be equally reliable.

Volkswagen Atlas Years To Avoid

While some Atlas years shine in long-term dependability, others suffer from recurring issues that warrant caution.

Let’s start to explore the worst Volkswagen Atlas years to avoid, shedding light on their specific problems and offering valuable insights for used car buyers.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas: The Debut Disappointment

Debut models often struggle with reliability teething problems, and the 2018 VW Atlas is no exception. Regrettably, this model year stands out as the least dependable option for long-term ownership. reveals a staggering 470 complaints and a whopping 16 recalls associated with the 2018 Atlas, making it a clear automatic skip for prospective buyers.

One of the most prevalent issues with the 2018 Atlas is radiator leaks.

Many owners have reported the need to frequently top up coolant fluids due to faulty bolts on the engine block, leading to excessive coolant consumption and leaks.

Read Also: Volkswagen Taos Years to Avoid

To make matters worse, this problem affected even brand-new vehicles. While covered by the manufacturer’s warranty at the time, buying a used 2018 Volkswagen Atlas leaves you vulnerable to this costly predicament.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas: A Year of Design Woes

The 2019 Atlas doesn’t fare much better in the reliability department. Although it has fewer complaints than its predecessor, still registered over 360 complaints and nine recalls for this model year.

Consumer Reports awarded the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas a dismal 1.0 out of 5.0 score for reliability, raising red flags for potential buyers.

One concerning issue revolves around the design and build quality, especially for Atlas SUVs equipped with large panoramic sunroofs, which were prone to shattering unexpectedly.

Additionally, the 2019 Atlas faced serious service brake problems, with 58 NHTSA complaints citing brake booster faults causing spongy and difficult-to-engage brakes, putting both drivers and other motorists at risk.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas: Electrical System Troubles

The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas shows improvement in terms of overall reliability compared to previous years.

However, it remains on the list of Volkswagen Atlas years to avoid due to recurring issues, as reported by with over 350 complaints and a staggering 16 recalls.

The NHTSA also received 180 written complaints related to this model year.

The primary concern centers around the electrical system, which controls crucial interior tech and safety features.

Numerous complaints highlight faulty service brakes, defective door sensors, and unreliable stop-start technology, leading to frustrating and potentially dangerous driving experiences.

Read Also: Volkswagen Touareg Years To Avoid

Additionally, several drivers reported premature airbag deployments, even without significant impact, resulting in dissatisfaction as Volkswagen refused to address the problem.

Best Years for The Volkswagen Atlas

The Volkswagen Atlas, a competent three-row SUV, has steadily improved over the years, becoming a compelling option for budget-conscious families.

Best Years for The Volkswagen Atlas

However, not all model years are created equal in terms of reliability.

We’ll explore the best years for the Volkswagen Atlas, based on consumer feedback and reliability ratings.

If you’re considering purchasing this SUV, it’s essential to know which years offer the best value and user experience.

The Best Years: 2019 and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas

If you’re looking for a reliable Volkswagen Atlas, the 2019 and 2020 model years come highly recommended.

Consumer Reports reliability rating places these two years at the top of the list, surpassing the 2018 model year, which received a below-average score of 1.0/5.0.

The 2019 and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas models addressed most of the issues from the initial redesign year, resulting in improved reliability.

Read Also: Volkswagen Most Expensive

Engine and transmission reliability significantly improved during this period, making these years more appealing for long-term ownership.

2021 Volkswagen Atlas: Improvements and Drawbacks

Best Years for The Volkswagen Atlas

The all-new 2021 Volkswagen Atlas shows promise with improved reliability in certain aspects, such as the fuel system, body styling, and powertrain.

However, it still falls short when compared to other brands in various aspects.

Its projected reliability score of 1.0/5.0 from Consumer Reports reflects the ongoing challenges.

When compared with competitors like the Subaru Ascent at 33 percent reliability or the Kia Telluride boasting 62 percent, the 2021 Atlas lags behind with a 13 percent reliability rating.

Despite these improvements, prospective buyers are advised to exercise caution when considering the 2021 model year.

Reliability Comparison with Other Volkswagen Models

Since the Volkswagen Atlas debuted in 2018, limited information was available for this particular model in Consumer Reports reliability ratings.

However, comparing it to other Volkswagen models within the same class sheds some light on its dependability.

The 2018 Atlas performed slightly better than the VW Tiguan, which had a predicted reliability score of 1.0/5.0 at the time.

While earlier Tiguan models faced significant issues with engine and transmission reliability, newer versions have shown improvement in these areas, though they still fall behind in powertrain, technology, body styling, and fuel economy.

In contrast, the VW Golf offers a slightly higher predicted reliability rating of 3.0/5.0, remaining stable over the years.

Read Also: VW Jetta Years to Avoid

However, due to the 2019 and 2020 Atlas boasting more features and advancements compared to the Golf, it proves to be a more dependable choice for families seeking a spacious and reliable SUV.

Features that Set the VW Atlas Apart

Despite its lower reliability ratings in previous years, the VW Atlas boasts numerous impressive features that make it stand out in the crowded SUV market.

The all-new 2021 model, in particular, presents high-tech features and unique styling potential, elevating it among VW’s SUV lineup.

Consumer Reports ranks the VW Atlas 21st out of 26 Midsize Sport Utility Vehicles, with a respectable road test score of 84/100.

The SUV offers above-average handling and a quiet ride, contributing to a fun and smooth driving experience.

The plush interior design adds a touch of prestige, ensuring comfort during long journeys.

Additionally, the Volkswagen Atlas excels in cargo space, surpassing its rivals in the same class when the second and third rows are folded. This feature makes it an ideal choice for families with extensive hauling needs.

Impressive Performance and Fuel Efficiency

The performance of the VW Atlas in both city and highway settings is commendable. Accelerating from zero to sixty miles per hour in 8.7 seconds, it provides a satisfying driving experience.

Moreover, its fuel efficiency offers significant cost savings for owners.

For those on a budget, the 2019 and 2020 Volkswagen Atlas models guarantee value for money and an excellent user experience.

With ample cabin space and generous headroom and legroom, this SUV caters to large families seeking comfort and adventure.

The Volkswagen Atlas can easily accommodate fishing and camping gear and has the power to tow boats or small campers, making it an adventure-ready companion.

Read Also: Volkswagen Beetle Years to Avoid

Volkswagen Atlas Problems

The Volkswagen Atlas, a mid-size family SUV, offers decent engine options and ample passenger and cargo space, making it an attractive choice for many families.

Volkswagen Atlas Problems

However, like any vehicle, it’s essential to assess its reliability and potential problems before making a purchase.

We’ll delve into some of the common Volkswagen Atlas problems reported by users, providing insights to help prospective buyers make informed decisions.

1. Forward Collision-Avoidance System Problems

One of the most frequently reported issues with the Volkswagen Atlas is related to its forward collision avoidance system.

This system, designed to warn drivers of impending collisions and engage automatic braking if necessary, has faced complaints from owners.

Some users have experienced the system activating even when there are no obstacles ahead, creating dangerous and unpredictable situations on the road.

Numerous complaints have surfaced regarding the emergency brakes engaging spontaneously without warning, leading to concerns about the system’s reliability.

Most of these complaints come from owners of the 2018 and 2019 model years, indicating that these specific years might be more susceptible to this problem.

2. Engine Shutting Off While Driving

Another common problem reported by Volkswagen Atlas owners is the engine shutting off unexpectedly while driving. This issue poses significant safety risks, as it can result in loss of power and control over the vehicle.

Despite numerous incidents, some owners have struggled to get a clear diagnosis from dealers or manufacturers.

In some cases, users have observed strange engine noises while accelerating, accompanied by a loss of power during acceleration.

Additionally, several electrical issues have been reported, including problems with the car’s key identification and malfunctioning keyless entry systems.

Read Also: Volkswagen Tiguan Years to Avoid

3. Rust and Structure Problems

Uncharacteristically for new cars, some Volkswagen Atlas owners have reported the appearance of rust on their vehicles.

This problem has affected both the 2018 and 2019 model years, with rust spots appearing on various parts of the car, including the back door, side panels, and bottom half.

While rust can be a natural occurrence in older vehicles, it is concerning to witness it in relatively new cars.

Despite potential rust warranties and limited warranties offered by Volkswagen, dealing with rust on a vehicle that is less than five years old can be an inconvenience and incur substantial repair costs.

There have also been isolated reports of water leakage into the storage compartment and the sunroof breaking without apparent external causes.

Volkswagen Atlas Alternatives

The Volkswagen Atlas, despite its spaciousness and decent engine options, has been plagued by widespread reliability problems.

Volkswagen Atlas Alternatives

For those seeking a reliable and capable SUV without compromising on driving dynamics and features, exploring alternatives becomes crucial.

We’ll take a closer look at some Volkswagen Atlas alternatives—competitors and similar SUVs—offering a blend of performance, comfort, and value to meet various driving needs.

Mazda CX-9: Dynamic Driving Delight

Volkswagen Atlas Competitors

The Mazda CX-9 presents a compelling alternative to the Volkswagen Atlas, with a starting price of around $35,000, slightly higher than the Atlas. However, the CX-9 offers a turbocharged 2.5L 4-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower, surpassing the Atlas in terms of power.

Renowned for its excellent driving dynamics, the Mazda CX-9 features a firm yet supple suspension that ensures a delightful driving experience.

However, the cargo space and third-row seating are not as spacious as some rivals, making it a better option for those prioritizing driving enjoyment over extensive storage needs.

While the interior design may appear slightly dated, the fit and finish remain impressive with few cheap interior trims. If you value driving pleasure above all else, the Mazda CX-9 is a strong contender.

Read Also: Mazda CX-9 Years To Avoid

Jeep Grand Cherokee L: American Performance with Off-Road Prowess

Volkswagen Atlas Similar

For enthusiasts who appreciate American-made vehicles, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L offers an appealing option. Available with a 290 horsepower V6 or a more potent 357 horsepower V8, the Grand Cherokee L delivers excellent off-road capabilities and surprisingly good on-road behavior.

Reviewers commend the Grand Cherokee L for its decent handling and comfortable ride. However, this option comes at a starting price of around $41,000, which is nearly $10,000 more than the Volkswagen Atlas.

The top-of-the-line ‘Summit Reserve’ version can reach around $62,000, making it a premium choice for those seeking elevated luxury and performance.

Hyundai Palisade: Sensible and Well-Rounded

Volkswagen Atlas Competitors

For budget-conscious consumers looking for a well-rounded package, the Hyundai Palisade offers a sensible alternative to the Volkswagen Atlas. With a starting price of around $34,000 and a top-of-the-line ‘Calligraphy’ model around $47,000, the Palisade presents an excellent value buy.

Equipped with a 3.8L V6 engine generating 291 horsepower, the Palisade offers adequate power for most daily driving scenarios.

It provides a smooth driving experience through its 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive system (all-wheel drive available as an option).

While the towing capacity of 5,000 pounds may not match the Grand Cherokee L’s capabilities, the Palisade compensates with good cabin space and a well-equipped interior.

Read Also: Hyundai Palisade Years To Avoid

The Hyundai Palisade’s well-rounded nature and attractive design make it a practical and stylish choice.

Is Volkswagen Atlas reliable?

Yes, the Volkswagen Atlas has shown improved reliability over the years. The 2020 Atlas received only about 20 complaints and three recalls, which is relatively low compared to previous years.

Many auto review websites have also given Atlas higher predicted reliability ratings.

While it may have faced some reliability issues in the past, the Atlas has become a competent three-row SUV that continues to improve over time.

Is VW Atlas worth buying?

Yes, the 2023 Volkswagen Atlas is a good SUV and worth considering if you’re in the market for a midsize SUV. Volkswagen offers the Atlas in two- and three-row versions, both of which impress with generous seating space, expansive cargo areas, and user-friendly tech features.

With its improved reliability over the years, the Atlas presents a reliable and practical option for families or individuals seeking a spacious and comfortable SUV.

What are the recalls on the Atlas?

Volkswagen of America has issued a recall on select Model Year 2018-2021 Atlas and 2020 Atlas Cross Sport vehicles due to faulty occupant detection systems in the front passenger seat.

To address this safety concern, owners are advised not to allow anyone to sit in the front passenger seat until the vehicle is fixed.

The recall affects a total of 143,053 vehicles, emphasizing the importance of addressing this issue promptly to ensure the safety of passengers and prevent potential accidents.


While the Volkswagen Atlas has come a long way in improving its reliability, there are certain model years that are best avoided due to common issues and recalls.

The 2018 and 2019 Volkswagen Atlas models have been notorious for their reliability woes, with complaints ranging from forward collision avoidance system problems to engine shut-offs while driving.

For those considering the Volkswagen Atlas as their next SUV, it’s essential to be aware of these potential problems and choose the model year wisely.

However, it’s worth noting that the 2020 Atlas showed significant improvement in reliability, receiving fewer complaints and higher predicted ratings from auto-review websites.

In the end, conducting thorough research and considering alternatives like the Mazda CX-9, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, or Hyundai Palisade can help you make a well-informed decision. Remember to prioritize your driving needs, budget, and desired features when selecting the right SUV for your lifestyle.

So, when it comes to the Volkswagen Atlas, remember to avoid the problematic years and opt for the more reliable and improved models, ensuring a pleasant and worry-free ownership experience.

Related Articles: