The Atlas is a three-row, midsize SUV that was first launched in the USA in 2017 – it’s also the biggest SUV in the VW lineup.
Offering plenty of room for cargo and passengers, the Atlas is well known for its practicality.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at its average lifespan, and much more.
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Here is the short answer to how long the Volkswagen Atlas lasts:
The Volkswagen Atlas can last around 200,000 miles on average providing its properly maintained and driven conservatively. Based on driving 15,000 miles per year, you can expect the Volkswagen Atlas to last over 13 years before requiring expensive or uneconomical repairs.
How Many Miles Can You Expect from a Volkswagen Atlas?
The Atlas hasn’t been around as long as some of its VW siblings but based on industry data, they should be able to rack up plenty of miles.
On used car website Car Gurus, you can already find lots of Atlas’s that have crossed the 100k mile mark with plenty of life left in the tank.
A realistic projection for the VW Atlas lifespan is around 200,000 miles before repairs costs outweigh the value of the vehicle. At this stage in the vehicle’s life, you may also find that despite repairs it remains unreliable.
One owner of a 2018 Atlas SE shared their odometer reading of 71,000 miles on vwatlasforum.com, although they’ve faced their share of issues along the way, including:
- Battery replaced under warranty
- Recurring check engine light for oxygen sensor problems – their catalytic converter was replaced three times in total, twice under warranty and once under recall
- Vehicle shut down whilst driving – despite VW replacing the ECM, battery and alternator the problem persisted
Other owners have had far fewer problems:
“We’ve had our 2019 SE w/ Tech (R-Line) just over a year. 21k miles on it already, and we love it! Towed a pop up camper (maybe 2,000 lbs), and didn’t even know it was back there. We put a Thule case on top and with the dog, we can go anywhere, with loads of gear. Has done great in the snow – we plain love it! We’d buy it again in a heartbeat!”
Build quality and vehicle design are important aspects for sure, but what will really determine the lifespan of an Atlas is ownership habits.
This means staying on top of routine maintenance, using smooth driving habits, keeping it clean and not exceeding towing limits.
This will reduce wear and tear on components and help keep rust at bay – ensuring you get as much life as possible from your Atlas.
The VW Atlas comes with a 6-year/72,000-mile (whichever occurs first) New Vehicle Limited Warranty, which is marketed as ‘America’s best SUV bumper-to-bumper transferable warranty’.
What Problems Do Volkswagen Atlas Have?
No car is perfect, and having been on the road for a good few years now the Atlas has had plenty of time to show some its flaws.
Excessive Wind Noise
Owners have described hearing excessive whistling wind noises when traveling at speeds over 50 mph.
This has been attributed to a design flaw with the window and door gasket.
A common complaint from Atlas owners is the battery dying.
This has left owners stranded and in need of a jump start.
This problem has been linked to faulty wiring and not the battery itself.
On the Car Problem Zoo website, a site dedicated to owner feedback, the most commonly reported problem category for the atlas is related to its electrical system.
The reported problems are varied, but here are some examples:
- Warning on dash: “brake booster faulty”. The brakes then felt like ABS was engaged.
- Crash warnings while driving 60mph but no car was near to trigger the warning.
- Wireless phone charger doesn’t work properly and the phone is impossible to pair with the car.
- Windows roll down on their own
There have been numerous reports from owners who have experienced their Atlas applying the brakes without driver input.
Here are a couple of examples from Car Problem Zoo
“The vehicle engaged the parking brake when there was nothing in front of me. This happened twice in one day. I currently have it at the VW dealership.”
“I was driving towards a stop sign at about 15-20mph(school zone) and all of a sudden the vehicle slammed its brakes and shut off.”
What is High Mileage for a Volkswagen Atlas?
A Volkswagen Atlas with over 100,000 miles is considered high mileage. This can equate to a riskier purchase because of a higher chance of problems arising and the cost of repairs. The vehicle will also be outside of its warranty, meaning the owner will be financially responsible for all repairs.
Purchasing a high mileage Atlas won’t necessarily equate to a sour outcome; the vehicle should be assessed more on its overall condition and less on the odometer reading.
Keep in mind a well-looked after Atlas with over 100k miles could be a better purchase than a neglected, poorly maintained one with a fraction of the mileage.
If you’re buying a used VW Atlas, consider the following:
- Maintenance: Make sure the previous owner(s) stayed up to date with the factory-recommended maintenance intervals and have the paperwork to show for it.
- Get a second opinion: Have it inspected by an independent auto repair shop or a mechanic.
- Number of previous owners. As a general rule, less is better. More owners usually equate to more wear-and-tear.
- How long you are planning on keeping the car: If it’s for a long time, evaluate whether the short-term savings outweigh spending extra on something more reliable.
- Examine the interior. The condition of the interior tells the story of how well the car was maintained and cared for.
- Check the car’s VIN and get a full history report. Was it a taxi or rental car? Recalls? How many owners? Real mileage? Stolen? Any accidents? If you’re buying a used Atlas, always check the VIN – you never know what the car has been through.
How Long Does the Volkswagen Atlas Last Compared to Similar SUVs?
Volkswagen Atlas vs. Mazda CX-5
South Korean automaker Mazda introduced the CX-5 in 2012, its widely praised for its sleek bodywork and premium feel.
The Mazda CX-5 can last 200,000 – 250,000 miles or 13 – 17 years, greater than what is expected of the Atlas.
|Volkswagen Atlas||Mazda CX-5|
|RepairPal Reliability Rating||3.0 / 5.0 (predicted)||4.5/5.0|
|RepairPal Reliability Ranking||25th / 27 (predicted)|
|1st / 27|
|Average Annual Repair Cost||$900||$447|
|Kelley Blue Book Reliability Score||4.0/5.0||4.4/5.0|
|JD Power Quality & Reliability Score||70/100||81/100|
Most auto-review sites give the CX-5 the better reviews all around, and it often sits at the very top of table rankings.
It’s not perfect though and lacks cargo capacity and the base engine isn’t overly powerful.
If you need more cargo and passenger space the Atlas is the obvious choice.
Related: How Long Do Mazda CX-5 Last?
Volkswagen Atlas vs. Hyundai Santa Fe
The Santa Fe is an excellent value choice in a highly competitive segment.
The Hyundai Santa Fe can last 200,000 – 250,000 miles or 13 – 17 years, greater than what is expected of the VW Atlas.
|Volkswagen Atlas||Hyundai Santa Fe|
|RepairPal Reliability Rating||3.0 / 5.0 (predicted)||4.0/5.0|
|RepairPal Reliability Ranking||25th / 27 (predicted)|
|2nd / 27|
|Average Annual Repair Cost||$900||$515|
|Kelley Blue Book Reliability Score||4.0/5.0||4.6/5.0|
|JD Power Quality & Reliability Score||70/100||80/100|
The Santa Fe may lack fast acceleration and fuel efficiency however it does offer nearly everything a family could ask for in a mid-size crossover.
The Santa Fe will generally be less problematic than an Atlas and should have an easier time hitting big numbers on the odometer.
Related: How Long Do Hyundai Santa Fe Last?
Volkswagen Atlas vs. Honda Pilot
The Honda Pilot is a hugely popular midsize SUV built on a minivan platform.
The Honda Pilot can last 250,000 – 300,000 miles or 17 – 20 years, greater than what is expected of the Volkswagen Atlas.
|Volkswagen Atlas||Honda Pilot|
|RepairPal Reliability Rating||3.0 / 5.0 (predicted)||3.5/5.0|
|RepairPal Reliability Ranking||25th / 27 (predicted)|
|13th / 27|
|Average Annual Repair Cost||$900||$542|
|Kelley Blue Book Reliability Score||4.0/5.0||3.6/5.0|
|JD Power Quality & Reliability Score||70/100||79/100|
Japanese automaker Honda are known for building cars that just keep on going and the average Pilot should comfortably outlive an Atlas.
Both vehicles offer lots of practicality and oodles of cargo and passenger space.
Both SUVs are similarly priced and we’d advise taking both for a test drive before handing over your hard-earned cash.
|Volkswagen Atlas||Mazda CX-5||Hyundai Santa Fe||Honda Pilot|
|Annual Repair Cost||$900 (predicted)||$447||$515||$542|
|Reliability Rating||3.0 / 5.0 (predicted)||4.5/5.0||4.0/5.0||3.5/5.0|
|KBB Consumer Rating||4.0/5.0||4.4/5.0||4.6/5.0||3.6/5.0|
|J.D. Power Rating||70/100||81/100||80/100||79/100|
Is the Volkswagen Atlas Reliable?
The Volkswagen Atlas isn’t best known for its reliability. Auto review sites have given the Atlas mediocre scores although many customers experience few problems at all.
The Atlas is still fairly new and it had a rocky start to life, although it’s normal for any new vehicle to experience teething issues.
VW still has a bit of fine-tuning left to do as the car has received numerous complaints about:
- Electrical system problems
- Brakes locking up
- Shutting down whilst driving
On car owner forums you might be a bit put off by some of the negative feedback the Atlas has received, but it’s important to note that it’s not the majority of owners who face these issues and there are many happy customers.
The Volkswagen Atlas received the following reliability reviews:
- Kelley Blue Book’s consumer rating index gave the Volkswagen Atlas a positive reliability score of 4.0/5.0.
- J.D. Power provided the Volkswagen Atlas with a below-average reliability rating of 70/100.
Consumer Report gave the Volkswagen Atlas the following reliability reviews:
|Model Year||Reliability Verdict|
As with longevity, the reliability of your Volkswagen Atlas will also depend on keeping up to date with the service schedule and adopting good driving habits.
Reliability Compared to Other Midsize SUVs
|Mazda CX-5||4.5 / 5.0|
|Hyundai Santa Fe||4.0 / 5.0|
|Toyota Venza||4.0 / 5.0|
|Hyundai Veracruz||4.0 / 5.0|
|Mitsubishi Endeavor||4.0 / 5.0|
|Dodge Journey||4.0 / 5.0|
|Toyota Highlander||4.0 / 5.0|
|Dodge Nitro||4.0 / 5.0|
|Toyota 4Runner||4.0 / 5.0|
|Subaru Outback||3.5 / 5.0|
|Ford Edge||3.5 / 5.0|
|Toyota FJ Cruiser||3.5 / 5.0|
|Honda Pilot||3.5 / 5.0|
|Jeep Liberty||3.5 / 5.0|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee||3.5 / 5.0|
|Mazda CX-7||3.5 / 5.0|
|Nissan Pathfinder||3.5 / 5.0|
|Subaru Tribeca||3.5 / 5.0|
|Ford Explorer||3.5 / 5.0|
|Ford Explorer Sport Trac||3.5 / 5.0|
|Chevrolet Tahoe||3.5 / 5.0|
|Chevrolet Traverse||3.0 / 5.0|
|GMC Acadia||3.0 / 5.0|
|Buick Enclave||3.0 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen Atlas (predicted)||3.0 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen Touareg||3.0 / 5.0|
|Ford Police Interceptor Utility||2.0 / 5.0|
|Avg. Midsize SUV||3.5|
The Best and Worst Years for the Volkswagen Atlas
We’ve done some digging to find the best and worst model years for the Volkswagen Atlas.
Worst Model Year
The worst model year for the Volkswagen Atlas is the 2018 model, it has received the highest number of complaints and the most severe issues. The 2019 model is the second-worst year although it is notably less problematic.
According to Car Complaints, the 2018 Atlas is the worst year and has the worst 3 problems, which are:
- Radiator Leak
- Axle Broke
- Dead Battery
These problems are deemed the worst due to the mileage they occurred at and the cost of repair.
2019 was a better year for the Atlas and there was a noticeable drop off in complaints although there were still numerous complaints about the service brakes and electrical system.
Best Model Year
The 2020 model is the best year for the VW Atlas. This model year has received notably fewer complaints and recalls than 2021, 2019 and 2018 models.
Judging by data from Car Complaints and Car Problem Zoo, the 2020 Atlas is the safest option.
This model year saw a slight refresh of its front and rear fascias which boosted its length by 3 inches.
It also featured a swanky new front grille and revised LED headlights.
It’s still early days for the 2022 Atlas although after the spike in reported problems with the 2021 Atlas it could go either way.
Model Year and Number of Complaints
Here is the total number of complaints and problems for every VW Atlas model year from the CarComplaints and Car Problem Zoo databases:
|Model Year||Car Complaints|
No. of Complaints
|Car Problem Zoo|
No. of Problems
What About Recalls for These Models?
The Volkswagen Atlas has had a total of 40 recall campaigns since 2018.
You can check if your VW Atlas has been affected by a recall by entering your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on VW’s recall site or the NHTSA recall database.
Recalls are manufacturing faults repaired at no charge to the consumer.
Recall campaigns for every model year of the Volkswagen Atlas:
- 2022 Volkswagen Atlas: 2
- 2021 Volkswagen Atlas: 13
- 2020 Volkswagen Atlas: 2
- 2019 Volkswagen Atlas: 8
- 2018 Volkswagen Atlas: 15
Volkswagen Atlas Model Year List
First Generation (2018-2022)
- 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
- 2019 Volkswagen Atlas
- 2020 Volkswagen Atlas
- 2021 Volkswagen Atlas
- 2022 Volkswagen Atlas
Are Volkswagen Atlas Expensive to Maintain?
The Volkswagen Atlas has above average maintenance and repair costs with a predicted average cost of $900 per year in. This is notably higher than the average of $573 for midsize SUVs and the average for all vehicles in different segments, which is estimated at $652.
Maintenance costs are determined by reliability, cost of parts and labor.
|Model||Avg. Annual Repair Cost||Frequency of|
Unscheduled Repairs (per year)
|Probability of |
|Hyundai Santa Fe||$515||0.2||10%|
|Toyota FJ Cruiser||$506||0.5||14%|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee||$666||0.3||13%|
|Ford Explorer Sport Trac||$720||0.3||14%|
|Ford Police Interceptor Utility||$1,160||1.0||20%|
|Avg. Midsize SUV||$573||0.4||13%|
How Long Do VW Atlas Brakes Last?
Volkswagen Atlas brake pads will typically last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles depending on driving habits. If you drive in heavy traffic and are heavy with the brake pedal, you’ll need to have an inspection more frequently.
Brake pads for a VW can cost anywhere between $150 and $450 per axle depending on the type of brake pad desired.
Brake rotor replacement on the other hand, can cost anywhere between $300 – $750 for four rotors to be replaced.
How Long Do VW Atlas Tires Last?
Volkswagen Atlas tires should roughly last 50,000 miles or 4 years assuming they’ve been properly maintained. However, they can wear out much sooner. This depends on various factors, such as driving habits, climate, and road conditions.
- Rotate tires every 5,000 miles to ensure even wear.
- Check your tire pressure every few weeks to make sure they’re at the correct tire pressure.
- Have a mechanic or tire shop check your wheel alignment every 6 months.
How Long Do VW Atlas Engines Last?
The Volkswagen Atlas engine is expected to last at least 200,000 miles before requiring an engine rebuild or a replacement. Based on regular car usage this equates to over 13 years.
The Atlas has two choices of engines, a 2.0L cylinder and a 3.6L V6.
Related: How Long Do Hyundai Palisade Last?
How Long Do Volkswagen Atlas Batteries Last?
The Volkswagen Atlas 12V battery should last between 3 – 5 years. A vehicle’s battery life varies depending on many factors such as climate, driving habits, and battery type, among many others.
- Keep your battery tightly fastened: The vibrations of your car can loosen the connections, potentially resulting in short circuits and internal damage.
- Limit short rides: Quick car rides prevent the battery from fully charging.
- Storage: Keep your Volkswagen Atlas stored indoors to protect it from extreme temperature changes.
- Control Corrosion: Clean the terminals (toothbrush dipped in baking soda and water mixture) and keep them free from build-up.
How Long Do the Spark Plugs Last?
Volkswagen Atlas spark plugs can last up to 100,000 miles or more. Modern VWs are equipped with long-lasting spark plugs so you won’t have to change them very often.
Signs of a fouled spark plug include:
- Reduced gas mileage
- Lack of acceleration
- Rough idling
- Hard starts
- Engine misfires
What Are the Insurance Costs?
The average cost of full comprehensive coverage for a Volkswagen Atlas is $1,462 per year or around $122 per month.
Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Volkswagen Atlas
- Keep up to date with the recommended service intervals
- Adopt smooth driving habits
- Run a VIN check on your Atlas and if it’s been recalled take it to the dealership
- Makes sure fluid levels are topped off such as oil and transmission fluid.
- Wash your Atlas regularly to keep rust at bay, especially after exposure to salt – including road salt and salty air from trips to the beach.