Dieselgate: What the FAQ do I do?

Let's walk through this whole thing together and see if we can't make some sense of it.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
5 min read
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Watch this: Volkswagen to buy back its dirty cars

Here are some tangentially related pictures to break up the monotony of a wall of text.

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If there's one institution that's damn near impossible to understand, it's the US legal system. When you're caught up in it, as many Volkswagen diesel owners are, it can be a nightmare to navigate through your options. So, I'm here to help guide you through it all, and in convenient FAQ fashion, no less!

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, although I know a few and used to have a man-crush on Jack McCoy from "Law and Order." If you are truly, genuinely confused about your options, consult a real lawyer, not a person who's been asked to write a FAQ on Dieselgate.)

How do I know that I'm included in this whole mess?

If you own one of the vehicles listed below, you're eligible for the buyback or the fix, along with a one-time cash payment. It should go without saying that only the TDI variants of these vehicles are involved:

Audi: 2010-2013 A3, 2015 A3

Volkswagen: 2013-2015 Beetle, 2010-2015 Golf, 2009-2015 Jetta, 2012-2015 Passat

What are my options?

Your first option is to have Volkswagen buy back your car. Volkswagen's using NADA's pre-Dieselgate figures to write up values, so you don't have to worry about the value lost due to this whole brouhaha. Here's a list of the values that VW's drawn up.

Your second option is to wait for a fix for your car. There's no timeline on when this fix will be implemented, what the fix will be or even how it will affect your car. It could change nothing, or you could see dips in fuel economy, overall performance or both.

Your third option is to opt out of the settlement. You won't need to get your car fixed, and you won't need to give it back to VW. It'll stay exactly how you bought it -- polluting in excess of legal limits. You probably don't want this option. I'll explain why later.

What do YOU think I should do, Andrew?

This is tricky. There's no panacea, no one-size-fits-all solution. But I think there are a few points you should consider before making any decision -- not that you have to make one in the near future.

Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept

Probably wise that Volkswagen's putting its focus on electric vehicles now.

Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

The buyback is the best option for folks who are just plain over this whole thing, whether that means Volkswagen as a brand, or diesels as a whole. If you want to get in, get out and get on with your life, take the buyback. If you're concerned that a fix might alter your vehicle in a way that'll sour your opinion of it, you're probably best taking the buyback, as well, unless you like rolling the dice.

If you are happy with your car, and you're willing to wait it out, I suggest going with the fix. That said, there's no guarantee when that might come into play, so if you're uncomfortable with the whole illegal-levels-of-pollution thing, it's best to take the buyback and shop other diesels or consider moving to another type of car. In fact, the fix may not be set in stone until 2018, which is a long ways away. There's just one problem when it comes to the fix...

...In the event a fix never gets put in place, your options are cut down to two -- you either participate in the buyback, or you opt out. If you really, really love your TDI, and you care more about sacrificing performance or a few MPG instead of protecting the environment, then you can opt out. To paraphrase Willy Wonka, "You get nothing, you lose, good day."

Honestly, the buyback is probably the easiest option. It guarantees pollution reduction, guarantees you get your cash payment and guarantees that you won't have to deal with all this crap multiple times. Unless you're really salty about what VW is offering you for your car, then you can opt out and pretend this all never happened. But, again, I don't suggest that.

Why shouldn't I opt out of the settlement?

If you do, you lose out on VW's one-time cash payment, which is provided on top of either the buyback or the fix. If the money doesn't matter to you, or you'd rather keep your TDI exactly how it is (an illegal pollution machine), then by all means, opt out. I just don't think it's wise.

That said, you could still get your car fixed later, for free, after such a fix is approved. But you won't get that paper.

According to court documents, it appears you can't pull a fast one by waiting for the fix, claiming your cash money then opting out when a fix is deemed not possible. I wouldn't try to game the US legal system unless you have J.D. at the end of your name.

Volkswagen concept BUDD-e van: an electric microbus (pictures)

See all photos

What if I have a loan on my car?

Volkswagen will offer to pay off the loan, up to 130 percent of your buyback value. So, let's say VW offered you a $10,000 buyback. That means VW would pay off your loan up to $13,000.

What if I'm leasing?

Volkswagen will nix your lease without an early-termination penalty. You'll still get that cash payout, as well.

Let's say I don't trust you. Where can I find more information on the settlement and my options?

VWCourtSettlement.com. While it sounds like a scam site, it's actually a portal that can tell you your eligibility status and options. There's also a FAQ, but it's way more boring than this one. When the court documents are made available, which contain way more information, the site will host a PDF that you can read.

You can also access the full list of buyback values on Bloomberg Law, to help your decision-making.

Also, that's not a very nice thing to say to my face.

When does all this kick in?

Not for a while. There's still another approval hearing on July 26. If it's approved at that point, owners and lessees will start receiving mail regarding the settlement. After that notice period, there's yet another approval hearing. Then things can start moving.

The program isn't expected to start until October, so you have plenty of time to mull over your options.

Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept: A plug-in hybrid that's off-road capable (pictures)

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Should I get mad at my dealer?

Did you get mad at the mailman for mailing you a bill you didn't expect to pay? No. The dealers had no knowledge of any of this, and they're learning most of this information in the same way that we are. You'd have to be a real big jerk to take your frustrations out on the dealer in this scenario. They were unwitting participants in some serious hoodwinkery, and now they have pitchfork mobs burning down their doors.

Don't contribute to that. Don't take it out on the dog -- metaphorically or literally.

What will VW do with the cars it buys back?

Despite what your crazy uncle says about shipping 'em all to China, VW cannot legally export or sell the vehicles it buys back without fixing them first. Vehicles that are not fixed must be recycled, which includes stripping them for reusable parts.