A question about cars, specifically Volvos

I’m thinking about buying a 1983 Volvo. The interior is nice and doesn’t smell, and everything works. The engine looks nice (almost TOO clean, although the dealer said he replaced a few parts, including the cap and rotor) My problem is this: the car has 199,000 miles on it. I looked it up in Kelly’s Blue Book and it said a car like this in this condition goes for $1885. The dealer wants $1,700. This seems like a deal, but that just seems like an awful lot of miles. Does anyone here own a Volvo with this many miles on it? I know these cars are supposed to last forever, but does anyone have firsthand accounts of driving a Volvo with 200,000+ miles on it?

Volvos are pretty reliable. But we need to know more. 1983: I suspect it’s a 240 or 244 then? Could you give us more about the engine? IIRC, a 2.1 and a 2.3 4-cylinder where used. And there was also a Diesel. And maybe a V6, but I’m not sure. If it’s a diesel, it’ll do 400,000 miles. Seriously. For a petrol version, it would predominantly depend on the maintenance record and previous owners.

Not many cars are engineered to go past 150K or 200K without an engine rebuild. No matter how well manufactured or designed that engine is, you can bank on needing an engine rebuild, and that would be in the 2000 to 4000 dollar range. Oil can only lubricate so well.

While not a Volvo owner, I do know some folks who loved their Volvos to death, and racked up over 200K. Two of them had engines that lost significant compression (making them darn near undrivable) and they were advised to have rebuilds. They sold thm off to a Volvo collector/restorer.

I think that you’d be pushing your luck to think you could drive it without serious work, despite the present surface condition.

I do know a Porsche owner who got to 300k without a rebuild, but the car really needed one from about 250K.

Isolated examples aside, in general cars have a hard time getting past 200K w/out a rebuild.

A friend of mine has an '83 or '84 Honda Accord. It has about 370,000 miles on it without a rebuild. It looks ratty, but mechanically it’s still running very well.

I read an article in a Porsche magazine about a guy who decided to see how long his 911 could go without a rebuild. He raced it regularly and the engine finally blew at 256,000 during a hill-climbing event. By comparison, my Porsche 911 needed a rebuild at about 150,000 miles. Small airplane engines are routinely rebuilt at 2,000 hours, which at 100-150kts would be about 200,000 - 300,000 miles.

As for the Volvo, remember that there are other things that have miles on them besides the engine. How’s the suspension? Transmission? Steering? Cooling system? Accessories? If you really love the car, go ahead and buy it. But remember that you will probably spend thousands of dollars on repairs; if not immediately, then eventually. Think of it as a hobby car or a restoration project. If you don’t have the time and money this car will inevitably need, maybe you should consider something else.

I have a 1979 Volvo 244, but only with about 90,000 miles on it. Most of that is city driving though so it might have as much wear and tear as the one you are considering. Mine works very well, and I have no plans to get rid of it. It’s been in our family for 15 years and I don’t think we ever had to call a tow truck. It does require its share of maintenance and replacement parts, and those parts are more expensive than on domestic cars. Some parts are also becoming difficult to find, but I think it would be much easier for an 83. (There were a lot of design changes around '81, IIRC)

From what I hear, the regular 4-cylinder engines are quite robust. The 4-cylinder turbo engine is just as reliable, except that it has one more thing that can break (the turbo itself). The V6 engine has a very poor reputation, so definitely keep away from those. I haven’t heard much about the diesel one way or another. (Did they even have a diesel in '83?)

I think the standard advice is to have it checked by a Volvo mechanic before you buy it. And make sure the heater/AC fan works - that’s supposedly the most difficult thing to replace on this car.

Volvos have a great reputation for endurance, even with high mileage. I recommend checking epinions.com for reviews (by Joe Public) on specific makes/models–it seems pretty diverse.

Also, don’t want to toot my own company’s horn (and get in trouble with the mods), but I recommend a vehicle history report to find out if there’s anything in the car’s history you should know, but don’t. Lizard, since you don’t list your e-mail I can’t contact you directly, but e-mail me the VIN, and I’ll see if I can help with getting you one.

I’ll second the advice to have it checked out by a competent mechanic who’s familiar with Volvos.

Also, you said the engine looks “almost TOO clean”. It may have been steam cleaned. This makes the engine look nice, but it can also damage other parts. I’d be a bit wary.

It’s got a 2.3L 4-cylinder gas engine. I really don’t want to take too big a chance on this or any other car. I might be moving soon to a strange town where I will be totally on my own. I also won’t able to afford to fix it if I need to. Early reports on here don’t sound too encouraging.

Peta Tzunami, I don’t have the VIN, but thanks for the offer. This issue isn’t resolved yet, so I’ll keep it in mind when I decide whether to more seriously consider this car.

Years ago, I looked at a 240 (DL, maybe?). I had the advantage of working at a dealership, so I dragged an old Volvo guy in to look at it.

The guy was pleased to discover a dirty motor. He told me that the four-cylinders had a habit of developing injector leaks, that the oldest trick in the book was to clean the engine to conceal the evidence of these leaks, and that doing so was bad because it knocked off the crud that was probably helping to seal the leaks.

That having been said, almost any car that goes through a dealership gets an engine cleaning, leaks or not. And since 60 Minutes hasn’t busted out any exposes on Volvo engine fires, it doesn’t seem to be a major problem. But be sure to ask your Volvo mechanic about it before you buy.

We have a Turbo wagon, '85, with 145k on it, and it’s doing fine, although some parts have needed replacing (watch out for the turbo ones. . . although it goes up hills like a real car would, replacing parts is spendy). Another wagon in the family is an '82 and has 240k on it and it’s fine. A friend had to replace an engine in a '78-- he had close to 400k on his. Have truthfully never known one to truely poop out before 300k.

I drive an '84 240 DL wagon, and it runs great. I agree with most people on the board that cared-for Volvos and other cars can run for hundreds of thousands of miles. There are a couple of things to think about, though, besides the regular used car points of consideration (you know, how much rust and whether the car’s been wrecked and all).

How many owners has the car had? Are there records of service? Any car that old may have had several owners, but Volvos especially tend to go through drivers, especially in college towns.

Is it a DL or GL? GL’s were the “luxury” models, meaning they had more things to break or wear out, like sunroofs and power windows. If a GL, does the car have turbo? That’s another thing to break or wear out.

Are there any Volvo or European car specialists in your area? I used to live in a town with neither, and servicing the car meant getting fleeced by the luxery/sports car mechanic, or getting fleeced by my neighborhood mechanic, who thought that anyone with an '84 wagon was obviously rich. I’m not saying that all mechanics are unethical, but some would like to charge more for work on foreign cars (mine told me as much) even if the parts aren’t expensive. Many repairs can be made with a Chilton’s manual and basic tools. I’ve heard that Volvos are easy to work on, but I can’t substantiate this.

I haven’t had much trouble finding parts, even in small towns in West Virginia and Virginia, thanks to nationwide auto parts chains and a network of junkyards.

Anyway, good luck. Volvos drivers tend to be passionate about their cars and are usually glad to give advice on mechanics, parts availability and all.

My immediate family owns 2 84 240 turbos, and there used to be an 84 240 DL as well. My dad totalled mine and rebuilt it from salvage twice before he gave it to me a couple of years ago. It still has better pickup than most cars I’ve driven and runs OK at 185,000. I bitch about it constantly, but that’s mostly because I spend 1.5 - 3 hours in it every day, and I’d like air bags, new upholstery and a CD player. The biggest problems I have with it are from the frame not being straight after the second accident, i.e. I go through tires and brakes waaaaaayyyyyyy too fast, and I’m always driving a little bit sideways.

The DL was still cruising along fine at about 210,00 when my sister gave it to her ex a couple of years ago.

My mom’s is at 240,000 and still going strong. They are good, safe, reliable cars, if you’ve got a good mechanic working on them.

Definitely find a Volvo only guy (or gal, I’m not picky) and have them check it out.

I humbly suggest you take that baby to the scrapyard toute suite. That’s plain dangerous. With a bent frame, there’s not telling how that car will behave in an emergency stop, for example.

My Dad had a 1984 2.3 litre petrol estate with very high mileage too (+200000) and it drove fairly well.
The power steering is essential to check out. It was just about to go on my Dad’s Volvo and it was like manhandling a tank. If its a manual with an overdrive I think they’re possibly only produced for classic cars now and Dad’s overdrive kept slipping on and off quite a lot which annoyed the hell out of him.
One other thing, he’s got a 940 2.0 estate now and its had the same problem as the 740, the heating has completely packed up and required the entire dashboard to be hauled apart, is this a Volvo trait?

Thanks for the concern Coldfire, if I could afford to replace it I would. I’m very careful with it and I’ve never had a problem. I used to race cars and have a pretty good feel for where it’s going to go if I do come screeching to a halt. When I was 16 one of my boyfriend’s standard activities was to get a parking lot wet and practice getting out of power skids. He wouldn’t let me race his Mustang until I got it down. Consequently I’m very good at preventing that sort of thing now.

Of course the real reason I want to get rid of that car is vanity. I’ve seen more attractive mailboxes.

OK, I was concerned. Now I just wanna race ya! :wink:

And with Volvos it’s a love thing. You know they’re ugly, but you still love them, you know?

Actually, not ALL Volvos are ugly. Wowsers!

Did I mention the car I’m looking at is banana yellow? i think it’s beautiful. :slight_smile:

Exactly!! My co-worker has an older Volvo and she took it in for servicing and even though the manual says NOT to steam clean it, the mechanic did. It completely screwed up the car and the station had to pay big bucks to fix it.

BTW, I am also a Volvo owner and I love my car.

OK, next time I’m in Amsterdam…

Actually, it’s been years since I raced anybody. Now I’m your basic mature adult driver. It’s boring, but boy have my insurance rates improved.

And you’re right, the new ones are purdy.