opinions on buying an older, used station wagon (possibly Volvo)

My husband and I have decided to acquire a second car. We’ve been living with just one car for the past few years, since I take Metro to work and generally don’t need a car to get around in our neighborhood. We currently own a 2 year old Honda Civic.

Owning just one car is fine most of the time, but I’m involved in alot of activities with my dogs, and a couple times a month it is inconvenient not to have my own vehicle. So we’re going to get a second car. Our price range is about $3,000 or so.

In that price range, and for the desired ability of the car (hauling large dogs), it seems that a used station wagon is the best option. This car will be driven very lightly, probably 2,000-3,000 miles per year at most. Seriously, most weeks it will probably be driven about 20 miles.

I have my eye on a 10+ year old Volvo wagon, but a friend totally scolded me yesterday. She said that nobody sells Volvos unless there is something seriously wrong with them, and the repair costs are through the roof. So now I am feeling really glum, I don’t want to end up with one of those Ford Taurus wagons that look like a huge, fat ass from the rear.

I’m planning to go through a private seller, and any car I buy will be checked out by a trusted mechanic and have a Carfax report pulled. Am I crazy to get a Volvo, despite the light duty demands?

Not at all. We just got a 1995 volvo wagon for hauling around the kids. Bought it from an individual. He had service records, etc. No problems. We found it using the Post’s cars.com site.

Not crazy at all to get an old Volvo. However, we’ve had good luck buying several-year-old Ford Escort wagons for about $1,200, so there should be a bit more variety than Volvo-or-nothing. However, St. Paul is a big Ford town, what with the factory being here and all. We used carsoup.com to find the last three cars we bought, but I see they don’t serve the DC area, so that’s not much help to you…

I have a chevy caprice classic station wagon. It is HUGE! It’s got 150k miles on it and runs perfectly, I just have to fill the power steering fluid up every 2-3k miles. And repair costs are cheaper than a Volvo. Just a suggestion though, I can’t say it’s a better buy than a Volvo, but definately BIGGER.

Thanks for the ideas, guys. I’ve also thought about a Ford Escort or Toyota Corolla wagon. I don’t want anything HUGE, because I’m used to driving smaller cars and I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with a behemoth.

I guess I’m being seduced by the amenities of the Volvo. Most of them have leather seats, and if you’ve ever had dogs, you’ll know how the hair actually weaves itself into cloth interiors. The Volvos are just cool, and I want one! Waaa!! (stomps foot):smiley: :stuck_out_tongue:

Volvo fan checking in here. Yes, they can be expensive to repair. They are also insanely reliable and well engineered. You can replace a headlight in fifteen minutes. Look for a turbo package, as it gives the car some real performance. Avoid the six cylinder Renault engine, it has had a poor track record. Do get the vehicle inspected by a trustworthy mechanic. Make sure the previous owner has a good record of maintenance done on it. I have a 740 Turbo sedan with intercooler plus leather and adore it. Be sure to get the intercooler as it boosts the turbo’s performance. Volvo seats are some of the most well built and orthopedically correct in the industry. Up there in Washington, you’ll love the heated seat option, look for it.

You’ll want to spend 2-3K on the car, so don’t flinch about dumping a few hundred on a couple of different inspections. They can reveal critical mechanical problems hidden to the untrained eye. Don’t be put off by Volvos that have over 150K miles on them. These things run for-effing-evah! Try to find one that had mostly freeway miles put on it. Volvos eat long distance runs for lunch.

In addition, they are among the very safest of cars on the road. Volvos are designed to let you walk away from a 60 MPH head on collision. Few other car manufacturers can make such a claim. You lose a little gas mileage toting around all that armor plate, but the assurance factor more than makes up for it.

Point of order on the Volvo: really expensive parts. Mine is missing an 02 sensor and some other kind of sensor. They’ve been missing for the past couple years. Replacement cost: $700. It runs fine without them.

Ethilrist, in an odd sort of way, this is testimony to how well engineered Volvos are. Please note that they do not permit the car to be disabled by a minor malfunction.

This is unlike American automobiles, where where one missing cap on a tire inflation valve stem will cause the car not to start.

I vote for a GM B-Body wagon (Caprice, Custom Cruiser, Estate Wagon, Parisienne Safari). I drive a 1986 Parisienne Safari which I really like. I’ve had it for over 3 years now. It has been very reliable except for the defective Powermaster brake assist, which was only used on the 1986 model year. So just buy a different year (they were made from 1977-90 and then 1991-96 in a new body style). I have 8 seats, a roof rack, tons of cargo space AND I get better gas mileage than a 5-passenger Explorer. Beat that :slight_smile: Although I hear Volvo 240 Series wagons are pretty good too.

-Andrew L

Volvo technician (former) and currently technical instructor for Volvo here.
The 240/700/900 Volvo wagons are wonderful cars for being able to haul stuff and last close to forever.
There are plenty of Volvos available in your price range. I’m not going to waste the bandwidth to go over all the features or each model, but feel free to e-mail me at Rewald9535@aol.com with any questions or for more info.

Listen to Rick. Take him up on his offer of help, but only so long as you are willing to send him some sort of special treat once you have fallen utterly in love with your Swedish snowmobile.

njufoic, perhaps you missed the point about not wanting a huge car :slight_smile:

An oft overlooked alternative to the Volvo is the Subaru Legacy wagon. Runs just as long and parts are a hell of a lot cheaper. In that price range you would be looking at the 91-94 range.

Much more nimble than a 240 as well.

:smiley: Zenster Have I told you lately that you are allright? :smiley:

Hi guys, sorry to have started this thread and then disappeared. I’ve been busy for the last couple days with kitchen remodeling.

Rick, thank you so much for your kind offer. I will definitely take you up on it, I have a few questions that I’m sure you could answer. You’ll be hearing from me! :slight_smile:

i drove an '83 mercedes wagon from '98 - '01. it had 454,000 miles on it when i got rid of it. parts are expensive as anything but it rarely needed anything.

i have had friends with old volvo wagons that looooved them. the worst i have heard about them is that the ac’s don’t hold up great/aren’t that strong. probably more important to me way south than you though.

Thanks for starting this thread, Miabella. MrWhatsit and I are looking to replace our trusty '85 Tercel hatchback with a larger vehicle that can hold two child carseats (will be important in about 8 months), and we’ve been considering a used Volvo wagon. The reponses in this thread have brought us closer to cementing our decision. I’m willing to get an older vehicle, too, as we’re not planning on putting all that many miles on it ourselves, and our main criteria are space, safety, and price. (We don’t want to go over $3k.)

Additional note:

Another nail in the coffin (Wait! That doesn’t sound right.), er … lug nut on the wheel pan is this simple fact. Volvos are considered such a safe car to drive that they earn you a special safe-car discount with many insurance companies.