Advice: trying to decide betwn an old volvo wagon or an old VW camper/bus


I will be moving across the country in a few months and I am trying to figure out what car to buy to get me across and be the most useful around the town too. I have always wanted both cars but am worried because I know nothing about doing my own repairs. Do I need to be a car expert to have these cars? I don’t have a lot of money so suggestions for other cars would be good too. Thanks for any thoughts you have!


I don’t think I would want to travel across country in either the Volvo wagon or the VW bus. If something does go wrong, it may be more difficult to find parts and more expensive for the repair. I think if I were to travel across country on a budget, I would look for a good used Ford Aerostar, Cherolet Astro or its equivalent GMC Safari. Other possibilities for me would include the smaller full size vans–the Ford E-150 or the equivalent in the Chevrolet, GMC or Dodge. Buy your vehicle at least one month before you leave and have a trusted mechanic check it thoroughly before you buy. Hold back some money from the purchase price for tires, brakes, etc that may be needed before you travel. Also, have some reserve funds with you to make any repairs along the way. I realize that the vehicles I recommended don’t get the greatest gasoline mileage, but even at today’s prices, gasoline is still one of the less expensive considerations in vehicle ownership. When you’ve completed your trip, you may then want to sell the van and purchase something more suitable for around town use. I assume you wanted the VW bus or the Volvo wagon to carry equipment. If this isn’t the case, shop for an automobile.


I wouldn’t get either considering your situation. An old Japanese pickup truck would be your best choice, but not a 4wd. Those tend to get driven into the ground. Second choice would be an old Japanese sedan or wagon, but not too old, even those reach their end of useful service life eventually.

If you can afford a 2000 or newer American car, those are pretty reliable as well. 2000 seems to be the year that American cars got close enough to the Japanese in quality that you can rely on them.


I hadn’t thought about the Japaneze pick-up truck, but this is a good suggestion. A camper top over the bed would keep the equipment from getting wet and on a sudden stop, you would be protected from everything shifting forward. The Ford Ranger or its twin in the Mazda line would be possibilities as well as the Nissan and Toyota. The gasoline mileage on these little trucks would be better than the vans or minivans I suggested.


Personally, I would get the VW bus just because it’s much more funky than the volvo. Don’t pay too much for it (you may need the extra cash to get it fixed) and have it checked out before you leave. Sleep in the bus and save some money. Buy one a little while before your ready to leave and drive it around some to make sure it’s really roadworthy. Don’t expect to get there very fast, last week I passed one doing about 45 going over the continental divide in WY (but it looked pretty cool doing it).

It may break down, you may have to stop and get it fixed, you may even have to get it towed, big deal. If you care, don’t get the bus. If you can live with a little adventure buy a bus; you can always get a mini-van when you’re 80.

Have fun!

P.S. Try not to run into anything with a bus, it won’t be pretty.


This is like deciding which is worse; a broken arm or a broken leg.

I used to own a VW bus. Thank heaven there has been progress since then. I loved that vehicle, but I would not want to own or drive one today. They are PRIMITIVE vehicles, and other than the fact that you can sleep in them have almost NO redeeming social values.

Old Volvo wagons are another matter. If (a big IF), you can find a good one, they are great, but the good ones have long since been run into the ground, and the odds of finding a decent car for not much money are slim. Slim to none, actually, and Slim just left.

How about a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry station wagon wagon from the mid-90s. Buy the best one you can find. That’s a car you can drive across the country, cheap, and sleep in.


Having to decide between kicked in the groin by the left foot or the right foot is a tough decision.

“Old” Volvo or “old” VW bus is really not the way to go for someone with no mechanical experience.

How about a Crown Vic? Reliable, lots of room, will get as good fuel mileage as either one you mentioned, and parts are readily available everywhere if needed.


Love the analogy OK4450. Couldn’t of said it better.


Thanks everyone for your replies so far! Some of you had me laughing to the point of tears! I definitely have grasped the point that my fantasies of going across country in funky style are just that fantasies! Well I definitely don’t want to break down in the middle of the country with a 3 year old and a crazy dog! Better try and find something more reliable! More advise on other options would be great…will most likely have to rent or buy a trailer to get our stuff across the country with us! Thoughts?


Last fall I went on a 5 week road trip across Canada in my 02 Hyundai Accent hatchback. It’s small, sure, but all my stuff fit (and there was a lot) and it got me from my home in Eastern Ontario to the Pacific Ocean and back without a problem (aside from some tranny issues that started in Northern Ontario, but were fixed with a fluid change.) The Accent is also cheap, and quite easy on gas (I averaged around 40mpg for the trip, and it cost me about $900[Canadian] on fuel for the 5 weeks.) Plus, one can sleep in it… if one doesn’t mid sleeping in a slightly reclined driver’s seat.

Any Hyundai, actually, will be better than an old Volvo or VW bus, especially if the Hyundai is 2000 or newer. Parts are widely available, plus they’re easy to work on. You can get many models fairly cheap (under $6000,) such as an Accent, Elantra hatchback, or Sonata.

But one thing I would suggest is invest in an AAA membership. One benefit is free maps and guidebooks, which more than pays for the cost of membership. Plus, you get roadside assistance, which can be invaluable if you get stuck somewhere. Good luck.


My recommendation would still be the Crown Vic, especially since a trailer is involved. The only modification might be the installation of an add-on trans fluid cooler.
They’re cheap, easy, and worth their weight in gold since you’re talking about pulling a trailer across country.
The Vic should also pull down about 25 MPG too, which is not bad for a large, rear drive vehicle.

Don’t mean to burst your bubble on the VW bus thing, but I’m an ex-VW tech and have owned half a dozen air cools, including a couple of buses.

Heck, I gave 20 bucks for the last bus I owned (no motor), but since I had an engine sitting the garage already it was only a matter of an hour or so and I had a running vehicle.
Typical hippie bus; white over red, gold metalflake dashboard, lime green shag carpet from front to back (including the doors and roof) and even a peace symbol in the back window. Yep. My ride was pimped and I was stylin’. The white/red/green/gold flake looked like Christmas on wheels. :slight_smile:

Just like all VW buses, top heavy, underpowered, under-braked, and somewhat maintenance heavy.
They’re fine if one knows the limitations and can take care of the routine stuff without a shop, but cross country with a load (and a trailer?) forget about it. You would be waiting at the bottom of every hill hoping a trucker would stop and tow you up to the top. Stopping that beast on the downhill would be another matter.


I’ll second this opinion since your original posting didn’t mention the child or the dog. The child must be in a child seat in the back set for safety. I think there are dog restraints to keep the dog where he/she/it belongs. You do not need this distraction while pulling a trailer. The extra interior space of the Ford Crown Victoria or the equivalent Mercury Grand Marquis will be welcome on the trip. If you haven’t pulled a trailer before, find a way to get some practice before you set out. The advice about the transmission cooler is excellent. You will also need to have a wiring harness for the trailer lights.
With the trailer idea, I think you should take a pass on the small Japaneze wagons.


Since I just read you’ll have a kid and a dog and a trailer with you, forget any small Hyundai. I think the only Hyundai that might work for you would be a Santa Fe, but you won’t find any good ones for cheap. Therefore, I also recommend the Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis suggestion.


Rent a Penske or U-Haul and buy your funkmobile when you get there. Sounds like you really want an old Volvo or V-dub bus. Don’t expect to drive either without a lot of TLC and breakdowns. The cross country trip will be memorable (a child and a crazy dog?) and these national chains can fix whatever breaks on their vehicle or rent you another one.


While I think the Crown Vic is a great car, if you’re not going to be hauling a trailer or driving a lot of people around regularly, its probably too much car for you. If you only need the towing and seating capacity for this one trip, it doesn’t make sense when you’ll be paying increased cost of ownership for years.

Also if you’re envisioning this trip as an adventure, I’d personally rather not do it in a rented moving van. They’re not much fun to drive, and you pay by the day, so you’d be rushed. I’d say buy one of the smaller Japanese or later model American cars the other posters have suggested and drive it. Then you can just ship your stuff for probably a similar price to renting a van and keeping it full of gas.

Once you get there, maybe you could get one of those other cars as a fun second car for shorter road trips. However, the only way owning either of those would be a reasonable proposition would be if you learn to work on them. The aircooled VW van is, as another poster mentioned, primitive which makes is a pretty good vehicle to learn on. Unlike many old cars, the parts supply for them is also excellent-- you can get everything for them new and usually cheap. That may be an issue for a Volvo older than 20 years or so.

Good Luck!