Am I asking to remain automotively cursed?


I am a happy disgruntled owner of an 01 Audi 1.8T automatic wagon. (Fellow Audi owners may sympathize).

The car, she is great. The premium gas? The maintenance? The crucial parts made of plastic guaranteed to break? The specialty mechanics who charge up the Wazoo? NOT-SO-MUCH. So, after years of car payments raised exponentially by constant maintenance and repair costs, I hav decided that it’s time to sell.

My hope is to buy a cheap, old, well running wagon that can take me a few hundred miles every few months, plus some light commuting two-to-three times per week. What I really want is a late 80’s to mid/late 90’s Volvo wagon. Am I crazy? Am I in for the same bother about maintenance and parts and specialty mechanics? I’ve had mixed advice on this. I could also go for a VW wagon, or a Subaru wagon. Basically if it’s a wagon and old and a workhorse, and a good portion “small tank,” I’m on board. Any suggestions/recommendations/advice for or against? Reasons? Tips? I’d appreciate it.


Get ready for Subaru recommendations, here. Ask about head gaskets. You don’t want to be caught in a minivan?

You know, it would really help to give a price range and what you’re going to ask this thing to do. Commuter? Freight Hauler? Passengers?

Stay clear of Volvo and VW, you’ll just be doing the same as your current Audi. In the '80’s and early 90’s there were some Honda Accord wagons, Toyota Camry, and Corolla wagons too. If you can find one in good shape you could have a winner.

A good low cost car would be old Ford Taurus and Merc Sable wagons. The V6 was pretty reliable. You’ll have repairs but less costly ones than Audi and more parts available.

Please read Consumer reports recent automotive issue on cars that are most reliable in different price ranges. You have MORE options since just about any NON Volvo/Saab/Audi/Mercedes/Chrysler product is an improved option that would improve your situation. Subarus are overkill if you do not need AWD. Also, the wagons are not as roomy and I don’t have faith in the Tribeca or older Subaru products. So no Subbie rec. here. 2wd/awd RAV4 and CRVs are really safe recommendations as roomy comfy used people cargo haulers…also Ford products seem to have the edge domestically.
And do you need AWD ? If not, milage is greatly improved over the life of the vehicle without.
Cheap old CRVs are plentiful as are older Fords…good luck.
Sorry to disappoint CSA.

If you can find a 2002-2004 Ford Taurus wagon in good shape, I think you would like it. They stopped making the Taurus wagon in 2004.

The Volvo idea won’t yield any improvements as they usually call for premium fuel and are also expensive to repair. Although your Audi is more or less a glorified VW, it is considered an upscale car, it will have correspondingly upscale repair costs. The Subaru idea is more reasonable, although if you go with a turbo model. You’ll have to use premium gas. Although generally reliable, Subarus are more mechanically complex due to AWD.

As others point out, going to a Volvo is going from the frying pan into the fire. If you want a wagon-like vehicle, a good used Toyota wagon, a Taurus, or if a smaller vehicle will meet your needs, a good used Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe. Stay away from any Jeep product.

All the vehicles will be more reliable and less expensive to keep running .

Good luck!

My occasional attempts to operate “cheap, old” cars I bought on the used car market is spotty at best. I’ll make the new Subaru recommendation. This week an Outback MSRP 25K can be had in my area for 20K, no haggling. Break it in and keep it for 10 years or so.

We have owned two Legacy wagons and my wife loves them. Not so happy about the 2.5L engine, but have not had head gasket issues, either. We follow the owner’s manual maintenance recommendation religiously and have been rewarded with a very reliable car. Last year, my wife look at Camry and Accord sedans, and they cost the same or more, leading us to believe we will buy Subaru #3 in the future.

Stay away from anything from the 80s or early 90s if you want a safe car. You’re much better off with a modern car (2000+). You did say “small tank”. If it’s late 90s or newer, the station wagon morphed into an SUV. You might prefer a small SUV if you are interested at all.

I am probably going to get shouted down over this one, but have you considered the dodge Magnum? They can be had for peanuts on the used market, come with great warranties, are available with all wheel drive and have plenty of power as long as you avoid the 2.7 Litre engine. My dad has an all-wheel drive 2005 model with the 3.5L Six and it is great in the winters of Northern Canada, has plenty of power, tons of storage space and a pretty nice ride. So far it has also been reliable. The only negative I can think of is its interior is not great, very plasticy and cheap. It may not be as refined as some of the other vehicles suggested but it is definitely worth a look, if only for its discount price.

I’m talking cheap cheap. Like buy it with the piggy bank $ and only put gas and maintenance into it. So, within the 1500-2500 range. Seriously.
Not for heavy communting. We are about to invest in electric bikes/mopeds so we are trying to eliminate 85%+ of our actual driving. I will be carting our little one to school a few days a week starting in the fall, and we have family that lives about 200 miles away and we visit them every month or every-other-month, and need a car that WILL make the trip time and time again. If we buy something super-cheap we’d be willing to put money into it, and if it is a less mechanically complex than my european auto, we’d be ecstatic to learn how to do minor repairs ourselves. I happen to love old boxy wagons-- toyota, honda, volvo, even subaru. My other half LOVES subaru for the AWD, however we live smack in the middle of the urban jungle and only make it to the mountains 2-3 times per year so that’s not my biggest priority…