Buying a used car - 2008 Passat wagon with 81k or 2011 Volvo V50 with 109K - same price, which one?

I am looking at a 2008 VW Passat Komfort Wagon (4 cylnder) with 81k for $11.5 or a 2011 Volvo V50 (5 cylnder) with 109K for $11k. Both are in very good shape inside and out and drive very well and both have clean car fax reports. Making a decision this week. Any feedback would be welcomed.

Both of these are probably toward the lower side of the reliability spectrum, if you care.

Carfax reports miss a lot of incidents, so keep that in mind.

About reliability, I was surprised to see that Identifix gave the Passat a 5 out of 5 rating, based on shop repair reports. So the Passat has a good track record for the 6 or so years it’s been on the road.

Identifix doesn’t have reliability data for the Volvo, since it hasn’t been on the road long enough, but it gives earlier model years of the V50 a 5 out of 5 reliability rating too.

Carfax is not the final word on the condition of a vehicle so don’t put all of the eggs into the CF basket.

Running and driving out well may or may not mean much as cars with serious underlying issues may run and drive just fine. A thorough pre-purchase inspection may help but even that is not a slam dunk as to problems or reliability.

What you really need, if available, are complete service records as that can provide at least a small amount of insight.

I’d be looking at how you’ll use it. If you’re going to drive it until dead, I’d get the Passat for the lower mileage and because that engine is very common in VW products so parts won’t be as rare or expensive. Volvo sales have been poor for years and I don’t see that changing dramatically. I’m glad they’re bringing back the mid-sized wagon, as the current one is gorgeous. I thought it was a stupid decision to stop selling it a few years ago, even if wagon sales were declining. For many people, Volvo was the place to go for a European wagon of that size. Maybe it will be again if people see how pretty the new one is. Reliability… Well… We’ll see.

Nice as these cars are I’d have a hard time putting my own money in either one, though the simpler European models, like these, have better reliability than the hyper-luxury and performance models loaded with new technology. These are fairly basic and at least have a chance of not failing prematurely at great expense, especially the VW.

It’s a shame so few nice wagons are made that aren’t European (and of suspect reliability) . The only Asian wagon with a luxury nameplate is the Acura TSX wagon, and it doesn’t feel all that special inside (of course, neither does the Passat). That Acura is sold as an Accord in other markets, and optioning it heavily hasn’t disguised the modest quality of many of the interior bits and pieces. I’d still be perfectly happy with one, but I don’t demand luxurious surroundings. It’s even priced competitively with a Subaru Outback that doesn’t feel luxurious at all. The Toyota Venza is something like a wagon, too, and also in the same price range. Or a little higher, if optioned the same. Even the base TSX is nicely equipped, with hardly any options available. That’s certainly unlike the European brand, where the options can add 50% to the price without even trying. They ding you for everything.

But I’d have a had time giving serious consideration to either a Passat or a V50, despite finding them attractive and comfortable. As long as someone makes a more reliable alternative, I’d be looking at that.

Both will require higher than average repairs, but the Passat won’t put you in the poorhouse. Volvos are very expensive to keep on the road.

Personally I would not buy either one.

Like Docnick, I would vote for…neither.

However, if you are bound & determined to buy one of them, make sure that you obtain the complete service records, and compare that to the mfr’s maintenance schedule. Many an unsuspecting/naïve car buyer has relied on notoriously inaccurate/unreliable Carfax reports, rather than finding out exactly how a car was maintained by its previous owner(s).

Bad maintenance may not bite the first owner in the butt, but you can be sure that the guy who buys that car second-hand will wind up with a bomb exploding in his wallet if the car was not properly maintained. And, if that poorly-maintained car is a Volvo, the bomb will be thermonuclear in strength.

Gotta agree, I wouldn’t do either but would sure take the VW over the Volvo. Just remember VWs don’t age very well and can start having electrical and other issues hard to diagnose and repair at that age.

Thank you all, this is helpful. Any recommendations of used cars I should be considering, specifically wagons or smaller, compact SUVs?

For that kind of money I’d be looking at something like a 2008-ish Honda CRV.

The latest issue of Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers’ Guide, available at the local bookstore, might help.

The two cars you were looking at are what is sometimes called ‘entry-level luxury’ (yes, even the Passat). Is that the kind of car you want, or were you just looking at those because you wanted a midsized wagon and that’s all there was. The Acura TSX wagon I mentioned is an easy, obvious recommendation, but not many have sold, so you may never find one. The Toyota Venza is a bit more common, and similarly priced and equipped. I believe it comes mainly (or only?) with the V6, where the Acura only has a four. Of course there is the ubiquitous Subaru Outback, which got taller, more ute-like in the last redesign a few years ago. It’s just OK, and not very efficient if you don’t need the awd. Smallish crossovers that are nice include the Acura RDX, cheaper than the somewhat small Infiniti EX and cheaper by even more than the glitzy Lexus RX. In the non-luxury Asian nameplates the Mazda CX5 is very nice, with the CR-V and RAV4 both admirable, but a bit bland. The older Nissan Rogue (pre 2014) has been pretty lousy, with a depressingly cheap interior, and it drove poorly, too. The new-for-2014 makeover is surprisingly nice. It went through a massive makeover. Whether it still is crummy to drive I can’t say, but at least you won’t get depressed just sitting in it. The Ford Escape is also very swanky, though I’d be tempted to wait a little bit to see if it develops major reliability problems (other than the universal gripes about Ford Sync, the infotainment system). The basic vehicle was already made in Europe for a couple of years before they started to here, so it has had a little longer to get things sorted out than it appears to have had. This is a very competitive market category with more decent cars than bad. Even less popular models like the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tuscon aren’t that bad, though they are among the smaller in the class. The Sorento and Santa Fe, the next size up, are nicer.