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Honda vs. Volvo

I currently have a 2005 Honda Civic Si with 109,000 miles but I’m interested in a 2003 Volvo S60 with 62,000 miles. I love the Honda, but the Volvo is much more practical for my driving. I need a bigger car, but don’t want to compromise on the reliability of Honda’s. It would cost a couple thousand extra to go with the Volvo, but I’m wondering which car I should go with. Honda or Volvo?

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. You own the Honda and apparently it is giving you good service. What do you know about the Volvo? Unless you know the history of the Volvo, the odometer reading doesn’t really mean very much. The Volvo is two years older than your Honda. Things age–especially rubber parts. I would look for a car newer than what you are currently driving–not older.

If you need a bigger car, upgrade to a Honda Accord. Volvos are overpriced, unreliable and expensive to fix and maintain – a Ford in sheep’s clothing.


I agree that you should keep the Civic. Even if reliability were similar, the Volvo would be more expensive to repair since it is a luxury car. It just happens that 2003 was a decent year for the S60. There is a minor problem with the lower control arm bushings. 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005 S60s all had engine problems. 2005 and later Civics have no unusual problems, though 2001-2004 have minor engine problems and 2001-2003 have severe transmission problems, too.

Based on what you have told us, I would keep the Civic, but I reserve the right to change my answer if you give us more information.

Why do you think you need a larger car?

If you need a bigger car, and liked the reliability of your Honda, get a bigger Honda. Don’t be taken in by the exclusivity of a Volvo. Cars are often exclusive compared to Hondas because they don’t hold up or sell as well. It’s that simple.
Another option, if you want a cheaper, reliable and bigger car, try a Fusion.

Overpriced? Not really compared to their competition they are priced reasonably.

Unreliable? Nope, There are many 240’s out there with well over 300k on the clock. My stepfather traded in a V70 wagon with 250k on it, and now drives a newer V70 it has 122k on it and has just required regular maintence. My mother drives a 2004 C70 it has 110k on it and again just regular maintence.

Expensive to maintain? Compared to Toyotas and Hondas, yes, compared to BMW and Benz’s not really.

A Ford in sheeps clothing? Again no. Ford uses Volvo platforms for some of it’s cars. The 500/Taurus was more of Volvo in Ford clothing than anything.

I need a larger car because the Civic I drive now is the Si with only 2 doors and it’s very light. I drive in Vermont winter and even with the best snow tires I’m terrified to drive my car. Also, the insurance company recognizes it as a sports car so the insurance is very expensive and I’m a college student so I can’t afford unnecessary insurance costs.

As for the Volvo, the reason I’m so attracted to it is because the mileage is 40,000 miles lower than mine and I’m often driving people so the 4 doors is really nice. I also travel 250 miles to school every couple of months so I wanted something safe on the highway. Also, my friend has a Volvo with over 200,000 miles on it and he doesn’t do a very good job of keeping up with the repairs, so I assumed they last a long time. Also, it’s a very nice ride and you don’t feel every bump like my civic does. It’s also the only manual transmission volvo I’ve seen, all others are automatics and I don’t want to drive automatics ever.

Sounds like you’ve made up your mind. Get the Volvo and good luck.

I’d get an Accord rather than a Volvo, if reliability is a high priority. The Volvo’s ‘average’, the Accord is ‘much better than average’ for 2003 on Consumer Reports.

“Also, my friend has a Volvo with over 200,000 miles on it and he doesn’t do a very good job of keeping up with the repairs, so I assumed they last a long time.”

If your friend got that many trouble free miles out of his car, either one of two things is going on…first, your friend may not be telling you the truth about the maintenance and some people actually think $1000 a year in repairs is normal or

second…the car was reliable, in which case given the overall reliability ratings, YOUR chances are not very good that yours will be. The odds are against you! and You’re buying a Volvo cause it has 4 doors ? Volvos are no safer than any other popular mid size sedan.

BTW, I think your winter snow traction is still a tire problem. You have a light car with low aspect, wide performance tires. If your winters are the same size, your car will “float” regardless of tread design. Standard width tires or narrower use on the regular Civic do work better. Wide winter tires are terrible in wet snow with light car. Wide is defined with respect to the weight of the car…obviously a heavier car can run wider tires in the winter.
Best of luck…save some repair money.

Having driven a '95 Civic hatchback in Colorado winters for eleven years, I’m not impressed by your argument. Are you honestly having trouble controlling your car or does snow and ice just make you nervous? BTW, I traded the '95 Civic for a 2006 Civic four years ago, and I still don’t feel the need for a bigger or heavier car.

Have you compared insurance rates for both cars with a couple of companies? Is there a big enough difference to justify spending a few thousand on another car, and taking the risk involved in buying a seven year old used car?

Are these friends that you drive around going to contribute to the purchase and upkeep of the Volvo?

My suggestion would be to keep driving your Honda and start saving for something newer when the Honda wears out.

At some point Honda started putting posi-traction differentials in the Si. This means both fronts wheels will spin when you go in the snow and that would be tough to handle. I think you '05 has the posi-traction differential. Great for the race track, bad for snow.

You might do fine with a 4 door Civic with manual trans. They do not have posi-traction, have pretty good room in back and 4 doors. My '03 Civic is a 4 door (EX with 5 spd stick) and it handles 4 adults pretty well.

His Civic Si has posi-traction differential, a different animal in the snow than your and my Civics.

You make some good points, FoDaddy, but I know some die hard Volvo fans, who not only insist on Volvos, but insist in NEW Volvos. They have a close relationship with their mechanics because of their cars regularly require expensive repairs.

I know a married couple at work. They both insist on new Volvos. The wife drives one she bought in 1991. The husband recently wrecked his and bought a new V70. He even went to Sweden to pick it up.

They are on a first name basis with their Volvo mechanic, and they are frequently dropping off one car or the other, not for maintenance, but because it is acting up in some way.

I was surprised to see a Volvo engine in the new European sporty version of the Ford Focus on Top Gear. I wonder if the American version of the Focus also has a Volvo engine.

You obviously want the Volvo. Get it.

Since you don’t like the way your Civic Si drives, I suggest you stay away from anything sporty in the future. You will find similar stiff suspension common among sporty cars.

Don’t let the Volvo give you a false sense of security. Volvo lost its edge in safety when demand for ABS and side curtain airbags and federal standards finally caught up with Volvo. You will still need winter tires, and you will still need to be very careful. If this Volvo also has special controls you can activate for driving in the snow, all the better.

Without the limited slip/posi-traction, it will be hard to start on a slippery surface because one wheel will tend to spin freely while the wheel with more traction stays still. That’s why limited slip differentials are helpful on snow and ice.

Sounds to me like what you need is a 4 door Civic or Accord. The 4 door Civic will not be the “sports car” that the SI is considered. If you are afraid of snow and ice, that’s a driver problem not a car problem. Get some training. There are schools just for learning to drive in snow and ice.

I admit, the Volvo S60 is a nice car. I looked seriously at buying one, but for a college student on a budget, no way. An Accord will give you the larger size and they are available with manual transmissions. I know, I own one.

Edited version: I had no trouble starting in my fwd VW GTI in Anchorage for 12 years. Good winter tires take care of that.

You would be trading a very reliable car with many economical miles left on it for an unreilable and expensive to maintain vehicle, with LESS economical life left in it.

Your need for a bigger car should be dictated by having more and bigger passengers. Traction in snow is a function of TIRES, nor car size, and there are some very good winter tires available now, that you may not be aware of.

We live near the Rocky Mountains and have driven “smaller” cars for the last few years, after having owned large Detroit cars. We have not noticed any problems in snow; again we use Michein X-ICE winter tires on both cars.

If you MUST have a larger car for some reason, buy a Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, or Hyundai Sonata. All those will cost significantly less to maintain and repair than a Volvo (which, I admit, has a nice interior and good seats) and will be much more reliable is day to day operation.