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Is buying a 21 Year old volvo a good idea or am I getting into a moneypit?

Hello there-

I’m doing some research right now into buying a used 1989 Volvo 740 GL with about 206,000 mi on it, for $1500. It’s in good condition and has had about $3,000 in work put into it in the past 2 years, mostly for things that were not maintained by the previous owners. It has also lived in the desert in New Mexico for all of the past 21 years, which I hear is great for cars. I’m buying it from a friend, so I have a good list of all of her repairs (pasted below this)… Just wondering if anyone can weigh in on the value of the car, or if I am maybe getting a moneypit. I know volvos are notoriously expensive to repair, they’re great cars, though, and I would be interested in seeing if I could get another 100,000 miles out of this one.

I should also disclose that I do not plan on driving it daily, mostly on weekends for trips out of brooklyn and around NYC, maybe a few longer trips here and there. So it will not get too much wear and tear.

Does anyone have an idea of the value here?


forgot to post the repairs:

? A/C service and refrigerant retrofit
? New power steering pump
? New air intake hose
? PCV service (?)?intake cleaner, flame trap kit
? Latest oil change - 4/2010
? New battery terminals and battery cleaning
? New lower radiator hose, dist cap (?), rotor, spark plug set. New fan belts (alternator, steering, a/c)
? Fuel pressure regulator, voltage regulator and alternator (not sure if these were new or remanufactured)
? Remanufactured water pump
? Welding on muffler pipe
? Remanufactured starter
? New battery 12/08
? 2 new tires 1/09
? Replaced 2 front rotors, front brakes, 3 belts, transmission flush, brakes flush (11/08)

Downside: it’ll be a money pit.
Upside: it’ll probably the be only car in NYC that thieves won’t bother with.

Value: so low that even car thieves won’t want it.


If you can learn how to maintain and fix it yourself, it might work out ok. Do you have tools and a place to work on it? Haynes or Volvo shop manual? Desire/ability to fix some things yourself?

If you plan to go to a Volvo dealer for parts and repair, you’ll spend a lot of money every year.

You can get parts pretty cheap from salvage yards or online. I drive a 21 year old Mercedes on a daily basis. It’s been pretty economical because I’ve kept it away from the dealer. The more things you can do yourself the cheaper it’ll be to own. This could be a good opportunity to learn how to fix stuff, especially if you don’t need to use the car on a daily basis. There’s a lot of info in the shop manual and online to guide you.

That’s excellent advice. I’ve heard this about old-model volvos (lots of room around the engine), and am generally good with fixing things, though I’ve not done a ton of work on cars outside of changing the oil/headlamps/battery and minor repairs to the radio.

I’ll definitely get the Haynes and a good set of tools if I get the car.


With the exception of cracking dashes due to intense sunlight and heat, New Mexico is an excellent place to raise a car. No salt and ultra low humidity means it’s not uncommon to see even 30 year old cars with no rust.

But that’s where the advantages end. NM can’t de-age a car, and that car is old. If I were shopping for a car with that budget, I’d get a late 80’s, early 90’s Honda. It’ll be more reliable and cheaper to fix.

Do you have a “pull it yourself” salvage yard near where you live? If so, this can be a source of parts plus you can practice taking stuff apart on their junkers. If you can pull their starter, alternator, PS pump, water pump, radiator - then you’ll learn how to do it on your car.

I thought I would check Kelley Blue Book ( to see what this car is worth. According to, a 1990 Volvo 740 GL Sedan 4D is worth about $1,300, but I think you would be crazy to pay that much for a car that old. If you really want this car, offer $1,000 and see what happens.

If the car is solid and runs good then I would say that it would be worth it. At some point any vehicle is worth 1500 dollars for transportation purposes.
A Volvo nameplate has nothing do with it. A 21 year old anything has the potential to be a money pit.

The only major issue with a Volvo is repairs will cost more simply due to part prices. Any 21 year car irregardless of Honda/Toyota or VW has the likely potential of a money pit.


A year ago I bought a 1990 Volvo 740 GL, with the odometer broken and reading almost 220000, and no clue when it broke, for $1500 not including the cost of the mechanic I bought him from registering him for me ($400).

Since then, I have definitely gone past the 225000 mark, as I drive him every day, rain or shine.

My car, HIS name being Hunny Bunny, is the best car I have ever owned, aside from my first one, may he rest in peace.

Hunny Bunny barely costs a penny to maintain, aside from gas and oil (and the A/C I’m too lazy to put more freon in), and the belts and brake pads I’m saving to order because I drive him every day. About twice a month I drive him 100 miles both ways to visit friends, and sometimes into Tampa.

Zooming past the newer, shinier, smaller, supposedly faster cars is tons of fun on the highway.

Currently he’s getting about 20 miles to the gallon, and even though sometimes I have to wack the fuel gauge to get it to read properly (and not at zero), never once has he lied to me about the amount in his tank. Although, with these cars, it’s always a good idea to never let there be less than 2 gallons in the tank, otherwise they make a very hungry sound.

Now, when I bought Hunny Bunny, he too had a list of repairs just made to him. But he’s a good car, always starts, and HAS NOT BEEN A MONEY PIT. I haven’t driven the car you’re thinking of buying and thus you shouldn’t buy it on my word alone, but I can tell you it’s in much better condition than mine, which has suffered hurricanes and not the ideal setting of New Mexico.

I hope this helps :slight_smile:

P.S.: If a 19yo BLONDE can find her way around in these engines, you can too!

Technically, you’re correct, it hasn’t cost you a penny to maintain, as you’re saving up to maintain it. Once you start fixing one or two things, then other things will soon follow

i personally have a 1992 volvo 740t.i do all the repairs my self.if you can work on it its a great buy if you dont work on cars dont buy it i will cost you a lot to maintain it .even volvos as reliable as they are ,the parts do have a life span and its about that time when a 20yr old car needs a lot of repairs.

“Is buying a 21 Year old volvo a good idea or am I getting into a moneypit?”

Buying ANY Volvo is NEVER a good idea…When you drive a Volvo, you BECOME a Volvo…It’s a state of being…

Veni, Vidi, Volvo


The only thing that might make this feasible is the light amount of driving you plan to do. You will spend on repairs rather than lose money on depreciation of a newer car. This car is at a point where depreciation isn’t a concern, you can likely sell it for about what you paid for it if it still runs and hasn’t acquired a major dent.

If you buy it you should plan on about $1,000 a year for repairs. That is in addition to gas, insurance, registration fees, oil changes, and routine maintenance such as brakes tune ups and tires. If you don’t incur a repair expense one year then you will be ready for a big bill the next year.

Your list of repairs still leaves a lot of parts and systems that are old and subject to failure that didn’t make the list. Meaning lots of future repairs are likely, it is a 21 year old car. Rubber seals, brake lines, and lots of hoses will be just a start.