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Late model Volvo or Saab, good idea?

As my current 98 Ford Explorer nears 185K, I am beginning to think a new car is in my near future. For some reason, I have developed an obsession with late model (early 90’s) yuppy cars - Volvo, Saab, VW, BMW(?). I really have no explanation for this except not wanting to have the same Civic/Accord/Camry/Maxima as everyone else. And I am not looking to sign up for another $30K loan.

Since I know nothing about them, I am looking for thoughts/opinions. I’ve always heard that “Volvos last forever,” which is quite appealing. I also love a Saab hatchback. An 80’s vintage BMW too. I am thinking that if I can find something with 100 - 120K (Grandma’s Sunday driver), I could probably still get another 100K out of it.

But enough about that. What I am asking if this is a good idea, or the stupiest thing you ever heard?

Any other cars you would recommend?

Well, neither, but don’t kid yourself, the cars you’re describing (all of them) can be money pits, just like any other brand. If you do your homework, find a well cared-for example that has a complete maintenance record and passes a knowledgeable mechanic’s inspection, go for it. Just don’t buy an Ebay car that looks good, or its equivalent. They can be disasters. As for recommendations, Saabs and Audis can be especially trouble-prone, while pre-'95 Mercedes aren’t bad, as are BMWs. VWs are in between. The Volvo reputation was built in the '60s and '70s, more recent models are not unusually reliable. IMHO, of course…

I’m trying to steer you away from the high maintenance and repair costs of the cars you mentioned. I would recommend a Mazda 6 as a fun to drive and easy to maintain vehicle with a long life expectancy.

Here’s a specific recommendation: '93-'95 Mercedes E300/320E 4-door. Some think it the most reliable MB of that era. Don’t go newer, the reliability dropped significantly.

As far as I’m concerned SAABs and Volvos are no worse than anything else. With any used car, no matter the make, a thorough checkout is always recommended.

According to some of the conventional thinking (not by me) your Ford Explorer should have been flirting with the car crusher at the 85k miles mark also.

My preference is SAABs and have owned (and currently own) one of them. Fun cars to drive and my current one has about 215k on it with an untouched motor, transmission, and turbocharger. I worked for SAAB quite a few years and never heard one SAAB owner complaining about “dumping this hunk of junk”.
They have a pretty loyal following.

My vote goes for a Mid-Eighties E-30 (3-series) BMW. The last ones without lots of electricals.These will be timing belt cars and look for rust (exaust system rust).This car says Yuppy all over it,those were good times.Watch the fuel injection type with the SAAB’s.

Keep the Explorer. It’s a better vehicle than any you are considering.

I’d also go for a early-90s BMW 5 series. All this depends on how much $$ are available, of course…???

Based on what you said, it seems I am the unlucky Saab owner. I have many problems with my Saab since it’s brand new few years ago. Moon roof has been fixed 7 times. Finally Saab replace it with a new roof kit at the 8th time in the dealership. DI failed once and has problem again recently. Turbocharge replaced, Engine head gasket repaired three times and finally has been replaced. Converter is new, spent over $1500 tried to fix the oil leakage. Unfortunately, it still leaks oil and dealer told me that I have to sink in another $1400 to stop it “completely”. No SID display during the wet day. It gets worse and worse. I can keep on and on, sorry for the complaint. I am thinking “dumping this hunk of junk” now.

don’t take neither. See me bad experience above. costly decision.
good luck.

I’m sure there are reliable Saabs, but the only two cars I know of that dealers were forced to repurchase were Saab convertibles…

I had a 1988 Saab 9000 manual, non-turbo that was a great car. I bought it new, the year my daughter was born and it was her 1st car when she turned 17. The trans finally went at 235k mi. Engine was still fine. They don’t hold their value as well as Volvo or BMW, so are a pretty good deal used. I drive a 1995 BMW 325 CI that I bought used at 80k miles in perfect condition. Its fun to drive and gets 30pmg highway if you keep it at 65mph maintenance isn’t bad although 've gone through a couple of radiators and you can plan on spending $500 - $1000 every 5 yrs or so replacing the convertible window and top parts. In CA you can easily find these cars w/ below 75k mileage, in good shape for $7,500 or so.

Everyone I have ever known who owned a Saab loved the car - but I don’t recall any of them buying a second one…

Volvo 240s (last year was '93) had great engines, but those are all very long in the tooth now. Enthusiasts are keeping a lot of them alive. I have a wagon with 275k miles on it.

Early 850/S70 Volvos tended to go a lot of miles, but the interiors didn’t hold up too well. Later Volvos, since Ford bought them - only average.

If you can find a late '80s pristine 3-Series BMW, I want it. Those were the most desirable BMWs, but like the 240 Volvos, their days have past.

The '90s 3-series BMWs (e36 body) are great cars, but most of them have gone through the hands of a spoiled youngster by now (very popular with wealthy kids) and have been abused. The early years are best for modifying, the later years (97-99) are best for daily drivers.

I really like the late 90s/early 2000s 6 cyl 5-series BMWs. They are generally well cared for, very attractive (with the right wheels), nice handling, classy yet sporty, good all-around cars. The ultimate driving machine. Avoid the V-8. It is a good engine, but it likes fuel and expensive maintenance.

I’ll suggest trying to find a VW W12 Phaeton. This is a very luxurious car that VW built to prove the point that they could build a world class luxury car. Apparently the then head of VW went to the engineering department with a list of 10 requirements. Once example is the car must be able to cruise all day at 186MPH in 120 degree heat and maintain 72 degree cabin temperature.
They did not reveal the other 9 requirements. Here is a link to a review:
But, nobody wanted to buy a VW for luxury, so their resale value is very low if you can find one. Yes, a 2004 model will be in the $30,000 range (maybe a bit less) but the original price was over $100,000.

With any of the cars you are considering maintenance will tend to cost a bit more per year because the parts and mechanics are expensive, but they are all nice cars.

The Phaeton V8 is no slouch, either, and is up to $10,000 less than the W12. It also comes in another flavor: Audi A8. The W12 was only available on the Phaeton in 2004, though.

So what’s the point? I’ve also worked for Subaru, Nissan, and Honda and have seen some owners of those vehicles who were sick of them and dumped them (especially Subaru).
Most cars of those makes are fine; only a few turn out to be problematic.

Maybe your problem is not the car but driving habits and service problems. Failed turbocharger? That can point to driving habits and/or oil changes not being performed regularly enough. Turbochargers don’t fail on their own; they’re helped along.
Head gasket repaired 3 times? If someone has to “repair it” 3 times and “finally” replace it then the level of mechanical expertise could be a bit shaky.

Fix the moon roof 7 times, and at the dealer every time? Again, shaky level of expertise if this is the case. Did warranty cover all of these moon roof and head gasket repairs? If you say yes, then you may been strung along and BSed a bit. I do not see SAAB, or any car maker, covering repeated failures of these items under warranty.

Converter is new? Why did it fail? Because of the turbocharger puking oil into the exhaust system, chronic rough running problems, or a head gasket leaking coolant into the system? See where I’m going with this?

E-39 M-5 probably to much money.

of course every brand has both good and bad quality products. Saab is no exception. I have checked online and found quite bit complains about Saab’s problems.
I bought my car brand new at Saab Nashua North (NH)and have it serviced the same dealership for the first two years. I followed the manual and have the car serviced regularly in the authorized dealership (Herb Chambers Saab in Boston, Charles River Saab, Boston). Yes, moon roof repair covered by warranty. The first two time head gasket repairs covered (once in Nashua North another done by Chambers). The third time in Guilford Saab, CT and I paid half (due to negotiate with Saab service center). Guilford Saab told me that the prior repair didn’t resurface the edge of head gasket which caused the leaking.
In terms of driving habits, I can’t say I am a “good” driver since I’ve lived in Boston area for years. But I never raced my car or sudden accelerate or stop.
Turbocharger replaced because I found there was smoke when I start the car. Dealer told me that the smoke caused by oil got into the turbocharger and I have to replaced it ASAP otherwise it might demage the turbocharger and converter. It would cost me more. So I got it replaced. I knew I might be BSed by unhonest dealers. I am not the only person who has been BSed by them.
By the way, I posted my DI question in the forum and someone told me that Saab recalled both 93 and 95 (2000-2002 model) due to DI system overheat problem. I can’t say all Saab are bad quality. There are quite bit lucky loyal Saab customers out there. I just speak out for myself and tell people my own experience. Hope it helps to anyone for making a decision.

Thanks to everyone for their great replies!

Thanks to everyone for the great replies.