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Need advice: 2001 Volvo v70 wagon vs. 1994 Chevy Suburban

Hi everyone,

I’m looking for some advice on a car buying decision, and I’m hoping you can help me. My husband and I currently have 2 cars- a 2005 Nissan Altima (35k miles) and a 2001 Volvo V70 wagon (120k miles). Both are front-wheel drive. We live in Missoula MT- lots of mountains and snow!

My friend is selling her 1994 Chevy Suburban 1500 4wd (140k miles). She has offered to sell it at Kelly BB value. I’m debating if I should buy the Suburban and sell the Volvo wagon??

Pros of buying Suburban:
*4wd - BUT I should mention that we have gotten along just fine in the volvo w/ snow tires and occasionally snow chains)
*LOTS of space - enough for 8 of our closest friends & dogs
*ability to tow stuff
*only one Volvo mechanic in town and I always think I’m getting ripped off- no other choice!

Cons of buying Suburban:
*Can you say: “GAS GUZZLER”
*older than the Volvo
*more miles than the volvo
*currently doesn’t have functioning cat converter, but we don’t have emissions inspections in MT

I’ll also note that the suburban has been meticulously maintained and the current owner has every single record, including records of every tank of gas ever put in it.

Ok, so that’s where I am. Please, Car Talk people, help me! Is it a good idea to buy the Suburban, or am I only getting myself into trouble???

Thanks so much in advance!


With $4 gallon and maybe higher on the way, and with the Suburban being 17 years old, this is just about the first time you’ll see me say ‘stick with the 10-year-old Volvo’.

The Volvo is a money pit for repair costs. The Suburban is a money pit for fuel costs. Either way you have a money pit. I don’t think either really is a good option, but of the two I’d go with the Surburban.

the money you’d spend to maintain the Volvo is the money you’d spend fueling up the 'Burban.

There’s always a 3rd option - keep the Volvo and start saving hard for its replacement. Not like you have to live with it forever.

I am almost afraid to ask–how much is your friend asking for the school bus–oops, I mean Suburban?

According to Edmunds, the 1500 appraises for ~$1700, the 2500 appraises for ~$1800.

I would just drive the Volvo, and start putting some pretty serious dosh away for a replacement. At the first major maintenance, tow or push it to a recycler (unless you can get some trade in value), and get a new car. The used car market is pretty hot right now, so there’s no real added value in buying used. You’ll save some, sure, but you also won’t get the warranties. The technology has changed drastically in the last decade, too, so whatever used you’re looking at will still not be as safe as almost any of the newer vehicles you could choose.


Thanks for the replies, everyone!! Gas is indeed at least 30% more expensive in the 'burban and the Volvo requires a small fortune to keep in good working order. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t haha.

I don’t see us buying new, just now, but maybe sometime in the future. I always have wanted a Toyota truck, maybe I should just save up for one of those!

What is your favorite small-ish truck that is comfortable, relatively fuel-efficient, and can haul a small load?

Unless you only use a Suburban occasionally and as a heavy hauler with lots of people, you can make new car payments with what you’ll pay for gas. Dump the Volvo if you must and look for a used Subaru/RAV or CRV if you want AWD.