Old Volvo vs. old Saab?

I want to buy an old Volvo 240 or Saab 900S(1980s to early 90s when they both still had thier classic designs.)

My mechanics are warning me that this is a mistake because repairs on both are so expensive.

I’ve found a couple to have my mechanics look at that have about 100,000 miles and appear to be well maintained. Am I crazy to consider this? Will these cars lead to my financial ruin? I have alwasy driven older cars (75 Pontiac Ventura, 62 Ford falcon) that required a fair amount of repairs. But I get joy from driving cars with character and can’t bring myself to buy a more practical car (the thought of a Honda or Toyota makes me cry.)

Any input would be appreciated.

Is this going to be your only car, or a hobby car? I can’t recommend either for an only car, but if you have a backup, you could do it. It won’t be cheap, not like a Ventura or Falcon. Just so you know, you have very smart mechanics…

It’s going to be my only car. I am very thankful for my mechanic’s advice. They’ve been very good to me. This may be a dream I have to abandon. Sigh.

Your mechanic is right in mentioning the high maintenance cost. In addition, owning something that old and troublesome requires YOU to have in-depth car knowledge in order to retain your sanity with all the breakdowns you are going to have.

Neither certainly qualifies as a daily driver and both Saab and Volvo firms are up for sale to whoever will buy them. Saab may cease to exist since they are facing bankrupcy and the US government will not bail out a Swedish company. You will have a lot of trouble getting parts in the future.

A guy down the street inherited one of these from his aunt; I don’t knw what was in the will, but it has been sitting in his driveway for the almost 20 years!! He wisely does not drive it; they have a Toyota Corolla.

You are probably not crazy, but most likely naive, inexperienced and an impractical dreamer.

P.S. The cars you are considering have CHARACTER, real nasty and unforgiving CHARACTER!

The repairs are higher than Japanese and Domestic but not out of this world if you use an independent. I don’t care if the maker is Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Saab whatever reliability/issues at this point is a flip of a coin not make/model specific.

A 100k miles for this age of car is not bad at all and I would say the main criteria is that it be well maintained and not beaten into the pavement.

Replacement parts are generally no more expensive than anything else out there and any oddball part can usually be had from a SAAB/Volvo site seller or even from eBay or Craigslist.

That being said, I would advise that you stay away from the mid 80s and earlier SAABs with CIS fuel injection.
CIS is wonderful when it’s working; a royal pain in the neck when it’s not.

There are several sites run by people extolling the virtues of CIS and claim that it’s “trouble free for life and odds are the only thing ever likely to be needed is a fuel filter now and then”. On the planet Neptune maybe.

As an ex-SAAB tech and SAAB owner I’ve had a lot of experience with CIS (and VW which also used it) and strongly disagree with the premise that CIS is the cat’s meow.
If you must get a SAAB, get a late 80s and up with a “normal” fuel injection system.
Just my opinion and hope it helps.

They can’t be very expensive to buy. Why not get one of each? That way you’re likely to have one working when the other is in the shop.

If you want one of these, I’d go with the newest Volvo 240 you can find (up to '93, I think). Just make sure you get winter tires on wheels if you need them. There’s a thriving aftermarket for these.

Cheap they’re not, about $5,000 for low(er) mile one on autotrader. I’d avoid the 200k+ mile ones.

I have owned 2 Volvo’s, both V70XC wagons (a '00, and '98). Both Volvos required expensive repairs. Perhaps the 240’s are better in that they are rear wheel drive and perhaps simplier technology.

I also have owned an '85 Saab 900 (non turbo) and an '87 Saab 900 Turbo. Both were the 2 door hatchback 5 speed manual transmissions. I like the Saab 900 over the Volvo 240. If you can find a 2 door Saab 900 or 900S that is what I’d go for. The Saab turbo was awesome to drive with lots of power, but the older the turbo gets the more problems you’ll get. Turbo problems are expensive problems.

So live with a strong normally aspirated motor and the Saab 900’s are still fun to drive and pretty reliable. When they need repairs the parts are going to be about 20 to 30% higher than most American cars but that’s the price you pay for a “different” ride. Locate a good Saab mechanic and you should be OK.

The Saab headliners almost always fall down on your head, but they can be replaced. The seats hold up well and the bodies are good at resisting rust. Many older Saabs will benefit greatly from a new paint job. A Saab automatic does not interest me at all, but the Saab with a standard transmission is genuinely fun to drive.

There is a third car that fits right with the two you mention the BMW 3 series (e-30). For low maintiance I would go with a 325e. In this era the cars had not yet morphed into electronic gizmo’s. Again stay away from ANY CIS car.

OldSchool, as usual, is correct. A late 1980s BMW 3 series, given reasonable maintenance history, will have classic looks and better handling and reliability than either the Volvo or the Saab. However, it is a more desirable car, so it will sell for a higher price.

We still have a couple of Volvo 240 wagons in the family with a quarter-million miles on each. Maintenance is not bad IF you buy your parts on line and you do your own work. This will be generally true for the Volvo, the Saab, or the BMW. If you pay someone else to work on a car that old, things can get pricey.