Reliable and SAFE

We have 98 Volvo V70R- we have enjoyed the car for the past 5 years. We purchased it with 80K miles and now it has 135K. This past year the repairs about killed us. We have read that the V70s are reliable- and are not sure if our experience is just specific to the “R” model. We are in need of a reliable family car- that doesn’t sacrifice safety. (We were in an bad accident a few years ago in a small car- so safety is a big concern for us). We would like to purchase a used car- and have been looking at Toyota Camry and Honda Accord- a friend also recommended the Mercedes E320 station wagon. How does this E320 stack up in terms of reliability against Japanese cars? Any recommendations for us?

The Accord and Camry will be much better than the E320. Mercedes are great cars, but not especially reliable, and very expensive to repair. A recent Camry or Accord would suit your needs. Get a Consumer Reports buyers guide, lots of good info.

I owned 2 V70XC’s, one a 2000 and another '98. They both had lots of expensive repairs. At 12 years old and over 120K miles you are looking at new drive shafts, fuel pumps, various motor and transmission mounts, assorted electrical issues, and brake work galore. Your experience with expensive repairs this last year will not end. If you keep the car the expensive repairs will just keep on coming.

Take your pick of used cars, but no more Volvo’s would be my advice.

The Japanese cars will be more reliable than the Mercedes.

Save a little bit of money and look at a Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Mazda 6. Compare model years and prices of those 3 versus the price/year for the Camry/Accord. You’ll likely get a newer vehicle for less money if you go with 1 of those 3 I mentioned

Almost any car built since 2000 or so will be far safer than the '98 Volvo.

I can tell you from personal experience that Accords are very good in terms of both reliabilty and occupant protection. Last year, I was riding in my friend’s '01 Accord when we were broadsided/T-boned at about 40 mph by a crazed woman in a Lexus SUV. Despite extensive damage to the Accord’s structure, both of us emerged with no injuries–which I consider to be rather amazing. Accords made subsequent to 2001 are even safer.

Camrys are likely just as safe as Accords, but the reliability of the V-6 Camrys is not great. If you are interested in a Camry, get one with the 4-cylinder engine.

A Mercedes, particularly a used one, is likely to run into MUCH higher maintenance and repair costs than an Accord or a Camry.

I agree that the competition among the family sedans is so intense, most are pretty reliable and safe with Camry/Accords having the better long term track record and what I’d recommend. Try these as well as a Subaru/Hyundai and pick by personal preference and dealer proximity and trust if that’s where you have them serviced.

Why not step all the up to a Grand Marquis? Used ones can be had for bargain prices and they set the standard for safety and reliability…As an added bonus, they are one of the most comfortable cars made…

Mercedes in general doesn’t stack up against any Japanese make, or even your Volvo. People do not buy (new) Mercedeses for their reliability. (I don’t think most new-Merc buyers are the sort to hold on to a car long enough to care.)

If you have to have a luxury car and you must have it be reliable and relatively inexpensive, get a Lexus, Acura, or Infiniti. BMW (dealer service will kill you) or Lincoln (apart from the LS) should be not as good, but okay, too. Not sure about Cadillac.

If you must have a wagon, a BMW would be a better choice than a Mercedes, but if you don’t care about how much leather it’s wrapped in, a Subaru is a better choice than either.

If by “set the standard” you mean “are a reasonable standard for ‘good,’ above which is ‘great’ and below which is ‘bad’” then yes.

IIHS isn’t all that impressed:

Overall not a terrible choice, though.

From: there is a link to an Excel spreadsheet of data from the UK’s MOT (equivalent to the US’s DOT) of statistics from their yearly tests of cars. The majority of what is tested is safety-related so it is very much in line with your question of safety AND reliability.

For the E320 one can see that in the 90’s and early 00’s there were fairly high numbers of “failure” rates. A failure can happen because of any single component/area such as headlight being out, excessive rust on the body, etc. Closer to now, though, the E320’s reliability has improved significantly. In fact, compared against a Camry from the most recent years of testing, they are quite close to each other. The Accord’s reliability is in the same neighborhood, as well.

Another thing to keep in mind: NHTSA’s NCAP testing is different than EuroNCAP’s testing. In an NHTSA test, they have the car/truck strike 100 percent head-on. In EuroNCAP’s tests. they will have a car/truck strike 40% head-on. The differences between these tests is both significant and considerable. Personally, I do not believe that many people experience a 100 percent head-on crash. It is likely that a portion of the front of your car will strike another car or an object and then the rear end of the car will swing around. The EuroNCAP tests also mean that the ability of the safety equipment to keep you going from side-to-side is tested as well as it’s ability to keep you going front/back.

The upshot of all of this is that cars sold exclusively in the US are likely to be built to withstand a head-on crash and, without being libellous here, may fare less well in a crash that is not 100 percent head-on. Manufacturers DO built their cars to pass these tests, after all.

EuroNCAP rates the MB’s 2009 E-series very well and you can read about the test here:

EuroNCAP rates the Honda Accord (2009) almost equal to the E-series. The test is here:

The Toyota Camry has not been sold in Europe since 2004 so it has not been tested by EuroNCAP. It should be very safe, though without the ability to do side-by-side comparisons between the Accord and E320 it is impossible to comment further.

I would personally consider all three of these but you will undoubtedly pay more for the E320 than you will for the Accord or Camry.

As someone else has mentioned here, the Mazda 6 is also a safe choice. Whatever you decide on should be equipped with stability and traction control, as well as front/side airbags and, if you are “taller than average” and your knees tend to be closer to everything than you would prefer, driver’s knee airbags aren’t a bad idea, either.

That test is misleading. It you’re in a crash with another vehicle, like Civic, Accent, or Corolla, I’d rather be in the more substancial Grand Marquis.

Don’t compare Honda or Toyota to Mercedes Benz. The proper comparison is Lexus and Acura to MB. Neither has an analog to the E320 wagon, but they do have AWD Crossovers. In both cases (Acura MDX and Lexus RX350), the E320 costs more than twice as much for repairs, and 10% more for maintenance. The source is Edmunds True Cost to Own, and represents 5 years of ownership for a 2007 car.

Not in a side impact, you wouldn’t. That is all about side reinforcement and containment of heads and limbs.

Her’s an explanation of the side impact test. All vehicles can be compared to each other in this test.