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To buy 95 Volvo 850 or not to buy?

I teach with a first year teacher who is just chipper about getting rid of her 95 Volvo 850 Wagon for $1,800 dollars. She wants to get a new, more stylish ride. I don’t get it. Owning a Volvo wagon is one of my life ambitions. She says her dad owned the car which now has 240k on it. All the major, typical Volvo 850 repairs have been made, and it comes with a box of extra parts. I am just hunting for advice, past experiences, and or Ya or Nas’.

Well, as I always tell my friends, neighbors, and relatives…I owned a Volvo…once!
(Translation: Never again)

Volvos are nice cars to own during the warranty period, but many people wind up dumping them after the warranty expires, once they tire of the frequent, very expensive repairs. IMHO, a 17 year old Volvo with over 200k miles on it is appropriate only for someone who does not need to rely on it for daily transportation, who can do all of his own repairs and doesn’t mind doing them frequently.

Or, perhaps it might be appropriate for a masochist.

If you don’t fit into either of those two categories, I would suggest that you reconsider this particular life goal.

Take it if she’ll give it to you, avoid it otherwise. Any car with 240k miles is just about used up, Volvos (especially) included. And your dream of owning a Volvo wago should remain just that.

Sometimes dreams are best left that; a dream.

This dream is really a nightmare. But if you must have it - this could be your Volvo wagon. I owned a couple and never again.

It’s likely to be unreliable and expensive to maintain. If that’s okay with you, it’s your money.

Yep, forgot to ask how $1800 fits into @tgall 's budget. If it’s ok to write it off when major problems crop up, then fine, live the dream. But wouldn’t you rather have the 240 wagon? That’s the classic Volvo wagon:

Not that it’s any more reliable or safer, it’s an ancient design.

I’m always suspicious of any machine that comes with a box of extra parts. I have a friend who owns a 23 year old Volvo station wagon. It is her utility and backup car. She also has 2 St. Bernard dogs who won’t fit in her Honda Civic, so the Volvo has “gone to the dogs”. She says she doesn’t trust the Volvo for anything but around town driving.

They’re asking too much for a Volvo with that much age and mileage on it. If it’s straight and runs and drives out well then maybe it’s worth a shot at half of the asking price.

Even though it is a different model Volvo, this thread should give you some idea of what we are talking about when we say that an old Volvo is not for those with limited financial resources:

tgall; Your teacher friend is not doing you a favor. She probably knows that this car will be in for very expensive repairs in the near future. her husband likely does too.

Stop dreaming about owning a Volvo; the days when they were good cars are long gone. A Toyota Matrix or Ford Fusion wagon will do anything a Volvo wagon does and much more reliably. This car is good for a mechanic as a second car, and he gets the parts wholsale and supplies his own labor. I would offer no more than $700 for it and budget $2500!!! per year in repairs and maintenance from there on! You probably won’t believe me, but many posters here will corroborate it with their own experience. Also buy a Consumer Reports used car buyers guide; it shows the relative levels of relaibility and whether a certain model is Recommended or not.

Please remember that the time lag betweeen a basic truth (i.e. Volvos are good cars) and the actual current situation is at least 15 years, that’s how long it takes a myth to die! Hyundai introduced the Pony, a really awful car, in the 1980s. Since that time Hyundai quality has risen to such a level that it surpassed nearly all European and American cars, especially Volvo. But there are still those who think Hyundais are junk.


“Owning a Volvo wagon is one of my life ambitions”. Raise your sites!
As long as you are going to buy a make of vehicle that is known to be troublesome, think big! Go for a Jaguar. I have always liked the looks of a Jaguar, and could probably buy one if I wanted. However, when I think of the grief I had with a 1955 Pontiac that I owned, there is no way I want to repeat the experience.
Back in 1962 when I was headed for graduate school, my dad was having his car serviced at a former DeSoto/Plymouth dealer that had become a foreign car dealer as well as the Studebaker dealer. He had a 1956 Porsche on his lot that I was looking at while he had my dad were talking. The owner of the agency came over and said “That is the last car you need to take to graduate school. It will take your year’s assistantship and then some to maintain”. I didn’t have the money for the car anyway–I went to grad school in a 1947 Pontiac for which I paid $75, but the dealer’s point was this: unless you have money to burn, buy a reliable vehicle for transportation.

Wait until you can afford a Volvo. If you work with a teacher, it means you are likely either a teacher’s aid or a student teacher. Neither job pays enough to cover expensive parts, and all of a Volvo’s parts are expensive. Volvo’s are luxury cars, and parts cost will be comparable to Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Audi, and BMW. My life’s dream is to own a new Corvette. I’m about 40 years older than you, and have yet to buy one.

Docnick wrote:
Stop dreaming about owning a Volvo; the days when they were good cars are long gone.

I would hope no one thinks these are “good” cars at this point. Although it mystifies me, the appeal to some folks appears to be in the boxy styling. There’s really no other reason to get one.

Wouldn’t be something I’d be interested in but some day I’d like to get a Morris Minor again.

@lion9car Environmentlists still think Volvos are “moral” cars, dating from the time before 1976 when Volvo bodies were so much more rust resistant that US cars, they were safe, and they got good gas mileage. In fact, Volvos were never more mechanically reliable than the best US cars, they just did not turn into a heap of rust prematurely.

Years ago I was on a flight to Atlanta and seated beside a classy middle aged women wearing flat shoes, no makeup or expensive jewerly. We talked about things in general, and I did not let on that I was an energy consultant in oil and gas. At some point I felt confident enough to ask her “How do you like your Volvo?”, without actually knowing she had one. For 15 minutes she waxed euphorically about its qualities.

One of the best no-cost boosts Volvo got was when Ralph Nader, the safety crusader, left the court after successfully suing GM, he was picked up by his girlfriend (yes, he had one) driving a… Volvo!

So, for years Volvo managed to sell the sizzle, rather than the steak (which was pretty rare!). Now that nearly all cars are safe and have good rust resistance, there is no longer any reason to buy one.

A colleague of mine who is married to a Swedish wife actually bought one (a 240 wagon) at his wife’s insistance. It lasted 155,000 miles when his son totaled it in an accident. The car had deteriorated at that time, so it was given to the son as a college car. But the body had held up well!

Myths are hard to kill; the Al Gore money machine called “caring for the environment” has made him about $100 million so far. This man and his entourage generate enormous amounts of CO2, the greenhouse gas he is “fighting”. His book and movie, “An Uncomfortable Truth”, has many errors and deliberate distortions and exaggerations in it.

I bet he’s bought tons of “carbon credits” with his money.

“In fact, Volvos were never more mechanically reliable than the best US cars, they just did
not turn into a heap of rust prematurely.”


My '74 Volvo, purchased new and maintained better than the mfr specified, was the absolute worst, unmitigated piece of crap that I ever owned. Just to give you an idea of how bad it was, my next car–an '81 Chevy Citation (one of the infamous X-cars)–was far more reliable than that piece of crap Volvo was.

When you consider that some Volvo owners will concede that, “back in the old days”, Volvos were more reliable than the newer ones, I have to wonder just how bad the newer ones are, if they are not as…“reliable”…as mine was.

@bscar2 Carbon credits to Al Gore and other well known celebrities are much like the Indulgencies sold in the 1500s to get you to heaven. It indirectly caused the Reformation; Martin Luther concluded you that could not buy your way to heaven. The rest is history.

Hey, Al Gore needs those carbon credits for all the gas he burns in his Suburban.