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Used Volvo Feedback

Hi Guys,

Long time listener, first time poster and I need some advice. I’m looking to buy a reliable used car. I’ve done some research on the most reliable used car brands and models. The Volvo S40 and S60 series caught my eye. In my research I discovered that the 2004 and 2005 model years suffered from the “dreaded ETM” issue (Electronic Throttle Module). There were other issues as well but none seemed especially prolific. I keep reading that the Volvos S40 and S60 are among the best (most reliable) cars EVER made. 200K mile plus seems to be common and comments like “the car you can’t kill” are fairly common.

In the Kentucky area there are a few for sale in the 2002 to 2006 model year. The prices range from 9K to almost 15k and most have well over 100k mile on them. That seems a bit pricey for the age and miles even given the reputation. I don’t know though and that’s why I’m here, hoping that someone with some Volvo insight can help me figure out the real value of the S40 and S60.

I appreciate any input, good or bad.

Thanks In Advance,


Are you aware that Volvo requires premium fuel for both vehicles? This could present engine problems if the previous owner(s) didn’t feed it properly.

You could get a newer Mazda 6 or Ford Fusion for similar money that’ll cost less in upkeep than either Volvos

“I keep reading that the Volvos S40 and S60 are among the best (most reliable) cars EVER made. 200K mile plus seems to be common and comments like “the car you can’t kill” are fairly common.”

Simply not true. The S40 is average at best, with significant engine problems. It’s based on the Ford Focus/Mazda 3 chassis of the time, so it’s not even more than average on safety. I’d avoid it.

The S60 is pretty good, better than average on reliability and safety. But so are many other Hondas, Toyotas, the Fusion, etc.

If you do find an S60 you like, you MUST have a pre-purchase inspection done before you make a deal.


As a professional mechanic . . . I advise you to steer clear of used Volvos

If your heart is set on one, have a mechanic unaffiliated with the seller perform a thorough inspection.

Drive the car . . . especially on the freeway
Put it up on a rack
Check for a clear title
Check for evidence of a crash, flood damage, etc.
Check how many owners it has had
Make sure there are no liens on the vehicle
Hook up a scan tool to make sure everything is fine and it’s ready to get smogged
Make sure ALL of the power features work
Make sure the heater and AC work . . . toasty air from the defroster and ice cubes from the vents

We drive a Volvo V70 and really like it. Would we buy a used Volvo , absolutely not. You stated a top number of 15000 dollars. For a few thousand more there are a lot of new cars to choose from with warranties and better crash ratings than a 2004 S40.

Me, if the price were the same, I’d be more inclined to purchase a newer Corolla, Camry, Civic, or Accord with fewer miles. But if you are set on a Volvo, a used Volvo will probably serve you ok. For the most part people I’ve known w/Volvos liked them. Consider all the caveats above of course. And check what Consumer’s Reports says about the specific models, options, and model years you are considering, how the reliability matrix looks, in the “CR Car Guide” book.

I’m a professional mechanic, and in my unsubstantiated opinion there are few cars that will be as unrewarding to own as an aging Volvo. There are many people out there who love these cars and find them to be reliable and worthwhile. These people also understand the cost of ownership of these cars and tend to be vigilant about maintenance, not concerned with the cost of the maintenance, and find the occasional repair to be nothing out of the ordinary.

One of my customers owns a 2004 S40 T5, and it is a nice car, fun to drive, but maintenance and repair can be a shock if you’re not familiar with these cars. Are you ready to own a car with an electric power steering fluid pump located inside the fender? With a cabin air filter that requires removing the gas pedal assembly to replace? Personally I don’t find things like this to be an issue but some folks might.

Be sure there is a shop in your area that either specializes or is familiar with these cars. Many places will not have the tools or equipment to do routine maintenance like timing belts or even brakes.

Also, follow db4690’s advice above and have the car inspected by your own garage.

S60, ok
S40 is unreliable and not especially safe, even when compared to much cheaper cars.