Used Volvo - Your Thoughts

Back a while ago, I posted a discussion about the “brake hell” I have been going through with my 1996 Chevy pickup truck.

Since I was going to leave the truck with the repair place for as long as it took to get the problems resolved, I needed some kind of transportation.

A friend of my wifes just happened to have a 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon that she stopped driving over 1.5 years ago (inspection expired 03/2006) and was talking about getting rid of it (she has a much newer Volvo) and that I could borrow it as long as I needed it.

Since I wasn’t going to be particular, I decided to give it a shot. I replaced the battery, inflated the tires, removed the hornets nest and off I went.

Besides the cost of the battery, I took and had the oiled changed and A/C fixed (running in the 90+ degree range here - just need some valve and coolant) and inspected. So I have spent around $350 so far.

I got really fond of the vehicle and am thinking of buying it for a 2nd car and would like some feedback from folks here on what they think about it and what it’s value is. Here are the particulars:

1. 112,000 miles - roughly. The reason for “roughly” is due to the odometer being broke. The owner told me that when she was trying to get rid of it a year ago, the CarMax person who test-drove it pressed the Trip reset button while the car was in motion and the odometer broke. Volvo said this can happen and needs a new odometer - $350.

2. Needs at least 3-new tires. Probably should replace all four to stay uniform. ($350-$475)

3. Body is in good shape. No rust. A few expected dings and scratches. The black trim has mostly fallen off (I found a website called which talks about this being a fairly common issue and there are various suggestions on how to fix/DIY.) Also the rubber seal around the windshield has shrunk and probably should be replaced.

4. Interior wear is as expected. The leather seats are a bit scuffed but not unexpected for someone with 2-children. Needs some good cleaning. The only other “big” thing is the sliding sunroof cover. The lining has peeled off the cover. Not sure how much to fix this. Probably can just be glued back in place for $100.

I drove it for a week with no issues and felt pretty good. Lots of pep/kick. After the rust was ground off the rotors, it brakes well. The owner said she had the brakes replaced/worked on not to long before she parked it.

Unfortunately, with my luck, this didn’t last. I tried to start it one morning and the engine sputters and misfires. I took it to a mechanic for a quick look and the mechanic said it was in need of a major tuneup. They said the plug wires/rotor look like they have never been replaced (Volvo recommends 30-40K). So we are talking another $500 for a tune-up including the wires, rotor, plugs, etc.

I checked various used-car websites and the vehicle is roughly worth $2700-$3300 due to the low mileage. But with all I need to spend, I think it is worth closer to $1000.

Your thoughts and opinions of this vehicle. Is it worth bothering with?

I decided to abandon this vehicle.

From the various responses I got on a Volvo site, I decided to do some of the work myself and see what happens. I replace the plugs and wires myself. Also replace a vacuum line nipple that had dry-rotted/was chewed through (did I mention I found lots of shells of nuts/acorns/etc on top of the engine? - obviously some creatures have been living in there!) and now the vehicle runs great.

Now two new problems cropped up. I noticed the A/C was dead, again. Also notice that oil was low, after it had been sitting for a week and the oil had been changed 2-weeks ago (also already added 1-quart). Don’t see any spots/leaking since I had it parked on grass.

I had my mechanic look at it and found 2-issues. The evaporator is busted (I see lots of discussions here about this) and oil is going somewhere…they think into the turbo since they can’t see any leaking, either.

So, with me looking at another $900 for the evaporator install (not something I would want to try myself - even with the pictures I found here) plus not sure about the oil issue, I am looking to abandon this project.

However, I had already made an offer of $1,500 for the vehicle.

At $1,500 for the vehicle + $500 I already spent (battery, inspection, original A/C fix, plugs/wires) + $400-$500 for tires (3-are dry-rotted/bald and while the 4th is a lot newer, I don’t know about mixing 2-tread styles/designs/brands) + $900 for the evaporator, this is quickly running into $3,500+ for this vehicle.

So, I gave it back and told them all of the problems.