Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Used wagon recommendations: Volvo or VW?

My husband and I are expecting our first child in November, and are contemplating replacing our 95 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a newer wagon. We have our eye on two used cars, both with similar prices (7k) and mileage (about 60k). The options are:

- 2000 Volvo V70 XC

- 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS

Our primary concerns are safety and reliability. Which would you choose, and why?

Thanks in advance for your recommendations!

Tough one, neither are what I’d call reliable. The 2000 XC70 is ‘much worse than average’ at CR. What model is the GLS? AWD? 6 cyl? The various Passats range from ‘average’ to ‘much worse than average’.

The listing states: “This 2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS Wagon features a 1.8L L4 PFI DOHC Turbo 4 cyl Gasoline engine.” I do not believe it is AWD, which is something I like about the Volvo.

I have owned a '98 and '00 Volvo V70XC wagaons. You can’t afford this car and a child at the same time. I spent well over $2,000 a year on repairs of these cars before I gave up and sold them. My experience is not atypical with these cars. Everyone finds them to be very expensive to keep on the road.

I think the VW is better but also will cost more than you’d want to spend for repairs. Keep looking for other options, but stay clear of the Volvo for sure.

Thanks for your responses! Another option in the same price and mileage range I found is a 99 Subaru Legacy Wagon 2.5L H4. Better on the reliability scale? I had a 2006 Subaru and loved it, no problems whatsoever, but we’re really hoping to get a decent car for which we can pay cash.

I second the Subaru Legacy or Outback Wagon. I’ve run a 1996 and a 2001 well into the 150,000 mile range with almost no problems.
There are some head gasket issues for the 2000 - 2002 Subaru, but your mechanic should be able to check that.

The make and model are definitely better, but it is older. You especially need to make sure you get it checked over before you buy, because especially with Subarus there’s a few expensive issues that can be lurking if the previous owner abused it.

Frankly, though, here’s my recommendation: buy yourself the best sedan or hatchback you can for $7k and then keep the Jeep as your weekend adventure vehicle. Your budget simply isn’t big enough to buy a reliable example of the kind of vehicle you’re looking for, but you should be able to buy a perfectly nice relatively new snoozemobile. Plus you’ll get better mileage most of the time. Also, once the kid gets here I can almost guarantee that you are going to like at least having the flexibility of two cars, even if you pretty much never actually drive the Jeep.

Actually, the head gasket issues began with the '97 model year, IIRC.

Here’s the reliability rating from MSN Autos:


You might want to avoid the Passat.

There is no information on the Volvo for 1999 or 2000, but the 1998 and 2001 and later rate very well.

Pontiac Vibe comes to mind. You should be able to find a decent one in your price range, assuming 7k is your limit. It’s really a Toyota underneath, so it should be pretty reliable, and is available in AWD.
If you’re looking at mid-sized wagons, a Taurus wagon should yield a much newer vehicle for a lower cost, though 05 was the last year they made them, until 09(Taurus X). An 05 Taurus wagon could probably be had for about 7k.
No matter what you’re looking at though, be sure to have it checked out by a mechanic BEFORE you buy. Money well spent if it saves you from having to buy a new engine or transmission down the road due to previous owner neglect.