Volvo safety ratings declining?

I want to buy a car for my 19 year old daughter. I planned to get a used Volvo since safety is my primary concern. (My sister survived a bad crash in a Volvo - I’ll sleep best this way.) But people have told me that Volvos are no longer as safe as they used to be and I might be better off buying her a new Subaru or other car for the same price (below $25,000). She goes to college in upstate New York. I’d like the car to last 8 years - right through grad school.

If you go back to the '60s, '70s, and '80s, Volvo did indeed have a significant safety advantage as compared to virtually all other makes of car–with Mercedes falling into the same category of much safer than the rest.

However, since the '90s other manufacturers have played catch-up very effectively and many makes and models are now at least as safe–if not safer–than Volvo, and at far lower costs. Truthfully, if you are looking to buy a used car and to make it last for 8 years, you will be looking at VERY high costs to repair a Volvo as it ages. These cars tend to be troublesome after the first 4 years or so, and the cost to repair them can be…staggering.

If you take a look at the website for The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you will be able to see the passenger protection ratings of essentially everything sold in the US car market. If you couple these ratings with factors like Consumer Reports’ reliability ratings on cars, you will be able to come up with several makes and models that are very safe and are FAR more reliable than a Volvo. A good example of this would be a Subaru. Subaru is the only make that has earned 5 Star Safety ratings for every one of their models.

I agree with VDC, it’s not that Volvo got worse, it’s that many others have pretty well caught up. A web site I used when getting our teen a car is

They combine the available safety information and ratings from the different agencies into an overall score. You should also get a copy of the Consumer Reports buyers guide for additional safety and reliability information.

It’s not that Volvos are less safe. Volvo’s safety has continued to improve, but their ratings declined in relation to other cars because other cars have improved, erasing the difference. Any car with a 5 star crash test rating will be as safe as a Volvo.

If you are willing to spend up to $25K you can get a new Civic or Corolla and be within your budget. With side air bags these “small” cars are very safe. Certainly comparable to any Volvo that is 5 years old. A new car will be dependable, reliable and last 8+ years. None of that is true for a Volvo.

If you get a Volvo, budget $2,000 a year for repairs. Over 8 years that is $16,000 and it will cost that much and maybe more. Also with a Volvo your student needs to find a good independant mechanic in upstate NY, because if you use a Volvo dealer you’ll need to budget $3,000 a year. Factor in a good AAA policy and some time away from studies to deal with car problems. I have experienced owning “older” Volvos and my budget couldn’t handle the multiple expensive repair bills that are all to frequent.

My first car was a 1965 Sunbeam Imp (1,200 lbs and smaller than a VW). I got it new (demo). The only safety device on it was the seat belt, and as I recall, I put that in. That car had two accidents. The first accident was a collision on I-70 in Columbus Ohio, the Greyhound bus that hit it was being driven by a new driver (his first trip) and he fell asleep. No injury to me. The next was after I had sold it to a co-worker. This time the car was totaled as the new owner fell asleep (again on I-70) and ran into a parked Chevy Impala. The new owner was very impressed and with nothing more than that seatbelt can though with a burse and a scratch. He was a little sour for a while.

OK the point is there is not as much real life difference between the safety of cars, but there is a really really big difference is in the drivers.

IMHO, Volvos were always somewhat overrated for safety.

Yes, they were very good, and NO, they are not worse than they used to be for safety by any stretch of the imagination - in fact they are better. Other manufacturers have simply caught up, and the image of Volvo being somehow safer has faded.

Shoot, back in the mid-late 90s, there was a time when Ford (before they bought Volvo) had more 5 star rated vehicles than all other manufacturers combined. They simply didn’t get the recognition.

That said, I would buy a NEW vehicle over any used Volvo. The maintenance costs on the Volvo will be much higher. A Subaru would be a fantastic choice if she’s living in a very hilly area of upstate NY. There are plenty of areas that aren’t that hilly, though, and if she is there, I would consider a FWD vehicle rather than AWD simply for lower maintenance costs. Without hills, there is no real need for AWD. Even with some moderate hills, you’re ok. My commute takes me up/down two reasonably steep and long hills (6-10% grades, 180 ft altitude change). Not much by mountain standards, but they’re beasts for RWD vehicles in the snow. My FWD Taurus and Camry have no problems making those climbs though.

Personally, I would lean towards a Mercury Milan. You can get them in FWD or AWD, they’re VERY highly regarded for reliability (Consumer Reports says better reliability than Camry or Accord, but I strongly believe they’re all in a statistical tie). They were also an Insurance Institute top pick for safety for 2009 (2010 they dropped off the list as IIHS added roof strength requirements and the Milan barely missed the cut).

Best of all, Mercury is going out of business, and they’re bound to have fantastic sales soon. And don’t worry - they’re mechanically identical to the Ford Fusion, so parts and service will be NO trouble to find.

…there is not as much real life difference between the safety of cars…

Okay, if you say so.