Volvo vs subaru

My wife and I have been looking and looking for our next car. We found 2 and we can’t decide which is best. Car #1 is 2001 Volvo V70XC 2.5L 5cyl turbo with 96,000 miles. Car #2 is a 2005 Subaru Outback LL Bean edition with the 3.0L 6 cyl engine and 110,250 miles. The subaru is priced $3000 higher than the volvo but it is 4 years newer. Can anyone out there help us decide?

In the long run, the Volvo will cost more in long term maintenance, most likely. For the Subaru, need to confirm if all maintenance got done on time. Our experience with Subarus have been very positive, but we purchase new. Concern has to be with proper care of the drive train (mostly matched and even tire wear) and fluid changes.

For determining a fair price, check out, and to get a flavor to determine whether the pricing is about right, nor not. My initial offer on a used vehicle is generally something less than the average of the NADA retain value and the trade value. From there, the negotiation starts.

Based on my ownership of 1 Volvo (never again!), and 3 Subarus, I would recommend the Subaru over the Volvo. That being said, I would personally hesitate to buy a used Subaru or any other used AWD vehicle, simply because the previous owner(s) may have run the car with mismatched tires, or may have failed to rotate the tires on a consistent basis.

Lax attention to tires on an AWD vehicle will inevitably lead to expensive problems with the AWD system. Even if the current set of tires appears to be of the same brand, model, size, and degree of tread wear, if a previous set of tires was not identical in these ways, the next owner of the vehicle could be facing a sizeable repair bill as a result.

However, if the Subaru comes with full maintenance records that allow you to verify tire rotation every 5k or every 7.5k miles consistently, then it may be worth the gamble. Of course, you would also want documentation to verify every other maintenance procedure before buying a used car, and even with documentation, it would be foolish to buy any used car without having your mechanic inspect it prior to purchase.

Incidentally, if someone cautions you to avoid the Subaru due to head gasket problems, you can ignore that advice. That was a problem with 4-cylinder models from 1997-2003, but there is no head gasket issue with the 3.0 liter 6 cylinder engine. I can attest that this engine is essentially bullet-proof.

based on the inspection of the subaru I know that the front drive shafts and rear struts have been replaced. The tire wear is not even with 2 new tires on the front. They may not have ever rotated the tires. It also feels like the front right side is vibrating at higher speeds. would these conditions lead to the awd repairs you are referencing?

Uh-oh - ‘two new tires on the front’? Forget it, damage to the awd system is now a distinct possibility.

Subaru, definitely. We’ve had Subarus since 1984 and they’ve been very reliable. The one Volvo we had was good but that was a 72.
The newer volvos are plagued with all sorts of weird unnecessary issues. I’ve heard horror stories about going through brake calipers, AC, power seats, etc - all in two cars owned by a friend of mine.

Volvos and Subarus seem highly over rated. And, in fact, the Subaru marketing strategy seemed to be aimed at taking the “ruggedly individual intellectual” market from Volvo and has had some success. But both companies have foregone their stoic, rugged independence to join the rest of the automobile industry in throwing all the frills and gadgets and luxuries on for high profit sales to those who wish to have the image of “affluent, intellectual, rugged individual.” The 544s and 1300s are long gone.

I would definitely walk away from a Subaru with mismatched tires. I would also not want to spend the money likely needed to maintain an older Volvo, personally.

"would these conditions lead to the awd repairs you are referencing? "

Also, you should ask yourself this question:

If the owner of this car was too negligent to rotate the tires in order to equalize their wear (thus necessitating replacement of just two tires), what other specified maintenance has he/she likely ignored?

If this person didn’t bother to rotate the tires, it is very likely that he/she never changed the transmission fluid, which means that, with 100k+ miles, the car is right on schedule for the trans to self-destruct. Overly long oil change intervals and other types of lax maintenance are also possible

As others have said–WALK AWAY from this deal, as well as from any other AWD vehicle that has mis-matched tires.

My preference for automobiles is strongly toward the most basic safe and reliable models and Subaru and Volvo offerings seem to have fallen into the same category as most high end luxury cars, i.e., excellent reputations for first owners who trade regularly but problematical for subsequent owners who find themselves facing expensive repairs more often than the average owners of a Taurus or Forester or Malibu or Corolla of similar age and mileage.

If you are looking for an awd car, you are restricting your choices. Include all other car makes and wait for the best car with the best price that serves your needs. A high mileage Subaru, if not cared for, MAY cost you in repairs. A high mileage Volvo cross country WILL cost you in repairs regardless. That is my experience with friends who have owned both cars. BTW, the 3.0 6 cyl Subaru is the better choice for high mileage used then the 4cyl IMO.

The Volvo is a huge money pit. The Subaru is a money pit too as a used car. Of the two, buy the Subaru; but I’d not buy either one.

Both are used, aged, comparatively high miles cars and there is no way of knowing which one is best. Having a very thorough inspection can help swing the odds more in your favor but even the finest of inspections is no guarantee of a problem free ride. Used cars are always a gamble.

Car owners routinely rag out cars inside of 30k miles so when a car approaches that magic 6 digit mileage number all bets are off.

I want to thank everyone for their comments. We have decided to purchase the 2005 Subaru and not the 2001 Volvo. I’m sure I will be back to the Car Talk boards in the future.

Good choice between the two, but neither looks promising. Any other options out there?

We have owned and depended upon awd and 4 wd vehicles for many years. The new and almost new that we have owned have been as trouble free as any two wheel drive. They do require addition minor service and attention though. When in the market for this type vehicle initially, I and a couple of other neighbors made the mistake of buying higher mileage. They were one problem after another.

When the 4 wds I bought new and maintained reached the age of the older bought vehicles, they showed a near trouble free level of operation. Small sample I know, but the makes were the same and the models similar.

So, buy newer or go 2wd would be my advice, next time…

buy 4 new tires for the subie and hope the drivetrain lasts