I have a 1993 Volvo 240. It has 140,000 miles on it, and usually runs fine. However, about once every four months now a variety of problems arise that usually cost several hundred dollars to fix. At the beginning of the summer, the check engine light came on, the car started stalling when I started it cold, and shifting between gears especially going uphill, was very jerky (it’s an automatic). My mechanic turned off the check engine light and said that I’d probably need a new air flow meter, which would run me $500. I was going out of town and didn’t have time to get it fixed, so I put a higher grade of gas in my car and got a ride out of town for a week. When I got back, the car ran fine. I have two questions. 1. How long can I wait to put in a new air flow meter? 2. How much more money should I sink into this poor car before it’s time to say good bye? (Subquestion: What is an inexpensive, fuel-efficient car with which a Volvo lover might begin the healing process?)
Find a mechanic who knows the real problem. $500 is a lot of money to spend on “probably need a new air flow sensor”. As far as how much money, that’s a good question. A new car will set you back several thousand $. Even if you spend $500 every four months for the foreseeable future, you will still be $ ahead to keep the Volvo.
If you want to get a new car, there are several options available, but many of them will be smaller and have different ride/handling characteristics over what you are used to. I suggest that you do some research and take several test drives of several different makes and models. Don’t limit yourself to the typical Honda & Toyota suggestions that you will get plenty of from here. We each have our own driving preferences, and comfort needs. You will find that different makes and models have different ergonomics.
I chose a Passat simply because I could get the performance out of a turbo charged 2.0L engine that Honda and Toyota get out of a larger V6, but I get better mileage. It also has a more comfortable driving position for me and my wife. But, others will find the Camry a better vehicle for them. As far as reliability is concerned, just hang around here for awhile and you will see that the latest crop of Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, … are all having their share of issues. But, almost all cars are more reliable today than they were 10 years ago.