Which Euro car brand is most DIY-friendly?

I’m expecting a longer commute in the near future, and so I was looking to buy a comfortable car for highway driving. I particularly like the larger European wagons, like the Volvo V70 wagon, Audi A6 wagon, VW Passat wagon, MBZ E320 wagon, etc.

These are not too expensive when bought used, say 6 years old and ca. 70k miles for ca. US-$ 10k. However, what worries me is that the reliability of such European cars is not great. What’s worse, once something breaks, the repairs will very likely be too difficult for DIY, and very expensive at the shop, for example due to the crammed engine compartments and scarce and expensive spare parts.

If I still were to buy a European brand wagon, which brand would probably be most service-friendly? What other brand would you recommend?

Personally, I’m also considering going El-Cheapo with a Taurus Wagon (it’s decent, quite easy to maintain, and so cheap that it offsets many drawbacks), or maybe a Prius “wagon/hatchback” Hybrid (I would enjoy upgrading it to a Plug-In Hybrid).

Please advise, especially on which Euro car is most service-friendly.

If you are on any kind of a budget, I would highly recommend you avoid any European car, especially ones 6 years old. The drawbacks you mentioned are generally correct - they are difficult to maintain (to the best of my knowledge), parts and shop labour are expensive, not to mention that many people do not live near European brand shops, which are often the only places that can fix these vehicles, and their reliability is, in general, average or worse.
If you are on a budget, then a Taurus wagon would be perfect. It has as much room as any European wagon, if not more, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to buy, insure, maintain, and work on, any shop can fix a Taurus, and they are plentiful, and usually in good condition. That said, Taurus’s still have problems, but you could easily buy a nearly new one for the same or less than a 6 year old European vehicle.

Just noticed after re-reading your post you’ll be doing highway driving a lot. In that case, I might also recommend a Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis, which are the same or cheaper than a Taurus, more reliable, simple to work on, and very, very comfortable. They come with a V8, amazing air conditioning, RWD, and a host of other features. Gas mileage is also very good, about the same as the Taurus. I routinely get upwards of 28 mpg in a Crown Vic on the highway with the A/C on.

Other vehicles you might look at include a Chevrolet Impala, Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Tiburon (I’ve never driven one, but have heard they are great for highway commutes), perhaps a Honda Accord or Civic, or, if you don’t care about style and an engaging driving experience, Toyota Camry. All of these are, as far as I know, relatively easy to work on, parts are plentiful, and any shop can repair them.

I’m not sure your cost estimates are realistic, for example you will probably pay closer to $20K for a decent 2000-ish E320 wagon with 70K miles. I’m not up on the prices of all the other euro brands, but $10K sounds low to me. A $10K example may not turn out to be a very good deal in the long run.

Honestly, none of these cars is particularly DIY friendly (but neither is a newer domestic or ricer). The difference is that euro cars will cost a bit more to service. The cost difference isn’t as extreme as some folks would tell you, but there is a premium. I would plan on spending between several $100 and a couple $1000 per year if you want to keep one of these cars in excellent condition. If your not willing to do that, buy something else.

Edmunds says a 1999 E320 wagon with 70000 miles in outstanding condition would cost about $11,000. You could get a 2005 Taurus wagon for the same price, but they really aren’t comparable cars. You might consider something smaller like a Matrix/Vibe. They are wagons, and should get a little better mileage than a Taurus. If you don’t mind a smaller hatchback instead of a traditional wagon, you could get a Golf TDI. You could find a 2002 for arount $10,000. This will get incredible mileage on the highway.

Edmunds says a 1999 E320 wagon with 70000 miles in outstanding condition would cost about $11,000.

Good luck finding that “outstanding condition” car where I live, for $11K you might find a very beat up example. If I found a decent one for that price, my 16-year old daughter would have a new car.

Volkswagen. Some models are prone to problems but parts are plentiful on the Internet (www.partsplaceinc.com for one example) and there is plenty of help too at www.vwvortex.com or www.TDIClub.com

2nd VW - Stay away from the 1.8Turbo. Go with the V6.

I would recommend the V70 NA - a very good wagon - but the support just isn’t there. With Volvo, you have to know what you’re doing. The VW boards are great at helping people solve problems.