sure, run it into the ground
January 5, 2012 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Which used Volvo wagon should I buy?

I am considering purchasing one of two used Volvo wagon XC70s. The first is a 2003 with ~85,000 miles on it and the other is a 2005 with ~75,000 miles on it. Both are in very good condition, neither has been in an accident, and both have had two previous owners. According to Kelly Blue Book the 2003 is worth about $12,500 and the 2005 is valued at ~$15,500. The dealer has them priced at $13,900 and $16,900 respectively, but is willing to come down on the price. My plan is to drive whichever car I buy indefinitely.

Which car is the better value? Is it worth spending $3,000 extra to get a Volvo that is two years newer with ~10,000 fewer miles on it? What is the best way of negotiating the lowest price from the dealer? My current thought is to offer $14,500 for the 2005 wagon or $10,500 for the 2003. Is this reasonable? Should I start of with a lower or higher offer?
posted by TheCavorter to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you are planning to keep the car for a long time, the mileage and the age don't matter all that much. By the time you come to sell it, it will be worth nothing anyway. I would save the $3k, assuming all else is equal. I assume you've driven both cars and they feel similarly 'tight'.

Your starting offers are on the low side, I think. I suggest starting at $2k below the asking price but have a figure in mind before start negotiating that you are prepared to pay, so you don't get caught up in the negotiation and spend more than you wanted to. If you want to push the envelope a bit, start negotiating for the older car, settle on a price, then ask them to sell you the newer one for that price.
posted by dg at 7:02 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since 10000 miles is insignificant, I would buy the cheaper one. Are you sure they have the same engines? One might be more powerful.
posted by twblalock at 7:06 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite] can be handy. You may well have done lotsa research, but no guess if you've looked around to see what if anything was changed/added/improved from '03 to '05, if one model year had a tendency to have problem with one or more components, etc.

I've heard from reputable sources that you can expect to go 20 percent off a dealers' posted price and Volvo's reputation has taken a hit in recent years, gas ain't cheap, will only go up so I'd start at at least 25 percent below asking prices.
posted by ambient2 at 7:50 PM on January 5, 2012

Owner of a 2002 with 105k here. Please keep in mind that repairs and maintenance on these cars is very expensive. In the past year we have put close to $12k (I wince as I write this) into keeping ours on the road. Our transmission died (know weakness) at 96k, our transfer case and differential at 100k (long story) and we just replaced the timing belt, radiator, tires and brakes as part of scheduled service. Oh ya, and a fuel pump. If it were up to me I would not buy one of these wagons. If you are dead set on one: chose the one with the most complete maintenance documentation.....then have it checked out by a experienced Volvo mechanic. Honestly, caveat emptor, and good luck.
posted by Mr.Me at 7:53 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hie ye to the VolvoXC Forums! (I always wanted to say that.) The folks there have saved me immeasurable pain and suffering. They'll know if there's a particular issue with one of these model years.

As Mr.Me says, Volvo maintenance is not cheap, but I'm not sure that any car repair is. (When someone told me what they were paying to get the wheel bearings done on a Toyota I could have put my fist in my mouth.) If you're at all willing to do some of your own work, FCP Groton is your bestest friend ever. I've often seen someone from there on the forums advising people on which part is the right one for their car, and they have a members discount on at least one of the Volvo forums.

Finally, I'm pretty sure these are both turbo vehicles. WATCH YOUR OIL LEVEL.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:27 PM on January 5, 2012

I bought a 2001 V70 T5 - the turbo, non-AWD version of the XC70 - in quite good condition with 120,000 miles (two prior owners) in spring of 2009. I bought it for less than $5,000 off of Craigslist.

When I had it checked out by my local independent Volvo mechanic, I told him "Ultimately, I'd be elated if I could get it to 200k." His response after inspection? "That's easy." I'm now at 150,000 and all seems well.

I've paid approximately $1500 in maintenance each year I've owned it. Battery, tires, wheel bearings, ignition coils, a broken driver's side seat adjustment motor, and annoyingly, the siren module. I've had the opposite experience of Mr.Me - the original transmission, radiator and differential have been fine.

The work I had to have done at the dealership (the seat and the siren module) was many times more expensive than the typical service I've gotten from my independent. I'll be blunt - given the high price of service from Volvo dealers, I would not have bought the wagon had I not lived near a fair-priced independent shop.

Both the 2003 and 2005 are in the middle of the second generation of the 70 series -- I think they ironed out the quirks that the 2001 and 2002s had -- with the 2005 being subtly refreshed.

Given my experience, I would buy the less expensive but higher mileage car assuming that it truly is in good condition and that you have a local independent Volvo mechanic to do maintenance at a reasonable cost. I would look at local for-sale-by-owner prices on similar Volvo XC70s on Craigslist, and start your negotiations with the dealer at $500 less than those prices. "If you can do $low price, I'd be willing to close the sale right now."
posted by eschatfische at 8:37 PM on January 5, 2012

Well, I think the 05 is quite a bit better looking...
posted by bz at 8:54 PM on January 5, 2012

As Mr.Me says, Volvo maintenance is not cheap, but I'm not sure that any car repair is.
An AWD drivetrain is dramatically more complex and expensive than either a FWD or RWD drivetrain. Turbos, superchargers, and AWD are all things to avoid on used cars. This is true on Subarus, VW/Audi, BMW, and everything else.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:38 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The last economical used Volvo I had was the 240 D/DL, Of course I paid $2,400 for my 1984 240 DL in 1987 and it's only went on to cruel death involving a side wipe by a 18 wheeler. Seems high to me but my usually car 19 years ojld and my daily drive is 17,
posted by Carbolic at 9:40 PM on January 5, 2012

Super secret bonus trick - if your bevel gear, drive shaft or anything else that only participates in making the rear wheels turn, drop your drive shaft and you now have a front wheel drive car. I've been doing this for a couple months but I finally got off my rump and ordered the new universal a little while ago.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:12 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife, overly proud owner of a 1990 240 wagon going on 300,000k miles on the original engine, tells me that any volvo made after the company was purchased by Ford (1999) is NOT the same quality of the older cars and there is no advantage to purchasing a Volvo over a domestic vehicle. You might want to compare these vehicles to similar, non-Volvo wagons.

As mentioned, repair on a Volvo is expensive, factor that into your purchase price and overall costs.
posted by HuronBob at 3:26 AM on January 6, 2012

I own a 2004 V70 and if I had it to over again I would have bought another car. The maintenance costs are absurd. It isn't like a BMW or Porche, mind you, but it is frustrating. As for the two, the older one seems like the better value.
posted by dgran at 6:48 AM on January 6, 2012

I'd buy the 2005 over the 2003.

It's not that the quality of the letter (V40) Volvos dropped compared with the number (240) Volvos, it's that the old ones were simple and cheaply repairable. The 240 and 850 were not paragons of reliability by any means.

What happened is that in the late 90s, Volvo turned over the entire product lineup and built new, much more complex cars (like the rest of the market) with a lot of new systems. It's not surprising that they had problems. This is where the saying came from to "never buy a Volvo that starts with a letter." A product cycle or two later and things were better. Better still today. Contemporary S40s have done much better that the older generation S40s at this point in their product cycles.

Also keep in mind that while the average quality level of cars today is much higher than 20 years ago, so is complexity and the cost of repair. Repacing a carb is nothing like replacing a modern, computer-controlled part. I expect you could easily pay more, in real terms, to keep a 2005 car going for 200k than a 1990 car. But if you really want sticker shock, price upkeep on a BMW out of warranty.
posted by pandanom at 6:52 AM on January 6, 2012

b1tr0t: "Turbos, superchargers, and AWD are all things to avoid on used cars. This is true on Subarus, VW/Audi, BMW, and everything else."

FWIW, the AWD drivetrain on an Audi tends to be one of the last things to fail on those cars. As a whole, I wouldn't rate Audi very highly in the reliability department, although the singular exception to that rule would be the AWD system.

Also, while Turbos can be problematic (highly dependent on the model/year of the car in question), those reliability issues aren't even in the same league as supercharged engines (which you wouldn't even expect to encounter on any "normal" car)
posted by schmod at 7:18 PM on January 8, 2012

As a whole, I wouldn't rate Audi very highly in the reliability department, although the singular exception to that rule would be the AWD system.
Audi keeps throwing in features and gadgets - there is a lot of stuff to break. They have been doing AWD longer than just about anyone. Most other makers are licensing some version of the Quattro system, or attempting to develop new IP that doesn't step on Audi's toes. Subaru even licensed the flat engines from VW/Audi along with various versions of Quattro.

Audi makes some neat cars, but I don't think I'd want to do anything other than lease a new one. They definitely have their fanatical following, but you have to really be in love with the car.
supercharged engines (which you wouldn't even expect to encounter on any "normal" car)
VW had a number of supercharged cars, Jaguar has the XKR. They tend to show up on fast sports cars or tiny displacement-efficient designs.

For some reason, I've always assumed the 'Benz Kompressors and Mini S were supercharged, but it looks like they just have turbos.

Anyway, more fast spinning parts == more stuff to worry about. I had a great time driving an RX7, but you really have to stay on top of the oil level to keep that car running. I was always one lazy oil change away from an expensive brick.

If you are asking for car buying advice on Metafilter, you probably aren't enough of a car nut to warrant the headache associated with maintaining turbos, supers or AWD in a used car. If you are, then my warnings won't do anything to dissuade you.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:29 PM on January 8, 2012

Thanks everyone for the help. I noticed when first driving the 2003 that the clock was out, and after checking in at the VolvoXCForums, I discovered that a lot of the 2003 models have electrical issues that require replacing the Driver Information Module (this can be up to a $1,500 fix). Not having a clock is annoying, but manageable. That said, it was indicative that more dashboard issues could be just around the bend, some of which could be more serious (e.g. malfunctioning airbags and signal lights). I was able to get the dealer to come down about $1,400 on the asking price for the 2005 and they included a one-year/12,000 mile warranty.
posted by TheCavorter at 5:28 PM on January 9, 2012

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