Is this Volvo a death trap?
August 2, 2004 9:29 AM   Subscribe

So I gave up my car two years ago to become a committed pedestrian — which I've learned is no easy feat in this town (where the buses all but shut down after 6pm) — and now I'm getting a car to use around town where walking or biking won't cut it. Anyway... I need help: I've found a little 1985 Volvo 240GL with 450K km, and I have no idea how to figure out if it's a death trap... much less what kind of reputation the car has.

posted by silusGROK to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Take it to a shop, have them look it over. Seriously. It'll help you bargain down the price if you decide to buy, too.
And: 450Mm? Damn.
posted by signal at 9:35 AM on August 2, 2004

Response by poster: I've tried, but they only go back to 1992... and I plan on running a CARFAX report.

Any other ideas? Any suggestions on what I should look for?
posted by silusGROK at 9:37 AM on August 2, 2004

Response by poster: 450,000 kilometers... yup: she's an old car... The price is right if she runs... I don't mind fixing it up over time and eventually replacing the motor.

I guess that's the secondary question: how do I know if the car is worth fixing up? What can't be replaced?
posted by silusGROK at 9:47 AM on August 2, 2004

and I plan on running a CARFAX report.
Those reports, use a trained mechanic /car body repair person. Friend recently used those reports but it turned out the car had been in a major accident. After bragging about doing his homework and finding a great deal, his buddy a mechanic showed him where the passenger side had been T-boned. Recall the door leaking when it rains.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:56 AM on August 2, 2004

how do I know if the car is worth fixing up?

Learn about the car. Find Volvo enthusiast pages and forums and read them. Dig up used car reports from 1995. Or, ask someone whose opinion you'd trust.

Then you ask whether or not fixing the car will cost more than just getting another beater.

What can't be replaced?

Anything can be replaced if you want to spend the money.

You sound like someone who wants a car but doesn't want to think about cars. If that's right, this is exactly why God made early-90's Hondas.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2004

how do I know if the car is worth fixing up?

How many older Volvo's do you see on the road? They’re popular in Texas. Know many folks that only purchase used Volvo's when buying a car. Find a Volvo owner in your areaq and ask them their experience – they may be able to point to you a good inexpensive mechanic too.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:00 AM on August 2, 2004

A well maintained Volvo will easily last that long. So thats a good sign that it was well taken care of.
But the cost of replacement parts, when needed, will be quite a bit more than average.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:01 AM on August 2, 2004

Don't pay more than $500 for a car with 450k Km on it, because:

(1) the car may not pass emissions, and may require expensive exhaust work in order to pass
(2) the brakes, drums (or discs, if you are lucky), and cylinders may all need work or replacement
(3) the engine may need serious work
(4) the transmission may need serious work
posted by Kwantsar at 10:34 AM on August 2, 2004

That must be an awesome car. I have an '82 242 DL as my weekend hot-rod and I love it. Small things may go, but if you have a little bit of spare time, learning how to fix your own car and being able to do it will be very rewarding. Volvo's, in my experience, are pretty simple to fix and keep running. Also, half a million is nothing if you take care of the car.
posted by crazy finger at 2:02 PM on August 2, 2004

Hi Silus, I've got a 1981 Toyota Tercel (not actually our car, just to give you an idea of the body style. Ours is in better shape.) up here in Salt Lake City that can be yours for the bargain price of $700. It only has like 116,000 original miles and we are the second owners. This car has been incredibly reliable and has only had 1 or 2 problems that I wasn't able to fix myself. It's great for around town transportation. Email if you are interested.

Also, my friend in Eugene loves his late 80's volvo. But, 450,000 miles seems like a ton of miles.
posted by trbrts at 2:08 PM on August 2, 2004

I'm a Volvo owner. I will never buy another car type. 450,000 km on a well taken care of Volvo is chump change. That's like 280,000 miles. The Tercel will be ready for the scrapyard by then (no offense trbrts).
posted by pissfactory at 2:32 PM on August 2, 2004

Response by poster: trbrts: very kind of you... but I'm going to pass, as Volvos just have something cool about them.

I'm test driving it this evening... wish me luck.
posted by silusGROK at 3:38 PM on August 2, 2004

Go to a library and dig up an old Consumer Reports Buying Guide. They ran six-year lags on repair records for new cars, so find a guide circa 1991 and have a blast.
posted by werty at 10:44 AM on August 3, 2004

A 240 is a pretty safe car accident wise. No one died in a 240 in Sweden for five _years_ between 1988 - 1992. And remember there they are treated like civics and cavaliers, IE: they are teenagers' first car.
posted by Mitheral at 2:30 PM on August 4, 2004

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