By on January 20, 2011

Bob writes:

Long time listener, first time caller.

We’re a three vehicle couple living in inner-loop Houston. We just turned half our garage into a gym, and if we keep all three cars then we’ll have to park two of them outside. Therefore, it might be prudent to sell one of our vehicles. The problem is we’re attached to all of them, and need help deciding which to sell.

Here’s the meat:

1. 1992 Volvo 240 wagon 5MT, 201k miles. We purchased the 240 from some hippies who really had no idea what they had. She’s in excellent shape inside and out and doesn’t leak a drop. I’ve spent several thousand dollars over the last couple years replacing many of her wear items and made the R-134 conversion, as we had planned on keeping her long term. That being said, this is Houston, not Ithaca. I’m a young professional, and picking up my boss at the airport or pulling up to a Rice Village valet in a creaky 20-year-old station wagon lacks a certain gravitas.

2. 2010 Volvo C30 6MT, 11k miles. The C30 was purchased last year to replace a troublesome Volvo S60R. While the performance isn’t the same, I installed the factory lowering springs and added a sway bar, and now enjoy the handling despite it being my first front-driver. However, fuel economy and reliability have been disappointing. While selling the C30 would forever free me from wearisome “sparkly vampire” jokes from friends and family, I would feel silly selling a 1-year old car after suffering the drive-off depreciation and walking away from 60k miles of warranty coverage and free maintenance.

3. 2004 Subaru Baja Turbo 5MT, 63k miles. The Baja is my SO’s baby and is therefore “off the table” unless I can convince her otherwise. I believe she might be swayed by a new Wrangler or WRX, but that means selling the Baja an expensive proposition.

While we could afford to keep all three, I realize it’s impractical. Help us TTAC!

Steve Answers:

As the ultra-cynical brainfarts from talk radio would say, “And your problem is?”

You don’t have a problem… at least as it relates to cars. What you do have is a sunk cost. You have spent a lot of money on acquiring three vehicles for two people. If you sell the Volvo wagon, you won’t get your money back. The C30 is a depreciable black hole and the Subaru is apparently spoken for. So these are your options.

1. Sell the 240 for around $1500 to $2000. Do you value the money over the Volvo? That’s what you have to ask yourself. If you decide to keep the 240 buy a car cover. Houston’s hot weather can reap utter hell on a classic Volvo interior.

2. Sell the C30. If you paid in cash you would have enough left over to invest in an asset that can earn you money in the long-term. The 60k miles in maintenance isn’t worth nearly as much as you would think… and you may be able to get a good price on the vehicle given all the modifications you’ve already done. Then again you may not be very handy with cars given the amount you already spent on the 240. If you are, keep the 240. If not and you don’t have the time to learn, keep the C30.

3. Keep both. If you can afford everything and enjoy them, why not? You have already blown some dough Jonesing over a couple of Swedes. So why not take the cars and begin to give yourself an education. Start with the plugs and filters, and proceed onward to the 240’s heater core. Once you become a frequent visitor to the brickboard, you may find that a good car is really the sum of a lot of good parts that can be easily replaced.

Sajeev Answers:

I also fail to see the problem. Houston has ample parking everywhere, even in the most congested parts of downtown.  What exactly feels “impractical” in your situation?  Who cares if your neighbors don’t like your full driveway: this is Texas, dammit!

The only advice that’ll serve you well is to spend less time in your home gym and more searching the (aforementioned) brickboards to become a Volvo 240 hobbyist. The car scene in this town is wicked awesome, joining us in the fun of owning a cool car is very, very necessary. Matter of fact, I expect to see that 240 at Cars and Coffee next month.

But I’m getting off track: if you must dump a car, I suspect the Baja will be an easy sell once the repair bills add up after 100,000 miles.  The same is true of the C30, but that’s gonna happen much, much later.  Neither are “keepers” like the 240.  Don’t push anything, let it happen organically: when the C30/Baja become more trouble than they are worth, your decision is very easy. This is Houston, even if we are the 4th largest city in the nation, we do things slow and casual for a reason.  Go with the flow.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to [email protected], and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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56 Comments on “New or Used: Practical Schmactical...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Full custom car cover for whichever vehicle get’s driven the least, drive it when you can.  (As Lang suggests I’m guessing that’s the Volvo wagon.)  Hold onto it until August 2012 (after my wedding) and I’ll buy it from you.  (I’m only half-joking.  It’s only a 15hr drive from Gallup, NM; more than reasonable for one of the holy grails of station wagons.)

  • avatar

    I think pulling up in a well-maintained 20-year-old station wagon speaks volumes about one’s frugality and practicality (don’t know what business you’re in, maybe frugality’s not a desirable trait). I’d say keep the 240 and flip a coin about which vehicle to get rid of. I wouldn’t touch a modern Ford- or Geely-era Volvo, and although I am a Subaru owner who once considered a Baja (to go with our H6 Outback wagon), I’m glad I dodged that bullet–that may be the ugliest wheeled vehicle ever manufactured. (Park it across from your local Unitarian church with a For Sale sign on it, you should get an offer pretty quickly.)

  • avatar

    The Volvo 240 is a future classic. It’s value will probably go up over the next ten years. As far as presentability to bosses, cfclark (directly above) has the right idea. Just get the interior and exterior detailed and it will be a winner.

  • avatar

    A late Volvo 240 Wagon with the manual transmission in good condition is very hard to find and definitely a keeper.  Its value has probably already bottomed and it’s now increasing in value as long as you keep it in shape.  Frequent brickboard, and get parts from erie vovo and ipdusa. The 240s are fairly easy to work on; if you’re not handy they are good learner cars.
    Given your situation, I’d just keep all three cars. Let your wife drive the Subie since she insists on keeping it.  Drive the C30 most of the time and drive the 240 for fun a couple times a month.

  • avatar

    Dump the 240 wagon. I’ll admit to being scarred by my 240 experience but if you’re going to have two cars in the driveway does one of them have to be an old Volvo wagon?

  • avatar

    However, fuel economy and reliability have been disappointing.

    Can you elaborate? My wife (who is not a “sparkly vampire” but loves watching them on TV) wants a C30 very badly. Its pretty much her ideal car: sporty, yet front drive safe, small yet large easy hatch for shopping, cute looking but fashionable because few own them. If fuel and reliability issues are also a C30 trait then its off the list for sure. I keep steering her away since for about the same money a used Infiniti G Coupe, Nissan Z or even a new Hyundai Genesis V6 is clearly a better buy in my eyes… but I’m a guy so RWD and cheap power rule my world.

  • avatar

    And the winning answer is:   Get a gym membership.   

    Never, ever, give up the garage !!!  

    • 0 avatar

      +1  truer words have never been spoken

    • 0 avatar

      +2 — what kind of car guy gives up half a 3 car garage for a home gym???  to save $30/a month on a gym membership??  To spend god knows how much on gym equipment that is most likely not as good as what they have at LA Fitness anyway?  To work out in an un-airconditioned and un-heated garage in Houston??  Seriously?

      I think you should have to give up all 3 of your cool cars and buy one dorky minivan as pennance, then think long and hard about your priorities…  :)

  • avatar

    This is just silly. There is no issue here. Get rid of the gym! Admit that was a mistake!

  • avatar

    It doesn’t make sense to sell any of those 3 cars. The 240 because you’re not going to get enough money to justify letting it go, or even cover your conversion costs. The C30 because you’ve gone and wrecked the resale value with lowering springs. Plus you need something reliable for long road trips and classy enough in case you need to pick your boss up at the airport. And the Baja is off the table. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT try convince your woman to part with something either of you might refer to as ‘her baby’. If the time comes when she’s ready to let it go and tells you so, so be it.
    My advice: Park ’em on the street for 6 months. Once it becomes obvious you no are no longer using the home gym and never will again, convert it back into a garage.

  • avatar

    Hey, at least you’ll be parking in the driveway.  If your neighbors don’t like the cars in the driveway, offer them the Georgia alternative – Driveways are literally for driving; they park on the lawn.

  • avatar

    I would build another garage. Seems like money is not an issue.

  • avatar

    I assume you won’t be using the 240 as a daily driver?
    If you do plan to use it often, keep in mind that the 240 was engineered in the late 70s and is by the standards of the today, a death trap.

    • 0 avatar


      People often make the mistake of thinking the a safe car is a safe car is a safe car; I hear people talking about mid-’70s Mercedes as being the safest car you can get, because they’re “solid”.

      The 240 and 300D are indeed quite safe – compared to an AMC Pacer.

  • avatar

    I’d definitely keep the 240.  “We purchased the 240 from some hippies who really had no idea what they had.”  And that’s why you absolutely shouldn’t sell it.  It has more intrinsic value than Kelley Blue Book suggests.  If it looks and runs good, you can afford to keep it, and it’s not worth enough to sell.  Plus, those old wagons are cool.
    At the same time, the C30’s too new to sell.  You just took a huge hit in depreciation and the 240’s quirks and faults would become much more obvious if it became your daily driver.
    Definitely keep both cars, at least for a couple more years.

  • avatar

    Volvo 240 values may, or may not, do something interesting in the next several years because most of the nice ones have recently been shredded as the sheep that drove them bought hard on driving a new Prius being easier on the environment than running the full life cycle on a car with ’80s era emissions controls. Fortunately, there is nothing about producing a new Prius, or shredding a fully functioning Volvo, that involves any environmental costs.

  • avatar

    How long of a gym membership would the depreciation hit from selling one of the cars pay for?
    But, in all honesty, I don’t really see the problem.  If you can afford to keep the 3 cars, and they all have value to you that outweighs their cost (maintenance, insurance etc.) then keep them.
    What’s so bad about “having” to park two of them outside when you had to park one outside before anyway?
    Beside, 3 cars for two people isn’t that bad… we have six cars for two people.  Seven if you count the parts car.

  • avatar

    …why not just buy a lift and stack two of your cars?..

  • avatar

    You really could not make this decision on your own? There must be an app for that.

  • avatar

    Sell the C30, there’s got to be some local Twi-hard somewhere drooling all over her cat-fancy self to own one. The other two cars are actually pretty cool IMHO. The Volvo Wagon is fully depreciated, keep that one. Allot of people seem to hate the looks of the Baja, not me, and not your girl, so keep it as a nice little pick-em-up. The C30 is clearly the weakest link.

  • avatar

    I guess I am old and out of touch, I don’t get the “sparkly vampire” bit at all.  I’d keep all 3, and pick the boss up in the C30.  I’ve been sort  of interested in those, but how bad is the mileage?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Volvo’s were featured prominently in the “Twilight” movie franchise.  But don’t worry, you’re likely not missing much.  I’ve got a 48 year old female coworker with a “Twilight” movie poster in her cubicle, it’s a little creepy. 

    • 0 avatar

      The sparkly vampire jokes are doubly poignant.  I’m not proud to admit that I know that while the guy drove a C30 in the movie, in the books he drove an S60R, which our friend Bob used to own before acquiring the C30.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Dear Fellow Houstonian:
    This is a ‘duh’ moment.
    1.  You’re already making your gravitas statement by living in a townhouse inside the Loop.  Meanwhile, the Volvo wagon actually increases your social value in the Village because is reeks of old money.  Look around the Village and River Oaks.  The old money is driving the older classics (80s-90s Euro); new money trash drives the flashy, leased stuff.  My wife and I were up in the Hamptons a few summers ago.  The money wasn’t in the Bentleys…they were driving the 240D wagons and Jeep Grand Wagoneers, complete with faded wood decals and rust spots.
    2.  Secondly, why the hell do you have a townhouse?  Houston housing prices are great right now, even inside the Loop.  And cutting the lawn will allow you to sell the gym equipment.  Lindale Park, Army Depot, and 31st @ Ashland have been showing some great deals; if you can handle the reduced snobbery atmosphere, Oak Forest and Jersey Village are pretty cool.
    3.  Finally, it’s Houston,  We’re all entitled to at least 3 cars; please stop embarrassing us with this logic and common sense you espouse.
    /NW Houston representin’

    • 0 avatar

      I find old money to be overrated. In fact, I think there are 3 parallel social classes that top the US and Canadian socioeconomic pyramid: Super Proles (athletes, entertainers, ranch owners, most lottery winners), Upper Middle Class (MBA’s, LLB’s, real estate agents, doctors, dentists, financial planners, executives), and Upper Class (the true old money). They hate each other because they can’t stand each others’ tastes, and there’s zero desire to cross over.
      Trying to emulate old money is silly in my opinion, and Texas seems like the wrong state to even try.

    • 0 avatar

      Epic post, South-West Alief Texas approved.

    • 0 avatar

      240D wagons and Jeep Grand Wagoneers

      Yes, because the old money is almost gone.

  • avatar

    Dump the C30! Free maintenance? It’s a trap! How much is maintenance anyways, huh? It’s a depreciating asset, even if you’re not making payments your money is disappearing into a giant hole in the ground. I can’t imagine the insurance payments on it are cheap either. If it’s unreliable too, the word about it is going to get around and that depreciation is going to accelerate even faster. If you like your 240 then drive that sucker to the ground (may take a while), and if you’re worried about keeping up appearances once a month or so, call the guy at your neighborhood Avis and rent something when you need it.

  • avatar

    Buy a larger house with an extra room for the gym and one with a 3 car garage.  Why do you need a gym anyways?  You’ve already another significant other so who are you trying to impress?

  • avatar

    Here goes Sajeev’s unqualified “I read about it on the internet one time” statements about Subaru reliability again. What exactly is going to be expensive after 100k on a turbo Baja? People have driven them well into 200k miles with no significant issues.
    You’ll have a timing belt at 105k, but that’s true of many 4 cylinder engines. You’d probably want to opt to do the water pump while you’re in there, but that’s 40k miles or a few years away yet.
    Sajeev, I know you are all Panther everything for everyone, (I know somebody who just put a fuel pump in one, which cost $900 therefor they all must be unreliable right?) but your personal vendetta against Subaru is wearing a bit thin.

    • 0 avatar

      LOL…I just knew that was gonna happen.  The Baja is older, and odds are its gonna need work sooner than the C30.  Older cars need more upkeep in general, and keeping both the 240 and the Baja in the coming years will be time consuming and stressful, even if you can turn your own wrench.

      You might want to read the OPs comments a couple of posts down, too. That combined with age…well you catch my drift.

      And, setting the record straight, I am a Foxbody Man.

    • 0 avatar

      I already replied to his post.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh and BTW: $900 for a fuel pump change?  How much lube did they use on the owner for that punishment?

    • 0 avatar
      Peugeot 504 - the Car for Nigeria

      Just have to add a +1 to this. I thought I’d just call it a difference of opinion, but after seeing often-tangential shots at Subaru appear in almost every Piston Slap or New or Used it’s clearly a vendetta. I’m sorry that a Subaru ran over your dog, Sajeev, but that doesn’t make them unreliable.

  • avatar

    Bob, could you just park one of the vehicles at work?  I’ve done this successfully for the past 13 years at two different jobs.  Don’t ask of course, they’ll say no.  Better to beg forgiveness afterward than ask permission before.  Drive it home once a week or so,  park in a different spot and keep it clean so it doesn’t look abandoned.

  • avatar

    OP Here with some comments:
    1) I submitted this to Sajeev several weeks ago, but we have, indeed decided to sell the C30. I’m comfortable turning wrenches on the 240, and didn’t before simply because it was a matter of time. Here’s the craigslist ad for the C30 if anyone is interested:
    2) @JMII, Fuel economy in town for the C30 hovers around 23MPG, and only creeps up towards 30 on the highway. Surprisingly, this is only a couple MPG better than my old S60R. Although, I will admit it may have something to do with my driving style. I’ve also had two warranty visits to the dealer in the last year for suspension and steering issues unrelated to the OEM sport springs, and the alignment has been off since the day I bought it. But honestly, I’m not sure whether these issues have more to do with incompetent dealer techs or car quality.
    3) @Redshift The SO is into Olympic lifting, and there aren’t many gyms that cater to that crowd. After our gym-of-choice went out of business a couple months ago, we decided to invest $1000 in equipment. the ROI is about 18 months for both of us. Also, she likes the privacy and not having to wait in line for the power cage. Gym stays.
    4) @grzydj I’m afraid Sajeev is right on the Subarus. The bigger Subarus with the turbo engines do indeed host problems. Generally the Turbos, clutches, transmissions and rear diffs are all thrashed a bit more in these cars, and tend to have problems starting at 80-100k miles. In order to be a performance player, I suspect Subaru played it fast and loose with the less-than-worse-case-scenario engineering that is required to drop an engine with 80 additional horsepower than the car was originally designed for. They did the same thing with the SVX years ago. I had one about 12 years ago– it was a hot mess.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, the SVX was way under braked and it was too heavy for its transmission, so that did present a lot of problems for that car. I’ve seen lots of people convert them over to a 5 or 6 speed manual transmission with upgraded binders, which makes it a fine GT car. There is however a difference between abuse and reliability, and if maintained and driven properly, the Legacy GT/Baja variants shouldn’t present any significant issues, but that’s the key component as most of them are abused heavily.

    • 0 avatar

      Makes sense, the C30 is worth more…and you can use that money for something else.  I’d recommend a LS1-FTW swap on the 240.
      If the Houston ad doesn’t help, post in Austin next time and try autotrader too.

    • 0 avatar

      She’s into Olympic Lifting and you even listed trying to convince her to sell her “Baby” the Baja an option?  You are a braver man than I.
      I can also see why taking her private Gym away was a non-starter…

    • 0 avatar

      Do you expect users of this website to respect its rules?
      Please stop advocating violating craigslist rules.

    • 0 avatar

      I meant when his Houston listing expires. I do know CL doesn’t let you post duplicate ads, but I don’t know (or care to find out) how much you have to deviate from a cut/paste of one ad to another to get past their filter.

    • 0 avatar

      craigslist does not allow non-local ads. If he lives in Houston and there exists a Houston CL site, Austin is by definition “non-local”. “Local only” is one of the core tenets of craigslist.

  • avatar

    People actually pick up their bosses at the airport?  I thought that only happened in the movies.

  • avatar

    This thread has some of the funniest posts that I’ve seen in awhile – luv it!  The OP is a piece of work (but a bright guy, nevertheless) as evidenced by his CL ad.  Glad he e-mail the question…

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Um.  I’ll give you 2 grand for the 240.  Problem solved!

    When can I pick it up?

  • avatar

    Send that 240 to the northwest, get $4k for it!

    GRZYDJ already took care of my post. Although, I’m not sure I understand the need for a Subaru in Houston either. Although, it’d be fun to show up and do a little mudding with my Outback (which it does quite well thanks to Yoko A/T tires). I’d probably put an NPR sticker on it first though.

  • avatar

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I think your SO is lesbian.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Although, I’m not sure I understand the need for a Subaru in Houston either.
    Dude, the first 15 minutes of a rainstorm are brutal as the road oils slick up.  AWD is not a bad idea….

  • avatar

    Not to be be picky, but that ad needs work.
    Get the car out of the garage , remove all the junk (empty water bottle) take some pics in a picturesque spot with no other cars or people in the picture.
    It’s no different to selling a house, the potential buyer needs to imagine “their” crap in the car, not yours.
    Front and rear 3/4 views and a couple of interior shots.

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