New or Used: MAXX-ing Out Mom's Next Wagon
My mom’s 1998 V70 with 215k miles is starting to leak coolant, with no major puddles on the ground. I told them to look at the oil to see if there were any signs of the coolant in the oil. I personally think the time with the Volvo is almost over as the dealership (an independent dealership) said that its time was slowly approaching about a year ago, but they couldn’t promise how fast. My mom loves this car and my dad likes it too. Her requirements are preferably station wagon, heated leather seats, and automatic. They live in Michigan so it gets cold. AWD is not a necessity, and she knows that snow tires work just fine. She does haul a bike on occasion, so it must be easy for her to haul the bike without having my dad there at all times.
She loves her Volvo and would like another if she could find one that would be reliable. I recommended the Outback, especially the 2005 and later models. What are other possibilities? Their budget is around $15,000 or less. They tend to drive their cars into the ground, so reliability is more important than the badge. What should she look at?
This is a very tough call. On the used side I tend to encourage folks to keep their vehicles. Your post doesn’t mention anything about where the coolant is leaking. I would like to know about what the mechanics did find and whether there are any rust or powertrain issues.A new low mileage engine would cost perhaps $1500 at most if or when it’s needed. Throw in some new shocks, a detail, and any other minor issues and she may need only about $3000 at most to keep it for another five years. If it’s been garaged and diligently maintained, it’s definitely a consideration.A good wagon replacement for a Volvo V70? A Ford Freestyle Limited loaded up with perhaps 50k miles on it. You have the exact same underpinnings as the far pricier Volvo XC90 with plenty of interior space and excellent fuel economy. If she likes a more enclosed feel like her old Volvo she may also go for the Ford Flex. It’s a bit pricier than the Freestyle. But it has a very high level of features (just like Volvo’s had in days of yore) and has a stellar reliability record.Sajeev Answers:Steve, as per usual, is right. The Volvo is probably just a few weeks and a couple grand away from being a nice and reliable driver for your mom. Think of that trip to the mechanic as a spa vacation for your ride! Too bad that doesn’t work for most people.That said, the Freestyle (or Taurus X) is a good alternative. The Outback is a good choice, but they aren’t a homogenous grouping like said Ford. Some need timing belt replacements, some get really upset if you don’t follow oil changes to the letter of the owner’s manual. And some require premium fuel, which is a concern to some. It is hard to know which one you will recommend to your Mom, make sure to Google up the goods before pulling away from the seller’s lot.My choice? None of the above. The Chevy Malibu MAXX does it all: wagon, leather and heated seats in LT trim. Unlike the sedan, the outside styling has gotten better with age. While the interior is pretty terrible for the OCD car nut, every non-Volvo discussed here isn’t exactly inspiring in that arena. And if anyone in the family has a penchant for performance motoring, get the SS model. Like many half-baked treats from GM (from the Corvair to the G8) the MAXX deserved a better fate. That baby had some legs to it.Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to email@example.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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Fix it. I have almost the same car and most of the leaky coolant issues are either the expansion tank cap or the heater core, and luckily both are very easy to replace. No dash removal needed for the core. I replaced every hose and the expansion tank when I bought it for around US$200 total. You can buy parts online everywhere at decent prices and there are a couple of brick oriented lists you can get huge amounts of info. And if everything else fails, there are lots of those being junked this days so a replacement engine should be really cheap.