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Flightoficarus

Back to car shopping soon, opinions?

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Hey all,

 

So to make a long story short, it looks like I'll be in the market for a new (used) set of wheels pretty soon. Estimated budget I'll be working with is somewhere in the $4-$5K USD range. This will be a new daily driver, and this is a general criteria of what I'm after.

 

- Wagon, small or mid-sized. Something w/enough space for transporting tools/music gear around.

- AWD preferred, but not mandatory

- Manual preferred, but not mandatory if the auto is dependable too.

- Reasonably economical.

 

Here's some of the stuff I've been eyeballing as possible candidates, ranging from mid 90's to early 00's for the model years.

 

- Subaru Outback

- Volvo 850/V40/Other models of the era

- Audi A4 Avant

- VW Passat/Jetta wagon

- Ford Focus Wagon

 

What are the pros/cons of these options? Any particular things to watch out for with particular models? I generally prefer to work on my cars myself, FWIW. Just not looking to end up w/something that's too much of a PITA to deal with, since I already have a project car for that! :P

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Of your choices, the Subaru would probably be your best bet for quality in that price range. Though a buddy just got a '98 A6 Avant for $4500, and it's in nice shape, I'd not usually suggest an Audi or VW as a cheap DD, as they suffer a bit in the reliability department in the price range you are looking at. His is nice, but he has me to work on it if something goes wrong. The Outback or Forester are rugged, and rather reliable wagons, without much you need to look for other than general condition and any receipts.

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Make sure you have a go in a Volvo 850 T5 - they are fantastic. Properly fast, best seats in the business, and very practical and reliable. Not much goes wrong on them at all - mainly the PCV breather system and occasionally turbos on cars that have been driven by idiots.

 

An Audi would be good too, just make sure you avoid the automatic gearboxes as they throw up problems as they get older. Besides that the older A4 (B5 version) is known for its reliability if looked after properly. I actually have an A4 estate and it has been faultless in the 3 and a bit years I have owned it from new and 95k I have covered in it. Highly recommended, make sure you at least try one.

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Hmm. This seems to continue the theme of mixed thoughts I'm getting from others on European car makes, lol. (Though my dad has had great experience with driving nothing but older Volvos for the past decade or so).

 

The main thing I'm still curious on though - Are makes like Volvo and Audi really the expensive nightmare to take care of that some people complain they are? As in, are basic maintenance parts really that expensive? or is it just people basically getting ripped off from "stealership" service? What if you're working on them yourself? (I typically go this route).

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Older European cars are generally fairly straightforward and cheap to maintain. It is important to keep on top of servicing, I get my A4 serviced every 8k and had no problems at all.

 

Volvos in particular are known for their reliability. Parts are very cheap, and they are easy to work on.

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Ok, so I've been doing a bit more research on my own, and I'm still pretty torn, lol. This seems to be the general opinion that I've been getting from most people I've asked, regarding the European makes I've considered. I won't lie though, I'm starting to place a bit more importance on having a standard transmission than before. I fear I might miss it too much if I choose to go without! :P

 

Volvo = Bulletproof reliable, but standards are rare (at least here in the US).

VW/Audi = More of a drivers car, but be prepared to roll the dice on electrical issues and such.

 

I just wanna know what I might be getting myself into if I went w/the latter, before committing (or should I consult a VW forum?). Are they mostly small issues that would be easy DIY fixes? (window motors and such), or things that can turn into a headache in a hurry? (wire shorts/battery drains, and trickier jobs of that nature).

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I would seriously suggest consulting over at VW Vortex on the Audi issues, as there is a huge owner base there that can give you detailed reports on what to look out for. In fact, if you go to the Car Lounge there, you can get detailed answers on both (as they are also connected to SwedeSpeed for Volvos).

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I would recommend the Subie as well. Least headaches. If you can find a man Volvo that you are thinking about, then all the better, those are actually bulletproof. Just don't get anything 2000+.

 

The hell you have to go through to find a good Audi/VW will not be worth it, but +1 on Chris's idea to check Vortex. Great site.

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Well, I ended up getting an increased budget to work with, and ultimately ended up w/an option not even listed. Went ahead and picked up a Mazda3 hatch last week. Seems to be a pretty fun daily driver!

 

Thanks to all who helped out before though.

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the VW/Audis... make sure car has a maintenance history. around 100k miles, they all need timing belt replaced... as well as the turbo's normally sludge up and then blowup from lack of oil flow near 100k miles.

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