I know it’s out of order, but, here it is: the third car I bought for the purpose of driving for a short period of time and then selling – preferably for a profit. If you recall with cars one, two, and four, I’ve been successful once. So, that’s a 33% success rate. After this, I’ll either be 50% successful or 25%. Care to guess which one?
This time around I wanted something all wheel drive for the winter months, but also something a little bit unique. After a month of waffling and indecision, finally a car popped up that could work. My indecision was aided by the fact we were nearing October’s border with November and if I didn’t want to put winter tires on the RX-8, something needed to be done soon. There was only one little problem. The car in question was in Connecticut.
After reaching out to the dealer and learning what work they did to the car and some additional pictures, we made a deal. Pending the test drive, I would be the owner of another car! My wife and I drove down and saw the car for the first time. It looked great. It’d spent it’s entire life in CT – which is much less harsh on the underside of a car than Vermont is. After a couple of signatures I handed over a check and we were off. I was now the proud owner of a Volvo. That’s right, the unique and interesting car I chose was a Volvo. The boxiest, most safety obsessed cars around. But this wasn’t just any old Volvo. It was a V50! An All-Wheel-Drive V50 with a 220hp turbocharged 5-cylinder engine. Not only that, but it was a 6-speed manual transmission! There was a point where there were fewer of these for sale on cars.com than the Saab 9-4x, which is saying something.
Strangely, I started to enjoy driving the car. I mean, it’s not like it had sharp handling or was particularly quick, but it was extremely comfortable and reasonably powerful. While shifting couldn’t be done quickly or with force, the feel and travel of the shifter was actually very nice. A problem was clearly brewing. It was one of those inexplicable moments. I am, at heart, a car guy. Car guys are all about one thing: performance. Whether it’s on the road or off, we all want a car that’s faster, handles better, and makes us quiver in anticipation of that next drive. I am that guy! But, despite that, here I was falling in love with a damn Volvo wagon. I did consult my doctor, but he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me!
As a result of that I ended up breaking one of my rules about buying cars to hopefully resell. I became attached to it. Which meant I didn’t want to sell it. Which meant that I held onto it, and held onto it, and held onto it…for very nearly 2 years. The other reason that doesn’t bode well for profit making is that I add miles like they’re going out of style. In the end, despite owning both the Volvo and my RX-8 for most of the first year and not driving it at all for the last few months of ownership, I added 40k miles to its odometer, which already read 111k when I brought it home.
I know what you’re thinking…“You put 40k miles on a European car? It must’ve cost a fortune to keep it on the road!” It certainly could’ve been worse, but, it does fool you. It always started and it never missed a beat, but, that doesn’t mean that things weren’t reaching the end of their life. Perhaps earlier in it’s life and now that all this is done, it’ll be better off. I got the impression though that it was my patient. It may have come in feeling fine, but, it wasn’t without fault and it kept having little illnesses here and there. All of those little “a couple hundred here and a couple hundred there” to keep things going along add up over time. It’s hell getting old.
On top of the normal oil changes I added a few maintenance items: New winter tires when I bought the car, new summer tires just before it sold, filters, plugs, a couple vermont inspections, timing belt, and idler pulleys.
It wasn’t all fun and games though, on top of the regular stuff, a few other things popped up here and there (in no particular order):
- At some point the parking brake stopped working. One of the cables had broken. Replacing this cable also required replacing the caliper it was attached to.
- The fuel cap once came apart in my hand. Fortunately it broke in such a way that still allowed me to put fuel in the car, but, had to be replaced nonetheless
- Three of the four wheel bearings and one of the sway bars had reached the end of their natural lives.
- The rear screws which hold up the plastic shield under the engine bay had stopped doing their job. New self tapping screws fixed that. Some time later in the car’s life, the screws at the front gave up as well…this time while at highway speed and with an alarming noise. New screws for the front as well then.
- One day on a shift from first to second, a small clunk noise occurred followed by some other distressing sounds. Shortly thereafter all the extraneous noises went away. I quickly learned that the car was now front wheel drive. A stripped angle gear sleeve leading to the rearward driveshaft turned out to be the culprit.
- One day, while on my way home, the car decided it no longer wanted to have any power. No boost for me! On top of that, a loud whining noise was coming from the engine bay at low speeds and when I pulled it into the garage that night. It was found that the boost solenoid and vacuum hose switch had had enough
- Then it came time to take care of the brakes. When I purchased the car, it came with new pads and rotors throughout. But a sticky rear caliper had worn them down to nothing without any thought! That meant replacing them again as well as another caliper.
- And to top it all off, like an old Saab, the headliner was coming apart. Perhaps this is a swedish car issue? I wonder if the Koenigsegg’s have shitty headliners too? I had it locally reupholstered and it was good as new!
Keeping it running added up pretty quickly, but, I’ve owned many aging European cars before, so, this wasn’t overly surprising.
There isn’t much, really, that I didn’t like about the car. It was nice to drive on the highway but it was numb and too softly sprung to be fun in the corners. The shifter’s motion was nice but it made naughty noises when you tried to rush it. The dash, with its pass-through center console, was nicely laid out except that it was a mess of small buttons that required looking to make sure you were pushing the right ones. The exterior design was practical and Volvo boxy but it was also weirdly rounded around the bumpers, giving it a bit of an awkward shape overall. Larger wheels and the R-design body kit’s small front and rear lip spoilers make a big difference. Mine didn’t have those things. The radio provided good quality sound in old-folks mode, but, when you have it at “turn that shit down” mode, it falls apart quite quickly. Also, while it sends enough power to the rear axle to aid in winter traction, it doesn’t send enough to make it very good at wintry fun things. Not being able to turn off the stability control didn’t help with that either.
In the end, a new program with Mazda allows me a small stipend toward a lease as long as I am working as a sales consultant. Once my new Mazda3 arrived, I began searching for a buyer and eventually a friend of my boss came forward as he was looking for an inexpensive car to add to the fleet. We came to an agreement and with some waiting to get everything in order and for the title to arrive, it was done. The car had moved on to it’s new owner. I put a lot into it so it was in pretty nice condition when he picked it up. It stuck around far longer than a buying-and-selling-it-for-a-profit car should, but, even tough it wasn’t overly exciting, it was surprisingly nice and I enjoyed my time with the car.
Purchase Price: $6,758.00 (Including taxes, reg.)
VT Inspections: $30 (Two inspection)
Timing Belt, Idler and tensioner pulleys: $281.97
Winter Tires: $439.40
Oil Changes: $573.67
E-brake/Caliper/Gas Cap: $418.35
FL Wheel bearing/Spark Plugs/Filters: $400.43
FR Wheel Bearing: $247.98
Hanging Shield: $23.85
Sway Bar: $100.28
Angle Gear Sleeve: $329.71
Random Cooling Hose: $154.19 (not in an easy location)
Rear brakes/Caliper: $325.88
Boost Solenoid/Vacuum Hose Switch/Oil: $366.05
Summer Tires: $406.07
Headliner Repaired: $350.00
Total Cost: $11,288.73 (not including interest or insurance)
Mileage Accumulated: 39,081
Sold For: $3,300
Cost per mile: $0.20 (not including fuel/insurance)
In the end, twenty cents per mile in depreciation and repairs probably isn’t THAT bad for a European car, but, looking at that final number still stings. Over 2 years of ownership, this works out to $333/mo – which is usually considered a decent car payment. I’m going to stick with the cost per mile, it hurts less.
Unfortunately, those of you who guessed “25%” at the beginning are the winners. Perhaps I’m not very good at flipping cars but, that’s okay, I’ll totally have better luck next time.