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  1. Default Car Question...

    Hi Everyone,

    I've been researching the net in planning this road trip I want to do this coming summer, from MD to CA and back. It is my big break after graduating college and this is my first major question to pose to you all..

    I'm not sure if I should brave it and take my highly nostalgic although some-call impractical vehicle... an 1988 Volvo 240DL stationwagon, 5 speed manual with at least 300,000 miles on it already (I say at least because the mile tracker stopped at 216,000 nearly four years ago). Volvos are amazing cars, and my stationwagon would be amazing to take on a cross country road trip, but I don't know if I should keep the faith with my car on a 7,000 mile + journey, try to buy another used car as a possible grad present, or rent.. but because of my age I'm not sure how practical that would be.

    If I did take the Volvo, I would get a complete inspection done of it before I left and half way in CA to make sure everything should be okay. It runs well and I have had almost everything replaced besides the engine. The only thing I am worried about are steep hills with me and my fiance's gear (and possibly mountain bikes in the back) and the fact that it has no air conditioning .. I guess we could drive in morning/evening on really hot days. I get mixed advice when I ask people about taking my car. Some say don't attempt it and others say that it would be fine. Any advice from you well-traveled road-trippers?

    Thanks for your help!
    Abby

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Not being a mechanic, but none the less, always interested in the performance of my vehicle, my first reaction would be to go with the vehicle with which you are familiar. You seem to know the Volvo quite well, and probably are well aware of it's capabilities and limitations. This may not be the case with a newly purchased used vehicle.

    My brother-in-law's Volvos always did well over half a million kilometres. Yours is only three quarters of the way to that. And to boot, it would have to be one of the safest vehicles on the road. Yup!! my gut feeling is go with the Volvo.... watch your packing, don't stress it out, just take it easy, and make sure it gets all the attention it needs.

    As for the air-conditioning... whereas I would not now, drive without it, when I was your age it was still a luxurious extra option. Wind the windows down. You'll cope.

    Lifey's tuppence worth

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default rolling the dice

    Certainly any time you are looking at taking a car with that kind of mileage there is a risk factor of something breaking down or something going wrong. However, there is going to be risk with most any option you take.

    In general, I'd agree with Lifey in that I'd rather take an old car that I was familiar with and knew the history with, rather than a "new" used car, where you really don't know what's been done and what hasn't. Even though your car is a very high mileage one, you know what things have recently been replaced or repaired, and should have a better idea of what may be on its way out. You also know how well the car's been maintained, which you really can't know with a used car. I'll let you know that my Roadtrip SUV is at 215k miles, but I know its nearly all highway miles, and its an 01, not an 88 - and even there I've had a time or two where I've been stuck for an extra day because it needed a repair while on the road.

    I would say there is a factor of what your "new" car might be. If you're looking at a car thats a just a few years old with under 50k miles, then that would be an upgrade, if your new car is a $3000 car thats 10+ years old and has 150k miles on it, then its more of a wash. Assuming you are at least 21, renting's not necessarily a bad idea either. It will cost a little more, but you wouldn't be putting the miles on your own car (extending the life of the volvo that much longer) and you'd get a nearly new car where you wouldn't have to worry about making any repairs while on the road.

    I would say that if you take the Volvo, I'd recommend having a larger than normal emergency fund so you can pay for repairs that could come up, and be prepared to have to sit out for a couple days if you have a problem, as I imagine 22 year old Volvo parts aren't going to be "in stock" at most stores/garages. I would also have a plan in case the car does develop a major problem that sends it to the car graveyard.

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I would also have a plan in case the car does develop a major problem that sends it to the car graveyard.
    .. Ouch. Yeah I hope that I would still be able to use my car after taking this trip.. and I (along with my mom) am worried that may happen along a lonely stretch of road in the middle of we-wont-know-where. Since I am 21 I always thought that renting would be a highly expensive option. I looked at rentals at dollar.com and it seems like a 5 week trip would cost about $2000. Does that price sound right? Would it be safer to spend that and rent a new car? And even if I do rent a car, there still might be some problems/repairs along the way. I don't think I could dedicate more than $1000 towards repairs and inspections for my car.. in the case of emergency (aka sending my car to the grave) I think my parents could wire me some money. We were planning on spending $4500 total for a five week trip for two people.

    Do you guys think that bringing mountain bikes would be a good idea for the national parks/traveling around towns, or would it be unnecessary weight on my car? Haha.. and in terms of the air conditioning.. most days I can handle it but its black interior makes the car feel like an oven and on 100 degree days we will probably wait until the sun starts to set.

    Thanks so much for answering my question. I think I have factored out the buying option now and just have to decide between taking my own or renting..

    ps. here's a pic of my ride =)


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Toss up

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    My brother-in-law's Volvos always did well over half a million kilometres. Yours is only three quarters of the way to that.
    Actually, Abby is at that point (km to mi conversion)

    As for your question about taking mountain bikes - hey, I think maybe you've solved your dilemma on what to do if the car should break down in the middle of nowhere! Seriously though, as other have said, since you know the car, you'll be able to determine if it can make the trip or not. Look at it through this perspective - at some point the car will give up the ghost, and as is typical with cars, it will not be when it is "convenient" for it to do so. That may or may not be on this trip (probably not).

    But if you have any hesitation at all, I would recommend going rental. You'll be able to wipe what could be a substantial worry out of your mind. And worries can make a great trip a chore.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    6,936

    Default ????

    Quote Originally Posted by Mass Tim View Post
    Actually, Abby is at that point (km to mi conversion)
    Tim, explain to me then how you convert it. What I did was, 230000 (miles) x 1.62 = 372600 (kms), well short of half a million kms. I have never known how to convert kms to miles, only the other way around.

    Lifey who is better at words than numbers

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Aaa

    Quote Originally Posted by airealphwen View Post
    .. Ouch. Yeah I hope that I would still be able to use my car after taking this trip.. and I (along with my mom) am worried what may happen along a lonely stretch of road in the middle of we-wont-know-where.
    If you or your Mum takes out AAA membership - and for a long trip like this, I would take out the top cover - then anywhere along your route you will be able to get the help you need. It takes the worry out of the trip, and will surely put your mother's mind at ease. If you already have basic roadside service coverage with AAA, I'd upgrade it for the trip. Even way up in Alaska on the Alaska Highway, I was able to be assisted when my not-so-old vehicle with only 60000 on the clock gave up on me. It meant a three day stop as the part for even a common 7 year old vehicle was not available locally. That's all part of the adventure.

    What a lovely car.... the old boxy Volvo.... still the best! It looks well looked after, and if it is mechanically sound, well........

    Lifey would stick with her own vehicle

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default I was going to say

    I was actually going to make the same comment Tim did, but I tend to be the math nerd too often!

    Lifey, your math was right, but your numbers was wrong. She said the car was at 230,000 miles 4 years ago, when the odometer broke - and figures it is now past 300k.
    even if I do rent a car, there still might be some problems/repairs along the way.
    Back to point, while its possible you could have a problem with a rental, the odds are much lower since you're in a nearly new car. More importantly, if you have a problem, you're not responsible for it. You call the rental company, they fix the car - and if they can't get it fixed right away, they give you a new car.

    Do you guys think that bringing mountain bikes would be a good idea for the national parks/traveling around towns, or would it be unnecessary weight on my car?
    I really wouldn't be worried about the weight, as that will really be just a non-issue relative to the rest of your gear. However, the bigger issue I might be concerned with is security. Bikes can be a pretty inviting target for thieves, so you'll need to make sure you have a good lock. There's also just the hassle factor of loading and unloading them, so if it were me, I'd want to be sure I was going to use them if I went through the trouble of bringing them.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I was actually going to make the same comment Tim did, but I tend to be the math nerd too often!

    Lifey, your math was right, but your numbers was wrong. She said the car was at 230,000 miles 4 years ago, when the odometer broke - and figures it is now past 300k.
    Oh-oh!! guess I better get my specs looked at. LOL

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Well, at least you didn't type "your numbers was wrong." I don't worry too much about grammar and spelling on internet forums, but yeesh, that's just awful!

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