Fixing your car vs buying another cheap car. How is the 01-04 Volvo S40/V40 in terms of reliability?

I have a 4th gen Maxima (I30) that needs a bunch of work. I have a lot of parts that I haven’t installed yet, plus a new radiator support that will have to be done by a local body shop (about $600 labor, and a very common issue on these cars).

The other parts I have that need to be installed are three quick struts, three rotors, pads, a caliper, a TPS, a radiator, and the upper and lower hoses (the rad and hoses can probably be done when the support is replaced, since it has to be removed anyway). I already installed one rotor, one caliper, and one quick strut.

And now, my key broke off in the door lock (at least it didn’t get stuck in the ignition!) and I’m now stuck using the valet key. Can a locksmith make me a new (master) key and extract the old one?

The Volvo wagon I’m considering seems to only need brakes right now (a wear item, and not the most difficult thing to do). However, my biggest concern is that it uses a timing belt (the I30 has a chain), and of course it might not be as reliable as a Japanese car.


The pluses about the Volvo include being a 4-cylinder engine for better mpg (and not as hard to work on as a transverse V6), a wagon for more utility, and it has a cabin filter. All the features my car has now, but in a more efficient package. And also, the screws might not be soft and strip so easily (Nissan is famous for its soft-metal screws and keys). And it’s almost definitely nowhere near as rusty as my car!

But there’s always that thought in the back of my mind that a cheap, not-very-common Volvo could actually be worse, or at least no better, than my car. And that three digits won’t buy a car that’s any better than what I have now.


What are your thoughts?