Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Volvo V50 estate?
As a rule, Volvos tend to wear high mileages very well, but this could lead to neglect from complacent owners. As such, look for evidence that the car has been properly maintained, both in the obvious areas such as a full service history and lots of documentation, but also in the details. For example, are the tyres all from a premium brand? If not, you might question whether costs have been cut in other areas too.
The V50 is also known to work its way through air conditioning condensers, so ensure the climate control blows cold. Also rock the car from side to side and listen for any clicking noises from the suspension as the lower suspension arms and drop links could need replacing.
The V50 has been recalled numerous times, most noticeably for potential leaks in the fuel pipes and power steering pipes, faulty handbrakes and faulty cooling fans. It’s good practice to ensure this remedial work has been carried out, so contact your local Volvo dealership to find out if your car has any outstanding recalls that need to be carried out.
What are the most common problems with a used Volvo V50 estate?
If you only ever do short runs, look for a petrol model rather than a diesel due to the risk of a blocked diesel particulate filter (DPF). Not all diesel V50s had a DPF, mind, and working out whether your car has one or not can be a bit of a minefield.
Look at the VIN number that's shown in either the bottom corner of the windscreen on the passenger side, or on a plaque under the bonnet. If the eighth character is a '3', then it denotes an early Euro 3 model which won't have a DPF. If it has a '4', then it may have one. As a general rule, car companies didn't have to fit a DPF to meet Euro 4 standards because particulate emission requirements were more lenient, so it shouldn't necessarily have one. However, you'll need to check with your dealer to confirm this. If the VIN has a '5' then it will definitely have a DPF.
Note too that the 1.6 and some 2.0 litre diesels require new Eolys fluid every 37,000 miles or so to allow the DPF to operate at lower temperatures. This is usually topped up as part of the car's service regimen, though. It may also require a new DPF at about 75,000 miles or six years, which can be an expensive job to do.
With other diesel engines, such as the 2.0-litre (badged 2.0D) with a six-speed automatic, or the five-cylinder D3, D4, and some late D5 versions, the DPF should in theory last the lifetime of the car. Providing you regularly do long runs to allow the soot to burn off, it should operate as intended, but, as ever, failure to do this can result in expensive repairs.
If you’re looking at a five-cylinder T5, D4 or D5-engined V50, ensure that the timing belt and tensioners have been changed every four years or 60,000 miles, because failure to do so could result in a four-figure repair bill for a wrecked engine.
V50s with an automatic gearbox require a fluid and filter change every 40,000 miles, while sunroof drains can get clogged with dirt and leaves, which can result in wet interior carpets.
Is a used Volvo V50 estate reliable?
The V50 is quite an old model now and because of this, it didn't feature in our latest What Car? Reliability Survey. Volvo, as a brand, finished in a shared 20th place with Audi, out of a list of 31 manufacturers. That's still ahead of Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, but behind rivals such as BMW.