The first thing to check when buying a used Volvo is that the car has a full service history. Volvo’s need servicing just like any car and Volvo parts can be very expensive, so if the car hasn’t been serviced when it should have, you could be in for a big bill when you take it for one. Even if the car has been serviced regularly, check when the next one is due as Volvo servicing can be costly, if a service is imminent, this can be a good negotiating point. Also check the MOT document and makes sure that the MOT is valid and check that the address on the log book matches the address you are buying the car at.
Check the interior carefully, including all buttons and handles, especially in the rear, as Volvo are likely to have been used by families. Even minor problems like window handles can be expensive to rectify at a later date so it`s worth checking everything. If you find any problems, ask for money off the asking price. Check all seatbelts.
On the exterior, check that the paint is the same shade all over the car and that the gap between panels is consistent. Make sure that the doors and boot open smoothly. Check the tread depth is legal all over the tyre area. With convertibles, check that the roof opens smoothly and locks into place as it should. Also inspect the cloth for holes or discolouration.
Under the bonnet, check that the VIN matches the one in the log book. Make sure that the wear and tear on the steering wheel and seats seems consistent with the age of the car. Use the dipstick to check the oil level, the oil should be a golden colour and free from lumps. Look on the top of the engine and under the oil cap for a sticky white material, if you find some, this could indicate head gasket damage which would more than likely write the car off. See that the battery terminals are free of rust.
Volvo estate cars are likely to have been used for lugging heavy loads around so pay attention to the suspension during a test drive and check the rear load bay for signs of damage. Also check that the tyres are wearing evenly and look at the underside for scuffing or other damage, especially with four wheel drive models which may have been used for some light off roading. Also check the levels of coolant and brake fluid; you don`t want to buy a car that has been driven without its fluids at the correct level.
Check for known faults. These will vary depending on the model you are looking at. Many popular Volvo models such as the V70 and S40 have no recurring faults but other models do have known problems. Early 440/60s for example are known to be temperamental and have unreliable carburettors. To find the known faults for a particular car, ask an expert or consult an online motoring forum such as those found at torquecars.com.