Spannerhead Dot

Volvo 240 Wagon: My Kids’ First Car

April 8, 2012 by Matt

Volvo 240DL 240 Wagon 245 Blue Redblock Brick

This is it. This will be their conveyance when they first take the wheel and start driving to school and back.

Granted, I do have eight (short) years before my oldest reaches that point, but what’s the harm in thinking ahead, right? Before I launch into my justifications for the Volvo 240 Wagon, I think it’s worthwhile to point out that they’ll be purchasing fully half the car; this won’t be a case of me just handing them the keys without them having a stake in whether the vehicle lives or dies. And of course they’ll perform all their own maintenance on it, under my watchful (and helpful) eye.

Volvo 240DL 240 Wagon 245 Blue Redblock Brick

So why the dorky Volvo? Well, it’s dorky, for one. It’s my opinion a kid’s first car should be as humbling as possible. I learned on my mom’s minivan, transitioning to a cheap Toyota Tercel once I had learned the rudiments of rowing my own gears. Neither car had any flash or dash whatsoever, and the lack thereof kept me focused on establishing a “baseline” driving-wise, a threshold difficult to deviate from even as I moved up the ladder into more capable cars.

The 240 Wagon is undeniably practical as well, with its capacious cargo area, no-nonsense interior and sturdy roof rack. If I’m going to help my kids buy a car, I’d like it to have some utility vis-a-vis the rest of the family as well; in other words, if I have to buy some lumber, it’d be nice to take the Volvo to the store instead of always opting for the minivan. The car will earn its keep, so to speak.

Volvo 240DL 240 Station Wagon 245 Redblock Brick Interior Inside Cockpit Console Stickshift Manual Dash Dashboard

The Swedish automaker is well known for its safety-first focus, a concern at the forefront of every parent’s mind when their babies close the door and motor away. The 240 is built like a tank, thoroughly crash-tested and was available with airbags in later years.

Another boon is the car’s mechanic-friendly nature. We used to own a later (and even boxier) Volvo 940, and I can attest to the fact that everything under the hood and under the car is well made, fastened together with gusto at the factory, and easy to access and repair. Lesson time may challenge the kids, but success won’t be unobtainable like it would be with many other cars.

And perhaps the biggest advantage of the Volvo 240 Wagon: It’s cheap. I mean dirt cheap. A fully-loaded example with typical mileage can be had for a little north of $2K. Reasons for its value? Charitably-speaking, it’s not the sexiest car on the road, it was produced in decent numbers and projects an utterly frumpy image. On paper, though, it’s a lot of car for the money. A winner on all counts; perfect when it comes time for my offspring to start driving.

Filed under: Volvo


  1. John D says:

    I totally understand how much sense this car makes for kids. I also understand that this was one of three cars I was ecstatic NOT to have to drive as my first car. (The other two were, in no particular order and for completely different reasons, a F*rd Escort and any Mercedes diesel.) While not as slow as a diesel Merc or as common as the Escort, I have never liked these cars simply based on their appearance. Even though I really wasn’t into cars much as a 15 yr old and had very few preferences at that point, I thought these were the most boring vehicles on the planet. Now the utilitarian part of my personality (that has developed quite well now that I am an adult and have to sustain a family) is in complete agreement with all you stated above…but I simply couldn’t put one of my children behind the wheel of one of the three cars I dreaded most as a boy. (That, and I still think they are painfully plain.)

    And before you think me a dreamer or spoiled rotten, I will let you know that my first car was an ’89 Volvo 740 GLE. It was a great first car and I was thrilled to have it vs. one of the other three mentioned above. Sure it had a black leather interior, sunroof, and the uprated 16valve engine that gave it respectable power…but it still had over 150k miles on it and was no real prize. But I loved that car and, even though it was a boxy Volvo that no teenager would be caught dreaming of, appreciated it’s relatively elevated level of style and class. I went from this to a ’93 Volvo 850 GLT, which I also loved dearly until the need for speed set in and I found myself rowing my own gears in the ’96 Camaro 3.8L 5 spd that saw me through college and into married life.

    All that said, I may very well jump on the Volvo bandwagon when it comes time for my kids to get behind the wheel. But I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that the designation of whatever Volvo I choose to put them in will probably not start with the letter two. No telling what kind of psychological damage that may do them in the long run…don’t you agree? ;)

    • Matt says:

      Oh I think they’ll be fine. :) Weirdly (or maybe not so weirdly), I actually like the way they look. I’ll never defend them in my “Underrated Lookers” series, but they’re certainly distinctive, which counts for something.

      That 16V engine in your old 740 is a holy grail of sorts for Volvo Redblock tuners, given that the SOHC head fitted to the vast majority of turbo Bricks flows terribly. Depending on how stout the bottom end is, you could’ve built that into quite a beast.

  2. Omar says:

    I must be the only college in the entire world that is looking to buy one of these, not because my parents asked me, but because I think they’re so incredibly dope.

    And my parents are OK with it.

    Hope your kids enjoy it when the time comes!

    • Matt says:

      Good for you! I happen to think they’re very cool as well. I was this close to picking up a 2-door 240 turbo a couple of years ago.

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