240 240 Wagon for a Learner Driver

Hello all!👋

My name is Noah McIntosh, I’m currently 15 years old and turning 16 in around six months. Right now I own a 1995 Nissan Micra which I bought in late 2018 as a first car to learn to drive and work on.

Soon the time will come though for me to move on and buy a more practical, usable and safe car for when I get my license. I’ve been eyeing off a 1990 Volvo 240 GL Wagon on Gumtree for quite some time and after sorting through my overflown watchlist I’ve decided that the 240 would be the best car for me. Today I stumbled across a small Euro car meet while on a bike ride and spotted the exact 240 I was looking at online. The owner was extremely kind and knowledgeable about these 240 wagons and he took me for a drive in it to show me its very high gear ratios as he proceeded to do 80 kmh very easily in 3rd gear.

After this experience I’m getting more serious about purchasing this car as it was even better than I had imagined. It ticks all my boxes for what I’m after: it’s safe, practical and out of the ordinary.

I was wondering if any of you have some general advice or things I should know about 240 Wagons, I’ve researched the nuts off them so I already feel decently informed but I’d like to hear from some experienced 240 enthusiasts. Anything you could think of that you might think I’d like to know as a young cobber looking at using a 240 to daily drive as a learner driver would be much appreciated.

Here’s the car’s specs if needed:

1990 Volvo 240 GL Wagon

234,000 kms

Manual Transmission

2.3L EFi 4cyl

Kind regards, Noah McIntosh.


  • SpacSpac @Spac Canberra-ish.
    edited January 20

    A 240 is a good choice if you love it and understand what owning an older car entails (including spending more time working on it).

    If you simply want a safe, reliable, practical car, then there are better choices available in 2020 - including plenty that will cost you less to buy and to maintain (hint: first generation Mazda 6 is one of them).

    Here’s an incomplete list of common 240 problems, but they are old enough now that anything can be a problem.

    1. Insulation crumbling off the engine bay wiring.
    2. Heater fan not working.
    3. Rust, particularly around windscreens, rear door openings, underside of the front edge of the bonnet, sill panels and wagon side windows.
    4. AC not working.
    5. Saggy seat foam.
    6. Electric Overdrive not working (manual and auto). This car will have the M47 which is the proper 5-speed that avoids this problem.
    7. Seat belts that don’t want to spoil out.
    8. Rooted headlight reflectors.
    9. Brake distribution blocks that self destruct.
    10. Fuel pumps and fuel pump relays that will randomly leave you stranded.

    There’s plenty more, but most of the other stuff is obvious.

    On the bright side, the motors, gearboxes and diffs last pretty much forever if they have a decent quantity of clean(ish) oil.

    They also have good parts support for a car of their age, and there’s a wealth of knowledge about them, so no problem will be impossible to fix.

  • Hi Noah,

    Some general ideas on buying cars/240s:

    Have a trustworthy mechanic check over a car prior to purchase and provide condition report. You will almost certainly have to pay for this.

    In my opinion, it is preferable to buy cars that include a roadworthy certificate.

    A 1990 Volvo 240 is not particularly safe by modern standards. Especially in imperfect condition.

    The best available tyres, brakes, and suspension will make the car a reasonable choice for everyday use.

  • 240240 @240 Canberra
    edited January 20

    I had a 240 as my first car, and although I spent a ton of time doing stuff on it (even just maintenance) I did learn a lot at the same time. I would say that it's a good choice as long as you're prepared for all your friends to ask why you bought an old Volvo!

    Just bear in mind that while 240's are very solid cars they are not at all safe compared to even basic modern cars. However they have good brakes, great visibility and if you're prepared to spend a bit of $ you can make it handle pretty nicely, and while this means you might be less likely to get into a sticky situation, the lack of ABS etc is a let down.

    If you do decide to buy it, bear in mind that it's an old car and it WILL have issues, many of which Spac has mentioned. I would also add a couple of things like be prepared to be hunting for good interior trim pieces, and the clips for both interior and exterior trims are often going to break as soon as you touch them.

    Mechanically they are very robust as you probably know. While they are simple cars to work on, I found simple tasks often frustrating, eg the oil filter is located under the exhaust manifold, above an engine mount and with the steering rack in your way, so it's a pain to change it without getting oil everywhere, especially compared to almost any newer Volvo. Also due to the age of the car, you will often find bolts reluctant to come out, etc etc. However it's a good learning curve.

    That wagon you're looking at looks super neat though, and being a late model manual it is one of the most desirable 240's you can get, although it's probably a little bit overpriced.

  • Thanks for that Spac. I’ll be sure to bear all that in mind and look for problems like those upon inspection.

  • I’ll certainly have it looked over by a mechanic when I check it out next time. Thankfully I have a family friend who is a mechanic who’s willing to come along and inspect it. Thanks!

  • So my record for the youngest person on this forum has now been taken...

  • carnut222Greg S @carnut222 Daylesford VIC

    The 1990 model should be less trouble prone than the earlier 240s and build quality particularly with respect to paint and rust will be better than the 1988 and earlier Aus assembled 240s. The AC system is also improved vs the earlier models. You’ve come to a good forum to ask questions and if you do buy the car we’re happy to help.

  • That's one of Peters cars yeah? Should be a sound vehicle he's a good dude.

  • 242GT242GT @242GT Wollongong NSW

    Being that your young, not alot of money but a good researcher, a manual 240 will be a great car for you.

    If the clutch go's just drop gear box out, do rear main seal and new clutch most of the time.

    You can go away on weekends and sleep in the back etc (I had a cortina 250ci wagon) , best of all you've found a car with excellent forum back up to fix any issues.

  • CanoeCanoe @Canoe Sydney,NSW.

    And the fuel pump relay can cause many other problems for some reason.

    The cracks in the curcuit board can be resoldered, but if you overheat it, because your soldering skills are not too good, then its ruined. So buy a genuine replacement. Ask the previous owner if it was replaced. If not, replace it. Prevention is better than a cure. And its one less important thing that might be eliminated, when trouble shooting. Carry a spare second hand fuel pump, and good secondhand air flow meter.

    Learn about the EFI system. :-) If you breakdown on the highway at night, and you call roadside (make sure you are a member), most guys have no idea about the EFI of these Volvo's.

    If there was someone here who would be willing to be on call for you, to help trouble shoot, that would be good. My diagnosing skills are terrible,otherwise Id offer.

    Maybe the guy you bought the car from? No harm in asking.

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