How Reliable Are Volvo? An Honest Assessment Of The Swedish Brand

Volvo pride themselves on their safety innovations, but are they reliable? We investigate..

It’s no secret that Volvo are one of the most ambitious car manufacturers on the market today. They want to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries in their new cars by 2020 and are going to make all of their cars electric or hybrid by 2019.

So yes, you could say that Volvo are pretty ambitious. But there is one thing that never really comes up when we talk about Volvo cars, and that’s reliability.

How reliable are Volvo? In this article, we look at how dependable Volvo are, and how this compares to their rivals.


How reliable are Volvo?

Volvo are relatively reliable. J.D Power have ranked them as average in all categories in their most recent Vehicle Dependability Study. This includes overall dependability as well as powertrain, body and interior and feature and accessory dependability.

AutoExpress also put them somewhere in the middle, with a score of 91.16 in their vehicle reliability study.

ReliabilityIndex are less kind, putting them in 23rd place out of 32, with a reliability index of 125. This is below the industry average of 118 (the higher the score the better). So as a brand, Volvo aren’t the most reliable, but what about individual models?

How reliable is the Volvo C30?

The Volvo C30 is a very reliable car, with a reliability index of just 61. The average repair costs are £313.23, which is pretty reasonable considering the overall price of the car and it spends on average, 2.17 hours off the road when it does need repairing. The two biggest problems that the Volvo C30 has encountered, according to ReliabilityIndex, is with the axle and suspension and the electrics. They account for 27.12% and 25.42% of all problems respectively.

How reliable is the Volvo XC60?

When you are looking at getting a car, be it used or new, then it’s important you are aware of some of the problems you may encounter. Some of the problems with the C30 include;

  • Rear Suspension Problems
  • Anti-Skid warning light
    • The ABS pump module has been known to fail on the C30.

The compact SUV is a popular Volvo, and you will be pleased to know that it is also very dependable. It has a reliability index of 92, but the average repair costs are quite pricey, at £380.88. That said, it only spends 1.97 hours off road on average, which is good going. The axle and suspension accounts for 21.83% of problems, with electrics and engine coming in second.

The XC60 also made it onto the AutoExpress Driver Power survey of 2017 as one of the most reliable cars to drive. It has a score of 94.86 and comes in just below the Lexus NX.

Black Volvo XC60 off road with grass verge in the background

Some problems you may encounter with the XC60 include;

  • Automatic boot switch failure
    • This is known to fail on the XC60 and is a problem with the micro switch
  • Loss of power/engine management warning light
    • This is usually due to a faulty exhaust heat sensor, which then sets the warning light off.

Is the Volvo XC70 reliable?

Unfortunately, the XC70 is not half as reliable as some other Volvo models. It has a reliability index of 180 and average repair costs of £433.54. The repair costs aren’t too bad when you consider how much the car itself costs, but it does spend on average 2.61 hours off the road when it does need to be repaired.

The main issue appears to be with the axle and suspension, which accounts for 35.11% of problems. Other problems you might run into include;

  • Transmission will not shift properly
  • Worn sway bar links
  • Anti-Lock Brake System warning light

Volvo XC90 reliability

It’s not good news for the XC90 either, which is more unreliable than the XC70. It has a reliability index of 190, which is way below industry average. Its average repair costs aren’t bad, at £408.12, and the average time off the road is 2.51 hours, which is pretty good too. The axle and suspension again are the main cause of problems, with 25.37% of the issues reported, according to reliability index.

White Volvo XC90 driving on a country road

Other problems you may encounter include;

  • Gearbox problems
  • Injectors on the diesel cars can fail to start
  • Software upgrades can cause issues

We will go into more detail about the last problem further down the article.

So overall, it’s a mixed bag. Some Volvo’s are very reliable, and have been ranked highly in terms of dependability. And others, not so much. It appears to depend on which Volvo you want to look at buying.

Why are Volvo unreliable?

You would think that safety and reliability would go hand in hand, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. There are a few reasons why Volvo aren’t a very dependable brand.

One of these reasons is that they are quite expensive. This means that the repair costs are going to be higher which can, in turn, lower the dependability. You tend to find that the cars with the lowest repair costs are also the most dependable. This is also the case with the average time off the road, as the longer the car is off the road the less dependable it tends to be.

Another reason is one we touched upon when looking at the XC90 and that’s software updates. When you get car with a lot of in-car technology, such as Volvo’s, you also bring in a whole new world of problems to go with it. The technology is often expensive, can be difficult to repair or replace, and can often be unreliable. This is usually down to the age of the technology, as there are bound to be glitches in the early stages. Also, if you don’t ensure your car technology has the latest software updates, then it will fail on you. There will be things that stop working, just as if you fail to update your phone. This can be a huge pain for owners and can bring down the dependability by quite a bit.

Grey Volvo S60 Saloon driving on a country road

This then begs the question; are the huge safety features making the car unreliable?

And it’s a fair question. A lot of new safety features rely on technology. This includes things such as lane-departure warnings and emergency stop systems. This technology is hugely safe, but it’s also complex, expensive and quite new. So, if it goes wrong or needs an update, this can be expensive and can take a long time. In turn, this brings the dependability down.

These problems are not exclusive to Volvo, and we have seen many other car brands fall in dependability rankings due to an increased use of technology in their cars.

Volvo vs. Lexus vs. Audi; Which is more reliable?

So how does Volvo compare to its rivals when it comes to dependability?

Unfortunately, one of Volvo’s competitors is Lexus, which means that it will never compete in terms of dependability. Lexus are one of the most reliable brands out there, and have consistently topped dependability charts for years now.

white lexus rc coupe with dark grey building in the background

Lexus come 6th in the ReliabilityIndex table with a reliability index of 71. They are also ranked as ‘among the best’ on J.D Power for all but one category. The one category they come in at simply ‘above average’ is the feature and accessory dependability (which could be for some of the reasons we mentioned above). They came first in the AutoExpress Driver Power survey and have also come first in a reliability survey by Consumer Reports. So, Lexus are dependable.

The Lexus IS has a reliability index of 74, and average repair costs of £398.88. The repair costs are quite pricey, but the car itself is pretty expensive. It also spends on average 2.27 hours off road when it is being repaired. The main problem appears to be with the braking system, accounting for 26.36% of all problems.

Interestingly, the Lexus RX doesn’t do as well as one would expect. It has a reliability index of 142, which is way below industry average. However, this could be explained by the repair costs, which come in at an average of £659.83. That is very high, and could explain why the dependability is much lower. It does, however, spend an average of 1.22 hours off the road, which is good. The axle and suspension accounts for 58.33% of all problems.

If we compare the brands, Lexus comes out on top. But, the RX isn’t a very reliable car according to reliability index, but it is still more dependable than the XC90. We do predict that the reason for the low reliability is due to the higher repair costs, as that can bring the dependability down.

Audi’s reliability is not so much a grey area as it is for Volvo or Lexus. They are simply unreliable. They come 33rd out of 39 on Reliability Index with a reliability index of 190. They have consistently been at the bottom half of the dependability charts, as have many of their German counterparts. The Audi A3 has a reliability score of 138, with average repair costs amounting to £432.21. It spends on average 2.82 hours off road, which isn’t too bad. The engine accounts for most of the problems, with 27.42%.

a red audi tt rs coupe parked on tarmac road next to stop sign next to the beach

If we look at the Audi Q7, then it is even worse news. It has a reliability index of 423 which is impressive but in all the wrong ways. The average repair costs are very steep, at £731.35 and it is off the road for around 3.35 hours. The engine again accounts for most of the problems, at 33.67%.

If you are trying to decide between the three, then it really comes down to either Volvo or Lexus. Lexus are the more dependable brand overall, but their RX is not as reliable as one would have hoped but it is still more dependable than the XC90. The IS is also more reliable than the XC60, but not by a significant amount. It is down to what you prioritise, safety or dependability. Volvo’s are safer than Lexus, but Lexus are the more reliable brand.

What are the most reliable Volvo’s?

The following are the most reliable Volvo cars;

  • C30
  • XC60
  • V70

What are the most unreliable Volvo’s?

And the least dependable models are;

  • XC90
  • XC70

In conclusion, Volvo aren’t the most reliable brand. They aren’t the least reliable either, they are somewhere about average. Their smaller cars appear to be more reliable than their larger cars, particularly if you compare the C30 to the XC90. One of the reasons for this could be the increased use of in-car technology, which can often go wrong and be expensive to fix. If we compare it to its rivals, it is more dependable than Audi by quite a way. But, Lexus does top  it, even though their RX isn’t as dependable as one would have hoped. Ultimately, though, Volvo are an innovative brand that pride themselves on their safety and more recently their green credentials. So, it depends what is more important to you in a car. Regardless, you still wouldn’t be making a mistake going for a Volvo.

Has the Volvo the reliability of Volvo caught your eye? Let's discover how the Swedish manufacturer became the  leader in safety innovation
Holly Martin

Holly Martin

Content Co-ordinator at OSV Ltd
Holly enjoys: Reading, music and spending time with friends.

Within a week of Holly starting work at OSV she became an indispensable part of the marketing team. She's very intuitive and gets on with the whole office effortlessly.
Holly Martin


  • Sue Holdsworth| 23rd January 2019 at 3:49 pm Reply

    I bought a brand new Volvo V40 R series in June 2014 from a Volvo dealer. I have had it serviced at Clive Brooks Volvo Dealers in Huddersfield, UK every ten thousand miles. It has done just over 38,000 miles, mainly commuting on the M 62 motorway.
    On Friday 18 January I was driving home and the car stopped dead. It was as if the ABS had kicked in. It would not start, so I called the AA. They realised it was a serious problem and towed me to Clive Brooks in Huddersfield. The garage discovered ( after 3 days of investigation) that the oil seal was damaged and oil had leaked onto a belt, softening it. It had then wrapped itself round the Cam Belt and caused oil to leak into the cylinder head, which required major work. The cost is slightly over £5,500. This happened because of a parts failure, which should not have happened after such a low mileage. Clive Brooks thought Volvo would cover the cost of this repair as a goodwill gesture because the car had been serviced by the main dealer, no warning lights showed to alert me to the problem, the first I knew of it was a dead stop in heavy traffic. Volvo scored this incident a Zero. So much for a company that promotes it’s vehicles as “reliable”. I certainly would never buy another Volvo and nor will my husband who has an XC 60. I will be advising all my friends and acquaintances not to touch Volvo cars.

    • Rachel Richardson| 23rd January 2019 at 4:33 pm Reply

      Hi Sue,
      I am really sorry to hear that you had such a negative experience with both your car and the after-sales service provided by Volvo. Hopefully you have now found a more reliable vehicle that suits your needs. I am sure that our readers will find your views and experience helpful.

  • William Downey| 10th January 2019 at 8:28 am Reply

    I have used Volvos for years and had been vert satisfied with them. However, I bought a 2008 V70 with a D5 engine in 2014. Despite new timing system last year, the engine failed whilst travelling at 70mph on a motorway. Could have led to fatal accident.. I have done some research online and many people have indicated there is a design fault with D5 engine, in that it is vulnerable to foreign bodies entering and damaging the auxiliary and timing belts. As a rsult we have to have engine repaiered or write the car off!

    • Rachel Richardson| 11th January 2019 at 8:58 am Reply

      Hi William,
      I am happy to hear that you have had luck with previous models of the Volvo and sad to hear that your most recent experience has not been very positive. I hope that you are able to resolve the issue, but if you are looking for a new vehicle and are based in the UK, please don’t hesitate to contact OSV for advice or information and we will be happy to help.

  • Rob Tremaine| 21st October 2018 at 8:46 pm Reply

    I think it’s safe to say that there are so many factors involved in the reliability equation including the preemptive maintenance actions taken (or not taken) by the car owner plus driving habits of course. I own a 2005 S60, and only had two issues: The sunroof and the CD player. My volvo is still as solid as its been since the day I purchased it from the original owner where it had 5K miles. My owners manual doesn’t sit in the glove box collecting dust. When I notice an operational quirk with any my vehicles, I don’t ignore it. We know that mechanical devices have a fixed life and break down. They don’t self-heal like ourselves. All of us can extend the life of our vehicles just by following the recommended maintenance schedules. Will there be premature failures with some of the components? Absolutely. However, you’ll find yourself in a much better position with a dealer if you maintain your vehicle like your manual recommends, have the records to prove it, and be mindful of certain “telling signs” with your car.

    • Rachel Richardson| 24th October 2018 at 9:39 am Reply

      Hi Rob,
      Thank you for your comment, I know that it will give everyone who reads it food for thought. I hope that you continue to enjoy your Volvo.

  • Paul Cole| 18th October 2018 at 3:48 pm Reply

    I have owned three Volvos from new and all were dependable cars with no major issues. Any problems were very minor and fixed under warranty at no cost to me. Significantly better than the two VWs I owned previously. I bought a new Toyota (Lexus is of course the luxury division of Toyota) in January as all the current Volvos are too wide to fit comfortably in my garage. So far I am very impressed with the car, particularly in terms of build quality and finish. No issues whatsoever. I would say either Volvo or Lexus is a very good choice. Both are safe (Volvo a little better possibly) and also reliable (Lexus probably ahead here). Neither brand requires you to make compromises so it comes down to budget and personal preference.

    • Rachel Richardson| 19th October 2018 at 8:48 am Reply

      Hi Paul,
      Thank you for sharing your experience with Volvo. It’s great for our readers to hear user views of the manufacturers and I am sure that they will find this information helpful.

  • M J C| 25th September 2018 at 12:55 pm Reply

    My 1991 940 GLE Volvo Estate has been the most reliable car I have owned. We bought it in 1991 when it was 6 months old and we have had relatively few issues with it over the past 26 odd years. It is still going strong today!

    • Rachel Richardson| 26th September 2018 at 11:21 am Reply

      This is very good to hear. I know that many looking into this brand will find your experience useful.

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