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 their 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

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


  • Abhay| 14th August 2019 at 8:26 pm Reply

    Hii I have been using Volvo xc60 for six years. Presently I have new variant and clocked 50k in 15 months. Earlier model clocked1.5lkhs km in 48months. I am extremely happy with car. This is my 27th car and after all experience I have stayed Volvo.

    • Rachel Richardson| 15th August 2019 at 9:55 am Reply

      Hi Abhay,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with this manufacturer. It’s always great to hear from people who have experience in driving a specific manufacturer or model long term.

  • Geoff| 5th August 2019 at 9:30 pm Reply

    Hi i’am trying to purchase a Volvo XC60 about a 16 reg seems a lot of negative comments on this model is it just tho I thought Volvo’s had a good name.going from a hilux need a automatic is there people that speaks well of Volvo’s surely there must be.

    • Rachel Richardson| 7th August 2019 at 9:32 am Reply

      Hi Geoff,
      Thank you for your question. Having done a little research, the XC60 is not the favoured vehicle in the Volvo family. However, the newer models (from 2017 onwards) have a better reliability rating.

      If you are looking for a new vehicle to lease, please contact Amanda on 01903 223391 and she will be able to help you find your perfect vehicle.

  • Jim Landry| 8th July 2019 at 12:44 am Reply

    I am now on my seventh Volvo. I have a 2013 XC90. What has happenned to Volvo? My previous Volo
    vos were very safe and reliable. I hear about nothing but problems with Volvos. Mine just has 36,000 miles on it and I am already looking at replacing a faulty designed air conditioning system with new faulty designed Volvo ac components. I hear nothing from Volvo on all of these quality issues posted all over the internet. I can’t believe after seven Volvos I will have to buy a Toyota to get the quality I used to expect from every Volvo. Jim

    • Rachel Richardson| 8th July 2019 at 9:25 am Reply

      Hi Jim,
      Thank you for your comment on Volvo. It appears that you’ve had a long history with the manufacturer. Volvo has changed a lot over the years, but if recent reports are anything to go by they are back to their best, with reliability increasing and their safety features among the best in the world. I hope that you find a new vehicle that you are happy with. If you are based in the UK then please get in touch with Amanda on 01903 223391 and she will be able to help you on the journey to a new car.

  • Car freak| 19th June 2019 at 6:44 am Reply

    A car manufacturer that is not considered “very reliable” should not have the permission to be in the process of produce autonomous vehicles. First fix your track record on reliability to show that you can make a trustworthy vehicle before I am giving it my trust to operate it without me controlling the wheel and the accelerator. Sorry Volvo.

    • Rachel Richardson| 19th June 2019 at 9:11 am Reply


      Thank you for your comment. You make a good point, however, the results on reliability aren’t only about the safety of the vehicle, it’s about multiple factors and though Volvo reliability isn’t as high as, for example Toyota, they have a strong safety record and have, for a long time, been considered incredibly safe vehicles. The company works on a great number of safety features, the technology for which is shared in multiple others. #
      I hope that this puts some of your doubts at rest.

  • TREVOR PITTAM| 17th June 2019 at 3:48 pm Reply


    • Rachel Richardson| 17th June 2019 at 4:10 pm Reply

      Hi Trevor,
      Thank you for your comment. If you would like further advice on the best car then please get in touch with Amanda on 01903 223391 as she will be able to pass you to one of our vehicle experts who will definitely be able to find your friend the ideal car for their lifestyle, they would consider everything that is required and look out our extensive list to find the car which best suits.
      If you require any advice, please get in touch.

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