What Was The Worst Car You Ever Owned?

Volvo 245

I’m giving away some tickets to the Montreal Auto Show on social media, and as part of the contest I asked for people to post the worst cars they had ever owned – and tell me a bit about why it was such a mistake.  I got some very entertaining responses:

Tiri SMy 1989 manual transmission Ford Taurus SHO. Gem of a Yamaha engine wrapped in a poor product. Interior was complete with cheap plastics and vinyl, the thin leather sections on the seats tore easily, and I broke a ball joint while parallel parking.

Gretchen LIt’s a tie.

1989 Ford Ranger – Betty caught on fire, had enough holes in the floor that dropping your keys meant losing them and the wipers and radio worked when they felt like it…oh and it didn’t like to run in the rain…at all.

Who knows what year Dodge Aries – so much duct tape, gas pedal would freeze on in the winter (you’d have to kick is senseless to free it), the trunk stopped opening after about a year…good times

Carlos AI called it the FIRE-N-Z-A –> ’89 Oldsmobile Firenza. First car I ever bought, for $200. It had bald tires, cracked windshield you couldn’t see out of, no shocks (you could see the car bounce back and forth). I gave a ride to a really hot girl and she was so not impressed when her beautiful dress was ruined by rain water seeping through the roof. Then one Friday evening while driving on the boulevard to go party downtown, it caught on FIRE! We left the car there, partied and the next day donated it to the Kidney Foundation of Canada and got a $75 tax credit.

Personally, the worst car I ever owned was a 1989 Volvo 245.  It tried to kill me not once, but twice, which I feel is adequate criteria for being a terrible automobile.  The first time, the Volvo’s timing belt broke as I was exiting a busy downtown highway at rush hour, stranding me in the middle of the lane directly in front of the off-ramp while traffic zoomed by me in the dark at a high rate of speed.  The second time, the car’s transmission lost all forward speeds save fourth when driving home one wintry night in Vermont, forcing me to abandon it at the bottom of a hill in a gas station parking lot.  Forever.

Please feel free to contribute some of your own terrible automotive experiences so we can all commiserate together.

4 thoughts on “What Was The Worst Car You Ever Owned?

  • I truly believe that anyone who would list any Volvo 240 series car as their WORST car ever, has simply never gotten to know the Volvo 240 series. I feel that this person would simply not be making an honest comparison to other cars and how the problems they experienced with their Volvos could have very easily happened with ANY car. A timing belt can break on ANY overhead camshaft engine and yes, it will leave you stranded. However, the Volvo Redblock engine is a “NON-Interference” engine. This means that you simply replace the cam belt and you’re driving again. Let this happen on ANY Japanese car and most other European cars and you will be looking at replacing the head/s if not the entire engine. When my wife’s Honda’s cam belt broke, the engine damage was so catastrophic and expensive that it actually totaled the car. We sent the poor car to the junk yard. So you cannot blame a broken timing belt on Volvo and it is completely unfair to suffer a broken timing belt and swear off of Volvos.

    It is the same with an automatic transmission that may or may not lose all forward gears. The transmission used in Volvo’s 240/940/960 series cars is built by a Japanese company that also sells the same tranny to Toyota and Nissan (and others) for their rear wheel drive pickup trucks and SUVs. It is a rock solid unit when cared for and again, it is not anything you can blame on Volvo. It is simply that nothing mechanical will last forever and it only makes sense that something mechanical will fail sooner or later, just when you need it – which is any time you’re driving. That’s why we all should have auto club cards.

    My personal car was purchased for $1200 in 1994. I am the third owner. It is a 1988 Volvo 244DL. It had 134,000 miles when I got it. It now has over 520,000 miles and is still running strong. Yes, I have replaced the cam belt a couple of times. The transmission quit at around 390,000 miles and I got another one from a junk yard for $125. If I add up all the money I’ve spent in repairs over the years, add that sum to the purchase price, I’ve spent about $154 per year for my car and then the gas, oil and tires.

    Yes, I do work on my own car. Lucky me.

    This is certainly not the only Volvo I’ve ever owned. I’ve had several and, without exception, each and every one of them gave me absolutely stellar service.

  • Thanks for your thoughts, David. What you are saying, is that you had the exact same problems that I had with my vehicle. Imagine if you had had them under the same circumstances as I did, and maybe you can put yourself in my shoes and understand my frustration with the vehicle.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that I’ve never had manual transmission or timing belt issues with any of the other 27 or so cars I’ve owned, not even the 40 year old Datsun that I beat to death on the race track.

  • Oops, I forgot to talk about the WORST car I’ve ever owned. I got wrapped up in my enthusiasm for my beloved Volvos. My worst car was a Mustang Fox body. These were built from back in the 1980s and, for a mechanically minded do-it-yourselfer, they probably aren’t all that bad. But OMG, this car rattled on every rut and bump in the road, the manual transmission had a terribly jerky clutch, kept popping out of second gear and ground like a dump truck in reverse. Every knob, switch and piece of trim on the interior broke and continued to break each time I repaired it. The car was a hatchback and going over railroad tracks would actually make the hatch pop loose, fly up and then come slamming back down. There were other times when going around a sharp turn and hitting a bump at the same time would make a door fly open if it wasn’t locked. The windshield developed cracks. After replacing it once, the brand new windshield began it’s crack addiction within just a few weeks. These problems all indicate a serious problem with body flex – something I think can be cured in the aftermarket. I believe that I could have installed some aftermarket subrames and chassis stiffeners and I would have had a really good car. But, I finally sold the car to a guy wanting to use it to build a drag car and I believe that this was the car’s true calling. This is because the car sure was sexy and good looking.

  • Benjamin, I’m surprised. I wasn’t actually expecting anyone to respond to my first post so quickly. Thank you for doing that.

    You are correct. Many people never suffer the problems we mentioned. And, while I can’t speak directly about your experiences, I have to admit that I really drive the absolute wheels off of my cars. It’s almost as though they never sit still. So, yes, I’ve had the same problems but I also tend to think that I’ve had these problems because I’m running my cars incessantly and without let up. There are so many variables involved that it’s hard to pin the actual blame down to just one or two factors. I’m sorry that you were left in a serious lurch not once, but twice. Yikes. I can see your issue there. LOL

    But thank you again for your fast response. That was very nice.

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