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BMW X3 vs Volvo XC90 - which is cheapest to run and maintain?

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 1 year ago

4 min read

  • Advice
  • cheap
  • which
  • BMW

WhoCanFixMyCar compares the BMW X3 and Volvo XC90 based on maintenance costs, running costs and repair costs

In this guide we’re comparing two premium SUVs, the mid-size BMW X3 and the larger Volvo XC90. Both are stylish, well-built and equipped with plenty of tech, so choosing between them can be a real challenge. 

Read on to find out how they compare when it comes to running costs, maintenance costs, repair costs and overall reliability.

BMW X3 overview

  • Now in its third generation

  • 0-60 in 3.7-8.1 seconds

  • Available as a petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid

  • Three configurations: M Sport, xLine, SE


Volvo XC90 overview

  • In its second generation (2014-present)

  • 0-60 in 5-9 seconds

  • Three trim levels: Inscription, Momentum and R Design

  • Offers two petrol engines, one diesel engine and a plug-in hybrid


BMW X3 vs Volvo XC90: running costs

Running CostsBMW X3 Volvo XC90
Fuel Economy44.8-47.9 mpg real world avg.36.5mpg real world avg.
Insurance Group21-4334-45
TaxUp to £520 per yearUp to £520 per year

The X3 and XC90 are both fairly expensive to insure because they are SUVs, so you should take this extra cost into consideration before buying one. They also have similarly high annual road tax. 

One area where there is a clear winner is fuel economy; the X3 will give you over five more miles per gallon on average.

BMW X3 vs Volvo XC90: maintenance costs

It’s important to take annual maintenance costs into consideration when buying a car. Typically, these will include an MOT, an aircon regas, a vehicle health check, and a full or interim service. An oil change might also be required.

Maintenance TypeX3XC90
Full Service£189£190.42
Interim Service£123.12£140.60
Oil Change£87.49£93.79
Aircon Regas£67.69£71.24
Vehicle Health Check£32.80£38.39

As you can see from the table above, the X3 and XC90 are fairly evenly matched in terms of average maintenance costs. BMW comes out on top - but only just - with a total cost of £541.31 compared to Volvo’s £575.68.

BMW X3 vs Volvo XC90: repair costs

Based on WhoCanFixMyCar data from 2021, the five most popular repair jobs for each model are as follows:

  • X3 - clutch replacement, front pads, timing chain, puncture repair, battery fitting

  • XC90 - cambelt and water pump, front and rear pads and discs, puncture repair, diagnostic test, DPF clean

Clutch Replacement£476.49£841.93
Front Pads£113.07£110.79
Timing Chain£1,142.89No data
Puncture Repair£21.05£20.48
Battery Fitting£44.23£45.46
Cambelt and Water Pump£453.40£349.95
Front and Rear Pads and Discs£492.55£433.40
Diagnostic Test£48.04£53.02
DPF Clean£155.05£160.51

Adding up these repair costs (excluding timing chain), BMW works out cheaper at £1,803.88 on average, over £200 cheaper than Volvo’s average total of £2,015.54.

BMW X3 vs Volvo XC90: which is most reliable?

The BMW X3 (2010-2018) finished in 17th place out of 23 large SUVs in WhatCar?'s reliability survey. That same year, BMW came in 21st place out of 31 manufacturers. 

The XC90 (2015-present) fares better when it comes to reliability, but only just. WhatCar?’s survey placed it fourth out of eight luxury SUVs, and Volvo as a brand ranked 19th out of 30 manufacturers. 

Overall, the two car brands have very different reputations. Volvo is renowned for safety and reliability, while BMW is favoured by those who enjoy powerful engines and high performance vehicles.

BMW X3 vs Volvo XC90: which is cheapest to run and maintain?

Perhaps surprisingly, the BMW X3 is cheaper to repair and maintain than the Volvo XC90 based on average costs, and it also offers better fuel economy. 


However, the difference between the two is very small. The XC90 is more reliable overall, which could be enough to offset its slightly higher repair costs since these are likely to occur less frequently than they would with the X3.

The answer to the question of which SUV is best really comes down, then, to personal preference. If reliability is your priority, you’ll be better off with the XC90; if speed and running/maintenance costs are more important to you, it’s got to be the X3.

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