I’m looking at a 1993 Saturn SL1 with 76k miles (really low for that old a car…). What do people think about the reliability and longevity of this model ? Will it go for years needing only regular maintainance or will it break down a bunch ?
(or something in between)
If you really want to know
Most people will say that age does matter. You need to do the scheduled maintenance based on time, not miles.
WW.gates.com does NOT show this 1.9L engine as having a timing belt. So, you are off the hook, there.
Change all the belts and hoses which look original. Change all the various fluids.
As Mr. Spock says, “Live long and perspire.”
Sometimes, it matters what the present condition is. I’m thinking that there is a garage that will evaluate the car before you buy it. You wouldn’t believe the things that qualified people will find wrong with a car that you thought was a good bet. There are too many parts on cars since the eighties that are likely to fail just from age alone. Electronic ones. Mechanically, you shouldn’t expect a lot of problems other than head gaskets and old radiators.
Given the age and the odometer mileage of the car, it has traveled–on average–only a bit over 5,000 miles per year. When a car has that little usage, the possibility exists that it was driven only locally, for very short trips. Since that is the absolute WORST type of driving for a car, it is necessary to use the “Severe Service” or “Extreme Service” maintenance schedule for the car.
IF you can verify that the car has had its oil changed twice a year for the past 15 years, then it is worth taking a chance. If you cannot verify that service record, then it is safe to assume that the engine is filled with sludge.
It is also important to change the brake fluid every few years in order to prevent damage from water diluting the fluid, due to the fluid’s tendency to absorb moisture from the air, so I would suggest that you also verify this through service records. If it has not had the brake fluid changed every 3 or 4 years, you could wind up with very extensive (and expensive) repairs to the brake hydraulic system.
If the car comes with service records verifying adequate maintenance, or if a trusted mechanic can give this car a clean bill of health, then it might be a good value. Otherwise, pass it by.
This prospect despite the low mileage is over 15 years old. I would expect repairs occasionally if not frequently but hope for the best. Even if this were a Honda or Toyota I would state the same thing. Old cars require upkeep and repairs no matter what you own.