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2001 Saturn SL1 vs 1996 Buick Century

My household owns two cars: a 1996 Buick and a 2001 Saturn. We’ve had each car for just about ten years. They have been mostly good (more problems with the Saturn), but the time has come to ditch one of them for a Honda Civic or Fit. But which car should we ditch?

The Buick was recently diagnosed with a leaky head gasket. It drives okay for new. Seems perfectly capable of getting around town for simple errands. But, it is operating on borrowed time. The cost to repair the gasket is 1200 bucks. We’ve only had one other problem with this car and that was a bad starter which was replaced about six years ago. It has 102,000 miles.

On the other hand, the Saturn has 113,000 miles. Has required about 300-800 worth of repairs annually for the last three years. I’ve replaced the starter, various valves, ever sensor in the damn thing, and a pump or two.

Getting rid of both and just getting two new cars isn’t an option. My partner is in graduate school and a car payment would strain his finances. Nor is getting rid of both and just getting one car an option. My job requires me to be away from home for months at a time with a car. We want to keep one of these cars for at least the next year (or longer). But which one?

Do we fix the Buick and ditch the Saturn? Ditch the Buick and keep the newer, but seemingly less reliable Saturn?

The leaking head gasket isn’t enough information. Is this just a little oil seeping externally? Is it coolant going into the oil or burning off out the tailpipe?

If you decide to do the head gasket job is this a 4 cylinder, or a V6 which has 2 heads and therefore a 2nd head gasket that could fail?

If you keep one of these old cars you’ll need to budget for repairs about what you’ve spent on the Saturn. It is pretty much a toss up, both will have problems and need repairs. Just the nature of older cars.