Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2001 Saturn v. 1994 Honda?

Hi All,
My parents are offering to swap me their 2001 SL2 Saturn sedan (manual transmission, good condition) with 100,000 miles on it, for my 1994 Honda Accord EX sedan, which has 160,000 miles on it and is in fair condition (rust spreading above the rear wheels, but the engine works great).

Which is the better car? Who should pay who?

Thanks so much,

More Information Requested:

May I ask, what is the motivation for a swap and who came up with the idea ?

Does either or both vehicles have a timing belt (as opposed to some cars that have timing chains) in the engine that controls engine function and keeps the engine from self-destructing until a maximum age / mileage is reached ?

Also, has this ever been replaced as regular maintenance (typically several hundred dollars) ? The information should be part of the cars’ maintenance schedule.

By the way, visible rust spreading on the body is often a sign that there is rust lurking in other unseen places and will sometimes develop into a safety concern. Have these cars both recently received a detailed check-up by a professional mechanic to see if anything needs repair ?

The better car is the one in better condition and the one that had a better maintenance history.


I’d bet on the Honda lasting more miles for less repair money than the Saturn. All these Hondas have rust over the rear wheels.

On the other hand the Saturn has a timing chain whereas the Honda has a timing belt that needs replacement every 100,000 miles or so.

What’s the purpose of the proposed swap? I don’t really see any advantage to either party, and neither car is worth enough to worry about “paying” someone.

Without knowing the maintenance history of either car it’s impossible to say which is “better.”

Hi again,
I guess it’s not technically a swap – they’re leaving the country and want to give me the Saturn. I’d sell the Honda and give them whatever money I make. But I think the Honda might be the more reliable car, esp. since Saturns have been discontinued. I’m trying to figure out whether to keep the Honda or take the Saturn.
@CSA – Not sure on the Saturn, but the Honda had its timing belt replaced at 115,000 miles.
Thanks for weighing in!

One Car Is 10 Or 11 Years Old. That’s Old Enough To Qualify It As A Senior Citizen, In Car Years.

One Car Is 17 Or 18 Years Olds. That’s Old Enough To Qualify For Medicare And A Nursing Home, In Car Years.

I’d go with the senior citizen Saturn, based strictly on its youth, all else being somewhat equal.
The Honda is a rolling museum.


One more vote for the Saturn. Neither car can be expected to be especially reliable, but the newer car is better for safety reasons.

Drive them both for awhile, then pick the one you want. I think you are at the break even point for both of these cars, the Saturn after 1999 got pretty good in reliability. Drive the Saturn for at least one hour straight to see if the seat might bother you. I have to use a lumbar support in mine for any drive greater than 1 hour, but I have to do that for a lot of cars.

I agree with CSA on the body rust. It’s a no brainer if the Saturn body is better. Reliability has nothing to do with keeping a car if it’s dangerous, uninspectable or both. Even a solid Yugo is better than a rusted out Honda. That hurt to say.

I would take the Saturn in a heartbeat, especially with the manual transmission. Saturns are better than a lot of people give them credit for. I know a guy who had a 1992 SL-1 five speed for his fourth car when he was 16 (yes, he completely destroyed three cars before his 17th birthday). It was ten years old when he got it, and he sold it, still running, four years later. He treated it terribly, but it took the abuse in stride. The most work he had to have done was replacing the clutch at some point, probably because he liked to use it as a “hill holder”.

Any way they might let you sell both and get a 2001 Honda?

@texases – great idea!

If you sell both, take possession of the Saturn and drive it while you look for a new(er) car. I’m surprised to see that Edmunds thinks you might get $1000 for the Accord.

OP "is in fair condition (rust spreading above the rear wheels, but the engine works great)."
jtsanders "I’m surprised to see that Edmunds thinks you might get $1000 for the Accord. "

Me too “jt”…This is especially true when rust is spreading above the wheel wells ( and you may see less than 10% of what there is } It’s good for parts as a rust bucket. People way over value their car. It’s a junker at this stage ! Fair condition ? Hardly. Poor is a stretch. The Saturn is looking better.

1: It’s a Honda
2: used car market is commanding high prices right now regardless of make/model

On a car that in my state, may not even pass inspection. I doubt it very much. If fenders and or wheel wells are rusted, it is reasonable to assume the floorboards and other areas can’t be far behind. Any rust of this kind requires the inspector to inspect the rest of the body more completely. Any perforation to passenger compartment or trunk makes the car fail inspection and any body part now made insecure by rust, including fenders makes the car fail inspection. You buy it for a $ 1000 and possibly looking at thousands more to make it road worthy. It is a junker.

I’m a fan of Honda. However, this one is getting old and I suspect the rust could be more significant that what you can see on the surface.

The Saturn model you are talking about with a manual trans is about as bulletproof a car as Saturn ever made. The Saturn has plastic body panels, so if the Saturn has been driven in an area where roads are salted and sanded in the winter I would suggest an inspection of the frame and undercarridge of the Saturn. Just to be sure there isn’t rust and corrosion in a critical area. If that checks out, then go for the Saturn.

I’d drive the Saturn and sell the Honda and bank the money for a down payment on your next car.