2001 Saturn vs. Chevy Malibu

My husband and I own a 2001 Saturn with 130,000 miles which has never given us any trouble. Due to the death of a great uncle and aunt we’ve been offered a 2001 Chevy Malibu with 40,000 miles. We also have a new baby and are looking for more back seat room. Is this a good trade to make?

Have you driven the car? Both seem to be equivalent in back seat room, at least from a list of specs. Check MSN Autos, Edmunds, and CR for information including reliability. Both cars have occasional problems with most system categories, but I found the list for the Malibu to be less reassuring. But all problems are occasional and might not affect the Malibu, just as they seem no to have affected your Saturn. Do you know what king of luck you great aunt and great uncle had with it?

If you’re talking about trading the two cars even up I think you’d be crazy not to take it.

40,000 miles vs 130,000 miles? It’s a no-brainer.

Your Saturn isn’t going to remain trouble free forever.

Provided that it had at least occasional service, wasn’t driven by a teenage boy or been flood damage, I agree…a no-brainer. You’ve seen the best years of the Saturn.

If the Malibu checks out OK, I’d take it. The Saturn has seen its best days and future parts supply, especially trim, will be difficult.

I don’t understand what you mean by trade? Are you getting the '01 Malibu for free? Or, does the estate expect you to sell your Saturn and turn the proceeds over to the family or the estate? If you get the Malibu for free its a no brainer; take it and drive it and see how it works for you. Don’t sell the Saturn until you confirm the Malibu is OK.

If you have to sell the Saturn to make this happen; can you have the Malibu inspected by a qualified mechanic prior to making a decision? At 40K miles it could be time for brakes, tires, new battery, changes of fluids, etc. A mechanic should also confirm that the engine is healthy. A low mileage car that overheated at some time in the past could be a big problem.

It sounds like a good trade but you only know the history of 1 of the 2 cars involved.

I drive a 2002 Malibu, and I bought it new so I know the history. I have to caution you about the intake manifold gasket problem (http://www.carcomplaints.com/Chevrolet/Malibu/2000/engine/leaking_coolant_defective_intake_manifold_gasket.shtml), and underpowered brakes (http://www.consumeraffairs.com/automotive/gm_chev_malibu.html). GM settled a class action lawsuit about the gasket. 40,000 miles is right about when stuff started going wrong for me. I’ve replaced the gasket, ignition cylinder, wheel bearings, and gone through 3 sets of rotors and 7 sets of brake pads in 93,000 miles. Now at 93,000 it needs a new transmission, spark plugs, and timing belt. I’ve taken care of the car, and I’m not some crazy teenage driver.

Think of this car as a “high repair bill” car, perhaps averaging about $1000/year and decide if you’d rather spend the money up front on something better, or regularly over the next 4-5 years.