Is 125K too many miles for a used Saturn?



We’re looking for a good used car for our 19-year old daughter and I’ve seen several '97 and '98 Saturn SL2 4-door sedans with about 125K miles that fit our budget. I was hoping for something closer to 100K miles but it seems like Saturn has a good reputation for reliability and longevity. We’d like her to be able to drive the car maybe 4 years, meaning another 40-50K miles. Should the slightly higher mileage on these Saturns be a deal breaker for me?


You may want to through in a case of motor oil with your Saturn. I know at least four owners who drive with a case of motor oil in the trunk. They tend to burn oil once past 75k miles for them.


It all depends on how it was driven and maintained by the previous owner.
My sister in law bought a new '96 Saturn and put about 175k trouble free miles on it before trading it off. The only reason she got rid of it was the marriage and family outgrew it.
A friend of my son bought a used '97 in '98 (about 20k
on it) and he’s still flogging it today.

Figure on timing belt/water pump/tensioner pulley replacement costs if this has not been done. That’s a standard repair for any belt driven camshaft engine.


My daughters Saturn was still running fine at 186,000 when she sold it. It burned no oil…At 125K, ALL used cars are getting ready for a transmission (automatic) or clutch. The 5-speed mentioned above delivered at least 40 mpg and under the right conditions could approach 50 mpg.


Saturn has no better than average reliability. Saturn wanted a better reputation but never reached that goal. The Saab engines used in the four cylinder cars has had too many blown head gaskets to suit me. At 125,000, the good is mostly gone and there isn’t an agency that evaluates any cars that old. It will probably run that long; four years and 60,000 more miles, but you will have to spend some on upkeep. Cars with only 60,000 miles don’t cost that much more. They can also be sold for a couple thousand when they get to 125,000. Don’t pay more than $1700 for those Saturns. Better yet, don’t buy it at all.


Where did you get the information that SAAB builds 4 cylinder engines for Saturns?
How many Saturns have you actually owned?


I read somewhere that Saturn made their own engines, using what they called lost foam casting which they said was a new method.

Every 90s Saturn owner I know has had problems with the valve guides wearing out and burning lots of oil and constantly fouling out the plugs. This is supposedly a well known problem. Im not sure when/if they made improvements to fix this problem.


A colleague of mine at work has a Saturn with over 250k on it. Runs great.


My experience with Saturns has not been good. My ex took the (then almost new) '95 in the divorce. The head had to come off before it made 95,000 miles. And it started pushing oil again again before 150,000 miles. She traded it for another Saturn (in 2000) and my daughter and my son have both told me that car has had poor reliability. Both say they’ll never buy a Saturn.


Its chain driven.


The SL2’s are known to be less reliable than the SL1;s or SL’s. The 97 and 98 are also rumored to have more problems. I have an 02 SL with 138k that has been one of the most trouble free car I’ve ever had, including a slew of Hondas, Toyotas, and Nissans. It does use about a quart of oil every 2k and is progressively getting worse, but I do expect it to make a moon shot before it gives up.

Moon shot = 248k miles. Only 110 to go.


In my humble opinion, Saturns are no better than any other car. The secret is in their maintenance. Sure you see lots of them with over 100K, but I saw a Yugo once with 100K. Do you have idea how well this Saturn was cared for? Is the original owner selling it, or is it a dealer who doesn’t really know its history? Most of those I’ve had have used oil at 125K. Some had head gasket issues.

As pointed out earlier, there is no timing belt. Chains last a lonnng time.


One Vue with the saab engine. GM owns the outfit.


The only thing I will add is that about 90%+ of engine problems are owner inflicted.
A decent car that has not been abused in some way, and with a pre-purchase checkover, should be good for quite a while.


It all depends on how that vehicle was maintened, oil and filter changed very 3,000 miles, ck for leaks and corrected, if anything went wrong with the car fixed wasit fixed imediately, Can the sellers produce the maitenance records???
I have a Suburban with 198,000 miles run like new, no leaks, engine clean. I have records of replacing oil/filter 64 times. A dually with 123,000 the same. Maintenance is 99% of the secret.


I agree with the other posters . . . how was the car maintained? 125,000 miles over 10 years isn’t that bad, if the fluids were done regularly and the proce was OK, I’d at least have it checked out by your mechanic. Spend fifty bucks with your mechanic and have him/her go over it before you buy it. Good luck! Rocketman


at 45000 miles our 2 year old Saturn is kicking the bucket… and it’s resale value is worthless… buy a honda or toyota… it will last a LOT longer!


The only thing I will add is that about 90%+ of engine problems are owner inflicted.

And you know this HOW???


A failed torque converter you reported does not equal “kicking the bucket”. Its simply a repair which are part of car ownership.


With the type of problems we have had with our 2 year old car with UNDER 50K miles on it… brakes, calipers, torque converter, POOR gas mileage, etc… we are afraid to drive the car as we never know what part is going to fail next! And Saturn has the worst customer service department I have ever dealt with. Corporate and at dealer level. They are only great when you are there to buy the car… everything changes after you drive off the lot the first time…