I kinda think the early OBDII vehicles are the glory era for being able to work on cars yourself. There were no integrated touch screens and they were easy to work on.
If you can find one in good shape without rust, I say go for it. Sometimes these are pretty beatup and neglected by the time they are this old. Also, some Saturns were known oil burners due to the piston ring design. If you get one of these I would suggest synthetic oil if it isn’t already burning oil. I am not sure which ones were bad about this but know it was a common issue.
The Geo Metro (Suzuki design) and Ford Festiva (Mazda design) are great cars for what they are. They are simple and cheap but reliable and economical if you take care of them. I would caution against rust on both of these. If you see any rust on the doors or rockers, they are probably pretty far gone. Rust protection wasn’t their strong point and the areas where the suspension mounts up are known for rusting and separating from the car. If you look behind the wheels and can see daylight shining through, RUN from this car!
The other issue is neglect. People bought a cheap car and didn’t change the oil, etc. They considered it a disposable car. They will run forever if cared for but nothing will last if neglected. I still own a couple Geo Metros and love them. They are subject to rust and do not take to having the oil neglected.
You might end up with a real gem or a real nightmare buying an older used car like this. I happen to know someone who picked up an older 1990’s Saturn for $100. I figured it was a junker but it was pretty much pristine. It just needed new tires. The owner got sick of trying to sell it and deal with the type of people who were interested in buying an older used car for not a lot of money and got a $100 quote from the scrap yard. This person overheard and bought the car for that price.
Just do your research and give the car a good look before buying. Those older GM cars with the 3800 engines are really solid. They used that setup in Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Buicks, etc.I would be more worried about the transmission getting proper maintenance if you find one that runs well. If it isn’t body rust, an automatic transmission going out is commonly what sends an older car to the scrap heap.