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What do you think about the Saturn S-Series or older gen American vehicles?

Hi there,

When I came to the US, I fell in love with Saturns, Pontiacs and several makes that people don’t care about anymore. Pretty sure people will be reading this and go like what? But yeah, I have never seen one before until I came to the US, and these cars reminds me a lot of the 80s and 90s. I know these are no classic cars… very average but the fact that they are cheap and different makes it very appealing to me. I also like the Geo Metros :rofl:

My first vehicles here in the US were Mazdas. Lots of mechanics seem to dislike my cars whenever I drive them to their shops. Some say they are “just” Fords and that domestic brands suck. Some say the transmissions in Mazdas are trash. All of them tell me to get a Toyota or a Honda. Now look at me wanting to buy an older gen Saturn :joy:

I already test drove four Saturns: 1995 SC2, 1998 SC, 2002 SL2 and the 2003 LS100. Is $1500 - $2000ish asking price too much for these vehicles? I have seen some go for $1000 and some $3000 :roll_eyes:

What do you think about these vehicles? No Ions, No Auras and Vues. Just the S-Series.

You should be fine with the S serie. Saturn trouble cars are the Ion and Vue.Like any used cars,have it inspected by a independant mechanic.Low milage cars will bring a higher price.

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One comment though, you need to find a better mechanic. While Mazda’s And Fords share some DNA, Mazda’s are not rebadged Fords, domestic cars are not junk. As far as Saturn, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile, it is not that nobody cares about them but that those lines were discontinued to save GM.
If you like Pontiacs, the Firebird shares a lot with the Camaro and parts will be available for a long, long time. Questionable parts availability for S series Saturns since these were grocery getting granny cars.

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@Triathlor As much trouble as you seem to have with vehicles wanting old discontinued appliance type vehicles just does not make sense. Parts only have to be made for 10 years after a car is discontinued so that is a factor. I am with Purebred , you need different mechanics.

I loved my 1994 stick shift Saturn. Easy to work on, fun to drive, pretty easy on gas. I probably wouldn’t buy one now, though. Parts are becoming too scarce as GM doesn’t need to continue to supply parts for it anymore.


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.

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My daughter has an 03ls, only 1 big issue, timing chain fail. My understanding is oil is injected onto the timing chain, and that stopped working, then $1200 for repairs. Another repair was the exhaust manifold leaking, aluminum block and iron manifold I think, believe that was $200 to repair, Power Steering pump went out, $150? It seems that parts are easy to get and repairs not too complicated. 165k miles and been in the family 11 years.

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Yes, cars from the 1900-2000’s era seem to be pretty easy to work on. There is actually a ton of room to work under the hood of a Geo Metro for being such a tiny car. Everything is right there and easy to access. You can change the timing belt in an hour on the side of a road if you have to. I know this because of personal experience of course.

If you like older cars like this, find one in decent shape for a decent price and figure out how to work on it yourself. That is most of the fun as long as the car is reliable and you can count on it.

You might look for a really common model or model series where parts are shared and get one of those as parts will be easy to find. I have always been a fan of the GM 3800. Lots of things were built on that platform and parts should be easy to come by.

If you get something more quirky like the Geo Metro or some Saturns you won’t be able to get parts on a whim. You will have to wait for them to come in but you can pretty much get any part these days online.

Then you will find yourself with a “parts car” or “spare car” for the older model car of your choice. The parts car is just a cheap junker hulk you get that serves as a parts donor for your running car. The spare car is more or less the same but runs. It can be a backup car or you can borrow parts from it as needed.

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Hey cwatkin, I kinda felt like I posted in the wrong forum until you came around. Thanks for replying.

Yes! I agree on this one. I have a 1999 Protege and it’s very easy to work on, lots of room unlike our first gen Mazda 6s we have. A serious pain!

Then again the Protege is a very basic compact car. Nothing takes more than an hour or two to replace.

I have spent more time fixing the Mazda 6 than driving it. Everything that is close to whatever you are working on has to come off and replaced because it breaks upon touching. Damn I hate them weak plastic parts.

The third gen Saturn SL and the L100 has lots of room too. I was able to see the whole steering rack on the L100, and this is a V6. Literally everything was visible. I was amazed because I had so much trouble looking at the rack for leaks on one of our mazda 6s.

Sadly I gave up on Geo Metros because they are very difficult to find in decent shape, which is expected. I still like em…

I am not afraid of parts availability. GM may not make parts for these Saturns anymore but there is always the choice of buying aftermarket parts. Autozone seems to have plenty of Saturn parts. The ones that I can’t find, well time to go to the junkyard then. Even I have trouble finding parts for my Mazdas sometimes.

I had a Saturn s something it was actually a very fun car and I love pontiacs haha for some reason I absolutely love the grand am, but for performance you gotta get the 6.0 gto :+1:

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It seems like the number of decent Geo Metros has really dropped in recent years. Rust and neglect will do that. People really beat these cars up and they just kept going but can only take so much. The suspension mounts will literally rust free from the rest of the car and that is not good at all.

You might look for an older Corolla, Geo Prism (basically same car), or something similar as well. People really seem to like those.

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