Pros: Gas mileage rocks, safe & mostly dependable, not obnoxiously embarassing, affordable price tag
Cons: Price tag of parts, not the coolest car on the road, bad for long trips
My Saturn SL1 was my first car, bought in 1997. The price was right, and let's face it, the second I was able to get a car, I bought one of the first ones I looked at. I drove this car for over 6 years, and although I have never owned another car (so nothing to compare it to, aside from riding in other cars and borrowing/trading cars for various reasons) I think I can give the lowdown pretty accurately on saturn.
Really Cool Car???
Okay, not really, but It will get you from here to there & most the time it wont embarass you. Being almost 12 years old, it could be the butt of a few jokes, but you have to be really shallow/oversensitive to not laugh back-- oh well, again it gets you from here to there.
Wowza, nuclear war could strike in my town, and my car still wouldn't have a dent. I've been in several fender-benders in my saturn (I'm not the worlds best driver), and you would never know looking at that thing. Although this car is pretty much plastic, the exterior just doesn't get banged up, no matter what you put it through.. Incredible.
This was one of this car's best features. The gas mileage was amazing. One 9 gallon tank of gas lasted me about a week (which granted I didn't have a regular long way to drive, but still). I never figured out actual MPG, but I'm told it's comparable to a honda civic in that respect.
Okay, heres the sticky stuff. All in all, this car has had an average of 1 $400 (parts and labor) problem per year. I don't know much about cars, But I can say every time something broke, I was told (by various mechanics and my dad) "This is an average car problem, and it usually needs to be replaced at this time in the mileage." Personally, with as much as I depend on my car, that can still really suck and take a few years off my life as it's breaking down on the side of the road or making a funky scary noise, but I guess that just depends on your personal situation.
Bottom Line-- Saturns are a great price, and overall dependable, but I'm told there horrible to work on (with something as simple as changing a battery) and would-be inexpensive aftermarket parts do not apply to this car. I found parts places often telling me "Oh, for saturns, you need to go to the dealer for this" which ends up costing you 3 times as much as its aftermarket twin that you could have put in any other type of car. To fix, its like a foreign car. At 100k miles, I had the bulk of my problems, and things were calm till about 140k (now, which I'm figuring, time to upgrade anyway.) Laundry list of problems include: Alternator, fan belt, battery, break pads, cadillidic converter (not sure if I spelled that right), fuel pump, timing chain, auto seat belt (which by the way, never figured out the point in that lame invention), manual windows, seat tilt handle, and a partridge in a pear tree... thats all I can think of, but there may have been a couple more through the years(obviously nothing major, since I can't remember it.) I know the way a car runs depends a lot on how you drive it, and though I didn't have far distances to drive, I drove it HARD (or like my dad says, "like its a d*** sports car".) I tend to like to punch the gas when the light turns green, and found myself a few years into ownership saying "tune up?? whats that??" and discovered how expensive that was, and therefore avoided it. I did the oil change thing every 3k miles, but that was the only real maintenance I did regularly-- and it still ran well, so I would say thats pretty impressive. In short, its a reliable car, but if you're getting a 92' or a saturn with as high of mileage as I have, you may want to invest in a cell phone and/or AAA.
In The End:
Although I'm ready for a new car, I can honestly say, I'm shedding a tear or two over saying goodbye to this one. Not only for the memories with this car, or my chick sentimentality (and lets face it, the fear of big car payments,) but also that my Saturn has been good to me, and good cars that you have for years become somewhat like an old friend. I do reccomend a car of my saturn's age/mileage/nature to someone on a teensy budget, and knows a thing or two about cars if something goes wrong; or to a teen for a first "learning" car & just wants it to drive around town-- because, let's face it, it may break down now and again, but its safe accident wise, dependendable for what its worth, inexpensive with pricetag and gas, and if it's totalled, nobody broke the bank to get it.