Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 08:57:33 -0400
From: "Kenneth S." <>
Subject: Re: Starting to shop

Joe Gugliemino wrote: > > I've started to think about a new car, as I don't think my Explorer > ('93, 200k mi) will pass inspection in September. There's not a lot out > there that really interests me. We've got a mini-van now, so I don't > need another utility vehicle. I also don't want a big car payment so > I'm thinking about buying used. > > The cars on the short list (so far) include the VW Passat and Jetta, > Subaru Impreza, and the Saab 900. I'm wondering how you think the 900 > matches up against these. I think the Saab has the best lines, and from > what I've read it has solid reliability. It also seems to be the > roomiest. But I don't have experience with any of these cars so I'd > like to collect some data points - even biased ones. My hypothetical > Saab would be a 900 S/SE 5-speed. I live in New England at the top of a > significant hill, so snow traction is important to me. Last year's > snows gave our Odessey some trouble before the plows got to us. > > As for the S/SE, I like the idea of a turbo for performance, but I'm > leary of repair costs. Have the turbos proven themselves to be as solid > as the engine they're bolted on to? Does a non-turbo have enough zip to > make it fun to drive? > > It seems like I've got 2 options for buying used. I can either buy an > off-lease for $10-15k (or more), or an older model for $5 - 10k. I > really don't want to spend over $10k if I don't have to, but I don't > want to buy a problem child either. What are some things to look out > for in '96-'98 models? What would be a good price for an SE? Can I get > one for $6k that would last? > > The few Saab dealers I've called don't carry older models. Does anybody > know reputable used car dealers in the > Worcester/Framingham/Milford/Westford area? I've been checking Ebay to > get an idea of prices and there have been 900SEs listed that are within > driving distance, so I could check them out in person. I wouldn't bid > sight unseen, but if I could give it a good once-over and have a > mechanic check it out I'd be alright with that. > > Thanks in advance for any comments, > > - Joe > (To reply directly, remove the 'deleteme' from my address I have a 1996 900SE, which I bought over two years ago. I got it at quite a reasonable price, because it had been on the lot at a Ford dealers for several months. (I pass the dealers every day). My experience has not been altogether satisfactory, because several things were wrong with the car when I bought it and other things have gone wrong in the intervening period. By contrast, my other car, a Mazda Miata, has been extremely reliable during the five years I have owned it, prompting me to generalize from the particular, and say that, if reliability is the major factor, Japanese cars are best. I think Saabs of this vintage are not the most reliable, although the newer ones apparently are more so (and, of course, more expensive). Repairs seem to be much more expensive than other cars, partly because it seems desirable to have Saabs fixed at a Saab specialist. Parts seem to be MUCH more expensive than other cars I have owned. The electronics appear to be a weak point on my car. The turbo four-cylinder engine is not particularly smooth or quiet, but the car seems to have plenty of power. I find the latter characteristic somewhat annoying in a car that is supposed to be entry-level luxury, and has all kinds of marginally useful electronic gadgets. To me, the central element of luxury is a smooth, quiet engine. On the plus side, the configuration of the car as a four-door hatchback is sound and practical, and gives plenty of luggage space. The engine is said to be very long-lasting. I find the car is good on long journeys. I live in an area where there is not usually much snow, although there was last winter, and the Saab did far better than any other car I have driven. Depreciation on Saabs appears higher than other cars in its class, and that provides a major saving if you are buying used. I would definitely have any car you are thinking about buying checked out by a Saab specialist. One of my problems was that, although my car had a year's guarantee, the Ford dealer told me his mechanics couldn't fix the initial problems. It was the devil's own job to extract the money from him to have the Saab dealer fix the problems.

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