A tale of two Saabs
June 26, 2005 5:28 PM   Subscribe

I have been shopping for a used Saab. I have narrowed it down to two...

1. 2000 Saab 9-3 SE, 2.0 liter 4 Cyl. Turbo with 80K miles on it. $11K.
2. 1996 Saab 900 SE Turbo with 46K miles on it. $8.5K.

Both cars are immaculate and well-maintained. The 9-3 is slightly sexier with the wood dash. The 1996 had a tighter clutch (well, to me-- I had an easier time driving the 900 for some odd reason). The 2000 is from a reputable dealer, but neither car has a warranty. The '96 will be checked out by a third-party mechanic, but let's assume it checks out ok. Which would you choose, and why?
posted by astruc to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
2000 Saab 9-3
It is dramatically improved vehicle.
Clutch feel may be due to higher milage, but shouldn't be a major problem as long as you update it in coming years.
4cyl. Turbo is very nice. Not much turbo lag and should work seemlessly.

I personally think it is better looking car of the two.
Eventhough 96 has lower milage, the older year will hurt your resale value more than the milage. (probably)
posted by curiousleo at 6:01 PM on June 26, 2005

I believe that miles are harder on cars than time is, and most ten-year-old cars with fewer than 50K miles have been very well-cared for.

If you enjoy driving both of them, and the aesthetics don't bother you, you should strongly consider pocketing the $2,500 difference. That's not chump change.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:19 PM on June 26, 2005

And a brutal stereo.
posted by craniac at 7:18 PM on June 26, 2005

Another vote for the 900. As has been stated before, miles are miles, especially on turbo'd cars, and the major difference in price is a whole lot of icing on the cake.
posted by saladin at 8:00 PM on June 26, 2005

Kelley Blue Book lists a 1996 Saab 900 SE Hatchback 4D, turbo 4 with manual, 46K, excellent condition, as $5215 from a private party. I left the options on the defaults.

46K on a 96 is pretty good. But I would do a little further research on used prices as $8500 seems too high from the KBB value. Armed with good information you might be able to knock off $2000 or so.
posted by 6550 at 10:37 PM on June 26, 2005

Best answer: I'd skip BOTH.

GM is in the process of dismantling the unique Saab engine and parts supply chain. The recently introduced 9-2 and 9-7 are Saabs no deeper than the nameplate. While the current 9-3 and next year's 9-5 are / will be more Saab-like, with Swedish-engineered turbos, they're still basically Chevys (well, Opels, which is German for "Chevy") with a Saab engine shoehorned in.

This is already biting: my 2002 9-5 has been in the shop for THREE MONTHS waiting for a part to come in. They've been paying for a loaner because it's still on warranty -- you'd get bupkus in the same situation, and your situation could be worse, given that the cars you're looking at are more generations older than mine is.
posted by MattD at 6:50 AM on June 27, 2005

The '96 has a mechanical clutch, the cable is prone to breakage, the 9-3 has hydraulic clutch, better suspension, but is prone to sludge build-up issues and you should check to see if the head bolts have been retorqued.
The brakes on both of them are good, I'd put my extra cash into intake and exhaust. Either will be wicked fun to drive, and either one, if well maintained, will get you to 200,000 miles with no problems. Maintenance is key, and it's important to find a good Saab specific independent mechanic in your area. The prices seem high to me, too. Saabnet is an excellent on-line resource.
On preview, geez, MattD, what part???
posted by Floydd at 7:03 AM on June 27, 2005

It's something to do with the air filtration (or exhaust filtration) system. Don't know more than that...
posted by MattD at 7:17 AM on June 27, 2005

Hey Sara,

Low miles don't boost the value of a car as much as you might expect, so I agree that $8,500 is a little steep. Although GM's dismantlement of Saab sucks, I wouldn't worry too much about parts availability, especially for the older car. There are always junkyards, and there are good independent Saab mechanics in Seattle so you won't be at the mercy of a dealer.

I still like driving my brother's early 90's turbo 900 with a zillion miles on it. There have been a couple of quirky maintenance issues (battery sliding forward during hard braking caused an intermittent short that killed the engine, which was hard to figure out), but overall it has been much more reliable than average, and if you can keep the $2,500 in the bank, that's a fair amount of normal maintenance you're ready to do.

On the other hand, the 9-3 is a better car, and sexy is good.

Either one will work out better than your last ball of flame.

P.S. Uh, I see that I'm posting a week late. you probably already bought one, didn't you?
posted by surlycat at 1:42 AM on July 3, 2005

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