Which car should I keep?
December 4, 2013 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I own two cars. I need only one. But which one? Both are very reliable and always have had regularly scheduled maintenance. Their resale values are both tiny. Overall I am not partial to either one. So tell me which one I should keep in the driveway. Most importantly, tell me WHY.

Here are the candidates:

1999 SATURN SL2: It has only 95,000 miles on it. It is basic transportation. Manual transmission. Manual door locks. Manual windows. It has a few drawbacks: The brakes are merely adequate. Nothing wrong with them, just wimpy by design. It also seems to have a light front end, which makes traction a little iffy on slick pavement from a standing stop.

1997 TOYOTA CAMRY: A bigger, more solid, more comfortable car. But it has been around the block a lot more at 134,000 miles. Automatic transmission. Power windows. Power door locks (which sometimes make funny noises, and now one of the back doors won't lock at all). The trunk lid collects water, which it dumps into the trunk when the lid is lifted, giving the whole car a musty smell until everything dries out.
posted by Longtime Listener to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total)
 
The Saturn. Lower mileage, newer make. Also, the trunk musty water smell thing with the Camry sounds horrible.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:02 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would keep the camry - I have a 1994 and with 180k and it still runs well and is pleasant to drive.
posted by mercredi at 7:03 AM on December 4, 2013


I would simply look at the cost and ease of maintenance and repair. I would say the Camry because there are more of them and getting parts, etc will be easier over time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:04 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Safety trumps smells. Keep the Camry.
posted by Etrigan at 7:05 AM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Camry. When Saturns die, they DIE, in my experience. You can keep a Camry going forever, it seems.
posted by xingcat at 7:07 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I vote Camry also, if you're looking for bang-for-your-buck longevity. My 1993 is still going strong at a little over 200k miles. I don't have experience with Saturns, though, so can't speak to that.
posted by aka burlap at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2013


Keep the Camry. Toyotas last forever, and are easy and cheap to repair.
posted by barnoley at 7:12 AM on December 4, 2013


While I would normally choose the stick shift in these situations, I will still say the Camry.

The Camrys of that era are really cheap to maintain. Having them run 200,000 miles is actually fairly normal.

Parts are inexpensive, and the car is very easy to fix (the engine compartment is pretty spacious, for example). Maintenance guys like to work on them.

Frankly it's also a better car than the Saturns of that era, too.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:13 AM on December 4, 2013


Camry all the way: much easier to get parts large and small, much easier to find mechanics who're familiar with 'em and to find information to fix small stuff YOURSELF.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2013


Sell the Saturn, and use some of the proceeds to fix the Camry's trunk seal and lube the locks.
posted by jon1270 at 7:15 AM on December 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


my 1998 Camry just passed 180,000, runs smoothly and all power locks/windows etc. still work. The only parts that haven't aged as gracefully are some parts of the upholstery and some plastic parts of the door and dashboard panels. This all is fairly typical of Camrys of that era.
posted by skewed at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2013


Even if you keep the SL2, you won't be keeping it for long. Bless its heart.
posted by ftm at 7:22 AM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


How's the clutch on the Saturn? Used to be 100K was good mileage out of a clutch, but I've run a VW over 180K so maybe you're OK. Still, a clutch replacement is expensive.
posted by mr vino at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2013


Camry. Get it sorted so it doesn't stink. Cheap to repair and will run forever. They don't make Saturns anymore, so take that FWIW.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:30 AM on December 4, 2013


Sell the Saturn, and use some of the proceeds to fix the Camry's trunk seal and lube the locks.

Agreed. I'd say throw the whole lot onto the Camry. Get all the niggly stuff fixed with (what is essentially) free money from the sale of the Saturn. Then you'll have a more pleasant Camry (which will make you feel like you've stepped up) and would be the more long term reliable car.

I'd also consider spending money on a proper detail of the Camry at the same time. Nothing like a proper clean to make a car feel more enjoyable to be in again.
posted by Brockles at 7:31 AM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sell the Saturn, and use some of the proceeds to fix the Camry's trunk seal and lube the locks.

Also, do any other maintenance you've been deferring. Was the timing belt done on schedule? Transmission service? Radiator and heater hoses? A Toyota with 134K on it should have a lot of life left in it, but you're running closer to the margins than you would with a newer car so maintenance is that much more important.
posted by jon1270 at 7:32 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Definitely aligned with the sell the Saturn use proceeds to fix/upgrade Camry crowd. You are a HELL of a lot more likely to be able to put another 100k on the Camry then you are on the Saturn.
posted by jcworth at 7:37 AM on December 4, 2013


Part of it depends on how you use a car and what part of the country you live in. Are you driving in snow regularly? Is this car to run errands or for a daily commute? You don't mention the levels of rust on either. Are they rusted out? I've had experience with the musty problem in an old Honda: it's hard to lose a musty smell once you get it, even after everything gets sealed. There is no doubt that your Camry is going to be a lot more reliable than the Saturn, but if you drive in snow you might want to have the standard transmission.

But honestly, since they're both over 14 years old I'd sell them both, and get one newer car.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2013


Coming in to vote camry. Toyotas are solid vehicles, saturns are plastic boxes on wheels.

Depending on the details of the water problem, it could be easily fixed with proper sealing / caulking.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:49 AM on December 4, 2013


Always keep the toyota. My brother has driven two separate Camrys well past 200K and I don't think he will ever buy another type of car. And the trunk thing, my mom put up with for like 5 years but a $40 seal repair took care of it seemingly forever.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:23 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Basically the same age/mileage cars, ballpark.

Camry is by far a higher quality vehicle. Fix it.
posted by FauxScot at 8:24 AM on December 4, 2013


In summary:
Camrys have a solid track record of making it past 200k.

Saturns have a solid track record of NOT making it past 130k.
posted by wotsac at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had a Saturn SW2, same vintage and same mileage. I got rid of it just shy of $100k miles since that was the point where all of the little fiddley bits started failing that (a) made the car a pain to own and (2) started getting expensive to fix. Like window switches and actuators, motor mounts, exhaust, etc.

So I'm piling on in favor of the Camry.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:26 AM on December 4, 2013


While I would normally choose the stick shift in these situations, I will still say the Camry.

Agreed entirely. All other things being equal I'll always take a manual, but it's a solid bet that Camry has a good bit of life left.
posted by solotoro at 8:42 AM on December 4, 2013


I'd also consider spending money on a proper detail of the Camry at the same time.

Yes! Keep the Camry, and get it detailed. About a year ago one of my kids spilled milk all over the back seat of my '93 Honda and didn't say anything, until one day all of a sudden this cloud of funk took over the entire garage. So I took it down to the car wash place and had them do an interior detail, and OMG NEW CAR. Amazing. Do it!
posted by ambrosia at 8:44 AM on December 4, 2013


So it's Camry for the win. Thanks, everyone.
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:12 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not a "car guy", but by coincidence the 2 cars we had in the family growing up were a Toyota and later a Saturn. Both did a good job getting us from point A to point B over the years, but both had upsides and downsides. We lived in a climate that was snowy and cold and a lot of road salts were used. On this issue, points to the Saturn: it won't rust. The '88 Toyota Corolla, however, is apparently still running for its new owner even though it looks like shit and is falling apart and should probably have been retired years ago. The Saturn is long dead and was purchased after the Toyota. So Toyota wins on durability. And to me it sounds like that's what you're looking for. I vote Toyota.
posted by Hoopo at 9:25 AM on December 4, 2013


If you really are indifferent, just advertise both of them for sale and keep whichever one doesn't sell first.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:39 AM on December 4, 2013


advertise both of them for sale and keep whichever one doesn't sell first.

Of course, what would be smarter is to keep the one that gets all the interest and sale offers, not the one that doesn't sell so easily. That will tell you which one people perceive to be the better car!
posted by Brockles at 11:49 AM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's probably a hose or drain hole blocked that's keeping water from draining around the trunk lid. Should take < 5 minutes to clean out with a hose, once you find it.

Also, if you can afford to keep both for a little while longer and selling the Saturn won't get you much money, why not drive it until something expensive comes up and trash it then? It'll keep some miles off the Camry at essentially no cost.
posted by flimflam at 1:15 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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