Are Saturns good cars?

sills1sills1 Member Posts: 2
edited March 2014 in Saturn
I live in Wisconsin, land of 7-month winters and lots of road salt, hence most cars here are guaranteed to rust in about 5 years. The polymer panels on Saturns has always interested me, yet I've read horror stories about oil consumption, and head gasket/valve failures, and now, broken timing chains. I have a VW golf right now, a very good car, but the repair & maint. costs are very high. I'm looking for a car that will go 200K miles that is cheaper than $1000/year (not including oil changes) to maintain. Is saturn such a car, or are they junk?


  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    the 200K part is really offsetting, I would flat-out say if that mileage is critical, you need a pickup in the 3/4 or 1 ton range with a fleet-type diesel designed to do that (IH or cummins), and then change the sleeves and do the valves for the next 150,000 to 200,000 miles. that is going to be a little steep at purchase, and not likely going to cost $1000 a month or anywhere near it.

    I don't think 200K is a design factor in gasoline engines at all. somebody posted in the beginning of the 5w-20 thread that ford has slyly changed their lifetime estimates from 150,000-plus to 100,000-plus for engines.

    saturn is an econobox, the reviews in CR have always said buzzy and small engine and busy ride. we'll wait and see what the owners say about longevity, but I would not bet on any 200K on anybody's gas engine. well-maintained big blocks may loaf to 200K, but I still would not lay money down in Vegas on any particular one.
  • badgerfanbadgerfan Member Posts: 1,565
    I live in Wisconsin also, and have found that almost all cars built recently have vastly improved rust protection-two side galvanized steel, factory applied rust preventatives etc. I doubt if you will find serious rust problems in the first 8-10 years on any car these days. Our first Dodge Caravan 1985, was one of the earliest to strongly incorporate these features and we had it 12 years in heavily salted Milwaukee area with no rust showing up. Now we have a '96 Caravan that nearly looks like new when washed.

    It shouldn't be hard to buy a vehicle that will cost less than $1000 per year on the average non routine maintenance. I have never had to spend anything near that for maintenance, however I usually tend to replace vehicles at about the 10-12 years and 100K mile mark, and do not push anything to 200K. This approach is mainly to avoid the reliability hassles that tend to show up on most cars above 100k.

    I would classify any car that cost on average $1K per year non routine maintenance to be a terrible lemon.

    I have not been interested in Saturns to date as I think they have been overpriced with the no haggle pricing policy, and do not consider them to be anything special beyond the plastic panels. Lately I have seen where they are finally beginning to discount them with rebates.

    My current car is a 2000 Taurus SES (Duratec), and has been excellent so far. If you are looking for a smaller car their are a lot of good ones to choose from.-Focus(I believe newer models have gotten past the initial quality-recall issues), Civic, Corolla, small Hyundai's etc.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    I think most diesel engines (including small ones) will easily go to 200K miles. Unfortunately, unlike Europe, diesel cars are not very popular here - so your choice is limited to perhaps a few German makes, and they can be expensive to maintain.

    Some gasoline engines may also make it to 200K. I think your best bet is a 4 cylinder Honda or one of the Nissan/Infiniti VQ powered vehicles. My girlfriend had a very reliable Integra that she sold a few years ago at 217K miles. The motor was still very strong. The car was driven mainly in the NYC area where the traffic and road conditions are pretty hard on any car. Also, I've seen Maximas (with the VQ engine) last many miles.

    As somebody mentioned, rust on a modern car shouldn't be a problem for a number of years.

    Just to add - I think the Mercedes and BMW engines (particularly the 6 and 8 cylinder ones) can also last a long time, as they are built very well, but beware of the maintenance costs.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,543
    a lot of whether the car is going to get there or not depends on how fast and hard those miles get put on, more than what type of car you buy. For instance, if you put 30-40K on a car yearly, and a good deal of your commute is steady highway driving (and you keep up on maintenance) than just about any car should make it to 200K with little strain.

    My uncle has a '96 or so Saturn S-series sedan that must have about 200K miles or mor on it by now. Original engine and tranny. I've ridden in it a few times, and it still seems fine. He recently retired, but he had a long commute, roughly 60 miles each way, and often worked 6-7 days a week.

    They loved that thing so much though, that they got a new Vue not too long ago. And they're thinking about getting an L-series wagon to replace the S-series. I'm guessing my uncle and his wife have been converted for life!
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,543
    well I'm in Maryland, so the winters aren't *that* bad (the most recent one excepted!), but I'd say rust stopped being a real concern here in the late 70's. When GM redesigned their full-sized cars for 1977, they put alot of rustproofing effort into them, and it showed. Maybe in nastier climates they still rust, but for this climate, that seemed to be the first serious attempt at getting rust under control. It took Chrysler and Ford a few more years to get things under control, but for the most part, rust shouldn't be a problem nowadays for at least 10-15 years or more.
  • sills1sills1 Member Posts: 2
    The reason I bought a VW is that most of them will go 200-300K miles, and the maintenance I've had IS routine, it's just expensive. Hondas and Toyotas will also go well over 200K, but they rust! I disagree that rust has improved in most cars. Come up to Wisconsin, and see what I mean. This is why I was inqiuring about Saturns. I've seen several SL2's for sale on with over 200K, but I've also read horror stories about oil consumption and other major failure well before 100K. What I wanted to know was whether this was true or whether they were abused by teenage hot-rodders who don't change oil or do any maintenance.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    SL2 was already consuming more than a quart of oil between oil changes when I dumped it after 40K. Oil usage was acceleratin, and I was told by the Saturn dealer that this was "normal". Well, not normal in my book.

    Have not heard of these having problematic heads with gasket failures, though.

    Remember, the underbody is not the plastic that the side panels are, so these cars will rust as much as any other GM product...

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • tsdumastsdumas Member Posts: 2
    just buy a honda,nissan, toy.
  • zueslewiszueslewis Member Posts: 2,353
    "saturns can use 1 quart oil per 3k miles"

    That's the standard for every manufacturer in the nation! Except GM, who says it's OK to use one quart every 2,000 miles, and VW, who says it's Ok to use one quart in 1,000 miles.

    I rarely see saturn vehicles in lemon law claims, and I do plenty of GM work. In fact, out of 600-800 GM cases I've seen in 2 years, I've only seen 4 or 5 Saturns. That, to me, as my gauge of quality and reliability, speaks measures.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    As an appraiser, I rarely see cars over 200K either. Most are dead before that, and the ones that aren't, have had some major work in many cases--most cases. Why? Because a car is a lot more than an engine AND because all kinds of "hidden diseases" occur when the car's expected lifetime has been exceeded. By that I mean problems never anticipated or planned for by engineers, since they don't expect your car to go 200K.

    However, as was stated, putting the miles on quicker gives you a better chance of reaching 200K, but a 200K mile car is the exception, not the rule, and you shouldn't count on that.

    200K is well beyond what Saturn intended, I think, since a car is a lot more than just an engine.

    Of course, you can keep any car on the road as long as you wish if you are willing to spend the money necessary to do so.

    How many miles you want to rack up depends on how much you are willing to write checks for.

    As for Saturn, I'd say if you like the car drive it to 99K and bail out.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    about standards, but I do know that every Toyota I have ever bought new, and the one Subaru, all went out to 100K without consuming any oil at all between oil changes. That is my expectation for those two brands.

    Honda cars are designed to consume a little oil between oil changes, at least according to Honda mechanics I have spoken to, and that has also been my experience with the couple I have owned: they need an extra quart between oil changes, even when young.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    and I haven't seen it in my two. not until I had some interesting external leakage in my 90 ranger beyond 120K, that is.

    it is possible on lots of short local trips to build up water in the oil, raising the level. eventually a little extra will slosh around and get past the rings, or suctioned by the PCV, and you drop the level a tad. hit the highway on the weekend, you finally get the engine hot enough to cook out that water, and the PCV gets it. now you're down a little all at once, but the OIL really has been going down slowly all along.

    that's pretty common, and probably why all the dealers prepare you for the event by saying you'll use some.

    IMHO, things are wrong if you lose a quart in a couple thousand miles of normal driving. I would expect internal leakage at the usual trouble points, a stuck ring or two allowing a little to burn, or top-end leakage at valve seals or something allowing a little burning. won't stop you dead at the side of the road, so they don't care to chase it.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,543
    I don't think I've *ever* had a car that consumed a quart of oil every 1000, 2000, or 3000 miles. Now leaking it, that's a different story altogether. I've had valve cover gaskets, front seals, rear seals, the seal around the base of the distributor, the washer on the drain plug, etc go bad on various cars.

    However, I've never had a car that actually burned (I'm presuming that's what is meant by "consume" oil in any significant quantity. I've heard that engines built to tighter tolerances will burn more oil, and it's partly in the interests of better fuel economy, but I've also been hearing that old song and dance before I was old enough to drive (back when you could tell what gender and race Michael Jackson was just by looking at him ;-)
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    gender: maybe

    race: believed human.

    leaks: every engine ever made leaks. if diogenes was looking for a good gasket with his oil lamp, he'd burn down half the town. fortunately, the pressure stuff holds up most of the time.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It's actually probably good to burn a little bit of oil, for the upper cylinder area, but not too much of course. Engines that don't ever burn a drop make me nervous.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    a pretty bad leak if you leaked a quart every 2000 miles!

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • wwhite2wwhite2 Member Posts: 535
    bought new does a 140 mile R/T all highway commute. change oil every month ,.....3K miles . at about 45-50 K the oil consumption started and at about 100K it was burning a qt every 300mi . I found a recycle yard engine with 15K mi swapped it myself and all is well now , oil usage between changes . With my experience the DOHC engine doesnt last much more than 100k . I wouldnt count on it Now some will not agree with me I am sure someone here has 500K and has only changed oil and wiper arms This is what has happened to me
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