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Saab 9-3 Reliability?

wayland1985wayland1985 Member Posts: 7
edited March 2014 in Saab
I'm looking to buy a new car for myself. I'm looking into the honda civic si and a subaru impreza wrx. My neighbor brought up the fact that she may be selling her 2003 SAAB 9-3. I love the looks of the car, and it's definitely going to be in my price range. However, I have reserves about buying it.

She's had a few problems with it, on several things. The radio has had issues, along with the steering wheel controls. Also, the moonroof proved faulty, all of which were fixed under factory warranty.

Things are fine now, but being the first model year, with a warranty running out, I was wondering if I should just skip on this option. It's an extremely expensive vehicle to fix, and with all of the fancy equipment in it, I can only imagine other problems.

What are your opinions on the 9-3's reliability?


  • saabgirlsaabgirl Member Posts: 184
    Things are fine now, but being the first model year, with a warranty running out, I was wondering if I should just skip on this option.

    I'd say Saabs typically have first year problems, but in my experience the repairs tend to last. My 2000 9-5 for example needed a new timing chain and later a serpentine belt. But it now has 120K on the odometer and, when I bought a new car, I kept the Saab because I enjoy driving it, it seems to enjoy being driven in New England winters, it doesn't look its age and shows every sign of making 200K. (and it's long since paid for). So I'd say, offer a low price for the 2003 and put away a little repair fund, just in case. Remmeber you have the advantage of knowing the car's history. The repairs mentioned seem irritating but not the sort of thing that dumped the owner at the side of the highway.
  • andygrvandygrv Member Posts: 8
    There is a reason your neigbour is selling the 9-3. I am just returning my 2004 conv lease. Very poor reliability and bad service. SAAB is not what used to be. The SAAB dealerships are basically Cadiallac dealership. The brakes need replacing very 20,000 and dealership charged me $1000 bucks for all four brakes. If want releability and service with intergrity buy a honda civic. Better gas milage, more reliability and better resale. This is my second SAAB and this will be a my last one. I called SAAB USA to complain and they don't seem to care.
    On top of that I am employee and still they didn't care.
  • saabgirlsaabgirl Member Posts: 184
    The brakes need replacing very 20,000 and dealership charged me $1000 bucks for all four brakes.

    Customers have every right to be dissatisfied with a poor vehicle or poor dealer performance whatever the make, but some reports need a little context, I think. We own two Saabs and a Honda, and I agree that the Saabs require somewhat more attention than the Honda. That said, Saabs have personality, are fun to drive and don't look like they should come with a "My First Car" sticker on the bumper.

    Also, Saabs don't need brakes every 20K. I have 40K on mine and the dealer reports they look good for another 10K. The missus just had her brakes done after 55K. The dealer quoted $600, but the local Goodyear guy just down the street did 'em for $400 (pads and rotors). I wouldn't ask Goodyear to put in a new tension adjuster on the timing chain, but I have no qualms about having them handle a Saab brake job.

    My impression is that the quality of Saab service increases in direction proportion to the number of dealers within reasonable distance. Mine is 10 minutes away and there are three others within about an hour. Competition is the customer's friend.

    But Saab's can do inexplicable things. There was the time my emergency flasher light just fell, untouched, through the hole and into the dashboard. My clumsy efforts to retrieve it succeeded in turning the flashers on. Then I couldn't get them off, much to the amusement of the neighbors ...

    On the other hand, after 120K my Saab doesn't have a single rattle or squeak. Neither does hers with about 60K. Not even the sunroofs.

    But everyone is entiled to their opinion and there are plenty of good and fun cars out there. Good luck finding yours.
  • r34r34 Member Posts: 178
    Saab cars are fun to drive. They are not just a vehicle. I bought my 2001 Saab as new. I took good care of my car but its reliability was only so-so. A big truck hit my Saab on the highway but she came out fine. After that she would not drive anything else.

    We bought a certified 9-5 Aero and then another certified 9-3. We test drove other cars but returned to Saab. We were surprised they were much more reliable than the 2001 Saab we bought new.
  • autoeduautoedu Member Posts: 47
    Saab safety is legendary. The 9-3 and 9-5 didn't win 5-Stars top Safety award from IIHS for nothing...it is truely the safest car on the road money can buy...

    As far as the 9-3 reliability is concerned Model Year 2002 is the safest bet. 2002 is the last model year for the old style hatch and 02-03 for the convertible. 2002 is the most refined 93 of the classic body style. For 03 or newer I would go with the 9-5 instead of the 9-3

    9-5 2002 onward are extremely reliable, in fact the 9-5 wagon made Edmund's top list for lowest cost to own vehicle(avoid the V6 if possible, it can be a money pit)
  • zeroicezeroice Member Posts: 9
    I've been reading so many conflicting opinions on the reliability since I started researching, and it seems to be all love it or hate it. It's nice to see some good discussion on here, so thanks for that. I found a really nice one while searching online listed at $13500. It's a black 2004 Linear with 49,000 miles. Is this pretty reasonable? Will I have some bargaining power due to the reliability issues? It's about 160 miles away so I haven't seen it in person yet. They have about 60 pictures on the web site covering every possible angle and it looks near perfect. There's also an 03 with 45000 miles asking $11900. With the price that low, should I assume it's had some problems? Of course I'll get a carfax if I seriously look into them, but wanted to get some opinions.
  • cobuscobus Member Posts: 1
    The 1998-2003 Saab 93's are the worst cars in the world!
    The maintenance will cost you more than the bond,
    the car rattles, makes noises and squeeks etc.
    the brakes are bad, the engine and gearbox mountings fail, the serpentine belts and timing chains brake, the car is just a nightmare. And to top it all, Saab garages doesn't care about the customers, they are a bunch of snobs and think you owe them something, they will help you if you pay them thousands, this is the LAST!!! Saab I'll ever drive. Actually, I will go so far to say, this is the last General Motors product that I'll own. Rather buy Mercedes or something French like Peugeot which is good quality. No, I made the biggest mistake ever to buy a Saab
  • r34r34 Member Posts: 178
    I bought my 2001 9-3 base new and it was hit by a big truck at 46K. It didn't have major problems. Yes, it got rattle noise.

    I bought a 2002 CPO 9-3 SE at 42K. I am still driving it. It has 70K now. It didn't have any rattle noise. It had much fewer issues than my 2001 9-3. I guess it is a better car. All pre-2003 9-3 had much better leather seats.

    I heard many bad 2003 9-3 stories. People told me 2005 and up 9-3 are much better.
  • shihanbshihanb Member Posts: 17
    Has anyone had this problem? The shift ball fell off the shifter on my 2005 linear. I put it back on and, after that, no reverse. bringing it in on thursday, i just hope i don't have to back up.

    This happened once with a ford pinto where ther entire shift lever came out in my hand, but who would expect it from a SAAB :mad:
  • baldnjbaldnj Member Posts: 2
    It unfortunately depends on the model year. The first year of the last generation 9-3 is 2003 (2003-2007). That year in particular had a number of electrical problems experienced by many owners, as this one did. Not all the problems always stay fixed, so there is risk involved in this purchase. As time passed the problems were fixed. My 2006 Saab 9-3 with luxury package and moon roof has had zero problems in 18 months at nearly 17,000 miles. But by that point the car had been built for over 5 years and the problems were worked out. The point is if you like the car enough and want to take a chance, buy it. I previously owned brand new Toyota Camry (1999) and Acura TL (2001). The Camry blew its engine at 21K while the TL blew its transmission at 31K. The point is, no car company is perfect, and all have their warts. You are just more or less likely to suffer problems depending on the model year and brand. Good luck.
  • kherrickkherrick Member Posts: 1
    Have owned a SAAB 9-5 2000 wagon since 2002. Have just suffered catastrophic engine failure at 90k miles due to a failed belt tensioner. Dealer replaced timing belt at 60K and did not suggest that tensioner is just as likely to fail with same result.

    We would not buy a SAAB again. It's a part time job keeping this car on the road and the quality level is miserable. Seat belts fall apart. SAAB Logo on hood completely worn away, driver passenger visor fails and good luck finding a replacement part. We have replaced two DI Cassettes and even though they were recalled in a number of early 2000 vehicles SAAB would not provide any relief. Also car is undriveable without snow tires in the slightest bit of snow.
  • waterdrwaterdr Member Posts: 307
    I have a 2003 9-3 with 50k on it (CPO car). I bought it at 22k 18 months ago.

    When driving it home, the engine light came on. Turned out to be a smog pump and was replaced under warranty with no issues.

    When taking it in for an oil change, I mentioned that the door handles were fading and the sun roof squeaked. They sent me home with a loaner and fixed everything. including finding a cracked coil spring. They replaced both under warranty.

    Then one day a headlight went out. I drove it to the dealer and they replaced both under warranty.

    Overall, my experience has been great. While it has been to the shop more times in 18 months then my Suburban saw in 6 years (lol), they have always taken care of everything.

    I am glad to have a CPO car, BTW. Anyone looking for a used Saab, I would strongly recomend not buying private party and instead buy one from a dealer so they can certify it.
  • shihanbshihanb Member Posts: 17
    I have a 2005 9-3 linear (manual) with 28K miles and the rear brakes needed replacement which is almost unheard of. One would expect the front brakes to go before the rear brakes. I complained to SAAB and the dealer explained that SAAB did that so that the front brakes would have less "dust" on them. HUH? EXCUSE ME? How about equipping the factory cars with ceramic brake pads. If this is the same people who make planes, their pilots are in trouble. :(
  • swinkswink Member Posts: 4
    2006 has low mileage (19k) and under factory warranty. 2005 has 39k miles and is CPO. Which is better?

    I put LOTS of miles on the car (around 19k / yr)
  • PaoluccmPaoluccm Member Posts: 1
    My 6 yr old Saab (55K) is going on its 4th water pump. The other ones were replaced while under warranty. Growing suspicious of the dealer with the numerous repairs, we took to another mech who found the source of leak in water line or connection in water line. Unfortunately you need to practically take front end apart (4 hours labor) to get to water line. Anyone else have this problem? Would it be safe to wait a little until something else is needed to consolidate on labor costs? ( We have been replacing the water thats been leaking).

    I have to say I love the performance of the car but I didn't expect the car to need so many fixes at a relatively young age (4 water pumps, both dashboard displays on fritz, driver seatbelt retractor doesn't retract again soon after it was fixed by the dealer, brakes replaced sooner than expected, onstar analog service was discontinued, etc.). We have grown weary of dealer when last year said strut was leaking after service check. We got it checked at another shop to check and there was no leak!
    I definetly expected the car to hold up better. My honda went up to 150K in 10 yrs, got much better gas mileage and didn't need anything other than recommended maintenance. :confuse:
  • aeroproblemoaeroproblemo Member Posts: 1
    Hi All, I have a problem with my 2003 Aero. One day she became trembling, shaking and giving diesel feeling from smooth running...during the cold days. Sometimes it goes away but most of the times remains. One of the SAAB mechanic told me to change the belt tensioner another said its normal. Well I don't really want to kill her risking not to change it. If you heard anything about it let me know please...thanks. S
  • roni33roni33 Member Posts: 2
    Any car will break down if it is abused/driven hard/not maintained. I had a 1999 Camry (used) and got over 150K miles on it before I sold it. My uncle also had one and he is still driving it. It has over 200K on it with no major problems. Some people think just because its a Japanese car it is bullet proof. Not so. I think they are more reliable overall than anything american car though.
  • themichael522themichael522 Member Posts: 1
    I have a 1999 Saab 9-3 with 350,000 miles on it. I work out of it so its pretty abused and it's hard on looks but its one of the toughest cars I've seen. As a mechanic, I have to say it can be a pain to work on if you don't have time. The cost of parts is the main issue and the availability in my area is very near nonexistent. I wouldn't suggest getting an older Saab if you don't have any mechanical experience because the labor will cost you more than anything. I haven't taken it to a dealership since I've had it (3 years) and I've spent something like 3k on parts, belts, hoses, oil, filters, brakes, and a radiator.
    Saab is by no means a fragile car though. It was heavily abused and in disrepair when it came into my hands. It had also been under water for a day or so and had to be "cleaned" in 2005. I suspect that a car of that year that hadn't been submerged would be in much better condition.
    Anyway, for someone with experience with cars I would recommend a Saab. Otherwise I would go with something common with cheap parts and easy to fix.
  • samarasamara Member Posts: 10
    One thing I will add about the great reliability with my 2008 Saab Sportcombi 6MT involves the use of a timing chain versus timing belt in the Saab. This key design change over virtually every other major auto manufacturing will save you the cost of changing a timing belt every 60K miles and spending about $800 to $1500 or more per belt. This alone has saved me over $3000 in maintenance costs versus owning a comparable modern wagon or sedan. This same design features interestingly enough carries over into the 9-4X (yes the SRX clone) giving owners of the 9-4X a maintenance cost advantage over the SRX or other timing belt based SUVs.
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