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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys,
New to the forum, and new to Saabs in general. I'm going to moving out to Southern California soon, and need to buy a car. I'm finding myself really gravitating towards the mid/late 90's Saab convertibles. They seem to be able to be bought on Craigslist within the $3000 range with milage in the low 100's.

Is a car like this going to be a reliability nightmare? I'm going to be a student and this will be my main mode of transportation, so it needs to be reliable and have a low cost of ownership (but it also can be a little rough around the edges).

Anything specifically I should look for if reliability/low cost is concerned? It doesn't have to be a powerhouse, and I can drive a manual transmission if you guys say that the manual's are more dependable (normally I'm a 100% manual kind of guy, but in LA traffic I'd actually consider the automatic).

Although I won't be buying for another month or two, just for the sake of argument, let's use this craigslist ad as an example:
http://losangeles.craigslist.org/ant/cto/1680219825.html

or:

http://losangeles.craigslist.org/wst/cto/1692126906.html

or

http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sgv/ctd/1686165352.html
Thanks!
 

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They are generally very reliable, and the older one can take abuse. However, if you do not do preventative maintenance, you will be screwed. The PM can seem expensive upfront, but the car will be a tank for the next 25-50k miles.
I wouldnt buy a vert if you are looking for reliability on par with the rest of the brand-just IMHO.
-Cm
 

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These cars can run a long time, my 1995 model v6 is almost up to 280k KM and still going strong.
As mentioned though, you really do have to care about the car a bit and keep up with regular basic maintenance, which doesn't have to be particularly expensive, but if you just drive the car and ignore the basics it wont last too long.
If you get a 2.3NA engine model ensure it's had and continues to have regular oil changes, you want to avoid the oil sludge in them. The turbo model will be fun, but is likely to be somewhat less reliable simply because it's got more parts in it and has more likely been driven harder in it's past. The 2.3's are quite nippy around town though, there's nothing wrong with them.
The v6 has to have regular interval timing belt kit replacements (60-80k km regular) to avoid pulley failure which usually results in dead engine. These can cost a bit to change over, in the $500-$1000 range.

As with all second hand purchases as long as the car comes with a complete and decent service record, you should be doing ok. The spare parts for these cars often doesn't cost too much as a lot of the bits are gm parts anyway, so quite easy to source. There's good online parts stores for you in the states too where you can get bits pretty cheap.

I got my saab half way though uni, and it served me very well on a tight budget. If you can do the basic stuff like oil changes yourself you can save yourself a lot of money. One thing to keep in mind too is that often the high mileage ones can be a very good buy, as they're usually cheaper and they have usually been very well cared for, for them to have made to to high mileage in the first place. It's also worth test driving as many examples as you can before you get to the one you want to buy, so when you are test driving it before buying, you can gauge if it feels 'right' compared to other examples of the car. I initially though something was wrong with my steering, it seemed a bit heavy, but then I drove a few other 900's and they're all the same, it's just the way they are! This isn't a bad thing by the way, it gives you a better feeling of the road condition, and it's not as twitchy as your typical too-light steering in a lot of newer standard cars.

The auto boxes in these cars seem to be quite reliable, the only problem I've had with mine is the dreaded Neutral Safety Switch (search it on here) which at the end of the day costs a lot got get fixed for you, but if you're a bit handy is usually fixed by pulling the switch out and cleaning it's insides. It's a pita to get to, but isn't the end of the world. A one full afternoon kind of job, costing nothing more than a sqirt of cleaner, and a little bit of silicone grease.

A manual option should be cheaper to drive though, it should use less petrol without the auto box seeping power, so you'll get better performance. Auto's are a godsend for daily commuting though, far more relaxing. That said my next car (a c900 vert) will be a manual, if I can find one, they are more fun!

If you get a 2.3 it will be a lot easier to work on than the v6 as the v6 is quite crammed in, that being said the v6 is quite a bit more fun to drive too.

The mufflers seem to wear out pretty quick I've found, I've replaced mine twice in 3 years, but it's only a $300 replacement which isn't the end of the world.

As much as I do like my (cracked) leather seats, the velour option seems to wear better with age, the leather in this series of car appears to be not as hardy as the stuff they used in the c900's, I've never seen a late 90's model gm900/93 with great leather in the front.

These saabs are great fun to drive, and have an enormously strong community who'll help if you get into any difficulties. I reckon it's well worth getting into!
Andrew
 

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To echo what others have said, the 900/9-3 convertibles can be very reliable, if you have the time, moderate skill, and facilities to do preventative maintenance. Do you have a garage where you can work on it? Are you willing to spend some time during school break to fix stuff?

The common failures are predictable, so you can prevent them by doing the following: replace CrankPositionSensor, clean oil sump, keep a spare DI Cassette handy, replace water pump / alternator / idler pulley / serp belt. Replace coolant hoses. You get the idea. It seems like a lot, but once it's done, it's done.

Oh, and be prepared for the soft top to have some trouble going up and down, but it doesn't rain too much in SoCal. :D

Dave
 

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the 1998 model year is the last non-turbo model

with the bullet-proof 2.3 engine. Not as much mid range and top end punch as the turbo but just as quick or quicker off the line as the much more complex 2.0l turbo engine.

Good luck,

John
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the help guys. Any more opinions?


Everyone is mentioning preventative maintenance, which coming from a world of old BMW's, I know all about. Is there a checklist of things that should have been done (the cars I'm looking at seem to have about 100,000-120,000 miles), things specifically to look for in the maintenance records?

What is the general lifespan of these cars? If I'm looking at a car with 120,000 miles, is it just getting broken in, or is its expected life coming to a close?
 

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The Saab H engine design is like the Energizer bunny. 120k is nothing if you keep the oil up to date and don't beat the crap out of it, it'll go for 300k+ easily. 120k isn't that much and I would feel comfortable buying a used c900/NG900/9-3 with 200k on the clock (with at least some maintenance records :p)

Timing chains will go 300k+ as well. They switched from a German chain to a Japanese Iwis brand in the late 80's and all has been well since.
 
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