I did not realize 'til I had my "new" 1999 Saturn wagon just how badly this car had been abused. I drove the car home on fumes, it was so low on gas. I checked the oil a few weeks later. It was over 3 quarts low! Then
I had a flashback to when I first went to look at the car and the first words out of the previous owner's mouth were "It hasn't been sitting." I drove it around for a bit, liked it and bought it. I seriously don't know why this car continued to run the way it was treated, but I did some regular maintenance things (like an oil change), I've had it for about 5 years now and I have not had to do any major repairs -it still runs great!
I purchased my Saturn used, with 52k miles, for $4k. Given the price of the car, I didn't demand much from it. I could forgive the uncomfortable seats, the anemic engine, the spartan interior; all I wanted was good gas milage and reliability. I was partially satisfied.
A wiring problem killed the headlights at 85k. At 90k, the rear wiper stopped working. The car began burning oil in this time period as well - I was a lot less impressed with the fuel economy when I was routinely adding other fluids to the car. 100k, and the engine mounts loosened, adding more to an already-obnoxious rattling while driving. At 115k, the transmission went kaput.
I had expected to drive the car further.
This is my second Saturn SW2, the other was a 2000 that I drove until I decided I needed a new car, and then I regretted it almost every day. I flew down to Florida and bought this one off the Internet with only 32K, now has 76K and I couldn't be happier. Both this one and my previous one, which I bought at 10K and sold at 150K, never failed to start and only needed standard upkeep (tires, brakes, hoses, etc.). I never had to do a major repair on either one. I like the power and the drivability of the SW2. I am sad that after this one I won't be able to get a replacement, the newer Saturns just weren't as good and of course now you can't get them at all.
LOVE this car. Fondly referred to as our "mighty 4-cylinder." This has get-up and go when we need it. Comfy to drive cross-country and with great mpg. Had it outfitted with hitch to pull small uhaul(4x8) trailer. Anything bigger greatly affects handling. Don't ever slide into a rubber-necking a Ford Expedition on an icy hill though, as the higher bumper literally peels the hood up into a crumpled heap even when impact isn't enough to set off air bags. For this reason it's rated a "10" by insurance co.s (the lower the #-cheaper ins). Traction control great. These saturns are prone to top motor mount failure which causes cabin vibration at idle. (cost to fix-$150.)
I bought this car used with 89k miles, now has 135k. It has performed well. Looks sporty. Seats not designed for the long haul. I'm 6 feet tall and fit well into car, but only with steering wheel tilted up getting/out. Engine burns 2 qt's oil between changes, but no smoke(?). Differential blew apart at 110k, taking tranny with it. Had junkyard tranny installed. Still runs good. Lots of rattles and creaks, particularly in cold weather. Love the ABS, traction control, stereo, sporty feel. Except for tranny, opertaing costs low. Insurance low for teenage daughter. Great student car. She even likes the manual trans. Not many of her friends can drave a standard.