As I write this review, it is December, 2013. My parents purchased me a 2000 Saturn SL1 in 2004 for my first car. I was 17 years old then and I'm going on 28 and I still own this car.
When they purchased the car for me it had around 40,000 miles. Cut to today: the car has 248,673 miles and still runs the same as the day I got it. So in 10 years I've owned the car the only major thing that has happened was with the timing chain. It messed up one night and I was left stranded at work. It cost $900 to fix the head of the motor that was cracked when the timing chain jumped time.
That was it.
Besides regular car maintenance (oil, tires, etc.) I've never had any problems out of it.
As an American compact, it depreciates faster than normal, but is safe, reliable, and affordable. I recommend getting a 1 or 2 year old SL for big savings. Stick can be stiff shifting into 1st gear, but otherwise smooth transmission. Suspension on the SL2 is superior for its size and class. Fuel economy is great, getting about 33 or 34 mpg in mixed city/hwy driving. Servicing at Saturn dealerships are affordable, and insurance (with USAA) was cheapest of all new cars in 2000.
This car will not Die (+200K miles, sarcasm,dated)
written on 06-04-2016
SL2 4dr Sedan
This car is a moneymaker. My goal at this point is to have it safely erupt in flames, so I am forced out of my shell of practicality. It has been SO reliable for 16 years, gotten me to and from work, and is now teaching my children the finer aspects of the shift stick. Seriously, this will be the most reliable and trustworthy car in my lifetime.
I purchased this car with 137,000 miles on it, and drove it until it had well over 300,000 miles (until it was totaled in a high-speed accident). If it hadn't been totalled, I would have driven the car until it just wouldn't go any longer, which I imagine would have been for a very long time. I did regular maintenence on the car, like oil changes, changing fuel filters and the like. The only extraordinary thing I had to do was change the water pump. The car never broke down on me, left me standing on the side of the road, or anything of the sort. In a four-year period, I reguarly made trips between The East Coast and Texas without any issue, and cross-country trips. It's an incredible car.
Have this car for 10 years, besides a recent intake manifold change, this car only needs basic maintenance. Very good at gas mileage. parts are easy to get and cheap. At 13 years old of this car, and at 120,000 miles I drove it in a 3000 mile cross country trip without a slight problem. The car drives a like a champ. Outside paint is of good quality. After a heavy rain, the car shines beautifully like it was new 13 years ago.
Overall, very basic but extremely reliable car, very economically to own. This is the best car I've ever owned, and I have no doubt it will last 300,000 miles.