By on June 30, 2012

 

Most auto auctions will have an ‘inop sale’ right before the regular sales begins.

Inop sales consist of vehicles that don’t run for one reason or another. It could need little more than a battery or a fuel pump. Or it could be that the electric system is fried, the engine is toast, and the car is truly worth more dead than alive.

You always take a risk when buying these vehicles. On the worst side of the equation, the car becomes crusher fodder and is sent to an auto recycler for its impending death and dismemberment. About 30% of the vehicles I get from these sales wind up as either junkyard scenery or Chinese raw materials.

However if the repair is something simple and cheap… you win!

Last year I managed to get a 1996 Dodge Intrepid with only 28k miles for $400. A couple hundred in repairs, a no reserve sale on Ebay, and I was looking at a surprising $2800 profit.

Over the years I’ve had Subarus that were cheaper than the average monthly finance payment. Old Volvos that found a second life with a new enthusiastic owner, and now, a 1994 SAAB 900 S that… well…

I can’t figure out what to do with it.

On one side of the equation, an old beater always appeals to the ‘cheap’ side of our personality. A ‘good’ cheap car? Even better.

Good.. cheap… and Saab? That’s a tall order. But lo and behold, there it was in all its Swedish glory.

This particular Saab received more thorough and intensive car than 90+% of the older vehicles at the auctions. You name the part, it works and I have about $6000 worth of maintenance records in the glovebox that back-up the prior owner’s almost sadistic level of loyalty.

Poor guy.

Even the central dashbarod display that is usually de-pixelated by the time most Saabs hit the decade mark, is picture perfect. I managed to get this car for only $300 plus a $40 auction fee. It was an absolute steal that appears to be as mint as an 18 year old can be.

I was lucky. No doubt. But experience in this business has also taught me one important reality of finding good cars on the cheap.

When it comes to getting these types of vehicles you have to pretty much, “Hit em’ where they ain’t.”

An 18 year old car from a defunct automaker, base model, 5-speed, in the saddest shade of unmarketable gray represents an awful lot of ain’t in this business.

Ain’t gonna move fast off your car lot.

Ain’t gonna be drivable for 80+% of your customers.

Ain’t gonna be coveted by most of the other remaining car shoppers.

What also helped was that the inop sale took place far away from the 60+ dealers who regularly attend the sale. Only two dealers other than me watched this vehicle get sold.

It was one of those right place, right time deals. Heck the brand new tires alone were worth close to $200 used and the rest of the car could be crushed and parted out for far more money. As I started the vehicle up and looked around, it was obvious that it was well kept. No obvious engine sludge. No interior stains at all. Not even the typical wear marks that come with an 18 year old runabout.

 

Given that the name of the vehicle is almost synonymous with expensive repairs, the two other dealers didn’t even give it a second glance.

The auctioneer ‘held’ my bid at $300 (I put a fist to my side showing that I would hold him at that price). One of the other dealers started yelling out “$200! $200!” while laughing with his dealer friend, and about seven seconds later the car was mine.

 

All it needed was a clutch and a shot of freon.

A $65 tow. $160 for a new clutch on Ebay. $215 for installing it. One $10 can of freon. A $5 car wash, and it was as good as an old Saab can pretty much be.

So my $300 statue of a car is now an $800 fully mobile beater. Which is great, except that it’s still an 18 year old base model with 180,000 miles.

Wink! Wink! Nudge! Nudge!

 

Who wants it? Well, maybe me. I could sell my 2001 Honda Insight for $5500 and drive the old Saab until it transforms itself into a piece of highway landscape architecture.

Would it last 10,000 miles? 20,000 miles? 50,000 miles? As it is I’m only driving the Insight 5,000 miles a year. The economics of ownership heavily favor the Saab… unless I decide to make my Insight the equivalent of a family heirloom.

Since it’s a 5-speed Saab I’m probably looking at about $1800 retail.  So my opportunity cost in keeping this Saab is only about a third of the Honda.

Alternatively, this car can be financed and I could get a bit more than that retail price. But I think I would be pressing my luck given that an old GM Saab simply can’t take much abuse.

So what’s the best decision if you only drive, say, 5,000 commuting miles a year?

To keep a well maintained, cheap, orphan car that you have little money in?

Or to drive a more valuable, better engineered hybrid, that will inevitably require an expensive overhaul once the hybrid battery runs out?

Keep in mind I’m talking strictly about commuting miles. There is little joy in Atlanta traffic.

So what says you?

If some distant relative bequeathed a beautiful beater on your driveway, would you use it for your boring tasks and ‘cash up’ that late model car you drive right now?

Decisions… decisions…

 

 

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71 Comments on “Hammer Time: Finding A Cheap Ride...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I would certainly think the Saab would be more useful (than the Insight) those times when you are doing a little more than commuting. Seats down, hatchback, you could carry quite a bit of stuff if you needed to.

  • avatar

    Oddball, orphan, beater. Sign me up!

    You could sell it to me!

  • avatar
    Neb

    I’d say no to selling the Insight; just on the basis of how many times I’ve heard you mention it, you seem to love the thing. If the Saab had an unfortunate breakdown, you’d curse your rationality.

    It’s a unique car, though. You could let it sit for awhile, and see if fortune sends you the perfect buyer/use for it. It also seems like something that would get a good price for if you could find the person who wants it.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    gotta agree with Dan, keep the Saab make some cash on the sold car, it should serve you well if it had been maintained by the previous owner, plus you can always grab a car from your lot if the saab dies in 5 years or 20000 miles :) and to boot it is more useful and more safe than the insight. Take your self out of it what advice would you give to me if I presented this deal to you.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Stick with the Insight, both cars aren’t cheap to fix but the Insight will save you money in gas and it’ll hold up better.

    As for the Saab, try selling it. But inspect the front drivers headlamp, it looks a bit pushed-in to me.

  • avatar
    readallover

    You`ve got all the records, it`s in great shape – sell, sell, sell to a Saabophile.
    What happened to the Chrylser van with the non-functioning guages ?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Still have it. Damn nightmare. Thankfully I don’t have much money in it.

    • 0 avatar
      saabaru

      I’ve got another “ain’t” for ya…probably ain’t gonna appeal to a Saabophile, being a NG900. If it were a ’93, I’d be all over it. I already have 2 ’92 900s. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. Anyway, I still like this car and I think $1800 is a good price. Where I’m from Parts are still readily available and there are still some really good indy Saab specialists out there. But owning a Saab long-term, as I have (10 years) will either make ya broke, or a better amateur mechanic.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        NG900 becomes good in 1997 and 1998 is best year with all bugs worked out. Hydraulic clutch, bigger brakes, etc. Last year of non-turbo 2.3, which is far easier to work on than the 2.0T.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    If it were me (and obviously it’s not) I would be tempted to sell both and get a small pickup for my 5000 mile yearly commute. I have come to believe that they don’t break as much as cars do. I spent several years doing 100 mi/day and the trucks and one old station wagon held on for a long time. The SAAB reminds me of a broken radiator hose on a tall bridge that ended up blowing the head gasket.

    Really can think of reasons to dump both the SAAB and the Insight unless (as said above) it’s going to be a heirloom.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    You need to take a little drive to New England with the Saab – it will last about 7 seconds on Craigslist. NG900S are the new cockroach car of Maine – they are EVERYWHERE, and you can’t kill them.

    Despite most Saabists looking down their noses at them, the NG900 is a far, far, far better long term proposition than the classic 900 ever was. The fact that it is a manual will get you an extra $500 – they are desired up here.

  • avatar
    Wade.Moeller

    At 5000 miles a year, you really aren’t driving the Insight enough to keep it’s battery in good shape. If your Insight is not grey, a manual, and with a good battery, it’s worth a good bit more then the $5500 you think it is. The other 2-3 colors of the car are rare and if you want to get over 100 MPG, you need the manual. $5500 is the going rate for the grey CVT equipped Insight.

    Replacing the battery will cost you about $3000 to replace when it fails. You might just have to get a bad stick or two replaced and that’s obviously much cheaper. The funny thing about those batteries, they aren’t designed for longevity. They have 5 temp sensors in among the 120 D Cell NiMH batteries to determine the heath of the pack. When a NiMH cell hits near full charge, it starts to heat up. To protect the battery pack, the car’s Battery Control Module (BCM) set the voltage max to match the preset temperature max. As a cell degrades, it drags down the whole pack. Replacing the stick containing the bad cell “fixes” the whole pack.

    I’d keep the Saab, sell the Insight and use the proceeds to gamble on 12 more cars from the inop sales.

    Or even better, keep the Saab and post the Insight on the barter section of Craigslist and see what you can rustle up.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Steven – this is off-topic but I have been in Columbus, GA for a week for work. What is the deal with the 10,000 Title Pawn places in this state? We don’t seem to have such up North. Just curious.

    And there certainly seems to be a desire to have the most garish possible gigantic chrome wheels among a certain demographic here too. I have seen some automotive travesties that come under the heading of “can’t be unseen”.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Here are two Title Pawn articles for your weekend enjoyment…

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/hammer-time-title-pawn-pro/

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/hammer-time-title-pawn-cons/

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Theres plenty of those places because despite the condition the economies in, people still feel the need to use money that they don’t have.

      Some of these people include that “demographic” that often put 99′ inch wheels on their grandmothers Oldsmobile, I have no clue how its cool either to be honest. It is really stupid.

      Though, I’ve seen worse over in the Midwest where people will drop their cars lower than the worms in the dirt, be it a Nissan Silvia or a Honda Civic sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      I was stunned by the title pawns when I lived in Warner Robins, and they were a contributing factor to my belief that Georgia is a sleazy hellhole.

      Oddly enough, payday loans are illegal in Georgia.

      Best thing I ever saw down there was a “Rent to Own” rim shop.

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    I’ll take it! New clutch, new tires and a perfect work car! I am tired of my Civic sitting at work getting dirty and scratched. Coulod get pushy in traffic and I would get a wide berth. Where do I pick it up?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    If the previous owner was meticulous about upkeep, and all it needed was a new clutch and a can of freon, any idea why he might have gotten rid of it? Seems like he would have just fixed and kept driving it himself.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Death would be my guess. The original owner probably bought it new, fell in love with it, and kept it in top shape until they died. The heirs wanted nothing to do with some old orphan car, and dumped it at the Infiniti dealer, who in turn dumped it at auction.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’d buy it if I could, but I can’t. That unmarketable grey shows very well from your pics for 18y/o and 180k miles. That is one well cared for car!

    As a member of the short commute club, I had this argument, although in a slightly different version, with myself 18 months ago. I had about 7k to spend and was deciding to lease or buy something used. I love European cars, had a VW Jetta wagon 1.8T that I enjoyed and was looking at a 3 or 5 series ( or a SAAB for that matter)wagon. Tough find in my area, though I was willing to travel,but anything in my price range was going to be a bit rough or with super high miles. Or both. Combine that with my wife doesn’t drive a stick and I couldn’t get the car I REALLY wanted anyway.

    In the end, I leased a 2010 Altima that was a left over in 2011. S model, CVT, no options, white with beige interior. The Nissan dealer had 20 of them and offered them for a sign and drive lease with a low monthly payment. No money out of pocket ( good because my twin boys were only a month old then and we ended up buying a house 6 months later) no surprises of the expensive variety ( no surprises period so far). I made the smart choice for the most part, the plan is to run the lease out and then I keep our paid for by then Mazda 5 and we get a new to us mini-bus, er, van for the wife.

    So far, the Altima has 5600 miles on it after 18 months. I could have gotten my Eurowagon and possibly not suffered any huge headache or repair bills. The Altima is a good sedan, but has no personality. It has decent styling but no real style. It has a great chassis for a run of the mill people hauler, but the CVT lets it down and the cheap Continental tires have no appetite for being driven hard. It’s great for commuting, until you want to have a bit of fun during your commute. I’d rather have my Eurowagon with it’s looming repair bill, until that repair happens of course.

    Drive the SAAB, keep the Insight. The SAAB will fail you eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Think those Contis have no appetite for the curves? Work provides my Altima, and the garage put on Uniroyal Tiger Paws when the OEM tires wore out….trust me, you’d be begging for those Contis back…

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Welcome new Saabophile! Looks like non-turbo, but if it is V6 it should have torque in traffic aside from using the clutch allot. I didn’t pay much more than $1,500 for my well worn 9-5′s that I bought except for one that is mint. They make great highway cruisers, get super fuel economy of 40 mpg, and have the torque from turbo power when you need it. With constarined driving style, 40 psi in the tires, and an all wheel alignment I can see mid-40′s at 60 mph.

    And there are parts o’plenty with sometimes a half dozen vendors for one replacement part to choose from at rockauto.com. With all the ICE I need on my smart phone there really isn’t a need for a modern, midsized car as they don’t see 40 mpg with engine alone, are getting too heavy, and will not match a well tuned 9-5 on the highway from legal speeds on up.

  • avatar
    C P

    How does one get in on these auctions? Or is it only for dealers?

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    Grey is a fine colour choice. Could be worse.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    EvilBay it. Somebody in New England will snag it. A Saabophile friend of mine is in the process of moving from ATL to Maine, he’s hauled a few nice Saabs north over the years.

    If my Subaru repairs tomorrow go horribly wrong, I’d be tempted…

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    In some cases, Saabs have an undeserved reputation for being unreliable and expensive to own, but unfortunately this model lives up to it. The ’94 Saab 900 was a low point for Saab: GM had just completed purchasing the rest of the company, wanted results, and rushed the car out to market before it was ready. By ’96-’97 they worked out enough of the bugs that it was a decent car, but ’94-95 900 is one of the few Saabs I would never own.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Given the maintenance history, I think that nearly anything that is inherently defective on this vehicle has already been replaced by an improved version.

      But then again, maybe something is lurking in the deep dark shadows.

    • 0 avatar
      EchoChamberJDM

      Market for used Saabs esp on Ebay is very weak right now, there’s 2003 and 2004 9-3 Sport Sedans going for low $2k range for cars with issues and hi miles to $4k for decent models. A 1994 was the worst year for that generation, likely will get only about $1.5k on Fleabay. Even with all the records.
      Picked up my 2003 9-3 Sports Sedan off Craigslist for $3k. Had to put brakes/rotors/tires to pass inspection in NY, but its still a TON of car for the $$.

      I would recommend to Stephen to sell the Insight, drive the saab for a month..if he likes it, sell it quick and buy a newer Saab as they are super cheap right now. All the panic had customers dumping thir Saabs…however parts are flowing once again as Saab Parts North America is open for business.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Very astute observation…

      • 0 avatar
        EchoChamberJDM

        Steven – hell, I will sell you mine. I have been bitten by the Saab bug, I have always rooted for the underdog and you can get much more “underdoggy” than Saab.

        Now I am trolling for a nice 9-3 Aero, thinking I can get one for $5k range. The most performance you can get per dollar in the “late model” luxury used car market, period. Sell mine for what I have into it ($3k ish), spend another 1-2 grand and get myself an Aero 6 speed. 9-3s and 9-5s are by far the most car your money can buy today for a late model used lux car. That said, better have a good independent mechanic who knows what they are doing, and be prepared to work the chat rooms for advice and parts.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    What a dilemma. I say keep both…you have such a rich history with the Insight and you clearly love it; meanwhile the Saab has soul and I predict you will become very attached to it, which is dangerous business.

    My 9-3 Aero is a cramp in the ass at times….but nothing drives like her.

    • 0 avatar
      EchoChamberJDM

      Dave – I get what you mean about your Aero. My 9-3 has all the typical Saab issues (electrical gremlins, peeling paint on the interior buttons, iffy parts availbility). But when I floor it to pass someone on a winding 2 lane highway, the turbo spools up , whistles and the boost gauge is buried in the red zone, my son yells “TURBO POWER” and then everyone will understand why folks are telling Steven to keep the Saab. Same reason why people were protesting at GM HQ to “Save Saab.”
      Before buying my 9-3 I drove an old 9000 Aero. Had all kinds of minor leaks and trim pieces falling off, but engine and running gear was fantastic. I realized I was driving a $40k car when new, now offered for sale for a grand. What kind of cheap beater car offers that type of driving experience? Only Saab. But you have to choose wisely, or you will quickly be in way over your head.

  • avatar
    johnxyz

    turbisaab, EchochamberJDM, Dave M, Can you recommend the more recent model years 9-3′s as a great used buy? Or are they complete GM junk? Interested in the turbo 4 with a manual (no V6 /auto). Are 9-5′s to be completely avoided? Did the most recent 9-5′s only come in V6/auto? Thanks

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      5 years ago I bought my ’04 Aero convertible off-lease for about 50% off msrp. The convertible was made in Graz, Austria, not in Trollhatten.

      While I am pissed that GM let Saab die on the vine, I also understand the argument that they may have in fact extended Saab’s life, especially regarding new product. No, the 9-2X and 9-7X don’t count as true Saabs but rather curious styling exercises in Saab-ism.

      The GM/Opel/Epsilon modified platform the last Saabs were built on are strong, well put-together chassis; a great place for the Saab engineers to start. ‘True Saab-o-philes’ lament GM’s touch…on the other hand, obviously they hadn’t bought a new Saab in 20 years since GM has provided a platform since 1992 or so.

      I assume my convertible has additional chassis supports built in to make up for the gaping hole where the hard top used to be. I do know that it feels as solid as our old Volvo to drive, and yet it is very fling-able on the twisties.

      The dash (at least ’03-’06) plastics feel cheap. The seats supreme. Steering awesome. I only have 42k on mine, so except for a couple of oil changes, top fabric treatment, and a valve repair for the top mechanism, it’s been a great little pocket rocket.

    • 0 avatar
      EchoChamberJDM

      Johnxyz – the older Saab-o-philes will tell you to stay away from anything in the GM days, however that leaves you with cars nearly 20 years old and most not suitable for daily commuting. Real life experience tells me that GM helped drastically improve the reliability and driveability of Saab products, if you are looking at a 9-3 or 9-5 they are great buys as long as you stick with MY 2003 93, or a 2004 95. Must haves: complete service records, an owner that looks like he took care of the car and understood that it needs regular upkeep, and a good independent service shop close by.

      Anything older and you are looking at potential sludge and electrical problems……

      My 2003 9-3 was the first year of the current body style and while it looks like it came off the showroom floor last week (assuming there are any Saab showrooms left), the first year did have some teething pains. That said, its currently got 173k miles on the odo, runs great, still on original turbo, engine, trans, etc.
      Why did I buy it? For the money, its the only thing at that price that offers side impact airbags, ABS, leather interior, gets 30MPG+ and looks and drives moderately sporty. Japanese tuner crowd will squawk and say “get a nice used Civic….get a nice used Corolla 5 speed” but none of them can touch the Saab features at the same price.

      Take a look at the red 2003 9-3 offered for sale on ebay right now, 5 speed manual, offered by a BMW dealer in Peabody Mass. Is a good guage to see what the market is like for these cars. Its a reserve auction but my hunch is that it will go for low $3k range.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      Not a 2003-05 9-3, no. Nein. Nyet. A flimsy POS with Opel engine and an endless list of issues. Does not wear well too.
      The 99-02 9-3 is very much like a car that’s being discussed here and is a much better option. Especially if you manage to dig a Viggen version.

      But if you want low cost/long run/great fun/tons of practicality, then look for a low mileage, unabused 04-05 9-5 Aero with records and you will be golden.

      Very few and well known _possible_ problem areas, very robust and can easily last for 350,000+ miles (examples aplenty).
      But really, the best place to ask would be saabnet.com or a similar resource.

      • 0 avatar
        EchoChamberJDM

        Acubra – Agree on the 9-5 Aero. Disagree on the 9-3 years.
        You may say the 2003 and up 9-3 is a POS with the Opel engine, but so is the 99-02 9-3. And there is no way I would put my family in the prior gen 9-3 94-02, the crash tests are horrible. Check out:
        http://www.euroncap.com/tests/saab_9_3_2000/78.aspx
        and compare to
        http://www.euroncap.com/tests/saab_9_3_2002/131.aspx

        Which one would you put your 5 year old and wife in?

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Get a hold of yourself, Steven. You deal in cars. Sell the Saab.

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    I’m with mitchw. Dump the Saab. It almost sounds like you’re getting attached to this thing. It’s an $800 car that you may get $1500 to $1800 for.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    When it comes to daily transport, no matter how little one drives, it is necessarry to have a reliable, dependable, proven vehicle. The Saab is none of these. A project car is great on the side, but for a daily driver one doesn’t want something that will leave them stranded.

    Sell this one. The Honda is proven.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    How much total, shipped to San Francisco or Carson City? (I’m quite serious btw…)

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    You’re a brave man for considering a 90′s Saab with 180K+ miles on the odometer as a daily driver. Even though it’s in “excellent” running condition at the moment there’s a fairly good chance that the $6000 in receipts in the glove box is a pretty good clue about why the owner finally gave up on even a basic clutch replacement. I don’t think even at 5000 miles per year you’d be getting away cheaply.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Donate the contraption to your local institute of youth indoctrination/brainwashing of the high school variety so the vile spawn can do a fund raising event where the young hoodlums and future gun molls can whack it with a sledge hammer for X amount of bucks per whack.

    Maximize the value and use it as a deduction on the taxes taken from you via threats of force by a government of, for and by a ruling elite and corporate USA.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I am looking for a car exactly like that down here. I actually found one 2 months ago with 86K kms, it was immaculate, sadly I didn’t go to the auction (falta de bolas), despite the car failed to sell for 3 straight weeks.

    That you got it for $300 tells me I wasn’t that off in my plans.

    While GM’s parts catalog still, I had a look at the parts prices for this car and they were within average. None of the usual wear parts (struts for example) were outrageously expensive.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Careful, Steven, you may like it. Many SAAB owners are fiercely loyal.

    This is the only kind of SAAB that is good. Base model with manual transmission and cloth seats. The seats are to die for, by the way. Too bad it is the worst year of the NG900. Hopefully, this one has had the front suspension upgraded.

    If you end up keeping it, make sure you visit bulletin boards on saabnet.com.

    • 0 avatar
      turbosaab

      I have to disagree. Manual transmission, yes, but if you are going to go to the trouble and expense of owning an older Saab, make it worth your while and get a turbo with leather and other goodies. The base model non-turbo is going to cost you just as much to maintain and not nearly as fun.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        I am prepared to argue this one.

        Leather is disgusting when new — slippery, cold in winter, hot in summer. When old it is cracked, ripped, decomposing and smells ghastly.

        NG900 is not suitable for turbo power. Even with aftermarket chassis mods, such as Viggen rescue kit and six point chassis subframe, it can’t handle turbo’s power and torque. The non-turbo engine has 150 refined horsepower, is very quiet and free of vibration. It will easily power the car to its top speed of 135 mph. It is far easier to maintain without the turbo plumbing sitting behind the radiator. It still requires good synthetic oil to avoid sludging but it does not have the dreaded DI cassette. With good preventive maintenance, a 1997-98 non-turbo NG900 is by far the cheapest SAAB to own.

      • 0 avatar
        Acubra

        Second that. Although my favorite would be a 99-01 9-3 3 door or, beter still, a Euro-stripped down 9000. Owned a 1990 9000CD (no air and climate, manual, NA 2.3) many moons ago. It was amazing how much abuse that car was able to withstand.

      • 0 avatar
        turbosaab

        I’ll bite… what is so much easier to maintain without the turbo plumbing in the way?

        Are you suggesting that the N/A 2.3 is significantly smoother/quieter than the 2.0 turbo? Both are similar designs with balance shafts, turbo should not make a difference, if anything the smaller displacement motor should win out?

        DI cassette is no big deal. Replace it preventatively, or if you’re cheap like me, buy a spare one used for <$100 and throw it in the trunk.

        You don't like leather, that's cool, but you are in the minority. Unless minimalism is your thing I just don't see a reason to go with a base model for this car; even considering the limitations of the chassis, more power is better than less, and there really is little penalty as far as servicing or fuel economy.

  • avatar
    DaveDFW

    Remember the NG900′s had horrible crash-test results–these folded up like cheap accordions in frontal tests.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      This is simply not true. Faired about as good as BMW 3er and Mercedes C-klasse back in the day. Only slightly behind Volvo 850 and much better than any of them in rollover testing.

      Real life safety of NG900 has been stellar. Certainly better than any contemporary Japanese car.

      • 0 avatar
        DaveDFW

        Absolutely true.

        “The Saab 900 achieved a two-star front- and side-impact rating. The passenger compartment became structurally unstable and screen pillar movement was excessive following the frontal-impact test. Meanwhile, in the side-impact test, chest protection was assessed as poor. Furthermore, the presence of stiff structures in the area likely to be struck by the driver’s knees during a frontal impact presented a significant risk of injury to his knees, thighs and pelvis.”

        http://www.euroncap.com/tests/saab_900_1997/2.aspx

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        BMW 3er:

        http://www.euroncap.com/tests/bmw_3_series_1997/15.aspx

        The 3-series’ cabin became structurally unstable during the frontal impact and the driver ran a risk of life-threatening chest injury. The distance by which the steering wheel was displaced backwards posed further risks of injury, while stiff aggressive structures in the lower facia area also added greatly to the chances of the driver sustaining serious knee, thigh and pelvis injuries. In the side-impact test, protection for the driver’s abdomen failed to meet coming 1998 legislation for new models.

        Mercedes C-klasse:

        http://www.euroncap.com/tests/mercedes_benz_c_class_1997/18.aspx

        The Mercedes achieved a two-star front- and side-impact rating. In the frontal test, the C-class suffered excessive intrusion into the footwell area, where stiff structures that came into contact with the driver’s right knee presented serious injury risks to his knee, thigh and pelvis. The C-class is due to be revised this autumn. For now, the car tested was fitted with driver and passenger airbags, which are standard equipment throughout Europe. It also had door-mounted airbags for additional side-impact protection. However in the side-impact test, with the seat set correctly for an adult male of average height, the door struck the dummy’s chest before the side airbag had fully inflated. If the seat were set further back for a taller driver it was not clear from the test results how much more or less effective the airbag might have been.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      Google “Folksam real life safety” and see for yourself.
      Not too bad a car at all. Nowhere nearly as strong as a 900OG, 9000 or a 9-5, but still decent.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    Even with this amount of bills it is still the worst model year for a 900, it has 180K and it does look tired. May be your “live” impression is different, I don’t know. But I’d dump it.

    Invest another 23 bucks to get sticky badges from ebay (a guy from Portugal sells them for $10 a pop + $3 for shipment) to glue on the worn originals, move the headlight wiper arm in the horisontal position so that it would not look so glaringly inoperative and advertise in SAAB-heavy areas as already suggested above.

    If you want a cost-effective, long-lasting and practical SAAB – get yourself a low mileage 2004-05 9-5 wagon.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Here’s the thing about title loans and free market theory. Free market theory only works as intended when there is rational decisionmaking. (A sub-assumption is perfect information and zero information costs, but I digress.) Predatory lenders target a segment of the community that that they have identified as being irrational. You can say that in this respect, a predatory lender works like a lion, culling the old, the sick and the infirm out of the herd. If that is socially acceptable to you, then I’m not going to get anywhere with this policy argument. I spent a significant amount of time this week dealing with a new car dealer that added $5,000 to the cost of an automobile purchased by my 76 year old mother in a moment of irrationality. She would have never fallen for the deal in her younger days. Is my mother fair game? How about yours? If you are young now, congratulations. You’ll be old too someday. Back to title loans/payday loans: should a payday loan customer be separated from his hard-earned pay to the tune of thousands of percent interest (with refinancing) just because he is stupid and/or desperate? Should his young family be condemned to deepening poverty so the financiers have money for their expensive toys?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Sorry about your mom. For the rest one word: Darwinism.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      If someone is irrational with money, there’s a significant additional cost in lending money to them, therefore they are going to pay punitive interest. Note, this is not about a car dealer fourboxing your mother out of 5 grand, that’s just a sleazy car dealer screw job which I won’t defend — I’m just talking about people with bad credit getting access to financial services. If you have a history of not paying your debts, but need money, I have no issue with someone holding on to your car title and charging more than usual. The remedy is to get a good credit rating by paying your debts and your bills on time. It’s illegal in this country to deny someone a loan because their race or economic class, assuming they meet your credit rating standard.

  • avatar

    Tough decision maybe. But the insight is a looming $3k bill, whilst the Saab is potential $800 loss. Think I will take the smaller figuer, keep the Saab

  • avatar
    Jethrine

    Where do you get a clutch r&r on that car for $215… and you bring your own parts?
    That is charity work.
    You have an in-house tech?

    Nothing wrong with a 94 900 if it isn’t a v6.
    Weren’t many bugs in that car early on, all sorted years ago.

    Those caps are awful.
    Base 900 should be flyin’ the steelies.

    Mixed feelings about the tote the note lots.
    Capitalizing on bad decision making, but that is done in every industry.

    On the positive side, if it breaks you don’t get any more payments, the lots have to keep the cars going.
    We do a little work for a few buy here pay here lots on after the sale problems.
    The lots we deal with always pay to fix the cars right, I suppose they usually make the car
    owner (renter?) pay for the repairs tacked on the end of the term.
    Nothing wrong with that.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Well Mr. Lang which way are your leaning?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Insight.

      The Honda is an engineering marvel. The early Saab NG900 in base form is a rolling piece of automotive mediocrity that, at 18 years old, is worse than most other beater alternatives of the modern day.

      The Insight gets 56 mpg and is fun to drive. This Saab is an exquisitely maintained bag of bolts that offers less than half the fun and mpg’s.

      The question really comes down to whether folks would be willing to keep a highly dubious car bought on the cheap. Or a wonderful one that is bought for far more money and may, perhaps, cost a bit more to operate over the long run.

      The Insight is the better choice. Time will tell if another car down the road offers even better value and enjoyment.

      • 0 avatar
        DaveDFW

        The NG900 was the first product foisted upon SAAB by GM. It was the beginning of the long slide into GM sameness and is nearly universally disliked by SAAB-ophiles.

        I doubt it will ever be worth more than beater value.

        People disagree about this model’s safety (see above), but it had poor crash test results for a brand that formerly prided itself on producing safe cars.

      • 0 avatar
        EchoChamberJDM

        Throw it on Saabnet, for a small fee you get a bunch of devoted loyalists who will at least give the car the respect and attention it deserves. As opposed to someone on your lot who is just looking for cheap wheels.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    The SAAB is teasing you badly. Just waiting for the chance that you’ll cave and then…..it will start punching you in the wallet. Every time I’ve fallen for a car like this, it let me know who’s the boss :(


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