Sell, Lease, Rent or Keep: 2001 Saab 9-5

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
sell lease rent or keep 2001 saab 9 5

It was the best of cars. It was the worst of cars. A silver 2001 Saab 9-5 was slowly making it’s way through the auction lane. It was a base model… and yet loaded. This silver 9-5 base came with a leather interior, sunroof, a 9 speaker Harman-Kradon stereo system, and heated seats for the front and rear. It was also a museum piece. No interior wear. No paint chips. The only thing worn on it was the Saab emblem in front… which is typical. 60+ dealers were in the lane that day. But most were looking at the usual finance fodder. I bought the Saab for $2250 (plus $115 fee) and weighed my options.

Sell: Who buys a Saab? Well that’s a question with many answers. When I put this vehicle up on Craigslist and Autotrader I spoke with quite a few folks who were looking for an Audi A4, Subaru Outback or Lexus IS. The Saab 9-5, in sedan form, doesn’t have the prestige or performance that makes it a worthy contender to the 3-Series. But it is a loaded European sport(y) sedan that has the halos of high-speed Jets and modern day Yuppiedom. I put a target price on this vehicle at $3900.

Lease: Finance fodder folk will rarely understand how to maintain this vehicle. Synthetic motor oil, buggy electronics, and parts prices halfway to the moon make the Saab a bad bet. But then again, this car was made for a decade. Plus I could always offer to provide oil changes to these customers at a much lower cost than most other places. I have a mechanic friend who charges $10 for an oil change if you simply bring the oil and filter, and he has a lift to boot which allows him to detect suspension problems in the early going. The Saab could be financed at $1000 down, $65 a week for 30 months. A far stronger profit but if I sold it to the wrong customer, I would be screwed.

Rent: Are you kidding? Cars like these attract white lightning to your lot. Folks who rag out the vehicles before paying up on the note. Ex-con’s who are trying to finagle their way into the best ride possible. I could have this go for a daily rate of $25. But it would take three months of rentals to break even on this type of unit and generally, rental customers tend to be harder on vehicles.

Keep: My wife chose and drove this car for a short while. Why? Well, It’s extremely safe. Gas mileage seems reasonable. Did I mention it’s silver? The features don’t hurt and like most non-enthusiasts, she cared more about the color and the interior than the ‘drive’. Saabs have a reputation for engine sludge. So I removed the valve cover gasket and oil pan to look for deposits. Both were perfect. Truth be told my wife would have been perfectly happy if for one fatal flaw. Her MPG’s came out at 19.5… and 90+% of her driving is in town. Compare this to the 42 mpg she gets with the 2003 Civic and it really is no contest.

I sold it. With 105k miles and an excellent prior owner it may have been the perfect finance vehicle. But when someone offers you a quick strong profit in this business, you take it. The Saab was ‘bought’ right so I could sell it without having to adjust my target that much. But I did. A decent fellow who was very well versed in Saabs came by and offered $3500. Sold…too cheap? Yep. Thankfully, my mentor taught me a valuable lesson back in the day. Never regret a profit. I never will.

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  • Obruni Obruni on Dec 24, 2010

    saabs and volvos were very popular in the wealthy brooklyn neighborhoods (former park sloper myself). these are people that could easily afford german premium brands, but elected for the swedes instead. i would have to say that subarus are the most common car, followed by the toyota matrix.

  • Albert Albert on Dec 27, 2010

    You lucky bastards! Selling a near new 9-5 for $ 3.000. Where I live (Netherlands), the cheapest 9-5 goes for $ 7.800 (dealer asking price). It has 190 kmiles on it then and it is the cheapest version available (cloth, manual, 150 hp). A 2.3 Aero goes for nearly $ 12.000.

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