By on January 20, 2011

What killed Saturn? Blandness. An unending sea of uninspiring designs and sibling ripoff’s destroyed what could have been GM’s most successful project of the last 30 years. Of course they’re not alone in the branding malaise. Ford had Mercury. Chrysler had Plymouth. A lot of folks here would argue that Toyota’s Scion is becoming a living testament to compromises that yield a death defining brand. Throw in Acura’s (lack of) reputation, Infiniti and Kia during their low points, and even the winners can sometimes be losers. Which means that with no cache, a Theft Recovery title, and 93k on the odometer, I bought it cheap. $1600. Therefore I can…

Rent: I can probably rent this car for quite a long time. A semi-efficient Ecotec 4-cylinder engine combined with a powertrain and interior that is available in multitude at the pull-a-part’s means that it wouldn’t take that much to keep it running. But then you also have cheap interior parts that simply can not stand abuse. Saturns are one leap ahead of VW’s and Kia’sfrom the same era. But that’s not saying much. With this one I would look at renting it for $140 a week.

Lease/Finance: $700 down and $60 a week for 18 months. I can see that happening with this vehicle since I already have an L300 with the same terms. The L300 had a 3.0L V6 that was also found in the Cadillac Catera. For those of you who don’t know, the Catera’s engine is so feared at the auctions that only a Chrysler with a 2.7L is more repugnant. I spent money to bring the 3.0L:up to date on maintenance and now, it works. But most folks only look at these vehicles as a get-around car. The four cylinder model is far better.

Sell: $3500 in tax season is a good possibility. I may settle at the $3000 mark for a quick profit. This type of vehicle is just not among my favorites. Should it be? I think it may be too close to that borderline where marginal vehicles can yield lower than optimal returns. Perhaps I’ll just wait and see if it sells or leases first?

Keep: Why? Yes I would have minimal depreciation for the next 10 years and the gas cost wouldn’t be as bad as most other cars. My wife hasn’t a care in the world about the car she drives. She realizes that her footwear is going to have a bigger impact on her life. So it wouldn’t be impossible to keep this appliance in the garage and just simply drive it. God knows it would be more worthwhile to own than the Bravada. We have two Hondas at the moment, a late model Civic and the 1st gen Insight. I like them a whole lot better than this midsized mushroom. But eventually I sell them all.

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31 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 2002 Saturn L200...”

  • avatar

    First I’ve heard about problems with the V6 as installed in the Saturns. As for the one installed in the Cateras, the hive mind at wiki tells us that “In its 3.0 L form, this engine was notable for recalls of all units installed in Cadillac Cateras due to timing belt tensioner bearing failures, which could cause catastrophic damage to the engine because of its interference design.” So perhaps the engine was redesigned before being installed in the Saturns? The V6 was installed longitudinally in the Cateras but horizontally in all other applications.
    This is the same V6 in turbo form that was in some Saab 9-5s as well.

    • 0 avatar

      I am sure under “horisontal” you meant transverse.
      As I would freeze that sorry little thinking processor in my cranium trying to imagine horizontal placement of a V6 in a Saturn.
      This V6 comes out as a mixed bag really. While having a poor reputation in Opels (Caddies) and Saturns, it is deemed as quite trouble-free when installed in a SAAB. Go figure…

    • 0 avatar

      Well, now I know one of the reasons Cateras are unexpectedly cheap in the used market. It sounds like the problem would have been fixed by the recall though. Is a Catera a secrect bargain, or an unresolved time bomb?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      My impression (YMMV) was that the final years of the Catera (post recall) were secret bargins. 

  • avatar

    flip it for 2995

  • avatar

    Sell for the quick flip.  Tis’ the season.

  • avatar

    Saturn dealers are far and few between these days. So, if you are worried about the interior parts self-destructing, my advice is to sell rather than rent it.
    By the way, that’s a nice VW Squareback that you have in the background.

    • 0 avatar

      This Saturn has the CVT  These are known to grenade around that mileage and they aren’t cheap.  I’d sell it now.
      This is coming from someone who drives a 2001 Saturn SL 5spd penalty-box everyday with 130,000 miles on it.  While fairly reliable, sometimes I think walking may be more exciting.  The Saturn brand was never anything to write home about, but they do serve as useful and reliable beaters. (if you get the SL or SC models).
      P.S. – The 2.2L Ecotec is a proven engine for what it’s worth.

    • 0 avatar

      No, these were standard automatics.  Assuming everything that can wear out has already worn out these would make a good rental: they don’t show cosmetic damage (partly because the materials, out an in are robust, partly because they looked slightly clapped-out from the factory), are pretty economical to run and insure and unappealing to the kind of people you don’t want to rent to.
      Were it a wagon I suggest selling it as someone would pay a reasonable price.  The sedan?  Probably not so much.
      Side note: these share guts with the prior Saab 9-5.  Given some care, the chassis can be pretty pleasant.  Unfortunately, GM equipped them with some of the cheapest, nastiest suspension and brake components you can get.  If you let them wear out and replace them with something decent you can get a good car out of the deal. Pity you can’t do much with the interior…

    • 0 avatar


      I’m pretty sure that the CVT was not in the L200, that this was just a good old fashioned boat anchor grade GM 4-speed automatic.

      I thought the CVT was in the ION, VUE, and L300 of the era.  They are disasters.  Stay away. Stay far, far, away.  And there may not be a worse combination than the GM Elsemere 3.0 V6 with the CVT.

      The ECOTEC 4 combined with the ye’ old 4-speed automatic is a pretty darn reliable setup.  Boring as flour paste gravy, but reliable.

    • 0 avatar

      @psar: Isn’t this the first iteration of the Epsilon chassis? If so, this would be a solid car for someone. A friend has one of these, with the same mechanicals. Boring as oatmeal, true, but runs well and doesn’t cost them a lot to do so.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think this is an Epsilon, but the Ep’s precursor.  GM2800 or 2900—not sure which.

    • 0 avatar

      As far as I can tell, the 3.0 in these Saturns did not come with the CVT. 4 speed auto only.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Don’t know the platform name, but this car was sold as a Vectra everywhere outside North America … and it should have been sold as the Saturn Vectra here. The Vectra after this one was on the first Epsilon platform.

  • avatar

    This car is prime for renting. Fuel efficient and cheap to repair. Saturn’s sometimes have a bad rap, but when you find a good one, they are good appliances.
    Plus, with gas moving the way it is, you will want to have as many efficient cars in your “possession/inventory” as possible. You know how difficult it is to find cheap, reliable, and efficient cars at the auction these days. If/When the rental deal falls apart, you should easily be able to sell and make money.
    Also there is the title issue. The “theft recovery” might scare a potential buyer, but no renter will think twice about it.

  • avatar

    Forget the Saturn – how much for the Squareback?

  • avatar

    these drive like crap, but are great on gas and hard-ish to kill.

  • avatar

    Didnt these have a timing chain rather than a belt?

    I’d say they look boring as heck.But they have replaceable plastic thats good too…shouldnt rust..(on the outside)

    I knew someone who got one (older, slightly different model, but they all look kinda boring so, who can tell.) as a beater for like 500 beans yrs ago..just to get thru winter..he still has it.

    I’d keep it.
    or sell it if you need the money.

  • avatar

    I own one too,  I deffinately agree the Brake and Suspention bits are seriously low quality parts.  I have had nothing but trouble after about 100k on the Hubs, wheel bearings, and half shafts etc.  Mine however is starting show signs that the bottom end of the ecotech is failing now.  I have a very noticeble wobble in the crankshaft pulley which is like to mean a crankshaft bearing is going. Plus the crank seal is going too.  Then again my motor has 175k on it.  Steve btw, how are the electricals on  the White L200?  Any noticeable headlamp flicker or Dimmer switch contact issues?  or tail lamp issues.  The 3.0 Opel V6 is PITA to even service for oil changes.  The car has a very soft aluminium oil pan and OEM drain plug on those is Star Key Bolt.  The oil filter cartiage assemble is very touchy at best.  Since the assembly and cover is also cast aluminium with rubber gasket inbetween.  Can be very easy to break if the cover is over tightened.  Sadly one must go back a GM dealer for the part. 

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Park it in the garage IF it has more rear legroom than the Civic, you might enjoy it for short trips that require the whole family.  (Like church on Sunday or whatever.)

  • avatar

    The L300 V6 is a timming belt, however the Ecotech 2.2 4 Cyl is a chain driven valvetrain.

  • avatar

    The L series Rear seat is not too much roomer than civic thou, however it has a gapping large trunk thou. 

  • avatar

    If you can find someone stupid enuff to pay 3k grab em an bleed em before the drugs wear off you paid $1600 and you got suckered.

  • avatar

    Keep or rent.  Keep = yes, parts available forever.  Rent = I think the plastics inside this car would withstand lots of use.  Most important to watch: all radio buttons, door handle, shifter interlock sturdiness.

  • avatar

    Find a 16 year old whose parents “have” to buy him/her a car because they got their license and sell it. This looks like a great teenager car. It isn’t terribly old and it isn’t terribly powerful so a teenager would be hardpressed to get into “much” trouble.

    My mom’s best friend had a 99 SC1 for 11 years and loved it.

  • avatar

    This was not a good car. I would definately flip. I’ve owned five Saturns, but have avoided the L series like the plague. My Saturn dealers honestly told me to avoid them. I’ve known two folks who had very bad luck with theirs and got rid of them, willingly losing money on the transaction.

    Flip while it still runs.

  • avatar

    My parents had the wagon version of this car, also with the 2.2L and with a stick. It was generally complaint-free while we owned it, but had a few annoying rattles and eccentricities that weren’t expected in a fairly new car. Without the stick, it would’ve been the absolute most vanilla car imaginable. With the stick, it wasn’t bad, but epitomized “basic” transportation. Nothing spicy here folks.
    Still, the plastic body panels had a curiosity value, and the controls were reasonably well set up. The seats were just atrocious. Overall, not a bad car for fairly little money. Handling at the outer limits on slippery curves was a little sketchy — I would know, that’s why we don’t have the car anymore. I penned a eulogy for it last year, which summarizes its good and bad points.

  • avatar

    Sell this one for someone’s tax refund cash and keep the Civic until summer. Gas will be more expensive than ever and Civic values will rise in lockstep.

  • avatar
    George B

    Sell for a quick profit.  The Saturn L series was canceled due to poor sales so junkyard parts are going to be difficult to get.

  • avatar
    alfred p. sloan

    Puke on it and call it art, but what ever you do don’t drive it.

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