buying a used car, which would you choose?

vacuumfreakFebruary 17, 2008

So, I've finally saved enough cash to buy a better car than the jalopy I have now. I've narrowed it down to two cars, but I'm not sure which go to with. I've always wanted an Oldsmobile Alero, but I understand their quality is awful. I like the looks and feel of the car and it has all features I want (I only require tilt, cruise, power windows, and working a/c). Because of the Alero's infamous and numerous mechanical problems, I've also been considering a Saab 900 (1999 model year at least, nothing older). I like the looks and feel of that car as well. They are both in my price range. I think the Saab is a better quality car, but people who have had Saabs say that they are terribly expensive to get fixed if anything goes wrong. What would you do... go with a car that has cheaper repairs, but more likely to need them, or vise versa?

I'm looking to spend between 3 and 4 thousand dollars for the whole car, I do not want a car payment.

If I had any sense, I would go with a Camry or Accord and steer clear of GM to get a quality product... but those are bland looking and for the same year cost double what I'm able to spend. Thanks for any advice you are able to give!

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My parents bought a used Alero(not sure what yr there's is). It was previously leased and turned back into the dealer!! My dad babies his cars, and he has had a few problems with it. Cant recall exactly but something to do with loosing anti freeze and i know the tire monitoring system doesn't work that well. Another complaint that he has mentioned is its small gas tank. I guess his beefs with the car have been very minor. They use it for mainly city driving. They have the "souped" up alero, so they tires are a bit wider, so may cost a bit more $$ to replace. I have driven it a bit and it appears to handle ok, seems a bit big! But then again I drive a Scion XB and a Camry.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 1:05PM
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I like the Alero. To me it looks like the new Dodge Avenger, which I also like. Try to find a four-cylinder, if you can. Not only will it get better gas mileage, but the four-cylinder in that car does not produce much less power than the V6, and it's a good engine. The V6 is not bad, but that series of GM engines has intermittent problems with intake gasket leaks, which is not an insanely expensive problem, but obviously you'd rather not have it. As for the other mechanical problems you have referred to, I am not sure what you mean. Most of the parts in the car went into a lot of other models; they are probably not the absolutely most reliable things you could get, but they're common. The car's powertrain is pretty solid, especially with the four-cylinder. The 4T40/45 series automatic transmission is one of the cheapest to replace, and it's one of the more reliable ones out there.

I like Saabs, as well. They're different and just "quirky" enough that you're not driving something that's like everything else on the road. On the plus side, many have been owned by people who are relatively well off, including car enthusiasts who appreciate the car for what it is, and these types of people usually take good care of their cars. (This same factor, in reverse, probably accounts for a big percentage of the share of reported problems with less expensive cars, such as the Alero: People buy them as workhorses, treat them as such, and they have more problems.)

One downside with the Saab is it has a turbo, which I am not fond of in older cars you want to keep a while, as it's an expensive thing to replace, tends to put the engine under more stress, and it makes oil changes crucial. (The heat of a turbocharger will turn oil into sludge very quickly if oil changes are let go.) So if you buy one, I'd want to see maintenance records showing frequent oil changes -- preferably more often than the minimum owner's manual requirement.

One other thing about the Saab is make sure you have a dealer that's not too far away. Their dealer network is not that large, and some people who live in small towns might be 100 miles or more from a dealer. Everyone I've ever talked to who has owned a Saab says the dealers are great, they really know the cars, and that's ideally where you'd want to have it worked on. But if there's no dealer anywhere nearby, that could be a problem. In fact, if I were thinking of a used Saab, I'd probably take it to the dealer before buying it to have it inspected and use that as an opportunity to introduce myself to them and get a feel for whether you'd want to deal with them.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 1:33PM
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Thanks for the great responses! If I don't get the Alero, I'd probably be a little upset every time I see one on the road. The chronic problems with them seem to be warped/crinkled dashboards (especially here in FL) and door panels, window motors going out ever five seconds, the rotors warping rapidly, power steering pumps failing... a lot of cosmetic stuff, but still not things that I want to deal with. I guess the motors are fairly reliable. Thanks for the hints about the turbo charge / oil changes on the Saabs. I would definitely want to have that checked out by a Saab dealer before purchasing. Still not sure what to do, but I'm going to keep reading reviews and test driving and see what happens.

Thanks again... and I welcome any additional comments!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 1:51PM
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The good thing about those Alero problems is that they're easily detectable on a car you're considering. Obviously you can visually inspect the dashboard, check for smooth-operating brakes that don't pulsate, good power steering operation with no funny noises, and windows that go up and down smoothly without unusual noises. Having worked on the brakes of several different GM cars I and friends have owned, I believe warped rotors are often due to over-tight wheel lug nuts. You can also usually replace the rotors with better aftermarket ones that will have less tendency to warp. I also believe in using standard-grade brake pads rather than more costly ones; the standard pads seem to be easier on the rotors.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 4:26PM
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Do not let the GM stories concern you to where you will not buy a GM car.A lot of it is hog wash anyway.Of course GM is going to appear to have more problems then Saab that is now owned by GM go figure!Or Toyota or who ever.Because there are more GM vehicals on the road then any other brand.That means more problems if half the cars on the road are GM and the rest are split up between all other brands.Then naturally you can read a lot of bad reviews.Also take the import brands are so much better hype with a grain of salt.Because a lot of there writers of reviews.Are fashion and trend setter types that like to be trendy or look what I have material things type.Many have a ax to grind and many had problems with a domestic car and felt they were some how getting even with them by going with a import brand.Many did not take proper care of a car in the first place.

With any used car you have to be careful what you buy.But previous owner care and upkeep is by far more important then brand.I realise GM has had some problems.But check out Toyota or any other brand dealership.See if there is not a service shop that is never used and mechanics setting around just in case one might come in.I dought there playing checkers with the Maytag man back there.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 12:57AM
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Funny comment about checkers with the Maytag man - I laughed at that - thanks. It's a good point, too. I've never seen a service department where the people weren't busy, and it's not all oil changes and routine maintenance, either. You can't keep the doors open on cheap stuff like that.

I've owned GM, Ford, Toyota, VW, Audi, Volvo. Back when I was a kid just out of high school, my friends and I thought the foreign cars were cool -- that's when I had the Volvo, Toyota and Audi. They were fun, but probably the most troublesome cars I've ever had. Granted, these were older, several-owner cars, so I don't really blame the manufacturers for that. The Ford and GM products I've had more recently have been newer, so it's not a fair comparison, I realize, but they have all been quite reliable.

Years ago, I know some junk came out of a lot of different auto companies, but that's far less true now. The U.S., Japanese, and European manufacturers all use very similar (sometimes identical) machines and manufacturing processes to put the vehicles together, and many of the components that go into the different cars are sourced from the same suppliers.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 1:42AM
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buy a used pont. vibe, or chevy prism. that way you get a toyota with a g.m. name on it, plus the rebadged g.m. toyotas dont hold their value like a real toyota. best of both worlds.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 10:30PM
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