After several weeks of research I left the house at around 10:00 am this morning with the intention of getting a vehicle. I was looking at the Ford Focus, the Saab 9-3, and Saturns of various kinds. I was very excited about a number of Saturn L200s - they had all the bells and whistles, above average gas mileage, and I liked the way they looked, too!
But before I left today, I doubled-checked (I mean, quad-checked) reliability and found out something horrible. Although Saturns are generally good cars - those in the 98-02 range in particular, before Saturn tried to get more hip with the new and crappy ION, not to mention that shit-tastic SUV, the L200 has been plagued by problems with the timing chain. It turns out that the timing chain sometimes breaks, and as a result sends shrapnel all over the top of the engine, ruining it and requiring a complete engine rebuild. Consumer Reports ranked it as one of the worst used cars to own, period, because of this frequent and very costly defect.
But not every Saturn on my list was an L200, so I went out and checked some other vehicles. First I looked at a 2002 Saturn SC2 with 87,000 miles ($5,995) Looked good outside, the engine sounded lovely, and it had all the bells and whistles, including a power sunroof! But weight - what's this? The power sunroof doesn't close! And the power window on the right side doesn't go down! The salesman said "Don't let that stop you from getting the car, we can fix it for you", but since the place was, honestly, sketchy as fuck anyway, I said yea right and left.
So what next? A 2001 Saturn SL2 with 66,000 miles (4,995). This was the last year Saturn built the SL2, which was a great car, but the exterior looks a little old now (see: not that cool). Still, I liked the color, and besides some fine scratches it was actually in better condition then the SC2 I looked at before it (which actually had a few inch-wide dints, strange for a Saturn, since their exteriors are made not to dent). The exterior and interior were obviously of an older design, but were in good shape. It had no power options and the interior light decided it didn't want to quite stay in place. Yet it drove very well. I was surprised by how quite it was, and although the ergonomics were obviously that of a 2001 car, it drove like it was brand-new. I Was impressed, but I still was unsure about the lack of options. It didn't even have a passenger side-airbag. That model year is rated very high in crash tests, but still.
Next I looked at a 2003 Ford Focus with 72,000 miles (6,250). Being the newest vehicle I looked at, it had the obvious advantage of looking and feeling the most modern. The interior was a bit more spacious - in fact I had to bring the seat up to get into a comfortable driving position! - though the back seats looked like they paid the price for this. On the outside, it was a very sexy car. White, four door, no dents or scratches. On the inside, it was similar, though I didn't like everything. The steering wheel seemed strangely small, and the huge air-bag compartment made it look like some sort of insect. And the air-conditioning vents were weird oval compartments that were placed in all kinds of strange places. I think Ford was trying to be a little to modern, but still, it defiantly felt newer than the Saturns. Under the hood was dirty, though - another used car dealer that doesn't bother to fully check and clean their cars beforehand, I guess - and there was a definite shudder in around 55mph which became more pronounced when breaking as these high speeds. The wheels would need balancing and aligned, and if it'd been like that long enough, it would need new tires. The tires defiantly did look more worn than those on the Saturns.
Then I went to look at a Saab. As I was heading this way, I noticed the battery gauge on the Jeep was getting really low. One it's problems is that the alternator doesn't always work, but typically it kicks back in before the battery starts to die. Not this time. It was going down quick. I stop at the Saab place and quickly test-drive a 1999 convertible with 90k miles (6,995). Oh yea, this baby is loaded. But not perfect. Despite all it's options, the exterior and interior conditions seemed to be slightly worse than the other vehicles I looked at. A few more dings, and it was the only car I looked at which had problems with the interior quality (the leather on the passenger seat was cracking in places). Yea, it had power everything - yea, it was convertible - but yea, it was 2,000 more than the Saturn SC2 and promised to be less reliable, as far as I could tell. And I new the gas mileage would be worse.
The Jeep barely started when I left. As the gauges went out as I crossed the Sellwood Bridge, which is approximately 4 miles from where I live. No MPH, no RPM, fuel and oil pressure still worked, though. The radio died and the clock went out too. Fine, I thought - as long as I could keep it moving, it'd be okay - but I couldn't. I had to stop to get on Mcloughlin, the street I live on, and in response it nearly died. It wouldn't die completely - but without power to help it idle, it wasn't wanting to get back up to highway speed. I nursed it over to a side-street and parked it, then called Natasha to pick me up. It's still there right now. There's no fee for that street and no postings for time limits to park, so I'm just going to wait till tomorrow and then get AAA to tow it back to the apartment for me.
Of course, the Jeep's breakdown meant I had no trade-in worth mentioning. This sorta made my decision for me, since I didn't want to go much over 100 on monthly payments, and without a trade-in most the vehicles I looked at or were going to look at were now out of my price range. After a brief double-check of carfax and reliability ratings to make sure the SC2 2001 was solid, I had Natasha take me back to it, and after another test-drive and a check of various parts to make sure they were working, I told them I wanted it. Now it's just a matter of financing, but I can't get that until Monday.
Overall, I'm happy with my purchase, even though I was pushed towards it. The low price and low miles combo was hard to pass up, plus it drove better than any other vehicle I'd driven. Yea, it doesn't have any bells or whistles besides a CD player. I wish that wasn't the case. But I need something to get me around.
I'll post a big update soon, even bigger than this one, after I get the vehicle. It will include all sorts of neat stuff like pictures from my trip across the country, pictures of the apartment, pictures of OMG CUTE CAT, and pictures of me and Natasha's new rides. I'll also talk a little bit about the new job I'll be starting.