Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill Dork
10/27/13 6:04 a.m.

SWMBO is "car dreaming" again and has set her sights on the Saab 9-3 and the 9-5. I'm afraid that when it comes to knowing anything about these cars I'm at a complete loss (I'm not sure I've even SEEN one before).

So I asketh ye the knowledgeable:

  • These cars are coming up on a decade and a half of faithful service, how reliable have they been so far?

  • What is their life expectancy?

  • Common consumption items?

  • Quirks?

  • Cost of ownership?

If anyone has other suggestions for SWMBO's stateside transportation her requirements are pretty simple:

  • Seating for three kids in the back seat.

  • Taste preference leans towards wagons, but not so much SUV's or mini-vans.

  • 2001 or newer

Good times!

ddavidv PowerDork
10/27/13 7:09 a.m.

Well, you're shopping cars made by a company that no longer exists, to start with. Parts are currently available but it is questionable how long and effectively that will continue. I'm not talking about getting a wheel bearing; I mean what if someone hits the thing while it's parked and you can't get a headlamp, grille, hood, etc? That was the case last year when there were NO parts available and we in the insurance industry junked them left and right.

Resale value will continue to be a issue. They have not bottomed out on the depreciation curve yet as the public's knowledge of Saab's demise still has not caught up.

It doesn't matter to me how good or bad the car itself is right now, with the future of their usability being in question. Tolerable, perhaps, for a toy vehicle you don't use every day, but will your wife be okay waiting a week or two for a heater core when it goes bad?

asoduk New Reader
10/27/13 9:36 a.m.

We have 3 Saabs, and a parts car... My wife loves them. We have had 2 2001s for a while now, and I just recently picked up a 2006 9-3 wagon. Its probably a little tight for 3 kids in the back, and you won't get 3 car seats in there. The 9-5 would be big enough though.

I would probably be looking for a newer car with a GM derived engine over the old Saab H engine due to their sludge problems (which are easily overcome).

Head over to SaabCentral forums for model specifics.

Aspen New Reader
10/27/13 12:11 p.m.

2003+ 9-5 wagon sounds like a fit. Good reliability, power and fuel economy. Cheap to buy and lots of maintenance parts available. You could get trouble with some parts but a resourceful DIYer should be able to find things. There are people specializing in Saab salvage.

Hungary Bill
Hungary Bill Dork
10/27/13 3:20 p.m.
Aspen said: You could get trouble with some parts but a resourceful DIYer should be able to find things.

Challenge accepted!

I'll do some poking around SaabCentral, but at the moment it looks like the 9-5 Sport Combi is the one she's the most interested in (there's a 2007 model in Portland).

The resale hit will be a bummer, but if SWMBO is happy throughout her ownership then it's a good trade. I'm hoping that the interwebs and salvage yards will come through in the event of minor accidents...

Thanks guys

asoduk New Reader
10/27/13 4:46 p.m.

Parts aren't THAT hard to come by. Let me warn you about a Saab quirk before you bring one home though: they all have these cup holders that fold out of places in really cool and over-complicated ways. They are really fun to show friends the first time they are in the car, but for practical use they are terrible and seem just a little too bendy for anything more than a small drink while driving. If you buy a Saab, invest in a couple Contigo spill proof travel mugs. They will pay for themselves 10x over carpet shampoo.

mad_machine MegaDork
10/27/13 7:04 p.m.

it's only the last few years that parts are hard to get for.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn PowerDork
10/27/13 7:24 p.m.

My sister in law drives a 9-3 they bought new. As far as I know they haven't had any issues with the car.

gofastbobby New Reader
10/28/13 6:36 a.m.

I have very limited experience with sAAb, but I will share what I do know. I just flipped an '02 9-5 arc wagon. It was a very well built car and was very comfortable.

The 3.0 turbo V6 in the 9-5 was a good motor with a few quirks. Timing belt is told to be a major PITA. Also they had a pcv update that re-piped the whole pcv system including the oil catch can that was prone to breaking.

Also, the driver information display on the 9-5 was a known problem. The screen would go out in it.

I didn't have any troubles getting parts for mine, the local import dealer stocked all the parts I needed, including the pcv update kit.

I hope this helps.

Klayfish SuperDork
10/28/13 7:04 a.m.

I had an '01 9-5 wagon as my DD until recently. It could fit my 3 kids in the backseat without much trouble, though of course no wagon is as roomy as a mini-van. I really liked the car. Very comfy, great cruiser, pseudo luxury. The 2.3T is the way to go in the 9-5, from what I understand you want to stay away from the V6. With the 2.3T, some earlier models had issues with sludge build up in the oil pan, so check to make sure it's been addressed. As mentioned earlier, the driver information panel is known to have pixel issues. Mine had a few that would go off/on. If you keep up with the maintenance on them, they'll run for a crap load of miles.

RossD PowerDork
10/28/13 7:36 a.m.

My mom has a 9-3 SportCombi with the turbo 4 cylinder and automatic. I've driven it for a week or two and have driven it on 1600 mile trip over a long weekend.

I was considering trading one of my vehicles for it. It's a blast to drive down the highway and gets good/decent gas mileage (I can't remember the numbers anymore... )

I don't recall hearing much problems with from my dad.

cdowd Reader
10/28/13 8:08 a.m.

my wife drives a 2010 9-3 that replaced a 2004 9-3. I had a 1999 9-5, a 99 9-3, and a 98 convertible. I think the parts shortage can be a bit over blown. The newish 9-5 (2010+) does seem to have some shortage of body parts. I think for you situation the 9-5 is the right choice. The backseat in a 9-3 is a little tight. I believe that the 2004 and up saabs had the better pcv setup that reduces the chances of sludge. If you have other questions just ask.

Rusted_Busted_Spit UltraDork
10/28/13 11:02 a.m.

I DD an 03 9-5 Aero sedan. We got it with @ 75k on it and it now has 195 ish. Aside from a couple of small things, one plastic wheel that the windows ride up and down on, a cooland bypass hose, trunk wire harness and I just did tie rods, the car has been solid.

You want an Aero or at least one with 2.3T on the back of it. That will get you 260hp vs 180, and a much better turbo than the cars with the 2.3t on the back. Parts are easy to come by unless you have a 2010 or newer 9-5. I think the 9-3 will be too small for you with 3 kids in the back seat.

Ask away if you have any other questions.

johndej Reader
7/4/15 10:02 a.m.

Bringing this thread back as I see a lot of relevant info and seeing how things have held up over the past 2 years. Girlfriend is seeking a daily for the $5k range and besides the typical accords/camerys/etc this happened to pop up (2004 9-5 ARC sedan). Was wondering how they'd hold up to a 90 mile round trip commute and such for a few years. Anything wrong w/ the auto? From what I can tell this has the 2.3t.

XLR99 Reader
7/4/15 6:33 p.m.

I've had an 04 9-5 Aero for about a year and 20k of driving now, prior to that my parents put about 100k on the car. It now has ~170k on it and still runs great with very few issues. In the past year the only non-scheduled maintenance I've done was to change the PCV valve and CPS. It needs to have subframe bushings and the rear motor mount done, which I'll do when I get a free weekend.

They seem like reliable, durable cars IF maintained. The 04 has the upgraded PCV system so less worries about sludge like the older 2.3L cars. It also has a decent 5spd auto. I use Mobil1 and Redline D4 ATF, and drain/fill the trans every other oil change to keep it clean.

That example looks pretty clean, and my wife would want me to buy it. She's been driving mine since her lease car is getting close to the mileage limit.

Rusted_Busted_Spit UberDork
7/6/15 9:38 a.m.

I am just under 225K miles on my 03 9-5 Aero and it has held up very well. Like XL said, as ling as the maint has been kept up you should not have any real issues as long as, from my experience, you do a few things.

The Direct Ignition Cassette (DIC)gets a bad rap for failing so I always carry a spare in the car, though I have not had to use it yet in the 125K miles we have put on the car. I have read that spark plug choice and health have a lot to do with how long your DIC lasts so this is what I do. I use the NGK plug that is recommended for your car, a non platinum one, and every time I change the oil I re gap them. They are easy to get out and that way I have something to do while the oil drains. I also change the oil every 5K miles, half of what SAAB recommenced.

The wire harness in the trunk likes to break, I just had to fix mine last weekend. It should be a one time fix and is not hard to do. I noticed that my license plate lights were not working and then the trunk would not open with the fob, that is how I knew what happened.

Other than the front sub frame bushings I really have not had to do anything to my car other than regular maint stuff. They are nice driving cars that get good gas mileage, are very safe and do not get stolen so insurance should be cheap.

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