Saturns Have To Be The Cheapest Cars On God’s Green Earth

By on August 12, 2017

Eight years after the last Saturn was built, cheapskate Americans are enjoying a cornucopia of used Saturns, and here’s a surprise. Not all of them are just basic transportation.

Let me offer an example for those of you who love sporty hatchbacks. Think about this. What’s the best bang for the buck sporty hatchback you can buy today that’s 2008 or newer, and also happens to be a Saturn?

If you want cheap and sporty today for less than $4000, the first and last generation of the Saturn Astra, a car based on the best selling Opel Astra in Europe, is the best bang for your tightwad buck. Whether you get it in XE or XR trim you’ll likely never find a rival that’s cheaper and better from the pre-2010 era.

The Astra is about $1500 cheaper than a downmarket Toyota Yaris from the same model year even though the Astra was over $5000 more expensive when it was new. At the wholesale auto auctions, where unpopular cars go for cheap, the Saturn Astra is a far more common site than that Yaris because it’s far harder to sell. Even though the Saturn was rated far higher when it came to new car reviews during that period of time (to put it lightly), the Astra remains unloved and often ignored because it just isn’t a Toyota.

The Astra is just the tip of an enormous cheap used car iceberg. Defunct brands such as Saturn are regularly underwater in terms of consumer awareness because there is no new car advertising these days that’s trumpeting the brand anymore. This makes them cheap. Like the Plymouths and Oldsmobiles of yesteryear that now only get shopped by those who have a vague remembrance of their existence, the Saturn brand is gradually joining this same deep level of brand anonymity.

So if you’re shopping for a car or SUV that’s firmly on the cheaper side of the used car market, consider these vehicles.

Saturn Outlook

The Saturn Outlook has remained thousands of dollars cheaper than its siblings the Buick Enclave and the GMC Acadia. The typical discount on the Outlook is in the $2500 to $3500 range and comes with a long list of features that have made the Acadia and Enclave popular in the used car market.

Saturn Ion

The Saturn Ion, which was a no-hit wonder from 2003 to 2007 is quite possibly the best used car for those who simply don’t care about cars. The long-term reliability is just above average according to the Long-Term Quality Index, and these cars regularly occupy the basement of the used car market at $3000 or less. Even a comparable Chevy Cavalier, Pontiac G5, or Chevy Cobalt is usually far more expensive than an Ion with the exact same powertrain.

If you want to go below the basement and head to what I call ‘the cellar dwellers’ here are four more that are cheaper than dirt.

Saturn L-Series (L100, L200, L300, SW, and LS)

What’s worse than a name that’s as memorable as the flux capacitor on your 32 year old furnace. Try a plain-jane model that has eight more variations of an alpha-numeric sequence. The Saturn L-Series is a surprisingly reliable car in four-cylinder form. But it was about as marketable as green 1970s kitchen linoleum thanks to a design and naming nomenclature that was a tribute to automotive androgyny.

Saturn Vue

There were some minefields here. Specifically any model that features the CVT transmission and 2005 or older versions. The good news is many of these Saturn SUVs were equipped with five-speed conventional automatics and manual transmissions that did surprisingly well with their owners. This is a classic case of hitting ’em where they ain’t. These days a Saturn Vue is far cheaper in the used car market than its advertised sibling, the Chevy Equinox.

Saturn Launches And Duds

You can look to the Sky for salvation, an Aura for long-term quality (as long as it’s in XE trim), or even the venerable Saturn S-Series for a cost of ownership that’s often just pennies per mile when it comes to depreciation. Over the past year I have bought two of S-Series models for a grand total of just $500. Why so cheap? Damage on the plastic panels which had nothing to do with the overall quality of the car. A quick trip to a junkyard and they were both as good as used. You certainly wouldn’t be able to find such a cheap, quick fix if you had a supercar, although there are places like the Dallas Body Shop that you’d be able to rely on to get you back on the road in no time. You’d obviously come away from somewhere like that with a perfectly functioning repair but my priority at the time was to find the cheapest solution possible, and the S-Series was ideal for that.

The only Saturns that are truly terrible are the Relay minivans, the CVT automatics and early versions of the Vue SUV, and any L-Series that came with a V6. The rest are average, or better, for cheaper. The links on this paragraph will allow you to find the reliability data for these models.

Saturn may be just one of many defunct car brands in today’s used car market. But they are also inexpensive for all the right reasons, and a great used car buy for that special someone who looks at cars as a motorized appliance. So if automotive apathy describes a used car shopper that you know, have them shop for a Saturn. The prices are often an entire planet apart from their used car competition.

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