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Old 03-14-2014   #1
pguest
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Small used car with good gas mileage

It seems that my Escort's motor died today. Car is not worth fixing, given it's age & condition of other things. Looking for a dependable (hopefully) small used car that gets around 30mpg. Probably not a 2-seater because sometimes I need to transport my larger dog in the back seat. No vans or pickups, I also have a van as a 2nd vehicle. Would like to not pay more than $2000 but that may be wishful thinking. Would like to avoid something with a salvage title also.
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Old 03-14-2014   #2
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

Sorry to hear about your car. I'll keep an eye out.
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Old 03-14-2014   #3
Project84
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

i tell everyone, every single time... Saturn S-series.

Sooooo dependable, so cheap, so econobox.

Search craigslist for "SL1, SL2, SC1, SC2, SW1, SW2" any of the "1" cars are SOHC and 100hp is all you get, the "2" cars designate DOHC and 125hp. The SL is the 4 door sedan, SC is coupe, SW is wagon. If you were to get an SC1 (they came in 3-door from like '97-02) with a 5sp you'll easily pull 35mpg average, 42+ mpg highway).

I've been driving/owning Saturn S-cars for 12+ years and honest to god, about the worse fix I've had is a broken sway bar endlink or horn getting fried from moisture. Cars with 150K+ tend to burn oil, don't be afraid. I drove a '96 SL2 with 190k for 3 years burning 2 quarts per 300 miles. I used my friend's used oil from oil changes to top my car off for 2 years and never had any issues. It was a 2 stroke sedan!

You can find good S-cars for under $2,000 all day long. I bought my '01 for $1,200 back in '09. She's got 60k more on her now and all I've had to do is tack weld the exhaust where it broke and replace the rear drum hardware.
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Old 03-15-2014   #4
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

Hope you're right Project84. When I was searching CL last night all I could find was junk under $2k. I actually found a few possible gems at some used car websites that sounded better than the CL stuff. I might have to consider prices up to $4k also.
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Old 03-15-2014   #5
Project84
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

I preach this stuff to everyone but no one wants to follow through because the s-cars are typical beater "junk" cars. Well, I completely agree, that's what makes them amazing little daily drivers.

Just did a search for "saturn" for price range 500-2000 and there are tons of good deals. Grab one with under 150k and it'll be solid.

FYI - the SOHC cars don't have rear sway bars at all, so on highway or in heavy wind, they dance a bit. lol You get used to it. They all have timing chains so that's a plus. The alternators are a known upgrade for other car enthusiasts because they are so reliable and have 2 cooling fans build into them. Everything is an inexpensive (and easy) fix on these cars. Probably best to avoid sunroof cars. They eventually fail. Also best to look for 5sp cars over automatics. I've always had autos but have been lucky to avoid the "reverse slam" that plagues them, my next s-car will be a 5sp.

If you do end up getting one, sign up at saturnfans.com - so much info there you'd never even need to post.
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Old 03-15-2014   #6
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

I didn't mean that whatever Saturns were listed were junk, there was junk for a lot of brands. By junk I mean cars that had problems like not starting, stalls, won't go into reverse, needs transmission, or needs fuel pump "but then should run" at normal old used car prices.
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Old 03-16-2014   #7
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

+1 on the Saturn S series. They can't be killed.

Now, as for the L series....stay away. Far away.

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Old 03-16-2014   #8
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

^^^ only way to kill one is to not oil it. lol Think of a higher mileage s-series as a potted plant, needs regular fluids to stay alive.
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Old 03-17-2014   #9
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Project84 View Post
I preach this stuff to everyone but no one wants to follow through because the s-cars are typical beater "junk" cars. Well, I completely agree, that's what makes them amazing little daily drivers.

Just did a search for "saturn" for price range 500-2000 and there are tons of good deals. Grab one with under 150k and it'll be solid.

FYI - the SOHC cars don't have rear sway bars at all, so on highway or in heavy wind, they dance a bit. lol You get used to it. They all have timing chains so that's a plus. The alternators are a known upgrade for other car enthusiasts because they are so reliable and have 2 cooling fans build into them. Everything is an inexpensive (and easy) fix on these cars. Probably best to avoid sunroof cars. They eventually fail. Also best to look for 5sp cars over automatics. I've always had autos but have been lucky to avoid the "reverse slam" that plagues them, my next s-car will be a 5sp.

If you do end up getting one, sign up at saturnfans.com - so much info there you'd never even need to post.

Thanks for sharing, I would have never thought of them, though I cannot say I ever enjoyed being in one. Adding a rear swaybar from a DOHC model would likely be easy. It probably has a thicker front bar too, swapping that out too might keep it from being an understeering pig.
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Old 03-17-2014   #10
Project84
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Re: Small used car with good gas mileage

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Originally Posted by John S View Post
Thanks for sharing, I would have never thought of them, though I cannot say I ever enjoyed being in one. Adding a rear swaybar from a DOHC model would likely be easy. It probably has a thicker front bar too, swapping that out too might keep it from being an understeering pig.
I'm pretty sure front bars are identical because the front lower control arms are the same PN for either model and the sway bar comes through the control arms just behind the hubs. I thought about swapping the DOHC rear portion out on my lower mileage SL1 but when I got under a junkyard car I started second guessing the job.

It would be worth it if you found a DOHC car with "rare" rear disc brakes and swapped all that while you were at it too, otherwise it's quite a big job for just a sway bar.

I used to buy/sell s-series parts for side money. Had about a thousand dollars in inventory in my garage back in the day and was making regular trips to junkyards to get parts for people. IDK why but I have a passion for these cheap ass little cars.
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