ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Are old Saabs good or bad to own and maintain?

Updated on October 11, 2011

Saabs have always been quirky cars. Innovation has always made the Saab stand out from the first model to the current series.

The models I will be looking at here are the 9-3, 9-5, (still current) and 9000 series. The oldest of these three is the 9000 which although no longer made, are still available used, often in prime condition and have many of the innovations used on later models.

The Aero version is still a thoroughly modern car, very powerful, with luxury everywhere you look inside and out.

If you want to drive a real luxury car with heated seats, airbag and lot's of power but don't have a lot to spend?

The 9000 can be purchased for a few thousand dollars, and if you buy the right car, you will think you have won the pools! Inside the luxury version is top quality seats in leather or a soft fabric, heated seats, air bags, sunroof, wood-grain trim like a Rolls Royce, wonderful instrumentation layout and very good visibility..

Saab ( Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolag) is a well respected automotive company that has been making top end luxury cars for a long time with a history in the design and manufacture of high end aircraft. When it comes to building strong modern cars, they do it very well indeed.

The thing is, that old ones have a bad reputation for needing major and expensive repairs, and if you love the car you need to know how to get around these problem the easy way.

Buy a good one!

The answer is the same advice I gave on buying and owning a BMW 5 series, which is simply DON"T buy one without a complete service history and a working knowledge of what to look for in the way of problems.

The earliest models of Saab are very rare and sought after as a collector's car so I will mention them here as well.

They were a two cylinder two stroke motor of only 750 cc mounted transversely or sideways in front of the front axle and very few cars have survived partly due to the small number made, and the fact that the motor was vulnerable in front end collisions.

These early Saabs were cheap to purchase and needed to be very good value to compete with the well established Volvo of the time........ not an easy ask!

The next model that was introduces to the USA market carried the Ford V4 motor and was very popular providing 65 horsepower which made it quite nippy with a usable 4,700 rpm providing a zero to 60mph time of 16 seconds flat, considered quick at the time.

In 1964 Saab went on to introduce the new Saab 99 and the inclined four cylinder Triumph motor was used. The motor was inclined, as it was in reality half of the new V8 that Triumph were developing!

The motor was strong and reliable at only 1.5 litres. At the same time, in line with it's focus on safety, ( no doubt born of being an aircraft company historically) Saab removed all asbestos from it's brakes by 1981.

As you may know by now, Saab sold half of the company to GM in 1990 and the other 50% was acquired in 2000, so the late model Saabs are using the Holden Astra or Vauxhaul Vector running gear for the last few years, but has been sold to the Dutch specialist automotive builder Spyker in 2010.

Saab 9000 Aero. Fast, luxurious with firmer suspension than the standard 9000
Saab 9000 Aero. Fast, luxurious with firmer suspension than the standard 9000

Pictured is a friend's beautiful 9000 Aero (which I have driven)

It has among other things a massive amount of power for it's size produces by a higher throughput turbo than the standard 2.3 motor.

The earlier 900 series ran for 14 years and was a development of the earlier 99 which is not being critiqued here as it is just too old to be in the hands of other than dyed in the wool Saab enthusiasts, who know how to find the bits needed to look after a car of this vintage.

The models I believe are of most interest for the used Saab buyer are the 9000 aero, and the 9-3 and 9-5 built at Trollhättan from the mid nineties to 2001.

Grill on the Saab aero.
Grill on the Saab aero.

The 9000 series was styled by the Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro with the motor mounted transversely allowing more passenger space than the 900 although it is slightly shorter in overall length.

The 9000 aero was well ahead in design with airbags, strong body shell and passenger protection built in to the whole design.

The 9000 was also the first front wheel drive car fitted with ABS along with it's many other safety devices.

The first 9-3 built in 1998 was almost identical to look at as the 900 with a high mounted third brake light and the grill being the only noticeable difference cosmetically, but with over 1,100 improvements ranging from suspension to active head restraints it is a much tighter chassis to drive with much better handling and is a massive improvement over the 900.

The SE version has a lot more than the standard model which already has many luxuries not found in other cars.

Early model Saab 9-5 engine bay. Note the exhaust manifold cover at front of motor.
Early model Saab 9-5 engine bay. Note the exhaust manifold cover at front of motor.

The saab 9-5 has seen 3 different companies involved in it's construction, and the current model is a gem.

Early 9-5s had problems with:

  • oil delivery. If oil changes were constantly missed or overdue the sump would build up sludge and block the primary oil filter inside the motor resulting in a loss of oil pressure and thus oil delivery to the camshafts and crankshaft often causing serious engine failure.
  • transmission failure: Same deal. A lot of torque delivered from the turbo motor means service intervals are important. Those who ignored transmission service paid the price.
  • electronic problems: such as the display unit losing pixels. There are only a few electrical problems, one being the main display. No longer an expensive fix, as rebuilt and replacement units are now starting at around $150.
  • coil pack failure: This is simply a mileage thing unless the motor has been overheated. The location of the coil packs means they can get too hot and begin to fail. New ones are expensive.
  • camshaft balancer failure: Once again, nothing wrong with the design, but poor servicing can be very expensive when it comes to repairs if servicing has not been carried out in time.

All of these problems can be traced to infrequent servicing, poor servicing or in some cases incomplete servicing.

As I noted with the BMW 5 series, full service history is a must, as high performance cars that have been serviced poorly can cost as much as 3 times the purchase price to repair.

9-5 Saab dashboard showing drop down cup holder, seat heater switches, cruise control and computer display.
9-5 Saab dashboard showing drop down cup holder, seat heater switches, cruise control and computer display.
wood grained console in the Saab 9-5
wood grained console in the Saab 9-5
Rear of the 9000 aero with its clean lines and great visibility.
Rear of the 9000 aero with its clean lines and great visibility.
9-5 station wagon with Saab roof racks.
9-5 station wagon with Saab roof racks.

Soft leather pockets, individual heat and cooling swivel ducts, it's comfortable and roomy.

Saab 9-5 back seat showing heater, all leather seats.
Saab 9-5 back seat showing heater, all leather seats.
High quality all leather interior that lasts almost forever and most look like new.
High quality all leather interior that lasts almost forever and most look like new.

This is the interior of the 9000 aero. As you can see, the car is beautiful inside even by today's standards. There is ample legroom and space between passengers.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • WheelScene profile image


      20 months ago from U.S.A.

      I've owned lots of Saabs and I have to say they are great value, comfortable and fun to drive. Do some research, find the model you like and look up common problems, then when shopping make sure they have been addressed. As long as you keep up on your oil changes these cars will treat you back with love for years.

      It really is too bad that GM killed Saab. :(

    • profile image

      Deborah Sexton 

      4 years ago

      I miss you Ernest and wish you were still here.

      Love you Deborah

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Ernest...i have a 9000 Aero and also live in melbourne...was wondering if you can recommend any great post and info :)

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 

      6 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Earnest, you are missed already, I hope your family keep this site open for future views...... like the old Saab, you may have been beaten up on the exterior, but you had a beautiful interior.

      RIP my friend,


    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      7 years ago from New York

      Thanks for all these Earnest, R.I.P


    • molometer profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      What an interesting and informative hub. A friend of mine has always driven Saabs. They do have a certain uniqueness.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Brian, the first 90 I drove just blew me away with the way you could drive at high speed in the wet with two wheels in the rough.

      When I let go of the steering wheel it still tracked dead straight.

      As you said, the body was built like a brick outhouse and the doors closed like a vault.

      Saabs are a very special motoring experience.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Rose Mary, it sounds like you have had the best from the old girl.

      The trend I see, is that a top mechanic understands the little things that need to be done to stop the bigger more expensive problems to develop.

      It is in my opinion time to unload it.

      Any body damage at the front is highly likely to cause ongoing electrical problems, because most body repairers don't know enough about the importance of ensuring all wiring is not only intact, but correctly routed and connected.

      Electrical problems are expensive, but apart from the models with a computer screen that loses it's pixels over time, the electricals are very high quality and without incidents such as flooding or body intrusions, they last a very long time.

      Stay tuned, this hub is going to be twice this size after my next edit.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Hello my friend diogenes! Thank you, I luv em! (The Saabs that is!) If you know your stuff, you can buy a good one with every luxury for under 10k

      As to the C5, a very patchy build and some horrible design faults, so I know what you mean.

      I may do a worst cars hub and ask you to contribute!

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I owned and loved a Saab 90, really did feel like you were sitting in a cockpit when you were driving. It was as solid as a rock and when you shut the doors it sounded like you were closing up a bank vault. Fabulous motor, never had anything like it since, shame really.

    • rmcrayne profile image


      7 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      earnest, I bought a 1996 Saab 9000 CS (2.3 l light turbo) before I left Germany, and still have the car. It has less than 150K miles and has been well maintained. Maintaining it however has become more of a problem over the years, finding a good diagnostician who knows the idiosyncrasies. I’ve had quite a few expensive electrical problems the last few years. Right now I’m putting off a $850 repair. I still love the car, but not sure how much more of this I’m up for. I love the luxury and the safety. The car has fended off 2 deer and 2 flash floods so far. It’s a 5 speed, and got 26-28 mpg most of her life, but has dropped off to about 22-24 now.

    • diogenes profile image


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Aussie: You left me thirsting for more info. You certainly know your onions! I have never owned a Saab, but have always liked the quirky design. I wouldn't now because of cost. By the way, you might do an article on the Citroen C5, which was one of the worst cars I have even owned! (2002 diesel). I now have simplicity itself, a Jimny and love it...Bob (story on HP) Good on yer, mate...Bob


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)