I Need Something Affordable And Funky To Replace My Dying Saab! What Car Should I Buy?

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People who own and drive Saabs are a unique bunch. But like Shannon, they all face a tough dilemma when it’s time to move on. Her 9-3 is aging fast and she wants something with the same kind of character to replace it. What car should she buy?


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Here is the scenario -

I love my 2001 SAAB 9-3. Really love it. I’m attached to this car and it’s been a real joy to drive it since 2004 when I bought it. But it’s really rusty, it needs struts and shocks, plus there is a mystery power fluid leak (sometimes it leaks, sometimes it doesn’t). It’s at 178,000 miles and I’m told the engine is good. But I’m moving soon to North Carolina and not sure I should bring it with me. I’ve been through so much with this car, meaning I’ve replaced so much of this car. I don’t know if I should just succumb to the evitable Subaru now or try to get a few more years out of my old friend.

As for budget, I’m comfortable spending up to $20,000 but would prefer to be near the 15k range. I have a black lab that travels with me so it should be big enough to accommodate him. I can’t drive a stick, but I am willing to learn. Also, I would really love it if this car was black. My last few cars have been black and it would be cool to keep the streak going.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $20,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Currently Austin TX but moving to North Carolina

Wants: Something as Saab like as possible

Doesn’t want: Boring or mainstream

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Don’t Deny Your Destiny

Shannon, you clearly love your Saab and the fact remains that no matter how different or funky the possible candidates are, the only thing that can truly replace your 9-3 is another Saab.

While inventory is slim you are in luck because there is a place in Houston called Viking Motorcars that keeps the Swedish dream alive. Not only do they repair and service Saabs they even have a small inventory of cars for sale including this gem. It’s a 2009 9-3 2.0T XWD with only 46,000 miles well under your budget range at $12,000. And as an extra bit of good luck, this car is black, just like you wanted.


I think it’s a sign. The Norse Gods have laid a prophecy before you that you are destined to drive a Saab for eternity, or at least until this one racks up too many miles.

Expert 2: Raphael Orlove - The Non-Normal Normal

This is the Autech version, but imagine this in black.
This is the Autech version, but imagine this in black.
Photo: Nissan

A Saab is an interesting car, as they’re interesting and weird luxury cars here in America, but that’s only because they’re imported. They’ve always been pretty normal family cars back in their home market. It’s just when you take them out of the context of 100% Swedish cars do they seem super strange.

And that reminded me of the non-GTR Skylines. These were, again, reasonably normal aspiration, semi-sporty/semi-luxury cars back in Japan, but since we never got them in America they feel exotic.


That is to say, though something like an R32 Skyline GTS-4, with a small 2.0-liter straight six and all-wheel drive, comes across as a total oddball, it isn’t a particularly weird car to own. It’s just another dependable old Nissan, just not one we ever got.


These things are all over the internet right now as they recently became legal for import under the 25 Year Rule, but I might pick up one like this 18,000-mile sedan from Gary Duncan in southern Virginia for $14,200. That or I’d wait for a black one to go on the market.


Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky- You Need To Double Down On The Saab

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Hey Shannon! You’re moving to my state! That’s great, but I’m going to post myself at the border and not let you in unless you’re bringing an interesting car with you. The good news is I don’t think we’ll have a problem, because I bet you’re going to adore this amazing 1969 Saab 96.

Look, we’ve already established you love Saabs, especially their quirkiness, so why settle for something that has no Saab-quirkiness? What you need is to really embrace your love of Saab, and go for something that’s concentrated Saabonium: a vintage Saab.


Everything about this car is interesting: it’s got that great odd Saab look, it has a V4 engine, like hardly anything else, it’s a great car to drive, it has room for your dog, it’s within your budget.

Sure, you’ll have to learn to drive stick, but that’ll just make you an even better human, and, no, it’s not black, but with all the money you’ll be saving (remember, it’s only $12,495!) you can just have it painted as black as you can stand. It’ll look great with all that chrome.


This one looks very well-maintained, and only needs a bit of work to get the front frame fixed to re-mount the bumper, but just have that done when you paint it.

It’s not going to be a modern car, sure, and that means you’ll have all the normal vintage car compromises, but, screw it, you only live once, and you need to let your Saab-freak flag fly.


If you get this, let me know when you’re in NC so I can ask you if I can drive it. If you buy something boring, I’m gonna give you such a withering look if I see you around the state. You’ve been warned.



As wonderful as it would be to have another Saab, the truth is that you’re talking about a manufacturer that no longer exists, and that’s bad news for keeping it running in the long term.

I’d say go with a Volvo. Specifically, keep it weird with a Volvo C30. THey’re new enough to be reliable, you’ll never have trouble finding a Volvo mechanic, and old enough that they’re in the price range.

Here’s a beautiful one with just 30k miles for about $12k: