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  1. #1
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    previous: 2006 9-3, 2001-06 9-5, 2011 9-4X
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    Saab 9-3 Buyers Guide - Which 9-3 to buy? What's the best year?

    One of the most frequently asked questions is about purchasing a used Saab 9-3 and what to look out for. This will be a work in progress but the goal is to make one comprehensive post with all information that can easily be understood by the average used car buyer.

    Let's bundle our efforts so please add to this thread with any helpful information for a prospective Saab owner. There are other sources for this information but most is scattered in the forums or very long threads with bits of info here and there.

    General
    The second generation of the Saab 9-3 Sedan was introduced for model year 2003. The convertible was introduced for 2004 and the SportCombi for 2006.

    Brief time line
    2003 - original exterior and interior
    2007 - updated interior
    2008 - updated exterior

    Equipment levels:
    Linear: Base model with limited equipment.
    Arc: More luxury and equipment, comfortable ride
    Vector: Sportier version between Arc and Aero
    Aero: The sport model with lower suspension, sport seats etc. Firmer ride

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  2. #2
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    previous: 2006 9-3, 2001-06 9-5, 2011 9-4X
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    Please add to this thread with any information that is important for buying a used 9-3. Check this thread for the 9-5 for ideas: http://saabworld.net/f9/saab-9-5-buyers-guide-693/

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  3. #3
    Dave T.
    Super Moderator Dave T's Avatar
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    Saab(s)
    1999 9-3SE (2013-2015), 2005 9-3 (2005-2013), 1990 900 (1990-2003)
    Thumbs Up:   26
    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Wulfers View Post
    Equipment levels:
    Linear: Base model with limited equipment.
    Arc: More luxury and equipment, comfortable ride
    Vector: Sportier version between Arc and Aero
    Aero: The sport model with lower suspension, sport seats etc. Firmer ride
    For 2005 in the United States:
    The Linear was reasonably well equipped with certain equipment optional in other markets, standard in the U.S. This included leather seats, dashboard cup holder, alloy wheels, ESP, etc. U.S. Linears had black dashboard accents.

    Arcs in the U.S. had body colored lower skirts (on the sides under the doors), sunroof, ACC (automatic climate control) and simulated wood dashboard accents. Arcs also had different wheels that had more spokes. It had a 2.0T engine rated at 210 hp.

    Aeros in the U.S. had sports seats, lower suspension, 17" wheels, and silver dashboard accents. It had a 2.0T engine rated at 210 hp.

    I heard that in the city under limited circumstances, the 2.0t engine was actually faster because it spooled up faster. I bought a Linear because I did not like the wheels (looked nice but too many spokes to clean brake dust off), sunroof (leaks possible), ACC (too many small buttons, MCC is easier to use, possibly less prone to breakdown, and is easy to use with thick gloves), and simulated wood of the Arc (didn't look like real wood) but the 2.0T engine and the side skirts were slightly more appealing to me.

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  4. #4
    Jeffrey
    Master SaabTech/Moderator Burnsside42's Avatar
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    Saab(s)
    - 86' 9KT - 95' 9K Custom CS - 06' 9-3 Combi - 07' 9-7X Arc - 08' 9-3 Convertible - 08' 9-3 TurboX -
    Thumbs Up:   3
    Rear Upper Control Arms - Place Foot on RIM on bottom - grasp tire tread from top and pull push action. If you feel movement the arms are bad. Usually north of 100K these wear out. Also you can tell they are bad if the tires are feathered or cupped on the inside tread of the rear tires.

    Tie Rod Ends - loose (pot holes mess these up). Cheap part -easy to replace yourself. Alignment reccomended - not always needed.
    Jack up the wheel - check 3 and 9 for play.

    Over bumpy roads rattle in front end - usually sway bar end links

    Clicking on turns - brake backing plates on front need holes enlarged

    Binding in front steering with popping noise - broken springs and or bad strut bearings. (Saab Special Coverage warranty may still apply - 10 years 120K on springs).

    Coolant leaks - look beneath and focus on the passenger side well. Water Pumps are popping up more and more - and they suck to do - special too required.

    Spark Plugs over due @ 100K - use the OEM NGK plugs

    All Filters (Engine Air and Cabin Fresh Air) likey are needed. Engine Air good for like 60K and the Fresh Air Filters last between 10-30K depending on driving, area and where it's parked.
    Also - 04' will not have the water barrier shield over the fresh air filter unless it's had a water leak fixed This was factory 06' and up.

    Lower air shields are usually busted up and they will take out the wheel liners too - all 3 are not uncommon.

    Wipers not parking - wiper trans/motor units (backordered from Saab)

    Radio's In-Op are usually from the AMP1 under the driver's seat. A few hundred dollar fix...

    Brakes and tires are obvious - check inside brake pads if you can. Earlier cars like 2003-2005 like to wear rears out faster then fronts - also the inside pads could be 1/2 of the outside pads depending on the vehicles driver habbits.

    Any questions just ask - I know these cars inside and out.

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    European Motor Services, LLC - Point Pleasant, PA 18950 - www.europeanmotorsvc.com

  5. #5

    Join Date
    16 Mar 2012
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    Saab(s)
    '98 900 convert looking 9-3 2003 Convert
    Thumbs Up:   0

    YOU the man !!!

    I am based in Moscow and will buy a 2003 over internet and needed a car check list (with specific s to 2003 Saab convertibles) and got referred to your post! Wow , exactlyl what I wanted to know! Usually I seend a generic checklist on to the prospective dealer and negotiate with him a price on checking these things and then if all good, buy it and then take delivery of it there or have it shipped overseas (I am an international teacher !) Hve done this twice before ad it has worked out ok. As I am a not a mechanic anyway I try to rely on the checklist and faith in the dealership (sounding a little too trusting ???) to do the rest. Just love Saab ragtops, is all .

    Really great to hear truths re the model ilttle problems. as an aside, when I was in Bucharest Romania the top would not crank up and the teeth had gone , the dealer wanted 2800 for the parts. I ordered them online from a shop in UK

    https://www.partsforsaabs.com/login.php and they were excellent about trouble shooting the problem and sending the parts. within 12 days I had the parts and my mechanic installed the new sprocket and motor and aligned the top for 180 dollars!!! nothing but good news there Just in case, the fellow at the shop that I odered from was Simon

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  6. #6
    Jeffrey
    Master SaabTech/Moderator Burnsside42's Avatar
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    Saab(s)
    - 86' 9KT - 95' 9K Custom CS - 06' 9-3 Combi - 07' 9-7X Arc - 08' 9-3 Convertible - 08' 9-3 TurboX -
    Thumbs Up:   3
    2003 Convertible? Old body or is it an 04' Body SS Vert? US Market did not see the Sport Sedan body convertibles until MY2004 so the MY2003 verts were all old school OG9-3 Verts.

    Glad my information was able to help!

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    European Motor Services, LLC - Point Pleasant, PA 18950 - www.europeanmotorsvc.com

  7. #7
    zacharytsmith's Avatar
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    14 Jan 2014
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    I have a 2003 Vector (for the 2003 model year, it was the top spec trim package, but the name was dropped and replaced with Aero for the 2004+ model years), and I would strongly recommend not purchasing this car. It's an amazing car, but there are a lot of common issues. If purchasing a 9-3, I would personally advise to look at either the previous model, or buying a 2005 or newer. But, to break it down from my experience, here's a list of my personal pros and cons for the Vector

    Pros:
    Very stylish exterior & interior
    SUPERBLY SAFE & durable
    Amazing handling
    Brakes
    6-speed gearbox
    Turbo-whistle
    Easy clutch- very forgiving; would be a great car to learn how to drive a manual in
    Good size trunk
    Decent rear leg room
    It's appearance is very subtle; unlike Audi or BMW, the Vector has presence without having to be super flashy
    Pockets on the front of the driver and passenger seats are a fun little surprise for added storage
    Ample amount of storage for many things
    The upgraded sound system option sounds amazing - 13 speakers (three on the dash, one in each of the front doors, and two large speakers in the back)


    Cons
    Steering wheel lock malfunctions seem quite common, and when mine needing replacing, I believe it was around $1800-2100
    Although good for sportiness, the suspension is far too stiff for regular driving- A way to adjust the suspension (ex. with a sport-mode button) would be nice
    Electrical failures (radio, CD player, lighting elements, etc.) are common with this model year
    And last but not least, the seats aren't very comfortable. Especially for trips lasting more than two hours.

    These are just a few of the good and bad qualities that I have encountered in my own research and experiences. Hope it's helpful!

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  8. #8
    Saab Fan
    Join Date
    27 Jul 2013
    Location
    Wellington, Florida
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    6
    Saab(s)
    9.3
    Thumbs Up:   0

    Saab 9-3 Buyers Guide

    Picked up a 2009 9-3 two years ago. No problems till now ... Window regulators on both rear sides have have failed. Anyone have this problem. Also having sun roof problems. Seems to be stuck. Pops up but won't slide.

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  9. #9

    Join Date
    20 Jul 2014
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
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    Saab(s)
    9-3
    Thumbs Up:   0
    Hi Burnsside42,

    I am about to purchase a 2003 9-3 Arc for my son. It will be his first car. I had a 9-5 about 10 years ago and really liked it. We decided on a 9-3 because of a good rating in an article from the IIHS regarding safety etc. The article stated a 2005 model year though. Question is... is this a good move, the 2003 that is? The car is a one owner and has 109k miles. The CarFax is clean. It has a fair amount of wear and tear, but I expect that from a 12 year old car. The engine felt strong, no smoke etc. Brakes felt good too. There was a clicking sound in the steering column when you maneuver in a parking lot. The dealer told me the A/C did not always work but it was okay when I test drove it. I was planning to take it to a garage before committing (a friend of a friend). I am in SE PA too, near West Chester. Any recommendations?

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  10. #10
    Saab Enthusiast
    Join Date
    04 Nov 2015
    Location
    Sweden
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    54
    Saab(s)
    9-5 S Wagon-01
    Thumbs Up:   0
    Sperb advice. Closed on a 06 sport combi with 180k km today. Getting a full service and chain replacement. Rear right and both front suspension also getting fixed in the deal, and it was a good deal. This thread helped a lot .

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    Last edited by DanielZ; 23 May 2016 at 17:48.

 

 

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