Saturn maintenance: cost, plans and service schedule

It’s still relatively cheap to own a Saturn if you avoid certain models

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
By:
Author picture
Edited by:
BMW and Toyota
a saturn with the hood raised inside a repair shop

Saturn was like the Southwest Airlines of car companies. It was quirky and had a reputation for providing excellent customer service.

But unlike Southwest, Saturn didn’t survive the 2008 recession. GM axed the brand in 2010, which is a shame because it left behind some decent ideas for how to change the car market and some decent cars to boot.

If you’re thinking of buying a Saturn in 2024, you’re probably curious to know how much it’ll cost to own. What is maintenance like on an older vehicle like this? What about repairs? Which Saturns are the “problem children” of the lineup with fatal transmission issues? And can you even get an extended warranty on a Saturn anymore?

Read on to find out.


Key insights

Thanks to simple construction and plentiful GM parts, Saturn vehicles cost about the same as your average used vehicle to maintain and repair ($500 to $1,000 per year).

Jump to insight

As mass-market GM vehicles, the maintenance schedule is also very typical (e.g., oil changes every 3,000 miles, brakes every 40,000 miles). However, given their age, you may want to use synthetic oil.

Jump to insight

Repair costs vary by model. The Vue and the Outlook have known transmission issues around 70,000 to 110,000 miles that can cost about $5,800 to fix. The rest (Aura, Sky, etc.) are generally reliable, but it heavily depends on how well the previous owner maintained the vehicle.

Jump to insight

Some extended warranty companies still cover later-model Saturn vehicles. Endurance quoted us $162 a month for a plan covering about 200 parts on a 2009 Saturn Sky.

Jump to insight

Are Saturns expensive to maintain?

No, Saturns are not expensive to maintain, in general.

Let’s clarify the difference between maintenance and repairs:

  • Maintenance items are things that every vehicle has to do on a regular basis, even if it’s in peak, showroom condition. These are things like oil changes (for non-EVs), new brakes, new tires, tire rotations and balancing, alignments and more.
  • Repairs address unexpected issues. If your power steering fails, your engine stutters, your convertible top stops working or your car won’t start at all, these all require repairs rather than routine maintenance.

To draw a medical analogy, a dental cleaning is “maintenance,” while a filling or a root canal are “repairs.” And just like oral hygiene, the better you maintain your car, the less likely you’ll need repairs.

That’s why factoring in the cost of maintenance is so important when budgeting for a car.

Luckily, despite the “newest” Saturn vehicle being nearly 15 years old, they’re not as expensive to maintain as you might think.

“Saturn is an old subsidiary of GM (General Motors), just like Pontiac,” Sean Kim, an experienced mechanic in the Atlanta area, told ConsumerAffairs. “That means they share a fair number of parts with GM vehicles of that era, so maintenance and repair costs should be fairly manageable.”

On top of that, GM itself still sells thousands of factory-new parts from cars that were made 20 years ago, including Saturns. To illustrate, we were able to find a brand-new engine crankshaft position sensor for a 2007 Saturn Outlook via an Arizona dealership’s parts department for just $39.51. We were also able to find oil filters for a 2007 Outlook at AutoZone for $10.

As a net result of all this, routine maintenance costs for a 2000 to 2010 Saturn aren’t that much different from what they are for a typical used car. “Estimated average annual maintenance costs range between $500 to $1,000 on a Saturn, even in 2024,” said Kim.

How Saturn compares with other automakers

While Saturns may not be as costly to own as you’d think for an older vehicle, you probably won’t be saving any money by owning one.

Considering combined maintenance and repair costs, data from RepairPal suggests that Saturns still aren’t as cheap to own as a Pontiac from that era. It’s no surprise to learn that they’re costlier than an equivalent Honda or a Toyota, though they’re still easier on the wallet than a used Ford or BMW.

*According to RepairPal

Granted, these are just rough estimates to represent an entire brand. Oftentimes, specific models are way cheaper (or way more expensive) to own than other models in the lineup, so let’s compare Saturn vehicles.

Saturn maintenance and repair costs by model

A look at model-specific repair costs reveals the Saturn Outlook to be the potential problem child in the lineup. RepairPal data suggests that the Outlook costs a staggering 53% to 60% more to own than an Aura sedan or a Sky two-seater, and if we dig a little deeper, we can clearly see why.

*According to RepairPal

According to CarComplaints.com, the 2007 through 2009 Outlook model years had a large number of transmission issues. Transmission repairs can be extremely expensive, and to that point, Saturn owners reported paying an average of about $4,400 to repair them.

Assuming they failed about six years into ownership, adjusting for 10 years of inflation means you could pay an eye-watering $5,791 in 2024, which is probably more than the value of the car.

The good news is that if we factor out the Outlook, the rest of Saturn’s lineup seems reasonably cheap to own and repair.

Saturn maintenance cost and schedule

Some cars that are 15-plus years old become extremely expensive to maintain as they age simply due to lack of parts. It can be hard to find the right brake rotors and tire size for a 1990s Ferrari, for example, so you can end up spending thousands per year just to keep the car on the road.

Thankfully, Saturns aren’t classic Ferraris. They were simple, mass-manufactured vehicles with plenty of support and shared parts from similar GM vehicles, so parts and labor are relatively easy to find. As the Atlantic mechanic Kim said, you can maintain a Saturn vehicle for between $500 and $1,000 per year, just like most used cars.

As for how often you have to change out certain things, have a look at the owner’s manual for a 2009 Saturn Vue, section 6-1. It’s all fairly standard: oil changes and inspections every 3,000 miles, new engine air filters and transmission fluid at 50,000 miles and so on.

The one exception is the type of oil you’ll want to use. On lower-mileage vehicles, you can often get away with using conventional oil for oil changes, but for vehicles that are over 6 years old or that have /75,000 miles, it’s best to switch to synthetic.

» READ: Average car maintenance costs

Saturn repair costs

When it comes to possible repair costs, we’ve already discussed how the Saturn Outlook from model years 2007, 2008 and 2009 can suffer catastrophic transmission failure to the tune of $4,000-plus. For that reason alone, it probably shouldn’t be high on your list.

User submissions on CarComplaints.com suggest that the Vue has similar transmission issues on models from 2003 through 2009, albeit at a higher average mileage (100,000-plus). Still, most Vues on the road today are probably approaching that 100,000-mile mark, so you may want to steer clear of that model as well.

As for the rest of Saturn’s 2000-2010 lineup, the likelihood that you’ll have an expensive repair soon heavily depends on how well the previous owner maintained the vehicle. That’s why when you’re buying a vehicle this old, scheduling a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is an absolute must.

For $200, a professional mechanic will come inspect and test drive the car, telling you everything they could possibly find wrong with it. Even if it’s only minor stuff, you can use the PPI report to negotiate a lower price with the seller.

Provided your PPI mechanic signs off on the vehicle, you might still want to consider an extended warranty for extra peace of mind.

But do extended warranty companies still cover aging Saturn vehicles?

» LEARN: What is a manufacturer’s warranty?

Suggested for you

Endurance Auto Warranty
American Dream
Omega Auto Care

Need Coverage for Less?

Get a personalized comparison to find affordable coverage near you.

Select my state...
  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

How can an extended warranty help?

Whether you’re buying a 2-month-old Toyota or a 15-year-old Saturn, there may be an extended warranty plan available that can lend extra peace of mind for a few extra years of ownership. By insuring you against certain pricey repairs, they can sometimes pay for themselves rather quickly and help you sleep at night even if you never submit a claim.

Even on aging, discontinued vehicles, you can still find companies willing to provide extended warranty protection. Endurance, for example, covers vehicles up to 20 years old, which means certain late-year Saturns should still qualify.

Sure enough, Endurance quoted us $161.52 per month on a Secure Plus plan for a 2009 Saturn Sky with 80,000 miles on the odometer. It’s not bumper-to-bumper protection, but it does cover a few hundred components, including the engine, transmission and some sensitive electronics.

For more options, be sure to check out our list of the best extended car warranty companies.

» MORE: Car warranty vs. car insurance


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. RepairPal, “Saturn Repair & Maintenance Costs.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  2. CarComplaints.com, “Saturn Overview.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
Did you find this article helpful? |
Share this article