I've had the car for 2 months now, and so far:
The belt tensioner was bad. Cost $126 with tax for a replacement at Canadian Tire, plus an extra 25 for a new belt.
Idler pulley. The bearing inside the pulley was completely shot and was making a loud growling sound. $35 with tax at Canadian Tire for a replacement.
Coolant temp sensor was replaced. The old plastic-tipped one was replaced for a brass-tipped one from Canadian Tire.
Rear window defroster doesn't work. The switch itself lights up but nothing happens on the window.
Cigarette lighter doesn't work. The fuse appears to be good but it still doesn't work.
Power mirror (yes just one, on passenger side) doesn't work.
Power door locks don't work. Well, they do sorta; it will unlock the driver's door, but won't unlock any other door, nor will it lock them.
Well, when my '96 Cavalier spun a rod bearing, I needed another car. I only had 500 bucks MAX to spend so I wasn't going to be picky at all with what I was looking at. I looked at a local classified ad website and saw an ad for a '96 Saturn SL2. Licensed, inspected and had working AC. I came across this ad less than an hour after it was initially posted. I fired off an email to the seller as quick as I could. A few emails back and forth later, and that same afternoon I handed over 500 bucks and came home with my 'new' car.
The seller did tell me that the front brakes were bad and needed to be replaced. Fortunately, he included 2 new rotors and new brake pads with the car. The reason why the brakes were so worn down is because the left front caliper was sticking, because the slider pins were rusted. While changing the brakes, I lubed up the slider pins and that caliper works fine now. Heck, even the handbrake works, which is rather unusual for a 500 dollar car with an auto transmission in this part of Atlantic Canada.
The top right motor mount is bad. The rubber is all torn and probably doesn't have any support left in it. Hmmm, probably not a critical component, but I should replace it as soon as I can anyway. I think they're only 35 bucks or so at Canadian Tire.
Alignment is off, and the car pulls to the left. I think the left outer tie-rod is worn. I'll just leave that for now.
The suspension seems a bit firm, especially noticeable when going over rough expansion joints on bridges. This is probably normal.
Front tires are worn thin. I've got 2 used studded winter tires to go on the front; I'll have to leave the rear all-season tires on for now. Winter tires in this car's size (185-65/15) are a bit hard to come by for some reason.
Now don't start thinking that it's all bad with this car. With the exception of the rather expensive belt tensioner, most of the problems I've had so far can be expected from a 500 dollar 12 year old car.
On the plus side of this car, the body is in great shape (LOL it's plastic!). The car runs (most of the time) great, it has decent performance and quite good fuel economy. On my last measured tankful, it averaged out to just about 32 mpg. For an automatic transmission equipped car, this isn't bad at all.
I hit a deer with the car almost a month ago while I was out on the highway at night. I don't think I made full contact with the deer; I think I mainly hit it in the front quarters of the body. The impact shattered the fender (remember, it's plastic), put a small crack (which spread) in the windshield, destroyed the driver's outside mirror, broke the left rear door handle off and put a crack in the left rear door skin. Considering that I hit it at something like 65 mph I think the car came out pretty well. After making sure nothing was leaking or majorly damaged, I was able to drive away. Thank goodness I didn't hit the deer in the center of the car, or I would have likely been looking at major front and windshield damage.