My husband and I are looking to buy a car for my daughter to commute to
college with next year. One type of car we're considering is the Cavalier /
Sunfire. Probably 1999-2003 model years. Is this a good car? Is there any
problems or anything we should look out for?
She is going to be living at home, so we can make sure the car gets service
The opinions of others about their particular vehicle, good or
bad, is of little used in trying to evaluate the ONE you are
considering. As with any used car there is no way to know how a
particular vehicle was used, or abused, by the previous owner(s)
or whether it was given the proper maintenance, or not.
Find yourself a competent technician. Have him look at the
particular vehicle you are considering. If it has a decent
warranty and he believes it is an OK car, and the price is right,
buy it WBMA
I had a 1989 Cavalier wagon that was a excellent car. But that was several
generations back. As far as I know the current Cavalier is a reasonable car
for the money.
Back in 1999 I was in your shoes. Helped the daughter buy a Dodge Neon
5-speed to get her to college. She's graduated, married now and is still
driving it. No major troubles with it (yet) as it approaches 100K miles.
Frankly, I didn't expect such a cheap car to go that many miles as trouble
free as it has. (Knock on wood!)
Hehe, I had a 1988 Z24, 2.8L V6, w/5-speed Munci, owned it for four years,
went from 178,000kms when I bought it for $3200CDN to 360,000kms when I sold
it for $900CDN. Put VERY little into it, never broke down (probably because
of proper maintenance), never caught me off-guard with a blow part. I told
the girl that bought it to take good care of it, requires lots of
maintenance, it's an old car. She didn't listen, don't think she even
changed the oil. 6 months later, after she hit a few curbs destroying the
rims and fenders, the engine blew up.
Unless you're only wanting to spend a few thousand dollars for a temporary
car, I'd almost be willing to suggest buying a new Cavalier at this point.
I'm generally a fan of buying slightly used cars so that the first owner
takes most of the depreciation hit, but new leftover Cavaliers can be had
for cheap right now. Its replacement, the Cobalt, has been in the showrooms
for a few months now and dealers are eager to unload remaining Cavaliers. GM
is currently offering a $4,000 rebate plus however much else you get the
dealer to knock off. It's not unreasonable to be able to purchase a nicely
equipped Cavalier for around $11,000 or less at present.
You'll hear widely varying opinions of Cavaliers from bad to good. My
opinion is that a Cavalier is a good vehicle, but many of them get abused as
former rental/fleet units. You also have to consider the typical Cavalier
owner. Many tend to have tight budgets and more important tasks in life than
maintaining a vehicle. ANY vehicle will yield a short service life when not
maintained correctly. That's the most risky part of buying any used vehicle.
You can't trust the salespeople and former owners are usually hard to
I've had two Cavaliers in the family through the years. The first was a 1990
purchased new. Two biggest problems were a TCC solenoid in the transmission
(common problem, not too expensive to repair) and a corroded heater core
(somebody forgot to change the coolant for 10 years - oops). It was totalled
last year after being rear-ended by a Ford F-250 truck at 95,000 miles.
Mechanically, the car was in excellent condition, although the factory paint
job was poor prompting a repaint a few thousand miles before its demise. The
second was a 2000 that was a former rental car. It was purchased with 18,000
miles. Sold it last year with 43,000 miles without a single problem of any
kind. Aside from the coolant issue on the 1990, all other maintainance was
performed by the book (or before) and neither was ever abused.
IF I were in the market for used Cavalier or Sunfire, I'd look for one of
the last few model years that included the more fuel-efficient 4-speed
automatic transmission as opposed to the older 3-speed unit (assuming you're
looking for an automatic instead of a manual) and the Ecotec 2.2L engine
instead of the older 2.2L OHV engine. The Ecotec is more powerful, quieter,
and smoother. Expect any of these cars to develop their fair share of
squeaks and rattles as they are assembled with low cost in mind,
particularly in areas of noise control.
Overall, I think a Cavalier is a "good" car without any major flaws, but
most aren't maintained well in the used market, so buyer beware as is the
case with any used vehicle. As a previous poster recommended, have a
competent mechanic go over the entire car. Buy a Carfax history report. Get
NADA and Kelly Blue Book values. Add all those together along with your gut
feeling to determine whether or not you've found the right car.
I'd get a later model one with the Ecotec engine. Look, they are
just a little tin can of a car, but they are fairly reliable. We don't do
that much work to them. The fit and finish isn't that great, they
develop rattles and noises as they get a few miles on them, but
they don't have any major problems that I've run into.
yeah I agree, get a later one with an Ecotec, if you just HAVE to get an
older one, I'd suggest the 2.2 instead of the 2.4, its a less powerful
motor, but less issues.
Avoid the 3 speeds, its actually a solid transmission, but the gas mileage
sucks, and then theres extra wear on the motor since its revving higher most
of the time.
If the squeeks and rattles get too annoying, you can always take apart the
interior, get some felt padding thats sticky on one side, and apply it to
certain points where the pieces contact each other, also some rubberized
caulking can help in other areas, either that or do what I did when I was a
teenager with a sunfire, install the loudest stereo possible to drown out
the squeeks. (stupid but it works)
With any used car the keys are low mileage and a documented service
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