97 Pontiac Sunfire - needs airbags - $500 - go for it?

Hi all,

Looking at buying a 1997 Pontiac Sunfire, w/ the 2.2 L engine, has 151,000 kms (94k miles) for $500. The body looks great and supposedly mechanically it is great.

It was in a minor accident, the hood damage is very minor, from the photos it looks like the front bumper isn’t damaged somehow, must have hit a higher vehicle. Looks like it needs a windshield, hood, and two air bags (not sure how/why they went off in such a minor hit). Interior doesn’t look like it got “messed up” by the collision.

My question is, should I go for it and make this a project car (my sister needs a car in a year or so) or run away? Looks like you can get air bags for this car pretty cheap.

If the answer is obvious, please be kind… :slight_smile:



Have you checked to see how much airbags are going to cost you??? Probably more then the car is worth.

You can get a newer, better Sunfire for only a little bit more money that hasn’t been in a collision. Since this car has been crashed once, who knows how it will hold up in a future collision. It may just disintegrate and kill all the occupants. Is your sister worth only $500?

For the cost of the car and repairs, you can get a plethora of better vehicles. Run away from this one… run far away.

This is the sort of car I would buy. It would make a good project. I’d get it running and pass inspection then give it to one of my impoverished famliy members. By now, I’ve run out of college students and they all have jobs. But they remember me fondly.

I’d say go for it, forgo the airbags unless they come real cheap, and don’t worry about ugliness. Have fun!

I would tend to agree, it’s not worth it if you have to mess with the silly air bags. I have no idea if it’s legal to fix a car for yourself without air bags, but you will have to be careful if you ever want to sell it.

Ford Escort drivers air bag is about $600. That is if I wanted to repair the horn switch or diaghram. It comes as one piece. This should give you an idea.

If you are saying that both airbags went off, then it just was not a bump, but something a little harder.

I’d say go for it, forgo the airbags unless they come real cheap, and don’t worry about ugliness.

I know in many states…you can’t. If the car comes equipted with Airbags then the MUST be in working order to pass inspection.

I know in many states…you can’t. If the car comes equipted with Airbags then the MUST be in working order to pass inspection.

That’s what I was wondering about, in CO there are no inspections so it wouldn’t be an issue.

BTW, when I lived in NH (20+ years ago) I would bring the paperwork for all my cars to the local inspection station and buy a sticker for each one (they didn’t even pretend to look at the cars, which I didn’t have with me anyway). On Saturday mornings there would be a line of people buying their stickers, the “inspector” never even got up from behind his desk. You have to love the (lack of) government in the state of NH.

If you locate them here: http://car-part.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?userSearch=int&userPID=1000&userLocation=All+States&userIMS=&userInterchange=C>>%40&userSide=&userDate=1997&userDate2=1997&dbModel=

you can get the driver side w/o radio control as cheap as $25.00. I think the car is worth alot more than this.

Will this have a salvage title to it? If not then if you can get all replacement parts for $2000.00 or less then I would say go for it. The value of the car after repairs from NADA are here:


If the car comes with a salvage title then it would depend on if you where going to try to resale, then I wouldn’t do or as mentioned give to your sister, then it would be a good project.

I’d disagree with you there, even as cheap as a car the Sunfire is, you can’t get one for " a little bit more money" than $500, not in good condition.

A minor collision does not mean the vehicle will certainly disintegrate in a future crash…any crash, if bad enough, has the possibility of killing the occupants. I would definitely have my mechanic check the integrity of the structure of the car before buying it.

My sister is worth more than $500, yes. I don’t buy cars for people according to their worth…she’s worth more than a $150,000 car but that doesn’t mean I don’t car for her if I buy her a $30,000 car. That is such a flawed question.

My question was regarding replacing the air bags and wanted to see what people’s experience with that was. Not whether or not I loved my sister by buying this car for her.

“care for her” not “car for her”

It looks like I can get a set of airbags and the required accessories for about $100 from eBay or around $400 from an air bag part store. Either way, it’s reasonable. The part store estimates that in my area, it would cost me $100 to have the air bags installed professionally.

I can get a hood from the wreckers for probably $50, and a new windshield installed for $250. So my total cost including the purchase price would be around $1000 - $1500 after all is said and done.

Based on that, what does everyone think?

I would say buy it. If it has a clear title it would be a great deal. If it has a salvage title then you’ll have in it about what it’s worth.

A set of airbags for $100? I wouldn’t trust them. Either they’re el-cheapo Chinese junk (like the sawdust brake shoes) or they’re stolen from some other car. Even $400 from a store is suspiciously low. Be careful. That sounds more like junkyard territory, but who knows. By the way, installing/servicing airbags is quite hazardous – it’s easy to cause these things to go off with explosive force. At the least, wear a football helmet and have someone nearby to call 911.

“You have to love the (lack of) government in the state of NH.”

If your family was killed in an accident that resulted from faulty brakes on another driver’s car, I believe that you might feel very differently about loving the lack of government in NH. Whether we like the hassles of inspections or not, safety inspections and verification of working anti-pollution devices do serve a purpose, and that purpose is to help ensure the health and safety of the public.

Even though my vehicles are scrupulously maintained, and perhaps yours are also, there is a segment of the population that will attempt to drive with faulty equipment, much to the detriment of those around them, and state inspections (if they are actually performed) do catch many of these violators.

MrPhil, I see you repeating what I have heard others saying, and I’m not saying it isn’t true, but I can’t find any references to injuries caused by people replacing or servicing airbags. I’m sure if one did go off in some poor service tech’s hands it would cause injury, but how often does that happen, really? Do you have pointers to any web pages or other sources of information on this?

As for the pricing of replacements, I’m wondering if the overall prevelance of airbags has not started to bring the price of replacements down somewhat? And, of course as older cars leave service the supply of unused airbags probably goes up helpin gto dring the price down. I mean, there may be more undeployed airbags pulled from '97 Sunfires than will ever be needed, so even old back stock of never installed bags might come down. I’m just speculating.

If you feel that they are actually useful you should live in a state that has safety inspections, personally I’m happy to live in a state that does not. When I lived in NH, they pretended to have inspections, which seems a little silly to me. Metro areas in CO do have emissions inspections that probably serve some purpose, although they are also a hassle.

“That government is best which governs least.” - Thomas Paine

There used to be lots of “lick 'em and stick 'em” inspection stations in NH, but not anymore. The inspection results (an OBDII check, sctually…but that’s another thread) along with the emissions results go right into a central computer at the DMV in Concord.

There are, however, still huge inconsistancies. I know shops that check with integrity and others who search for a reason to reject the vehicle…and generate revenue…and they ALWAYS find one.

The “OBDII check” comment was supposed to come out in back of the emissions comment, but I can’t edit and fix my error.