Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Considering a Chevy Impala

Hey guys…Im looking up to you all for all your thoughts on a 2003 Impala I am considering buying from a family friend with 147k miles. I would like to know any positive and/or negative reviews about the Impala…this has the 3.4 liter engine…was an one-owner vehicle with all the records…Any thoughts, guys?

A number of my neighbors own this version of the Impala and they have been good cars.
They do have their problems just like everything else though.

The problem here is that you’re talking about a 10 year old car with 147k miles on it so an opinion about any other 2003 Impala is pretty much worthless. It all depends on how it was driven and maintained.

It may be one-owner but you should examine the oil change regimen (both miles and time) along with any transmission service intervals as a first step in the decision on this car.
If the owner is changing the oil on 10k mile intervals and never servicing the transmission then I would run.

If you can get it for free, take it. Or not.

Are they that bad? Or am I being too paranoid?

These Impalas are reliable. My wife’s aunt has one and it’s been a daily driver for over 10 years. The only problem she ever had was her automatic door locks. It turned out to be a relay. If the friend has all the maintenance records then have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic before you buy. What’s the price by the way?

On a ten year old car, take some masking tape and put a strip of tape over the odometer and over the make of the car. Take it for a test drive to get an initial impression. In other words, the make and the odometer reading are the first things I ignored when shopping for an older vehicle. From this point, look at the service records and have an independent mechanic check the car over. If the car has been well maintained and you know that the original owner was not using the car on the stock car racing circuit, you probably have a reasonably good used car.
I certainly wouldn’t worry about the make of the car. My brother has apartments that he rents in a couple of buildings that he owns. Twice, he has had tenants sign over the titles to their cars in lieu of the last month’s rent. One car was an old Toyota which my brother was sure had a broken piston ring. The other car was an old VW bug that would hardly run and was missing a rear fender. In both cases, he had buyers standing in line overbidding each other to buy these cars. Had the cars been GM or Ford products, the cars wouldn’t have generated interest and my brother would probably have had to get them to the recycling yard.

One plus for the Impala is that parts are readily available and most mechanics have worked on an Impala. I would bet that parts might be less than for a Toyota or Honda. Furthermore, the Impala does not have a timing belt that has to be changed on a periodic basis to prevent the engine from self-destructing.

If the Impala is very low cost give it at least some consideration,Cars are so dang expensive nowadays-Kevin

If you are of the mindset if the trans blows in 3 months and it would influence your friendship do not buy the car. If you can say stuff happens go for it.

The Impala is a quality vehicle. The only issue I have with them is they are as stylish as an Honda, Toyota or a square brown cardbord box.

I own the 2 door equivalent Monte Carlo. So far I am not impressed by the amount of miles I have tracked for the repair money. I’m at 88K miles.
The major things that these cars have issues with:
Motor mounts fall apart with some regularity, intake gasket leaks coolant on driver’s side at the rear head, front wheel bearings go bad at prettty regular intervals and the hazard switch craps out taking out the brake lights. All things that can be checed before buying but be aware of the failures.

Rusty, you have done well to consider a used Impala. Now I suggest you look for a used Accord or Camry when it comes time to actually buy a used car with that many miles. I wouldn’t buy a used car just because it can be repaired more cheaply. Why not buy one that anyone can work on and dosen’t need as frequent repair ?

Find out if the transmission has been serviced regularly…Because if not…

Don’t listen to me but I just don’t think I could ever get excited about a Chevy plain Jane. A Corvair was the only Chevy I ever owned, otherwise went for Olds, Buick, Pontiac. I did rent an Impala and it was OK but just plain boring. Just reminded me of the 70-80’s Chevs. Don’t these have some rear alignment issues though?

If you can take the blandness, the Impala is an excellent vehicle to consider. W30 has listed the most common issues I have seen on these cars, except for the hazard switch issue, which I have seen on older (mid to late '90s) GM midsize cars, but never on an Impala, which was introduced in 2000. Even if all these things had to be done at once, you would be looking at around $1500 in repairs. The 3.4L is one of GM’s better engines, one that I actually like a lot, but it does have the known lower intake gasket issue. There are improved gaskets available that will last the life of the engine, so if this has not been done you should only have to do it once. I recommend having someone familiar with this repair do it if you have to have it done (this should be easy since these cars and engines are as common as dirt). I have seen it botched and it’s not pretty.

I agree wholeheartedly with Triedaq’s take on this. Due to the age of the vehicle, disregard everything but your driving impression and your mechanic’s impression when considering purchasing something. Also, take a friend or family member who is NOT excited about this purchase with you on a test drive to nitpick the car. This may result in avoiding a major headache if you buy it without realizing there was some glaring defect you didn’t notice because you were too excited about buying a new car. Honda and Toyota vehicles were also suggested for consideration. The only issues I have with them is that they are priced so much higher than everything else in the used car market. For the price of your '03 Impala, to get a used Honda or Toyota with similar miles, you will be looking at '97-'99 model years. As for me, if I were looking at buying one of these three, I would give strongest consideration to an Impala. Why? I have worked on lots of Impalas, Accords, and Camrys, have observed that they seem to spend about the same amount of time in the shop, but the repair tickets on the Impalas seemed to be lower, repairs/maintenance easier, and parts easier to acquire.

As a minivan driver, I have a hard time putting vehicles on the boring-exciting continuum. I put the Austin-Healey bug-eyed Sprite at the exciting end of the scale, the Mazda Miata about 2/3 of the way upscale to the exciting end and everything else at the boring end. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t find Toyota Camrys or Honda Accords any more or any less exciting than a Chevrolet Impala.
If the OP has my taste, or lack thereof in vehicles, and the Impala meets his needs, it may be a good purchase. He knows the history of the vehicle and has the service records. This is hard to find in a 10 year old vehicle. That used Camry on the lot may have had in its history, an owner three back who was a spike tester for the railroad who used his own car.

Realistically, unless the car is nearly a gift, I would be hard pressed to buy any car with that many miles from a person who’s friendship I valued.