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How Bad Can They Be?

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2007 PT Cruiser power

2007 PT Cruiser power windows, power locks, cruise, air, automatic, sunroof, 35,000 miles, $6,950 or best offer. Call (XXX) 555-6756.

Posted Apr 05, 2010 under Autos for Sale

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This is typical of what I see frequently.

I was interested it PTs when they were first being introduced.

The MPG wasn’t that great but I think it has improved.

I believe the crash ratings aren’t all that great.

I’ve heard they’re a little tight to work on under the hood.

. . . But, How Bad Can They Be ?

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s forget about Chrysler going bankrupt, etcetera.

I won’t buy one because of my higher than normal safety considerations, but for somebody needing an affordable, low miles, newer / younger vehicle, how bad a deal can they be?

Tell if you know of a better make / model

value (considering price, age, miles, utility, etcetera) for a “low budget” car buyer.


The negative reports that I have heard and read are that the 4 cylinder performance is disappointing. For someone that needs a car, such as the scenario you suggest, they may not be all that bad. I think a lot of “car guys” were disappointed that it didn’t come with a bigger engine. Excluding the bankruptcy etc, Chrysler has a terrible service record encompassing almost all of their vehicles. One may spend the extra money in repairs over time, instead of up front. It’s always a gamble.

A small used Toyota might be a practical compromise. As much as I hate to say it, the Ford Focus (ugh) and some other Fords are getting much better marks these days in Consumer Reports.

I had a rental PT Cruiser for a week while my car was being repaired, and it wasn’t a bad car to drive. The 2.4 liter engine wouldn’t outrun a Corvette, but it had plenty of power for any reasonable need, although gas mileage wasn’t very good. I would, however, be pretty leery of Chrysler products. Their reliability and longevity isn’t real swift.

My understanding is that the PT Cruiser is a Neon with a nifty body. Having owned a Neon, let me say that it is a surprisingly likable little car. However, it is not really likely to be a model of reliability. Like the guy at the junkyard said when we scrapped it – 112,000 miles … that’s probably some sort of record for a Neon. (We don’t do much highway driving in this part of the world. Not many highways).

If I were looking for solid, cheap, well used, transportation, I think I’d look for a rebadged Japanese car like a Chevrolet Prizm (a Corolla) Pontiac Vibe (A mutant Corolla I’m told)

My brother and I drove a rented Dodge Neon (that shares a platform with the PT Cruiser) from Miami to Houston, and we were both disappointed with the performance of the car. It’s horsepower and torque ratings were in a normal range for that class of car, but I think the power to weight ratio might have been low. The car (an automatic) used passing gear just to accelerate moderately. Judging from the build quality, I regarded it as a cheap disposable car. I suppose if that is what you are looking for, it can be had cheaply.

Even though I paid more for my Civic, I consider it a better “low budget” car. Yes, its initial price was higher, but I am quite happy with the overall build quality and the costs of ownership and operation.

To compare the PT Cruiser to comparable cars is difficult. For a while, the PT Cruiser had no direct competition. Finally, GM got into the act with its retro design vehicle (can’t remember what it is), so I suppose there are no direct competitors with a better model since only GM has chosen to directly compete with the PT Cruiser.

I’ve rented them 3 times, got stranded by one once outside Yosemite (it refused to shift out of park, had to have a replacement rental delivered), could have really messed up a family vacation had it happened inside the park. So I’m probably not a good person to ask…

Don’t take my word on it – go out and drive one. You will quickly find out how bad they are.


Rented one once.
For all that look of a small wagon, SMALL is the kicker. Next to zero room for luggage !

If you have people in all four seats whom all have luggage…
Don’t rent a PT !

PT s are an enticing little car. Chrysler has a habit of coming out with some really attractive well conceived, poorly executed products for a low price.
According to CR, they seem to be OK the first couple of years of ownership, then begin to fall down in the motor, transmission, suspension, drive train to worse than ave. reliability. That seems to be enough to scare me away; how about you CSA ?

Better low budget buy ? Focus, Fusion…any thing that begins with the letter “F”.

Repair cost for the 2007 PT Cruiser are expected to be 15% higher than the Toyota Matrix, but maintenance is more expensive on the Matrix, making the M&R costs about even over the next 5 years. My takeaway is that the PT Cruiser is reliable. IIHS/HLDI rates the PT Cruiser good in offset frontal crash tests and poor in side impact tests. Here’s the URL:

I’m not suggesting that you should buy a Matrix; I know that Toyotas aren’t readily available in your area. But Toyotas are considered the gold standard in reliability. It is also interesting that a similar 2007 Matrix would cost $3500 to $4000 more to buy. Consider the likelihood of a side impact in your area and whether you will carry passengers in the back seat.

The Reliability Thing Wouldn’t Scare Me. I’ve Owned Dodge (Chrysler Corp.) Cars That Are Nothing Like What CR Describes (Been A Subscriber For Decades).

If that is the same 16v, dual balance shaft, DOHC 2.4L that they’ve put in other vehicles, I think it’s a nice little powerplant. Plus, they’ve been building these for quite a while.

The vehicle is just too small for me for safety reasons.

Otherwise, I’ll bet I could drive one fairly trouble-free up to a least 155,000 miles. That’s less than $1200 / year purchase, times six years at 20,000 miles /year. That’s so inexpensive that one could afford a few problems should they arise. That car is only 3-4 years old and would be just 9 or 10 at the end of the 155,000 mile / 6 year program described.

For a DIYer on a low budget it might be a way to “cash out” on a “non rust bucket” and avoid car payments.


JT, The Reliability Doesn’t Scare Me. I Just Don’t Like To Sit Close To A Door. I’m Thinking That For Somebody Needing Inexpensive, Basic Transportation And A Chance At No Car Payments, It Wouldn’t Be A Bad Way To Go.

Some folks don’t mind, but the “poor” side-crash rating is not acceptable to me. Like you say people have to weigh the odds and the odds always go against me.


CSA, I consider the Neon/PT Cruiser platform in a different class from Chrysler’s larger vehicles. The larger Chryslers tend to have problems with things like trim and other cosmetic issues, but the engines are usually pretty sound.

Most of us expect a new car to give us about 200,000 trouble free miles these days. 155,000 miles seems a little low to me. Most of the people I know keep their cars at least ten years, not six.

You should also consider that mechanical problems often have hidden costs. For real estate agents, a breakdown can lead to a lost commission. For consultants and contractors, it can mean a lost job. Then there is the cost and inconvenience of arranging for alternative transportation while the vehicle is in the shop, after you pay to have it towed there. Automotive problems are seldom solved by paying for parts and labor alone. I believe you and I have back-up vehicles in case our daily drivers end up in the shop. If you include the cost of those back-up vehicles in the cost of resolving the problems, it isn’t so inexpensive anymore.

CSA, if not the PT Cruiser, what are we gonna buy? What about a Chevy HHR? It has good offset frontal ratings and acceptable side impact ratings. That’s an improvement - is it enough of one?

They only used two engines in PT cruiser throughout the run of the vehicle, they used the same transmissions as well so fuel mileage is going to be the same no matter what year you get. The turbo model, which probably the more desirable model gets about 2 MPG less than the non-turbo model.

To me they are overweight Neons with different body that suggests sporting pretensions, but the vehicle can’t back up it’s hot rod looks. That’s just my opinion. I’d rather get an HHR SS. It offers superior performance, similar styling, and better fuel mileage

Unfortunately it falls into the realm of acceptable cars imho. It is underpowered, but I remember an old Corolla a bud had that you had to floor down the hill to make it up the next hill, and it is not that bad, sure my bud had the manual transmission replaced under warranty, unfortunately not the front axle at 100k. It is not the bullet proof solid car but can be an acceptable risk, and it is not as good as it looks, but few cars are.

Chevy HHR

“Unfortunately it falls into the realm of acceptable cars imho.”

I disagree. The SS version has a turbo that develops 260 HP and 260 ft-lbs of torque. That’s plenty for a Cobalt station wagon. But it has to be a 2008 or later. Good call, FoDaddy.

I do see solid arguments in your favor. Repair is relative and if as you say you are comfortable with the brand, really don’t mind the slight added inconvenience, which is really measured in a small % difference anyway, why not. If you have a “stable” of cars and are not using it to depend upon but for specialized use, why not.

There are reasons why people continue to buy Jeep Wranglers, regardless of poorer repair records. The difference isn’t that great and they do some things very well. I’ll say, go for it. Besides, for that money, parking dings are no longer a problem worth worrying about and no car is a good investment.