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PT Cruisers

On today’s show a caller blasted the Cruiser and you said nothing to contradict her. We’ve had three of them. My son traded his at 75,000 miles when it lost a secdond transmission and I traded my first one at 95,000 miles when, it seemed to me, it was about to descend into a cycle of costly repairs. Our present curuise has 48,500 on it; should I look for an opportunity to trade it in or, at worst, let it go until 97,000? In other words, are people having more than usual problems with this series?

Grandpa Ned (Ph.d.)

Curious. Consumers Reports rates the PT Cruiser’s reliability as better than average. Most owners are apparently well-satisfied. There are always exceptions, however.

Your present car may outlive you. You’ve not reported any problems… but one never knows. If you are concerned about your present car’s longevity, than by all means trade it away. Why live with dread?

Well, they’re Dodge Neons with spiffier bodies and they cost 13k bucks. I don’t think you can expect too much of them.

On the other hand, I didn’t hear Tom and Ray exactly agreeing that it was a bad car, it just sounded like the caller had her mind made up on getting a new car (she’d “fallen out of love” with the cruiser) and they weren’t about to talk her in to buying another. Really, the problems that she’d had didn’t sound like they were all that complicated or out of the ordinary. It might not be a beacon of reliability, but I don’t think they’re considerably worse than a lot of other small cars in that price range. The transmission thing seems to be a commonality among small Chrysler FWDs up until the last few years, however.

No sense trading it when you have run off all the depreciation. These are the years when you start saving money on cars. Go farther.

As I remember the call, the woman with the PT Cruiser was using the car in her business. She may have been putting some hard miles on this vehicle. Think about this example: Back in the late 1950’s, I worked part time in a filling station. 90% of the cars that were brought in for repairs were Chevrolets and Fords. We never saw a Studebaker. When I finished college and needed to buy a car, this would suggest, then, that I buy a Studebaker. Well, in this time period, 80% of the vehicles sold were either a Ford or a Chevrolet. Studebaker had less than 1% of the market. We only saw the Chevrolets and Fords that had a problem. There were millions of Chevrolets and Fords running along without problems. If your PT Cruiser is doing well, I wouldn’t worry about the problems others may be having.

I really don’t believe they are seriously and worse (or better) than cars in general. Frankly I believe people greatly over estimate the differences between makes and models when it comes to reliability. With few exceptions the differences are small. What is far larger is the sample to sample difference. One car may be great and the next one off the line can be a mess.

Far more important than the car you get, is the way you treat the car you have. If you drive it hard, or fail to maintain it properly, it will give poor service. If you just don’t like it or want something newer, you likely will not maintain it as well.

We see time and time again someone who really wants that new shinny car and uses something like needing a timing belt or a bad alternator as a reason to get rid of the car. While it is OK to buy a new car just because you want one (assuming you can afford one) it is foolish to fool yourself into buying one because of what is really normal maintenance and is likely far less cost than the cost of a new car.

I think even with an "unreliable " model maybe only 20-25% actually have problems with the rest fine. A close friend owns a VW Golf notorious its year for beyond bad reliability. He has 135k and a one electrical problem so far along with a piece of trim coming undone. Ask anyone here if you should buy a VW, emphatic no. Ask him he loves not only the reliability of VW but the nice comfort/handling balance along with great interior.

I’ve never owned a PT, but I suspect it is as good (or bad) as anything else in that price range. We are talking about a very cheap car, so I wouldn’t expect much and I wouldn’t spend very much on one after a certain mileage. If I had one, I would probably just drive it until the first repair that exceeded (or approached) the value of the car.

I once owned a Renault Le Car (R5) that I bought new for about $5000 in the early 80s (about 1/4 the cost of a real car at the time). It worked fine for several years with minimum repairs, then basically stared to fall apart. I had gotten my money out of it, so I tossed it (actually gave it to my little brother to play with). It wasn’t a “bad deal,” but I probably should have spent the $5000 on a decent used car instead.

The PT cruiser is basicallly a cheap car with severe budgets limits put on the designers. Having said that, it will give good service if maintained properly and last about 1/2 to 2/3 the life of a Toyota, Honda or Mazda. As with the Neon, expect transmission problems before 100,000 miles, but not excessivley expensive repairs. My friend’s wife loves her Neon, for instance, but she is prepared to put $400 to $800 (most recent repair) into it every now and then. She does not expect it to last as long as her 1984 Datsun (Nissan)Sentra, whcih soldiered on for 18 years. On a cost per mile basis, the PT Cruiser comes out OK, much better than, say, a Subaru Forester, which has expensive maintenance and very expensive, if infrequent, repairs.

I heard somewhere that the quality of American cars today is about what Japanese cars were in the 80s. I think that’s a compliment. I’ve only owned three cars in my life. I buy them new and run them into the ground. My '85 Honda was a completely different world from the '74 Ford I had before that. My '01 PT Cruiser has probably had FEWER problems than my Honda. I say that at 65,000 miles, though, and I have a long way to go to catch up with the 130,000 or so I put on the Honda.

I’m a little lost here. On one hand you’re saying the PT is reliable…On the other your showing us how UNRELIABLE it is. 75k miles and two transmissions???..96k miles and costly repairs??? What do you consider reliable??

A reliable car shouldn’t see any costly repairs until 200k+ miles.

Here are some reliable cars we’ve owned.

87 Accord - Sold at OVER 300k miles. Put less then $2000 in repairs.
90 Pathfinder - Sold at OVER 300k miles…less then $3000 in repairs.
96 Accord - Sold at just over 250k miles…$4 in repairs…yes FOUR DOLLARS TOTAL.
98 Pathfinder - Still own it but daughter drives is…little over 320k miles…so far less then $1500 in repairs.
05 4runner - Current ride…95k miles…$0 in repairs.
08 Lexus ES-350 - Current ride…25k miles…$0 in repairs.

Repairs are considered NON maintenance of normal wear and tear items like oil changes…brakes…hoses…batteries…etc…etc.

I’m not the poster who’s owned three PT Cruisers, but I have my own mental comparison chart between my PT Cruiser and my '85 Honda Prelude. Let’s see, the Honda had a loud wind noise that no one could ever fix starting about 30k miles (ok, so that’s not an engine); the timing belt broke at around 50k and caused extensive damage (that Honda later reimbursed me for); I had to replace a good part of the electrical system at around 100,000; and I’m sure there were other more minor repairs here and there. Overall it was a pleasure. But the PT is as good or better, and if my Honda is still on the road with its new owner, it may be because I did those repairs over the years.

You’re comparing one car to one car…Not a very good comparison for reliability.

My question is the OP saying his PT cruisers are reliable, yet giving examples of cars I don’t consider reliable at all. Your PT cruiser may have been very reliable…But the OP’s aren’t…at least not by my standards. The ONLY vehicle I’ve owned in the past 25 years that had ANY repairs under 100k miles was my 84 GMC S-15. By 150k miles it was pretty much junk.

Just goes to show how wide the gap is between some car owners.
Some will piss and moan that their car is unreliable when their car needs it’s oil changed. Others will say that a new engine is nothing at 400k miles(i.e. Craig58)