I bought my '91 Cavalier-VL in 1991 and regretfully traded it in 2002 for something with less mileage. It had over 186000 miles on it when I traded it. It ran like a champ. Total repair costs for the 11 yrs I had it was probably not over $1000 I bet if even that much. Absolutely the best car I have ever had and wish to this day (in 2009)I still had it.
This car with the 3.1 V6 is very fun to drive. Munce transmission is very durable and responsive. The sound is great from the 3.1. I drove the heck out of it and I love it more than any car I have owned even though it is the oldest car I own.
I ordered this car in late 90. I had problems with hub bearing, starter and heater core much later in life. Changed oil every 3K with 0W-30 year round. Engine never leaked or burned any oil. Motor ran strong up to 120,000 miles when I sold it to friend. Last I heard it was still running and owner was impressed with performance. The car was driven hard at times but just kept on going. If you can find one that has been well maintained I would say it is a good bet. It was the first new car I ever owned so I felt the fluid changes were important. With high miles the motor ran like new and didn't miss a beat. Original muffler and cat converter replaced at 112K. Check oil change records!
My parents bought a 1991 Cavalier RS 2- door coupe 3-speed automatic a few years back and when I got my license, I was able to take it over. It's been a very reliable car, with only normal maintenance, like brakes. The only other issue was a sway bar link. It might not be the fastest car out there, but it's extremely reliable and gets from A to B with no problems. I even hit a deer and the car didn't get damaged at all.
I bought this car brand new 12 years ago and now have over 145,000 miles on it. I haven't spent more than $800 in replacement parts and still have the original exaust and clutch. The car has been extremely reliable, getting me home safe through several snow storms and NEVER breaking down. The engine sounds better than newer cars I've test drove lately.