I bought my Malibu in 2003 when the transmission in my old Grand Prix started to go. It was a rental previously, and I knew this going in. I will say though, despite it's faults, I have a hard time saying the car is complete junk, because my kids (ages 9-11) rode in it when they were babies. I will start with what I believe to be the minor faults, but they can cost:
1. 15 inch tires are getting hard to come by now, and being FWD, it eats up tires quick, if not rotated properly.
2. It only uses the front disc brakes for stopping, thus eats brake pads fast. The drums are only used for parking brake.
That said, I will now go into the more expensive repairs I have had:
1. Fuel pump went out 5 years ago, driving down the road.
2. The starter has a safety switch, that will go bad in time, and require replacement, unless yu know how to bypass it, which I did.
3. The biggest....the head gaskets from the factory, are junk and a ticking time bomb. He manifold gaskets are plastic and will crack in time. You will start to lose oil and coolant once they do. I overheated the car 2 winters ago, causing the heads to warp, which required mill work, than changed the gaskets with Fel-Pro gaskets, use regular coolant, and since than, the car drives almost like new. It was a complete PITA to get the top half off and put back together. Just beware that if you have one, and are approaching 150k miles, you have a time bomb on your hands. I recommend flushing the cooling system, to help slow down erosion of the gaskets. Total time and money, we spent 4 days, and around $400 to fix.
4. The fan sensor, which turns the electric fan on and off, went bad, which caused my overheating problem. Would have cost $500 for a new one, but rigged a wire and toggle switch, and it now works. I just have to remember to shut it off, or I will have a dead battery.
Interior: Not much, very basic, which I like. Over the years, the arm rest on the drivers door has developed a hole, a couple holes in the driver seat, and the headliner is starting to droop some.
All in all, I would have to say that through it all, I should have considered more when buying a car, but I can't complain 100%, because after some work and money put in it, it still runs. Would I recommend it to anyone else? No, especially for anyone wanting a car that lasts a while. The only reason we put money into it, is because we couldn't afford to buy a new vehicle. After the first of the year, the Malibu will be retired to a local driving car only, and one used for a backup, as I will hopefully have a new vehicle.
The 2002 Malibu is extremely normal. It's practical, a bit faster than you might think, but its boring looks keep it in the "grandma car" category.
-Practical size. Not to big on the outside, plenty of space on the inside.
-Reluctantly fast. At first I thought I was driving a slow car since I got it from my grandmother, but it's actually pretty quick compared to these new eco-friendly 4-cylinder sedans with a million gears that won't let you touch 4,000rpm. If you coax it, it'll move.
-Looks. It's not ugly, it's just boring. Silver lining: cops won't notice you.
-Lots of little repairs. Annoying things like the indicator keeps clicking for no reason.
I bought this car used from Hertz (at 24,000 miles) in 2003, and 11 years later it's at 152,000.
I've used it for lots of city driving in San Francisco (those hills and traffic are hard on a car), highway driving, and trips on rough roads in the Sierra. Engine is still going strong, and I haven't had to spend much on repairs. The biggest (and scariest) problem was a fuel pump failure while I was on the road. The anti-theft system can be annoying when it won't let you start (has happened to me about 4 times over the years), but all you need to do is wait it out for 10 minutes.
I find it comical how similar everyone's story's are. I have to laugh because this car has been a nightmare. The electronic issue is just ridiculous, no one should have to wait ten minutes to start their car because the car thinks someone's trying to steal it. I have only owned the car for a little over a yr & put nearly $3K into it. Fuel pump, gasket, water pump, coolant leak, brakes, catilitic convertor, spark plugs... you name it I've fixed it. I refuse to fix the electronic cylander or put new tires on it. Don't ever buy this car. I wouldn't even sell it to someone. I'm junking it.
I will preface my comments with this: I do not trust GM for a second and was very sceptical when buying this vehicle and fully expected a potential headache.
I purchased this car used in 2009 at 58,000km (36,000 miles).
Presently I have 84,000km (52,000miles) on it plus 10 Canadian winters.
Replaced original tires at 80,000km.
Battery went last year, also original.
Replaced brakes once only because I wanted new pads and discs in the face of approaching harsh Canadian winter.
You really couldn't ask for more.
This car so far cost me $5k for three years of ownership.
Taking a bus woudl have been more expensive!
Absolutely love it!
Terrific value for not much dollar