Skip to main content

I have a confession to make: I used to drive a Chrysler PT Cruiser. I know you’re saying, Aren’t automotive journalists supposed to be the pinnacle of cool? Or maybe you’re not saying that at all and I just made that up. But I do like to think I was ahead of the curve, and that the funky retro-futuristic Chrysler PT Cruiser crossover will have its day. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering a used one.

The Chrysler PT Cruiser was ahead of its time

Promo photo of a woodie version of the Chrysler PT Cruiser
2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser “Woodie Package” | Getty Images

Chrysler’s PT Cruiser brought a cool retro style to the masses before any other American automobile of the mid-2000s. Sure we remember the fifth-generation Mustang kicking off the new pony car wars in 2005. But I like to think that Chrysler’s 2000 PT Cruiser helped inspire Ford. That’s probably not what happened, but I can dream.

I will admit that European companies were ahead of the curve with 1997’s New Beetle and 2000’s BMW Mini Cooper. There was also the ultra-niche 1997 Plymouth Prowler. Maybe Chrysler liked it so much it decided to make a more accessible crossover to bring retro styling to the people.

Today, even fans of unloved cars tend to look down their noses at the PT Cruiser. Chrysler just didn’t nail the retro styling as well as its contemporaries. But a used PT Cruiser can be affordable and relatively unique.

The Chrysler PT Cruiser was nearly a Plymouth truck

Chrysler Corporation planned a tall SUV–one of the first crossovers–on the Dodge Neon platform for several years. To help with EPA regulations, the automaker actually classified the mini-minivan as a light truck.

A golden PT Cruiser appearing at the Cannes film festival in France.
PT Cruiser at Cannes | George Pimentel/WireImage via Getty Images

Early concept cars actually wore Plymouth badges. But by the time the PT Cruiser went into production Chrysler Corporation decided to close down Plymouth, so the vehicle became a Chrysler. Personally, I think the PT Cruiser’s dashboard clock and Chrysler badge put it firmly into the luxury vehicle category, though it is one of the quirkiest entrants in this category.

The initials PT actually stand for “Personal Transport.” Perhaps “Cruiser” was inspired by the Plymouth “Prowler” but we’ll never know for sure.

Chrysler made several special edition PT Cruisers

Two 2005 PT Cruisers out for a drive together.
PT Cruiser cruise | Tom Story/Bloomberg News via Getty Images

What type of PT Cruiser would you like? The sky is really the limit. Even though they all had the 2.4-liter/150-horsepower Neon engine and FWD, Chrysler offered some PT Cruisers with a five-speed manual transmission. Most every one you find will have the four-speed automatic though, according to AutoBytel.

The first turbocharged PT Cruiser (you read that correctly) dropped in 2003. By the end of its run, the PT Cruiser “GT” would be making a respectable 230 horsepower. You could also buy a convertible PT Cruiser starting in 2004. Sadly, the already aging Neon platform was not without its mechanical problems.

Chrysler released several special editions of the PT Cruiser, including the “Woodie” and one with factory-applied flame decals. If I was a collector, I might start with these rarer specs. This is because Chrysler sold 1.3 million PT Cruisers (again, you read that correctly) so the regular spec cars will likely never be especially collectible.

If you do want to get yourself a PT Cruiser before they get cool, now is the perfect time. For some reason, PT Cruiser prices are still at “beater car” rock bottom.

Next, find out what was the best selling car of all time or, learn all about the PT Cruiser in the video below:


From the Great Wall Wingle to the Gaylord Gladiator: Here Are The Five Worst Car Names Ever