Skip to main content

Are you looking for a relatively modern, retro-styled crossover? Look no further than the iconic Chrysler PT Cruiser! Chrysler corporation made this SUV on the Dodge Neon chassis from 2001 through 2010. Here are the engines, trim levels, redesigns, and common issues you need to know about before buying a used Chrysler PT Cruiser.

What engine did the PT Cruiser have?

Every PT Cruiser sold in the U.S. had a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine shared with the Dodge Neon. The naturally-aspirated version made 150 horsepower, resulting in lackluster acceleration. This inline-four was transversely mounted above the front axle. Every PT Cruiser was FWD.

A golden-colored PT Cruiser parked on the street in France.
PT Cruiser at the Cannes film festival | George Pimentel/WireImage via Getty Images

Most every PT Cruiser had a 4-speed automatic transmission. But some PT Cruisers came with a 5-speed manual. This crossover didn’t offer the world’s best fuel mileage: 17 city/23 highway MPG (20 combined), to be exact. Hunting down a manual could bump this to 18 city/24 highway MPG.

Chrysler introduced a GT trim with a turbocharged engine for the 2003 model year. It also began offering a non-GT turbocharged car in 2004, marked with a “2.4L Turbo” badge on the vehicle’s rear. The GT version’s badge changed to “2.4L Turbo High Output.” The GT’s engine made 215+ horsepower.

Car and Driver tested the 2006 PT Cruiser GT’s 0-60 mph time at 6.8 seconds. It found the 2005 convertible version could only do 7.0 seconds.

For 2005, Chrysler introduced a two-door Convertible variant. Then in 2006, all PT Cruisers received a facelift aimed at more “modern” looks. Chrysler discontinued both the convertible and high-output turbo before the 2008 model year.

Is a PT Cruiser a good car to buy?

The PT Cruiser is neither especially quick nor fuel efficient. But it should prove as reliable as most vehicles its age. PT Cruisers also do not hold much value, so they can be a cheap way to get decent transportation.

A wood-paneled PT Cruiser parked in front of an ocean backdrop for a publicity photo.
2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser “Woodie Package” | Getty Images

It might surprise you to learn that the humble PT Cruiser was Motor Trend’s 2001 Car of the Year. It also won the North American Car of the Year award. But in 2001, crossovers were not as common as they are now. Building a tall but short-wheelbase SUV on a Neon platform was relatively unheard of: Chrysler’s “segment-buster” did exactly that. Other automakers may have improved on this formula since, but none with exactly the same quirky retro style.

What are the most common problems with a PT Cruiser?

Overall the PT Cruiser is neither a remarkably unreliable nor remarkably reliable car. According to RepairPal, the PT Cruiser’s most common issue is turn signal failure. The second and third are both mechanical: a failed engine sensor keeping the car from starting and a power steering hose issue that required a recall.

Two early convertible PT Cruisers driving away from the camera for a press event.
2005 PT Cruiser convertibles | Tom Story/Bloomberg News via Getty Images

The RepairPal website rated a PT Cruiser “Above Average” in reliability, giving it 3.5 stars out of 5. The site also shares that turn signal failure was reported by 200 people. 172 owners reported a more serious electronic issue that prevented the motor from starting, and 158 owners reported Chrysler recalling their PT Cruiser to reroute a power steering hose–at no cost to the owner. These numbers are out of just over one million PT Cruisers sold in the U.S.

It is important to note that many of the PT Cruiser’s chassis originated with the Chrysler Neon, back in 1995. This means that parts are plentiful, as are mechanics experienced with this powertrain. The downside of this outdated technology is the PT Cruiser’s lackluster performance and efficiency. But the upside is its relatively low cost of maintenance.

In February 2023, the TrueCar website reports that PT Cruiser prices range from $2,900 to $14,900. Many relatively reliable examples land at the lower end of that spectrum. It seems most die-hard PT Cruiser fans bought one when new, and the collectors’ community has yet to target them.

Next, read about why the Chrysler Aspen was an SUV ahead of its time or see Doug DeMuro’s review of a used PT Cruiser GT in the video below:

Learn even more trivia about the PT Cruiser in this final video by Donut Media: