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The Worst Chevy Impala Model Year You Should Never Buy

The Chevy Impala has been around since the late ’50s, and it’s still a popular car with a dedicated fanbase. The fourth generation of Impala models, released in 1964, sold more than one million models to U.S. customers. The Callaway Impala SS from 1996 is still one of the most powerful Chevy vehicles in history.

The modern Chevrolet Impala¬†models lack the iconic appearance of previous generations’, but they definitely don’t skimp on the performance. They’re also quite affordable on the used market. If you’re shopping for an older Chevrolet Impala, there are a few model years that you may want to avoid.

Which model year had the most problems?

According to CarComplaints.com, 2002 is the model year with the most owner complaints. The website even specifies that buyers should avoid this version at all costs. The most common issue was a broken passlock. This function normally stops the engine from starting unless the right key is inserted. 

In the case of the 2002 Chevy Impala, it was preventing owners with the correct keys from starting the car at all. The security light would also flash for no reason. Some drivers were able to disable the passlock by letting the car sit for at least ten minutes. Taking it to get fixed at the dealer would cost around $500. However, some were able to come up with less expensive solutions, like using dielectric grease.

Another frequent problem was coolant leaking. Many drivers reported that their Impala’s intake manifold gasket stopped working. This led to multiple components needing to be replaced due to damage from the coolant.

The average repair cost of these problems added up to $820, but some reported paying over $1,000. It was later revealed in a class-action lawsuit that the problem was a specific brand of coolant called Dex-Cool. Those affected were reimbursed for $800 worth of repairs.

What’s the worst model year for the Chevy Impala?

2016 Chevrolet Impala LTZ is on display at the 108th Annual Chicago Auto Show
The 2016 Chevy Impala | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The Chevy Impala you should never buy is the one that was produced in 2005. Even though it had fewer complaints overall, the issues found in these cars were more costly. This car’s transmission was particularly bad. Drivers reported that it shifted too hard while driving, even after they changed the transmission fluid.

According to most reports, the problem seems to occur as early as the 50,000-mile mark. A few reported that they were able to fix the issue themselves by replacing the car’s O2 sensor. Many had to get an entirely new transmission, costing almost $2,000. Even worse, some drivers reported that they still experienced transmission issues even after the repair.

The 2005 Chevy Impala is also known for electrical problems. Many reported that the gauge cluster would frequently malfunction, giving drivers inaccurate readings. The speedometer’s needle would become fixed in place, so drivers had no idea how fast they were going. The only way to fix this issue is by installing an entirely new gauge cluster, which thankfully only costs around $400.

Alternative model years

The majority of Chevy Impala models have average-to-low numbers of complaints. The 2008 model is probably the best deal, which can be purchased for as little as $6,500. Newer Impala vehicles, like the 2012 model, cost around $7,000-$9,000 and have much fewer complaints. More recent models will also have more advanced features.

The 2012 model comes with standard Bluetooth plus an updated engine. It also got good reviews from critics like KBB. Models from the latest redesign also have very few complaints, though they will be slightly more expensive.

The Chevrolet Impala seems to be headed for another possibly permanent hiatus. Despite this, it’s still a great car overall and definitely well worth your money.