8 Best and Worst Years for the PT Cruiser

Worldwide production totaled about 1.35 million PT Cruisers. Now that production is over, a PT Cruiser can be an enjoyable little car to collect or a pre-owned car to transport your family.

You may wonder which model year you should invest in.

PT Cruiser Best and Worst Years

About the Chrysler PT Cruiser

Chrysler produced the PT Cruiser between 2000 and 2010. It is a compact car in two body styles. Most PT Cruisers are 5-door hatchbacks, but they made a 2-door convertible version from 2005 to 2008.

Read on for a definitive guide to the best and worst years for the PT Cruiser.

PT Cruiser Life Expectancy

PT Cruisers are reasonably good little cars. Owners on one forum consistently reported that they were about 130,000 miles and still going.

A well-maintained Cruiser can last up to 150,000 miles. The average American puts about 11.5 thousand miles on their vehicle each year. That averages out to about 13 years.

Customers give massively mixed reviews for PT Cruisers. Some years are more prone to problems than others, though.

Best Years

  • 2003
  • 2005
  • 2008
  • 2009

Worst Years

  • 2006
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • 2007

Common PT Cruiser problems

Some car models are known for their particular problems. Chrysler struggled to build high-quality cars through the early 2000s, so it’s no surprise that some problems are common to PT Cruisers.

Most issues with PT Cruisers are minor inconveniences that are inexpensive to fix. A few problems can cost you several hundred dollars.

Engine Won’t Turn Over

Many PT Cruisers had a faulty wireless control module (WCM) causing the engine to fail to turn over. Static electricity was to blame for the failure of the WCM.

Replacing the WCM is a minor repair, but an inconvenient one that many owners reported.

Overheating

The cooling fan has two speeds. Commonly, one will stop working. Replacing the cooling fan is an issue you should fix immediately to avoid damage from the engine overheating.

A bad radiator cap, clogged radiator, or bad thermostats are other possible culprits to your PT Cruiser overheating.

Suspension Problems

Many owners complained of rattling and clunking. Drivers expect a sleek little car like the PT Cruiser to be whisper quiet. What was causing all the racket?

Bad control arm bushings are a regular suspect in this problem. Many owners also replaced CV axles, struts, or ball joints in a high-mileage model.

Peeling on Chrome Wheels

This problem appeared most often in 2002 PT Cruisers. However, other models had this issue as well. The chrome on the wheels peeled off causing the tires to leak air.

Chrysler acquired the wheels from a third party, rather than manufacturing them. They never issued a recall or service bulletin about the wheels. Many customers replaced the wheels at their own cost.

PT Cruiser

PT Cruiser Years to Avoid

Eventually, the PT Cruiser will take its place among collectible cars. It is too soon to tell which years and variations will be most highly-sought. However, these years were particular fumbles for Chrysler.

Collectors or drivers looking for an inexpensive pre-owned vehicle, these are the PT Cruiser years to avoid.

2006

A common problem with PT Cruisers peaked with the 2006 model. Engine stalls and shut-offs while driving were chief complaints for this model year.

2001

This model year takes the prize for most recalls which is unfortunate considering it was the first model year. It reached seven recalls for various issues.

Another frequent complaint from owners was peeling chrome on the wheels which caused air leakage.

The only engine available for the first model year had timing belt issues. It needed replacing at regular intervals which were expensive and labor-intensive. The average timing belt replacement costs $500-$750 with parts and labor.

2002

The 2002 PT Cruiser saw a peak in the problem with the wheels. The chrome peeled off causing the tires to leak air. Chrysler never recalled the wheels, but this was a common problem for drivers.

2007

Hundreds of reports about a faulty WCM also plagued drivers of the 2007 model. Similar to the debut year of the PT Cruiser, this car had problems turning over the engine.

Chrysler issued a recall on this model to reposition a high-pressure power steering hose. The poor hose position caused it to contact the transaxle differential cover and wear out prematurely.

Dealerships inspected and repositioned the hoses. They replaced already damaged ones.

Best Years For PT Cruiser

Some production years brought a more powerful engine and other improvements. Chrysler never really perfected the PT Cruiser, so still, be mindful of the earlier problems if you decide that one of these unique cars is for you.

The best model years stand out for customer ratings for reliability and fewer reported problems compared to the other models.

2003

Chrysler rolled out a turbo edition of the PT Cruiser that sported a 2.4 L 16 V Turbo. The turbocharged model continues through the last model year in 2010.

Lack of power was a consistent complaint about the Cruiser. The turbocharged versions did not completely solve the problem though.

2005

Chrysler put a new twist to their quirky compact car by offering a convertible model. In addition to the new style, the 2005 rates well in customer satisfaction. Many buyers rated it four out of five stars on comfort, performance, and reliability.

That puts this model above average among other PT Cruiser model years.

2008

Another model year that scores better than other models in customer satisfaction is 2008. It doesn’t score as well as 2005, but it also stands out among the ten model years produced.

2009

Interest in the PT Cruiser started to wane after the 2006 model year. The 2009 models were still popular and well-rated among drivers before Chrysler called it quits the next year.

The 2009 rates about four stars for performance, value for cost, and reliability.

PT Cruiser Pros and Cons

Despite issues from the very first model year, the PT Cruiser quickly gained a fan base. There are some commendable qualities to these quirky little hatchbacks that endear them to their dedicated admirers.

ProsCons
Style: Designer Bryan Nesbitt combined contemporary and vintage styles for the PT Cruiser. Drivers who love them frequently cite the style as an aspect that attracted them to this car.Poor Fuel Economy: a common complaint for early owners was a lack of power and fuel economy considering the small 2.4 L engine.
Space: It seems small to look at, but the PT Cruiser seats five and has a spacious cargo area under the hatchback.  Low Front End: The design makes the PT Cruiser immediately identifiable to everyone even if they are not car buffs. However, it is easy to scrape the bottom on the front going uphill.  
Convertible: The convertible body configuration available in the 2005-2008 models draws fans to the PT Cruiser.  Below Average Reliability: The numbers of reported complaints, service bulletins, and recalls put the PT Cruiser in the less-than-reliable category. Fans of this car love it for features besides its reliability.  
Affordable: The PT Cruiser will likely become a collectible car despite the problems. As of now, you can get a used Cruiser fairly inexpensively.   

Is the PT Cruiser a Reliable Car?

Based on customer ratings, reported problems, and recalls, the PT Cruiser is below average in reliability. You can get around fairly well in a Cruiser from a good model year if you want an inexpensive pre-owned vehicle.

Just be prepared to run into some of the problems stated above.

PT Cruiser FAQs

Someday the PT Cruiser will be an amusing and unconventional collectible car. Buying now lets you scoop it up early. However, the Cruiser makes a fairly good pre-owned family car if you get a good year.

Here are a few more facts to help you know if the PT Cruiser is a good purchase for you.

Why are PT Cruisers so cheap?

The reviews of PT Cruisers are heavily mixed. People either love them or hate them. You’ll find high-mileage models known for lots of problems go for rock-bottom prices.

Was the PT cruiser discontinued?

Chrysler stopped producing PT Cruisers in 2010. The company struggled to produce high-quality vehicles in the early 2000s. The Cruiser has a loyal fan base.

However, popularity waned after a problem-plagued 2006 model.

Are PT cruisers expensive to fix?

Some issues, like timing belt replacements, cost hundreds of dollars. Many common PT Cruiser problems are inexpensive to fix. The main issue you’ll run into is finding parts.

Is it worth fixing a PT Cruiser?

Usually, it is worth fixing a PT Cruiser. Most problems across all model years are minor annoyances that don’t cost much to solve.

The higher-expense problems are the timing belt and chrome peeling wheels. These can both cost hundreds of dollars to replace.

How much is a used PT Cruiser worth?

You can find used PT Cruisers from a very cheap $3000 to about a respectable $18,000. Mileage always affects the value of a car.

You’ll also find that the better model years cost more than years with several reported problems.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave Junior is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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