The PT Cruiser is a vehicle produced by Chrysler from the 2001 to 2010 model year. It is a front-wheel drive, front-engine sedan that recalls the exterior styling that cars had in the 1930s. Over 1.3 million of them were made worldwide before assembly was stopped, and there are several special editions you can find on the market.
What is notable about the design of the PT Cruiser is the variations of passenger configurations that are available in each model. It has an interior design with a high roof and h-point seating so that everyone can find a comfortable spot. A multi-level cargo shelf comes standard on most models, as does rear seating that tumbles, folds, and is removable.
The body styles available for the PT Cruiser are a 2-door convertible or a 5-door hatchback. Over 1 million of the vehicles were sold in the United States, and it won the North American Car of the Year Award in 2001. The TV show Top Gear named the PT Cruiser convertible the worst car of the last 20 years in 2013.
If you are thinking about a used PT Cruiser, these are some of the pros and cons you will want to review.
List of the Pros of a PT Cruiser
1. Several different engine configurations are available on the PT Cruiser.
Five different powertrain options were available on the PT Cruiser. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend to get the extra horsepower you want. With the standard configuration, you could choose from a 1.6 L, 2.0 L, or a 2.4 L gasoline engine. There was an option for a 2.4 L EDV/EDT operating on gasoline or a diesel 2.2 L EDJ. Chrysler also offered two 4-speed automatic transmissions or a 5-speed Getrag manual throughout each model year.
2. The PT Cruiser offers a spacious and comfortable interior.
Most people love their PT Cruiser because of how comfortable it is while driving. It’s the perfect vehicle for errands because it gives you an arm-chair driving position that feels natural. There is plenty of space in the cabin for your passengers, and an option sunroof allows a lot of natural light to come in while driving. Your dashboard display is naturally arranged in three separate dials that you read through the steering wheel. A total of five adults can sit comfortably in the standard setup.
3. It offers an enormous cargo capacity for a vehicle in its class.
The PT Cruiser might seat five, but there is enough space in the vehicle to legitimately seat seven. That’s how much cargo space is available in the back when you choose this vehicle. It is so large back there that Chrysler has a shelf that you can use in the back to separate different items while traveling. You could custom-fit at least one seat in the back if needed for your family. You also have the option to completely remove the backseats from the vehicle for even more cargo capacity. The front passenger seat also folds down for added space in a single-driver configuration.
It’s so large that you can literally transport a refrigerator in the full cargo capacity setup on a PT Cruiser. There are a total of 160 different cargo and seating configurations, with up to 63 cubic feet of storage space available in its maximum configuration.
4. This vehicle has a huge following and local clubs you can often join.
The PT Cruiser is a vehicle that most people either love or hate. If you’re an enthusiast of its design, then the disadvantages won’t really matter to you. It tends to be a reliable car for most people, especially if you enjoy the idea of driving as being a fun hobby or an exploration experience. Several models have more than 300,000 miles on them without needing significant service, so you can bank on its reliability.
Thanks to this huge following and the prevalence of local clubs, you’ll find that someone will have an answer to any problems you might have with this vehicle.
5. The gas mileage of the PT Cruiser improves at highway speeds.
You might not love the gas mileage you get with the stop-and-go driving of a PT Cruiser, but it does pretty well when you can open up the throttle and maintain highway speeds. Most owners can get around 30 mpg in the vehicle’s standard configuration. The later models can push that up a couple of miles per gallon for you.
6. You have plenty of interior upgrades available with this vehicle.
Even if you purchase a top-of-the-line PT Cruiser when it was in brand-new condition, the MSRP was going to be under $30,000 in most markets. That means you could have affordable luxury without going broke. Some of the interior options for upgrades are excellent to consider, with the heated leather seats being a favorite choice of many. When you add in the movement of the rear seats, the comfort and flexibility will always shine with this design option from Chrysler.
You won’t have a remote start or a standard entertainment system (because of the age of the vehicle), but it does come with a CD player, auxiliary input jack, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, and power locks and windows.
List of the Cons of a PT Cruiser
1. The fuel economy for the PT Cruiser is relatively low.
The goal of the PT Cruiser was to provide families with an affordable transportation option. You could still take the vehicle as a commuter to work, but the fuel economy that came with this car design was not very good for its price range. You’re going to get about 20 miles per gallon on all of the model years, which is less than you’ll get with Dodge’s Caravan series or Chrysler’s Town and Country van. Since you’re also getting a 4-cylinder engine with it, most drivers find that the cost of fuel is a significant disadvantage to consider.
2. It offers a poor acceleration profile.
The PT Cruiser is not the vehicle you’ll want to drive if you need to reach 60 mph quickly. It provides a very poor acceleration profile, so you need to plan any passing attempts on two-lane highways well in advance. You’re not going to have a chance to “punch” the accelerator at all. Even adding a cold air intake to the engine struggles to provide the needed power to give it more juice in this area. If you like to roar off of the line or regularly need to get up to Interstate highway speeds on your commute, driving this vehicle is going to give you a headache every day.
You can purchase a turbo option on some vehicles to offset issues with this disadvantage, but doing so will also eat up your fuel. A PT Cruiser with using the turbo option might get 17 mpg city and 20 mpg on the highway.
3. Some models don’t come with a cruise control feature.
You’re always in charge when driving the PT Cruiser. Some drivers prefer it that way, but maintaining a constant speed while driving long distances can put a cramp in your leg or foot. Cruise control is an excellent feature that can let you stretch. You won’t find this option in most of these vehicles. People always love the looks of this car/SUV, but there is a definite need to manage the experience at all times.
Since production stopped for the 2010 model year, you’re looking at features that were state-of-the-art over a decade ago. That means you won’t get the modern safety options that many of today’s cars offer. If you want this feature, you need to pay for it.
4. Tall people can struggle to fit into the PT Cruiser.
If you are over 6’3”, then you might want to try the PT Cruiser before you decide to buy one. When the rear seat passenger requires a specific amount of space (such as a car seat holding an infant), then it can be a struggle to fit into the front passenger or driver seat. You’ll still look stylish in this sporty vehicle, but the comfort levels can disappear quickly if you must fold yourself into it to go anywhere. This issue was especially prevalent in the later models that Chrysler produced.
5. It has a wider turning radius then you might expect.
You’re not going to be pulling any tight turns with your PT Cruiser. It might have the capability of hauling large furniture or giving a big dog room to lie down in the back, but you will also need to be strategic about your turning and parking. The radius is rather wide when pulling any kind of turn, so you’ll need to give yourself space when pulling a tight corner. Take the speed limit warnings seriously when driving because they’re going to apply to your vehicle. If you must perform a 3-point (Y) turn, then give yourself more room than you’re used to needing to complete the maneuver.
6. You need to change out the spark plugs more often on a PT Cruiser.
Chrysler recommends that you change out the spark plugs every 30,000 miles that you drive. You may notice misfires happening more often after you reach that amount of driving on your current set, which can trigger warning lights on your dash. You might also notice that your vehicle has trouble starting or that your gas mileage is getting worse. Even if you put in premium parts, you won’t get the 80,000 miles that some parts manufacturers suggest is possible.
You can’t put off this replacement either because running with under-performing spark plugs can eventually ruin your engine. Either do the work yourself or bring the PT Cruiser in for a tune-up.
7. There is very little space to work under the hood.
When you open the hood up on your PT Cruiser, you will notice immediately that everything in there is more compressed than it is for most vehicles. You’ve got almost zero room to navigate when something needs to be fixed. If you want to get into an area around the engine belt, then you’re almost forced to remove a fender to get the job done. That means you’re going to be paying more for any labor that a mechanic must perform to keep your vehicle in its top working condition.
8. The love for the PT Cruiser is slowly dying.
You will still find plenty of passionate people who love the PT Cruiser, but that love is dying today just like it did when Chrysler had the vehicle in production. At its height, over 145,000 of these cars were sold in a single year. During the 2010 model run, which would be its final one, only 9,400 were sold in the United States.
The clubs that support the PT Cruisers are seeing a similar pattern today. During the late 2000s, you could find over 200 cars driving through the Rocky Mountains in get-togethers with the Colorado PT Cruisers Club. By 2014, that number dropped to a little over 60. The club expected about 30 people to show up for the 2019 version of their drive.
9. It isn’t a young person’s car anymore.
You can still find some families enjoying the benefits of a PT Cruiser, but most of the owners that you’ll find at car clubs are aging. Many of the people you’ll meet when cruising in an event are in their 70s or 80s. That means being in your 50s is going to make you one of the youngest members of your group. TheSketchMonkey on YouTube suggests a 2019 digital makeover that could create some excitement for it once again if Chrysler were to restart production, but there are no plans in the works to do so.
The last rumors of a new PT Cruiser version came in 2017 when Chrysler thought about putting together a two-door version. It was the most profitable small car for the manufacturer in its history according to Bryan Nesbitt, its designer, but as of today, there are zero concrete plans in place to bring the vehicle back.
Since you won’t find a new PT Cruiser at a dealership, the good news is that you’re purchasing a used vehicle. That means you can save some cash when it is time to get a new vehicle. You’ll find options available in most areas priced between $3,000 to $5,000 for the later model years. If you purchase a 2001-2003 model, you might find it listed for less than $2,000.
That means you’re also purchasing a high-mileage vehicle in most circumstances. Expect to see between 100,000 to 150,000 miles on the odometer. You’ll want to see a complete service record to understand what items will need your immediate attention.
The pros and cons of a PT Cruiser are important to review if you’re considering a vehicle like this today. If you can find a low-mileage option with a body in good condition, then it could be an affordable and stylish way to drive around town every day.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.