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post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-04-2019 Thread Starter
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Thumbs up Opinion poll - Buying a used Impala, what do I need to know?

I know this question might possibly start a debate and that is not my intention.

I am looking at buying my daughter her first car priced between $1500-$4500 range. I am looking at used 2001-2013 V-6 Impala's among other vehicles. She will be away at school and I want to buy her something reliable without breaking the bank too.

Now, I am aware that a good maintenance routine and TLC will help a vehicle last longer than one not cared for regularly so please keep the comments centered more toward common issues with higher mileage, normal wear and tear items. (all items are fair game for this question to include drive train, electrical, body, suspension if you have something you would like to say)

I have owned a 2004 Impala with the 3.4 V-6, and I have owned a 2012 Impala with a 3.6 V-6. I know Chevy put other V-6's in the Impala between 2001 and 2013 like the 3.5 , 3.8 and 3.9, so my real question is which one if any seem to be more reliable in the long run?

Is there any quality issues with the V-6's (or cars) I listed above that I need to keep my eye open for with a used car?

Thanks in advance for your inputs.


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Bottom line would be what kind of deal you could find where you are. Around here finding a 12 without insane miles or some kind of problems under $5000 is unlikely, but every once in a while a deal comes along. I would be willing to pay a little more for a 3.6 if it were me buying, think it is more solid than the others based on problems I have heard and on posts I have read here, especially when considering the transmission.

Have over 162,000 miles on our 2012 and have had no major mechanical issues(knock on wood). I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on a 12 with as many miles if records were kept on the car to prove it was taken care and the price was right.

My oldest daughter drove an 01 buick lesabre for her first car, had a 3800 in it with around 80,000 miles on it when we bought it. The car had been a old lady single owner car. It developed some issues while she was away at school. At under 100,000 the car developed oil leaks and then a little over 100,000 it had a multi misfire issue which turned out to be the ignition control module. Car was otherwise solid though. Did have to replace regulators for windows a few times. Car got good mpg's and rode nice. Have not had any first hand experience with the others mentioned.

My 6 year constantly asks why. What adults can learn from 5 and 6 year olds, to listen with your ears and mind open. Hard to learn when you don't listen ......
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-04-2019
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As mentioned above, I would *try* to find a 2012 or 2013 if at all possible - between the 3.6L engine and the 6-speed trans, those cars are some of the best deals you'll find on a used car. The are relatively inexpensive and very reliable vehicles. If you can't find a 2012/2013, I would probably just try to find the newest, lowest mileage you can find. 2006-2011 all use the same trans. Don't think there are any major differences between the 3.5 and 3.9 engines in terms of reliability.

Common issues with any of them will be HVAC actuators and hubs. I know there are other common isssue that are slipping my mind now, but I'm sure others will chime in.

Good luck with your search. There are a LOT of these cars out there - so don't "settle" on one that you are not 100% confident with!
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We had an '08 LT w/3.9 that was very reliable with 150K miles when it got totaled in November of '14. I maintained it religiously from new, and it was garaged when parked at work as well as home. Only failures were the alternator and the typical rear window defrost wiring harness fix, and also the coolant crossover passage gaskets. An 8th gen w/3.5 may be better due to the 3.9 having displacement on demand, although we never had any trouble out of it. All those miles were highway due to wife's 75 mile round trip commute, and our living out in the country (12 miles to the grocery). I agree a '12 or newer is a better engine & trans, but the '06-'11's are way less money.
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April 2018, I bought a used 2012 with 57K miles on it. No cosmetic issues. I paid $9000 for it.

While shopping I found several good looking 2005-10 at much lower prices, but they all had much higher mileage - 100K plus. Some closer to 150K. I remember a red 2005 LTZ that I really wanted, but the miles were too high (120K). It was priced at $5000.

Find a good dealer who only sells well equipped, well maintained used cars and don't get into a hurry - that's the hard part!
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Last September I got a 13 for 4K but it had 170K miles on it. So far I've had to replace an evap sensor and that's it. The body and paint are still good on it and it still rides nice.
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Like you OP, I've owned a 2004 3.4L since 2013. It had 70,000 miles single owner. I am at 126k or so now. I like the car enough I would buy an identical one (found one in WA state today with 56k miles, fleet, bid at $1650 on Ebay, and another that sold yesterday $2,800 in Southern CA, also on eBay with low mi).

I have had one major issue, the head gasket went at 121k. Luckily have some stellar mechanics available who work for cheap, so it cost me about $1100. From reading and research, if I didnt have 4 little ones running around, I would attempt a head gasket repair myself on a car able to not be driven awhile..not the everyday-rider.

I've also read more than once that the head gasket is known to have issues on this 3400 GM engine, and it likely happens at 120k-140k.

After the head gasket, I have been fixing up a radiator fitting where the transmission inlet goes in, bottom side. I believe the o-rings inside that fitting burst due to overheat when gasket was gone. ATF was leaking from there..found the fitting part was impossible to get without purchasing entire line - I changed the o-rings instead, no problems.

I really like the drive and feel of 2004 base. It was the only one that caught my eye at the time.

I would most likely go for the 2015 personally, style wise, if I were to break a piggy bank, but that's today, not 6 years ago.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lump View Post
Like you OP, I've owned a 2004 3.4L since 2013. It had 70,000 miles single owner. I am at 126k or so now. I like the car enough I would buy an identical one (found one in WA state today with 56k miles, fleet, bid at $1650 on Ebay, and another that sold yesterday $2,800 in Southern CA, also on eBay with low mi).

I have had one major issue, the head gasket went at 121k. Luckily have some stellar mechanics available who work for cheap, so it cost me about $1100. From reading and research, if I didnt have 4 little ones running around, I would attempt a head gasket repair myself on a car able to not be driven awhile..not the everyday-rider.

I've also read more than once that the head gasket is known to have issues on this 3400 GM engine, and it likely happens at 120k-140k.

After the head gasket, I have been fixing up a radiator fitting where the transmission inlet goes in, bottom side. I believe the o-rings inside that fitting burst due to overheat when gasket was gone. ATF was leaking from there..found the fitting part was impossible to get without purchasing entire line - I changed the o-rings instead, no problems.

I really like the drive and feel of 2004 base. It was the only one that caught my eye at the time.

I would most likely go for the 2015 personally, style wise, if I were to break a piggy bank, but that's today, not 6 years ago.
I thought the 2004 Impala LS we owned previously (pictured below) was a good running car. It had the 3400 in it and had plenty of power to pull the whole family up and down hills on road trips without feeling like it was struggling. Not to mention, the gas mileage was very decent as well. I had heard about intake manifold problems on that engine before we sold the car but to the best of my knowledge it had no issues.

Thank you for the great feed back!!!
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I bought my '03 3800 with 265,000 or so miles on it, knowing the previous owner kept up very well on fluids and such. A friend of mine from college pitched in a word or three of approval, saying his family has had multiple cars of the same generation and put them all past 300,000 miles with no problem. Granted mine has required some work, such as a manifold or something on the engine that was causing it to use oil, but that's not bad for a 16-year-old car that many would say should all but be at a junkyard at so many miles. Another thing that I know from my limited experience with such cars, and what my brother from his time doing light maintenance for awhile at Belle Tire has told me, is to keep an eye on the pinch weld under the side skirts. Apparently those rot out quicker than most other automotive metals of the last 20-30 years. Overall, quite the sound vehicle though, if taken care of.



However, and I hope nobody minds my adding this....in the reasonably unlikely event that you can't find a deal on an Impala that you're comfortable with in your set "this is how far I'll drive for my daughter's car" radius, perhaps look at the Jeep Patriot as well. They're still available used, in some cases with crank windows and manually operated mirrors, seats, and locks, a radio that only has AM/FM/CD/AUX, and no electronic cruise control to boot!!! Mine was bought new as such and has served me faithfully since I brought it home in December 2009, when it was barely a month since assembly. Prices could be in the mid-high range of what you're looking to spend if you look for a pre-2013 model. However, any 2007-2013 Patriot without a clutch-and-stick setup was equipped with a CVT, which requires a bit of extra care than most transmissions, but I've found can last a long time IF maintenance is done. If you end up looking at them, and find one with a CVT, more than 60,000-70,000 miles, and nobody has changed the transmission fluid, you would be looking at a transmission fluid change at the very least, and beyond such mileage(if left unmaintained) more likely than not a new transmission(rebuilt or low-mileage used can knock 20%-60% off that cost).



I'd be happy to link you to further info if you end up wanting it, on anything where I might know how to find the needed info. Hope you find a vehicle that you're reasonably comfortable with your offspring cruising away to college in.
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Also, 'Merica. Yee Yee.
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I don't know about other years, but my 2005 has 90,000 miles and always starts no matter how cold it has been and gets decent mileage. But the wiring is a nightmare. No temperature gauge, a fuel gauge that's not trustworthy, one day the radio works great, the next you barely receive a station 4 miles away. Your phone and GPS may or may not charge or work in the one cigarette lighter that may or may not work, and to get the heater fan to work at all I have two 12 gauge wires directly wired to the battery. That's because one day you have voltage but no ground. The next day you have a ground but no voltage, another day you have voltage but no amps. You have to have the radio on to make sure when you open the door it shuts off that circuit. Otherwise it stays hot. So with the radio on keep trying doors till it turns off.

If you've every tried to drive with no heater motor at 20 below zero it's not just an inconvenience, it's life and death. Your breath will freeze on the inside of the windshield making you absolutely blind. Is that what you want your daughter to drive? Is she the type of person who can find a way around all of the electrical misfortunes that these otherwise fine cars have to offer?

I have 3 other cars and they are all older and are all well over 100,000 miles than the impala. My 2004 Exploder has an issue with the cruise control. My 2002 Grand Prix, if not driven regularly, will display the check engine soon light for the gas cap. A little Vaseline fixes that after a reset. My 1991 Toyota requires 93 minimum octane fuel, so finding a station is paramount. And I will tell you, if you don't think Shell isn't any better than the others, then try and convince my car's computer.

In order to get to the wiring under the dash, most shops will want to remove the front seat and the entire dash. That by itself can run $500. And there is no way of knowing after doing all that, things will get better. I probably could have ran new power and ground wires to get my heater working with the heater controls, but sooner or later another gremlin will show up and then I'm back to square one. And you know it will be on that 20 below zero day or when the temperature is over 120 from sitting in the sun and no AC blower.

At the very least, I would stay away from 2004 - 2005 in any make or model American car.
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