Dodge Neon vs Chevrolet Cavalier

matchgame1974matchgame1974 Member Posts: 1
edited August 2014 in Chevrolet
Hey All you smart car people!
I'm a student and recently turned 16. I currently drive my father's old 1995 Chevy Silverado half ton around and with gas prices sky-rocketing and for many other reasons I'm considering seeing if I should trade it in for a compact car.

The truck is in excellent shape and with extreemly low miles and Kelly Blue Book said I could get between 5000 to 7500 for trade in.
With that in mind I immedietly decided to see what the best affordable 'compact' car would best suit me.

I went to and had them compare the 2005 sedan models of a Dodge Neon, Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunfire, and a Ford Escape. So I've done my homework.

Immedietly it first looked like the Cavalier was the way to go. Largest engine out of all of them and it had the best standard equiptment. The Sunfire I eleminated almost immedietly because it's pretty plain jane for their base model compared to its contemporaries.

Then I got down to the saftey reports. The Neon faired the best and I was somewhat scared away from the Cavalier since it for a 1 out of 5 for front-side impact ratings.

Not that I'm a bad driver, I'm just worried about the bad drivers that could hit me.

My mother had an original Cavalier in 1984 and got the totally plain jane one, with crappy seats and a 3 speed. She told me it was the worst car she ever got. My mom commuted and she said she almost blew up the motor going 60. I told her the new ones are better but she still was wary.

I feel guilty driving my truck since my parents insist that they pay for gas. I'm involved in TONS of extre-curricular activities and I play the cello and it barely fits inside the truck's cab.

I love my truck it's just times are a changin and I need some advice. Was the report bogus or are Neons pieces of crap?

Thanks for reading!

Also FYI: My truck is a 5-speed so I can drive a manual. Are those better or are automatics the way to go in compacts? I've heard both.


  • patpat Member Posts: 10,421
    Hi, welcome to our Forums.

    While you are waiting for some input here, you could help yourself out by continuing your research. Some resources for you are on and you can also find individual discussions on both of these cars using the Browse by Vehicle pulldown menu on the left side of the page.

    Reading up on the vast material we already have on this site will be very valuable for you. You'll get some opinions here, but there is so much here already that you don't want to miss.

    Good luck.
  • dustykdustyk Member Posts: 2,926
    Maybe the new Cavalier is better, but in years past the Cavalier was the junk leader, in my opinion. My daughter had two of them. Lot's of problems. I think everyone I've known that's had a Cavalier had above average number of problems, especially with the engines. The Neon use to have head gasket problems which really was the only significant issue they had. It took awhile, but Chrysler seems to have fixed that with their newer motor. Around here Cavaliers are among the first to show rust and signs of age. The Neons have to be nine years old before they pop rust.

    Good luck,
  • csandstecsandste Member Posts: 1,866
    I don't know what the Escape is doing in there, but the other three cars represent the very bottom of the feeding trough. FWIW-- I had a 97 Cavalier which really didn't cause any trouble. It wasn't until I bought a 2001 Elantra that I discovered just how awful, uncomfortable and crude it really was. The Elantra represented a huge upgrade in sophistication for less money.

    When my Elantra was in the shop for a fender bender I got a Neon for a couple of days and think it (if possible) was even more disagreeable than the Cavalier (although I may have forgotten just how bad the Cav. was)-- of course it was probably greatly abused in its 30K miles.

    BTW-- I'm now very happy with a Malibu Maxx so my advice isn't based on hating American cars, just those American cars.

    I'm sure they're almost giving remaining Cavs and Sunfires away (although I guess they're keeping the later around for one more year), but for god sakes at least look at some other cars that you could probably get in the same price range. The Elantra, Focus, Spectra, Reno/Forenza come to mind. You should be able to pick up a new one of any of them for $11K or less. Or buy a late model Corolla or Civic. Any of these choices would be far better than the cars you've looked at.
  • gmoudygmoudy Member Posts: 67
    I own a 1998 Z24. Bought it new. Enjoyed every minute of it. No major problems. The newer models are going cheap with the discounts. This is my third Cavalier. Guess that should say how much I like the model. My current Z has been very dependable. Has yet to leave me without transportation. Drive it and see how you like it.
  • mdaffronmdaffron Member Posts: 4,421
    You'll have more options (and a better car) if you broaden your scope. May I suggest reading ...


    P.S. For 2005, I think you're talking Cobalt instead of Cavalier. At least at this point in 2005. The Cavalier isn't even listed on Chevrolet's website anymore.
  • gmoudygmoudy Member Posts: 67
    The reason the Cavalier is not listed is because Chevy is already showing the 2006 model year. 2005 is the last year for the Cavalier.
  • mdaffronmdaffron Member Posts: 4,421
    But if you want a Cav, you'd better hurry! I think the stock is drying up fairly fast since the Cobalt's come out.

  • darestiedarestie Member Posts: 3
    I was in a similar situation to you. My previous car (first car) had burned to the ground and I was in the market for a new car. With enough money for a new car, I was skeptical about going with a used one. I checked in to the cavalier and loved it. Sporty, good gas mileage, and it's actually pretty fast, (beats stock civics and a lot of other cars in it's class, NOT THAT IT MATTERS ;). I paid a little under eleven thousand, for a base 05 cavalier with a 5-spd. I average thirty miles to the gallon, and haven't had mechanical problems yet. On an other note, I worked in an auto shop for about two years and have seen my share of cars. I've seen several 99-01 cavaliers with over 180,000 miles on them. they seemed in decent shape, that doesn't apply to the 05 though because of a different drivetrain.
  • keddiekeddie Member Posts: 2

    I own a 2004 Cavalier and my son owns a 2004 Dodge Neon. I have had no problems with my Cavalier since I purchased it, but my son's Neon has been in the shop many times. I get better gas mileage than he does and I have the bigger engine. You be the judge.
  • shymerm8shymerm8 Member Posts: 7
    Hopefully my experience will help you make a decision. Okay neons are bad cars they break down A LOT. I have a 2000 and it is in the shop every 3 months no joke I've had a cam sensor, speed sensor, power steering pump g, head gasket, just had my freeze plugs done, 2 windows, a door, 2 motor mounts and tons of electrial problems go out and all had to be replaced. It has really been a nightmare and it only has 90,000 on it :( Okay so if you need more proof they are bad cars my best friend had one too transmission went out @ 50,000, right after we bought ours. That was one reason we bought ours because hers was doing so well and hers was the same year just not the sporty edition. Oh yes her transmission went out again @ 80,000 :( Okay on to the focus not good cars either my brother in law actually won his case in court that it was a lemon. His kept breaking down no matter how many times he kept replacing the same part. Okay the cavelliar I don't think I spelled that right but you know what I mean. My very good firend has one it is a 2000 it always overheats when the air conditioner is on so she has not used it in a longgggggggg time. But other than that she has not had to many other problems and loves her car. Oh yes you really should go to to check the car rating too to decide. I know for sure the neon got a poor rating I think the arrow would have fallen lower off the scale if that was made possiable lolol this poor rating is for even the new 2005's . Hopefully I have helped a little so you can make a decision. But please do not buy a neon unless you want a headache, don't waste your money on these pieces of junk. There is a reason they are discontinuing these cars soon. Anyways have a great day and good luck with your choice. Oh yes dodge and chrysler also has verrrrrrrrrrrry poooooor customer service. :lemon: :cry:
  • streetneonstreetneon Member Posts: 2
    2 years ago i had a stock 1995 neon (2.0 16 valve dohc 5 spd) and i smoked a 2000 cavalier z24 with a 2.4 twin cam with intercooler and slightly modified at 130mph in 4th gear at 4,500 rpms i didnt even get to enjoy 5th
  • marchi1marchi1 Member Posts: 1
    As a couple of notes to this post (#13):

    1) Why did the car have an intercooler? The 2000 Cavalier Z24 doesn't have any kind of boost as stock. If it did have a power adder then a GM supercharger is the obvious choice for this vehicles, but that also does not have an aftercooler on it do to the location of the supercharger on the car. It may have had a air-water-air intercooler, but it would have been very small and not noticeable when viewing the car from a drivers seat. Most likely you saw the OEM radiator which is silver on these vehicles and hangs rather low and could appear as an intercooler.

    2) 130 MPH? The Cavalier is OEM governed at 107 MPH by GM, and until just recently there were very few ways to over ride this except elimination of the VSS which would also disable your speedo and odo (illegal in all 50 states).

    3) Unless you know the person, the differences between the different years of the car are very subtle, and almost inpercetible to the layman.

    Comparing a Neon and a Cavalier is nice, but the Neon will win in most situation hands down as it is lighter and does have more power. Claiming that an stock Neon with the DOHC beat a boosted Cavalier is a little amazing.

    I like my Cavalier, but I also accept that in stock form it will be beat, repeatedly, by a Neon. I have a great respect for the SRT-4 as it is an amazing vehicle, but question some of the decision made by DCX on the vehicle, like installing power front windows, and cranks in the back.
  • 79customd79customd Member Posts: 87
    Try looking at the 06 PT Cruisers. Great cars from what it sounds. Talked to some of the mechanics around town and it sounds as though these cars are "bullet proof". The 2.4L is a bigger displacement engine than the 2.0L of the Neon or the 2.2L of the Cavelier, and with Chryslers new autostik tranny on GT models the car is more attractive than ever. Put 230 horses to whatever the base Neon or Cavailer can do. The GT is not bad on price neither. Seen em for $19500 around town. Spread out of the months for payment, the PT will pay for itself in performane, capability( hatch instead of smaller sedan body ) and the mileage is dead even( providing you drive it right ) Clearly if you want a sporty car with good mileage and capability "that you want to last awhile" go with the PT. ;)
  • whiskerratwhiskerrat Member Posts: 9
    I guess there are a number of factors that determine what kind of experience a person gets in owning a certain vehicle (where it was purchased, how well it is maintained, how it is driven, etc.). A good friend of mine owned a 1st generation Neon and it was very reliable for many years before it started having radiator problems (I suspect he didn't flush it once a year). In 2001, two other friends got 2nd gen Neons and they were reliable, even though they didn't always follow the recommended maintenance. I ended up with one of those cars for a little over a year and only had to have some work done on the car because of the previous driver's poor maintenance and suspected sloppy driving on bumpy roads. I eventually traded it in for a 2005 model because a dealership offered me a deal that was almost impossible to refuse. The offer was so good, I told someone else about it and he bought one too. So far, his car is working perfectly. The only problems I had with the new Neon was the trunk was misaligned and a strange noise was eminating from the engine bay. I took the car to a different dealership (as a matter of convenience) and they "repaired" the problems with no hassle and in a timely manner - the warranty covered both. The trunk repair was fine, but the noise was still present. I spoke to one of the mechanics on the phone and he suggested that I continue to drive the car as normal and if the problem persisted after awhile, I should bring it back in. After about a month the noise is gone and the car is still working perfectly. I am currently averaging about 31 mpg, with use of air conditioning.
  • randydriverrandydriver Member Posts: 262
    I wonder if the kid that asked the original question last year had got one or the other car by now. :D
  • whiskerratwhiskerrat Member Posts: 9
    Just an update!! In late April I hit an all-time high for my Neon! 406 miles on 12.5 gallons of gas. This was a mix if city and highway driving which included a few bad traffic jams and the use of AIR CONDITIONING! Can a Cavalier do that?
  • joe602joe602 Member Posts: 2
    My mom owned a 2000 Chevy Cavalier and until it was .... heh repo'd she constantly was not able to drive it because of problems.....It was a convertable and the first month when she was putting the top down the back window busted and started coming off.....Chevy said they couldnt do anything about that.....the next month the ignition switch mom went to a mechanic who had said that the switch was on recall....when my mom went to Chevy they said it wasnt it and that it did not need replacing. They told her it was the battery and then attempted to sell her a 100 dollar battery....she (for some reason) got the battery and 3 days later she was having the same problems. She went back the dealer and then they replaced the ignition switch. For about 3 months the car ran great until it started overheating because the thermostat broke. I myself have a 2005 Dodge Neon SXT. It runs great but I am not to sure how it will run in the future since ive had it for less then a month....from what i can see though I have way better gas mileage then she ever did and I also have better acceleration...even though we had the same size engine. I would try going with a Dodge neon if I were you.
  • whiskerratwhiskerrat Member Posts: 9
    The Cavalier has a slightly larger engine and is considered a compact while the Neon is a subcompact, so the Neon's gas mileage will be better. Later Cavalier models got a more powerful engine, so the excelleration should actually be about the same as the Neon, if not a little bit stronger. I think both cars has a trail of horror stories, but those are the exceptions, not the rule (at least for second generation Neon's).
  • crimsonreign67crimsonreign67 Member Posts: 1
    well im happy that you were able to beat that cavalier but i think your boat is full of holes. like the other cognisent person said, unless you do some major racing mods to a cavalier you cannot get the cavy to do more than 107 in any situation without disabling the speedometer, and if you know so much about the car then why did you mistake a radiator for an inter cooler? besides that an engine that places 132hp vs a 150hp car to the wheels with mods seems a little bit far fetched i have a blue 2005 chevy cavalier with intake and exhaust mods its up to 189 hp and i have beaten a hell of a lot of cars including a lexus is300 215 hp by a fender and ive definitely beaten a 95 neon by i dunno 10 lengths ive had this car for a year and have raced the hell out of it and the only problem ive ever had was a slave cylinder break in below freezing weather (im in the rockies)besides that ive gotten awesome fuel economy 450 miles on 13 gallons (city highway and a couple of outrun races) in denver traffic ive been a mechanic for 2 1/2 years and all ive ever done on cavaliers that come in to the shop are basic jobs, brakes tune ups and the occasional head gasket from neglecting oil changes but neons are always in for everything from thrown rods to frozen thermostats and of course timing belts and transmissions ive driven them and have worked on them as well as pt cruisers and they are terrible cars on par with early hondas and geos id take a cavy over those cars any day and if you wanna race your neon head to denver ill probably see you broken down on i25 if your car can make it. :shades: :sick:
  • 95cavalier95cavalier Member Posts: 1
    Hi there, I am changing the plugs on my 95 2.2L Cavalier. I want to check the gap, does anyone have the correct spark plug gap? I think its .050", is that correct?
  • neonmoderneonmoder Member Posts: 2
    No offence or anything but, just because you have a bigger engine in your Cav. doesn't mean anything. Your son could have a lead foot. I know I do. but anyway, in my eyes, the Neon is a more reliable car, if you take care of it. I know that there are more mods that are cheaper and easier to install on the Neons then the Cavs. IDK. Thats just what I think. Im not trying to put down the Cavs. but I'm all for the Neons.
  • blue88z24cavblue88z24cav Member Posts: 1
    the 1990 cavi z24 is rated at a 7.4 for consumer rating and the 1995 conv cavi is rated at 7.2 while the 1995 neon is rated at 6.7 consumer reviews beats urs any day. and one more thing. the older gen 1 cavi z24s have a 2.8l v6 MPEFI motor without a speed censer i highly doubt your neon will beat that. watch this video it is of a older cavi
  • myk384myk384 Member Posts: 9
    Just tell your son to sell the Neon and get a new car. There are other cars there
  • bobsanidiotbobsanidiot Member Posts: 4
    i don't know were some of you are getting facts on gas milage, a manual neon will get way better gas milage than a cavalier i get better gas milage than some hybrids in my stock 95 neon (around 50mpg at 70ph) i've had a cavalier it was a p.o.s. gas milage was lucky to hit 30mpg. noted the automatics get crappy gas milage on both vehicles but thats just another reason to get a stick
This discussion has been closed.