Home » Psst, Hey Buddy, Wanna Buy A Sketchy Dodge?: 2004 Neon vs 2010 Avenger

Psst, Hey Buddy, Wanna Buy A Sketchy Dodge?: 2004 Neon vs 2010 Avenger

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Some cars just seem destined for the “Thrifties” section. Whether it’s because of cheap prices or easy financing when new, or disregard and neglect from their owners, or some unknown cosmic force, some cars just go from zero to grubby in five years flat, and go downhill from there. Such is the case with our two contenders today.

Yesterday’s Eurotrash brought a lot of comments about engine swaps, which I found humorous because both of them run just fine. But let’s see which one won:

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Now that is interesting. Another of those instances where the Jag seemed to win in the comments, but the Mercedes pulled the votes. But if someone is contemplating that Jag, please leave the V12 in it. If you want to do a swap, look for one that doesn’t run. They’re not hard to find.

Anyway, on to today’s choices. I don’t know why it is, but certain models of cars just have a tendency to find themselves in sketchy situations. They’re not bad cars per se, but when you find one with two bald tires and a cracked taillight and the “Check Engine” light on, overpriced, in the front row of some Buy-Here-Pay-Here used car lot, you aren’t the least bit surprised. 15 year old Chrysler products are such cars, perpetually, and I’ve never really been able to figure out why. So let’s take a look at a pair of such sketchy Mopars now, and see if we can shed a little light on this odd phenomenon.

2004 Dodge Neon SX 2.0 – $2,400

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter inline 4, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Dallas, TX

Odometer reading: 191,000 kilometers

Runs/drives? Yep

This little Neon kinda ruins my argument, frankly. It looks too nice. Originally this was going to be a beat-up 2006 Charger, but it (somehow) sold before I sat down to write this and the ad was deleted. It happens. So now, we have this little yellow number to consider.

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We’ve talked about Neons before. I’m mighty fond of them, actually; I had one that I really liked until it was rear-ended. This is the second-generation Neon, whch was only available as a four-door sedan. The “SX 2.0” trim level may not sound familiar to Americans; that’s because this was a Canada-only trim level. If you’ll notice, the speedometer reads in KM/H, not MPH, which means the odometer should be in kilometers as well, so that 191,000 kilometers equates to only about 119,000 miles.

How did a Canadian model Neon come to be offered for sale in Dallas, Texas? Pirates. Clearly.

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On paper, this car sounds really good: it runs and drives well, looks good, has nearly-new tires, and everything is said to work properly. I would want to know how it came to be here, and make sure all the paperwork was in proper order; it currently wears no registration, and though the ad says “clean title,” it’s unclear whether it’s a Texas title, or from somewhere up in Canada still.

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However, if everything is in order, this could be a good deal on a neat little car. Yes, it’s an automatic, but at least these are zippy and good-handling little cars, so all is not lost.


2010 Dodge Avenger SXT – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter inline 4, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Mountain View, CA

Odometer reading: 180,000 miles

Runs/drives? …I think so?

The Neon’s big sister, the Avenger, often seems to lead a rougher life, and this example is no exception. It is being offered for sale by a towing company, who received the car on a lien after it was impounded. Neither the towing company nor any potential buyer has the faintest idea how this car acquired its 180,000 miles, or how it was cared for in that time.

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Now, as I write this, our rescue dog Ripley is sleeping peacefully next to me on the sofa. She was found in a Las Vegas shelter in terrible health, needing surgery, and was taken in by a rescue shelter, from whom we adopted her. She’s about nine years old, and has had puppies, probably multiple litters. We have nursed her back to health, and most of the time she’s just fine, but every once in a while some bit of bad behavior or lingering health problem pops up, and we have to fumble around and guess at what might be the cause. See where I’m going with this?

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All we have to go on are a few photos and a wall of text with not much description of the car’s condition. You can run a Carfax report, of course, but that won’t tell you if the oil was only changed every 14,000 miles or if it was street-parked and broken into repeatedly. The paint doesn’t look quite right; it has a vaguely spray-can look to it in places, which speaks of badly-repaired damage. The registration being three years out of date isn’t encouraging either.

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Now, the good news is that $1500 is likely very flexible, especially since the tow company has nothing invested in this car except a little fuel for a tow truck and a parking space. You can probably get it for quite a lot less, if you walk in and wave cash in their faces.

How did these cars get from the Dodge dealerships to these unlikely circumstances? There’s no way of knowing. All we can do is judge them on their current condition and location. One looks like a good deal, as long as the paperwork checks out, and the other is scruffy and forlorn, but you might be able to get it for a song. Which will it be?



(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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59 Responses

  1. I’d have to be pretty hard up to get involved with that Avenger, even if I could get it down to like $500 or so. I’m not that hard up, so I’ll take the Neon please—it’s not a great car, but it’ll serve as basic transportation for a while. Also, it’s yellow.

  2. If that Avenger was a S2000 with a similar back story, I think I’d probably still go Neon to avoid the inevitable hassle/headache of dealing with that car. But since it is a shitty Dodge Avenger, not even the “good” Avenger from the late 90’s, it is an easy choice.

  3. The Neon for sure. I came close to buying one years ago. I was amazed at the interior room. I always felt like it had the potential to become the American Beetle. They hit the ground running and bam, they were gone. I’m guessing that they just weren’t built well?

    1. The first time I got in a Neon I received the distinct impression that by bracing my foot in the sill and twisting the top back and forth I could probably tear the door off at the hinges without any tools.

  4. Where did all the Neons go? They were everywhere, then they weren’t, hardly ever see one now. They were certainly looked on as a throwaway car and that is how they were treated, their reputation suffering as long neglected cars were pitched on CL and low end dealer lots.

    They were actually pretty well received when they came out, small, light, and peppy, the low rent Auto-x crowd saw possibilities. I rented one about the time they came out and liked it pretty well. Getting on my soapbox, for a lot of the driving a lot of us do, all the car you need. Plenty of room for two, four will fit when needed. I remember listening to some radio show, not even a car show, when there had been a press release on the end of production for the Neon. The host had to go on about what a “stupid” car it was, because it was so small mostly seemed to be the gist of the comments. Boo hiss, but here we are.

  5. I’m sure that 2006 Charger which went to its new temporary home before winding up in the same tow lot as the Avenger would’ve beat the snot out of the latter car too.

    That Neon is too nice for your theory. Hence why I’d buy that.

  6. Well the under 25 years Canadian looks far nicer but unless it is actually legal you’re putting slugs in the vending machine. A sat in the parking lot for 3 years beat to heck Avenger is also like buying a $100 of lottery tickets to win $50. So tell me more about the rescue dog that occasionally attacks you I think that is the best bet.

    1. The 25-year rule doesn’t apply here. There’s an exception for cars that are “substantially similar” to ones shown in the US, which in practice means “if it’s the Canadian version of a car that’s also sold here, you can import it.” The Neon falls under that clause, although it may be a sketchy buy for other reasons.

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