Home » Southern Sedans: 1995 Chevrolet Lumina vs 2003 Dodge Intrepid

Southern Sedans: 1995 Chevrolet Lumina vs 2003 Dodge Intrepid

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I’ve been sticking close to home for a lot of these searches, I know, and making some commenters green with envy at our rust-free West Coast cars. But today, I thought it would be fun to visit the opposite corner of the country, and see what the south has to offer. But before we take our trip, let’s settle up on yesterday’s wagons:

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That’s what I expected. Honestly, I thought it would be even more lopsided, though I see that both cars have sold already, so there wasn’t really a bad choice.

Today, we have “THE BEST RUNNING/RIDING $2K CAR YOU CAN FIND,” at least in the Atlanta suburbs, and what looks to be a real cream puff of a Dodge, located in Florida. What say we kick their tires and see what they have to offer?

1995 Chevrolet Lumina – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.1 liter OHV V6, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Lawrenceville, GA

Odometer reading: 121,000 miles

Runs/drives? Better than cars half its age, if the ad is to be believed

Well, here it is, the pride of the north Atlanta suburbs. The finest way to spend two grand on transportation south of the Mason-Dixon line, if the superlative-laden ad is to be believed. I mean, a second-generation Lumina is a pretty nice car as domestic sedans go, and I can’t speak to the quality of other used cars in the area, but that seems like a pretty high bar.

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Looking at the photos, I think it’s good they claimed best running and riding, and not cleanest, because this thing is rough around the edges. The upholstery has what looks like cigarette burns all over the center armrest and seat, the paint is faded strangely and in odd places, and there is trim missing both inside and out. But the seller claims it runs like a top, and if I have to choose, I’ll take reliable over pretty any day.

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The Lumina is based on GM’s long-serving W platform. It uses the corporate 3.1 liter V6 and 4T60-E overdrive automatic found in millions of other cars. It’s nothing exciting, but by this time GM had ironed most of the kinks out of this engine, give or take an intake manifold gasket or two. This engine’s pistons tend to be a little slappy on cold mornings, but it doesn’t seem to affect anything. This Lumina has new brakes, a fresh tune-up, and some other recent mechanical repairs, so it should have plenty of mechanical life left.

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Belive it or not, I’ve actually heard of Lawrenceville, Georgia before. It was the home of one of my favorite RC car companies, the legendary BoLink, whose products are now sold under the RJ Speed name, and still made in Georgia. Is the fact that this old Chevy is being sold in the same small town enough to make me want it? Probably not, but it’s a neat coincidence.

2003 Dodge Intrepid – $2,250

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.7 liter DOHC V6, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Vero Beach, FL

Odometer reading: 115,000 miles

Runs/drives? Great, according to the seller

Chrysler LH sedans seem to turn up on here a lot, don’t they? These sleek four-doors with their “cab-forward” packaging were well-engineered and very nice cars, but build quality and reliability problems made them old, and cheap, before their time. This Intrepid sedan is cheap, and it is now nineteen years old, but it doesn’t look like it. And from the sounds of it, it doesn’t run like it either.

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Unfortunately, it has the problematic 2.7 liter engine under the hood, known for oil sludge buildup, internal coolant leaks (allowing coolant into the oil), and other ills. The seller says this engine is in “great shape,” but its reputation does precede it. Buyer beware; ask for service records, and get a pre-purchase inspection.

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But if it does check out mechanically, the rest of the car sure looks nice. I don’t know if coastal Florida cars are prone to rust, but I sure don’t see any signs of it here. And the interior is clean as a whistle, too.

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Which leads to an interesting dilemma: if you find an otherwise-nice car with known reilability issues that’s in fine condition right now, do you chance it? Do you take a chance on a time-bomb engine for a clean interior and a shiny paint job?

Or would you rather have a less-pretty but more mechanically-sound car? That’s the question of the day.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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52 Responses

  1. Cigarette burns. Sure, let’s go with that. Bet you can still get a contact high sitting in that Lumina. The Intrepid looks like someone cared about it. Florida Man sells a car.

  2. Intrepid for me. It’s cheap enough to be worth the risk. And it’s a much nicer car overall compared to the Lumina.

    It should also be noted that most of the issues with the 2.7L V6 was due to a bad water pump gasket design. You can read about the details and what to do about it here:
    https://www.allpar.com/threads/dodge-chrysler-2-7-liter-v6-engines.229887/#post-1085223985

    And I think by 2003, this coolant pump gasket design problem was fixed.

    1. Driver and passenger windows were prone to drop off the lifter in the dodge, shattering in the doorwell or all around the cabin, as they were attached with a 3/8 ” adhesive strip, no bolts. This was more likely to happen while moving at fifty miles per hour or more, exactly when you don’t want flying glass in the cabin. The battery was located, fairly exposed, behind the front passenger side wheel well. To inspect or replace the battery required removing the engine air filter housing, turning the wheels to the far right to loosen screws, turning the wheel far left to get a few more, and using 36″ of extension bars and a flex adapter to get the mounting bracket bolt. So don’t park your early 2000s Dodge sedan on a hilly driveway with your lights on engine off. In the winter. I’ve driven deuce and a halfs with no power steering and the amount of cursing I was doing at Dodge trying to get that wheel to turn on my wife’s car would have set records

  3. All you pro-Intrepid people have swayed me. F* it. I’m taking a gamble at this price point, anyways. Give me the Dodge. The more I look at that Chevy, the more I want to barf, which will not help its already sorry state.

  4. Once again, two cars that I have no actual interest it, but I’ll take the Dodge. I honestly don’t mind fixing engines, but an interior restoration is work I only want to do on cars I genuinely like.

  5. Having once owned one, I’ll take the Intrepid. I really liked that car. The potholes on I-95 beat the shit out of the suspension, otherwise, it held up for quite a while.

    1. Same here although mine was a first gen with the 3.5. It got totalled by someone making a left turn across my lane. It was a great car for the money, handled fine and super comfortable. One issue is the brake line from left rear to right rear crosses above the fuel tank so rust isn’t seen or caught by garages during a safety inspection. Found that out when the brake line blew during an emergency stop.

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