Experiences w/ Dodge Neons

This could almost be IMHO, but it seems like car-related questions might fare better in this forum

Anyone have experiences or opinions, positive or negative, about Neons? I’m looking to get a “new” car (aka, used car under 7,000 dollars) and have an oportunity to get a 2001 Neon. I’ve never driven one before and don’t know much about 'em. I’m going to do some of my own research but I thought I’d ask the Teaming Millions for their thoughts as well. I remember that the last time I was looking at cars Neons were known for poor electrical components and reliability. I don’t know if that’s still the case.

It’s a good first car, but don’t expect it to last. Especially if the transmission is an automatic with overdrive. Despite the so-called warranty, your dealer will play all kinds of games claiming “we can’t find the problem” (circa early 1990s).

My sister owned 2 recent-model Chryslers - both bad. I owned 2 - one good.
They were a Shadow and Neon (for her) Sundance and Duster (for me). Basically, it’s all the same car design - each with automatic transmissions.

The problem is the dang cars always felt like they were sluggish to shift, and the Duster (with overdrive) had trouble disengaging at stop signs - often jolting. Problems started at an early age, and the dealers gave us the runaround claiming they couldn’t find the problems.

My sister was lucky enough to trade in her two cars (Sundance and Neon) in on time. My Sundance died at 72K when the warranty back then (1990’s) was 70K.
I should have fought harder and considered the lemon law…

FYI: In the latter 1990s, my boss test drove a Jeep Cherokee, and he claimed the same experience where the automatic transmission seemed to hesitate and hover between 1st and 2nd for too long.

I wouldn’t trust them again. A longer warranty on the powertrain just means a longer fight with Corporate. Remember the lemon law! …don’t make my mistake!

  • Jinx

The Consumer Reports writeup indicates, first, that the retail price for a 2001 Neon is in the $3300-$4900 range.

On the frequency of repair, it gets much better than average marks for A/C. It gets somewhat better than average marks for engine, cooling, ignition, transmission, suspension, exhaust, paint/trim, and body hardware. Average for fuel and power equipment, and slightly worse than average for electrical, brakes, and body integrity. Nothing in the “much worse” category.

They say the automatic doesn’t work well with the engine, that the ride is noisy and harsh, and that the fuel economy is no great shakes, and that it’s not particularly reliable. Basically, they don’t recommend it.

For similar money, you’d do much better with an older Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

Consider a used Mazda Protege as well. You can get a decent one for next to nothing.

My '96 was nearly indestructable, and I’d have it today if I hadn’t traded it in on a new minivan.

I can’t say I had the best of luck with the Neon we owned. It seemed to have a lot of issues (electrical, mystery leaks), but it got hit once, so it is difficult to know for sure. I can say don’t get a blue one. A lot of them (mine included) peeled paint like nobody’s business. We left a blue cloud of paint particles as we drove down the road. Keep an eye out and I think you’ll see several other examples. I was much happier with the Toyota Tercel I owned before.

We now have a 96 Honda Civic and it is groovy.

My Neon experience:
In August of 1995 I bought my first new car, a 1995 Dodge Neon, 42 days later it was destroyed in a horrific accident so I can’t offer any reliabilty experience but. That thing was built like a freakin’ Tank!, I fell asleep behind the wheel and crossed the Centerline of the Highway hitting a 1979 GMC Pickup head-on, I was doing 60 MPH with the Cruise Control on and he was coming the other way at 55 MPH and he was on the brakes when we hit, I put the Passengers side of the dashboard against the back of the Passengers seat and against the bottom of the Passengers seat, the Engine was coming out through the Drivers side wheel well taking the wheel and suspension with it, my Neon experience was great!, I should have been dead but I (only) had an open Fracture of the Right Tib and Fib, broken 3rd Rib on the Right side and a broken Left Clavicle with major soft tissue damage, 34 days in the Hospital, 7 months out of work, 6 operations. After the accident I bought another Mopar product but it was a bigger one this time.


My Neon was about two years old and had about 26k on it when I bought it. I had it for a couple of years. I was ok with the way it handled and stuff and I got decent mileage. I’m not very picky though. And it was a step up from what I’d been driving.

I had to have the head gasket replaced inside of six months. Some model year Neons are notorious for premature head gasket failure. I paid about half the cost of that. And I got to get it done twice because they screwed up something the first time. The second one was free.

The blower went. Got that fixed.

The dash would go dead every now and then. Usually when I shut the car off and turned it on again it would be ok. I lived with that.

The oil light came on briefly a couple of times. I got a new oil sensor.

Two weeks later the oil light came on again (steady). But not until after I’d driven it 35 miles and stopped for gas. Some kind of plug had fallen out and had to be replaced. The replacement had some kind of attachment to keep it from falling out again. I was told by the dealer that the car would have had enough oil in it before I stopped for gas that there wouldn’t have been any damage. I know if it had been totally empty I’d have blown the engine (done that) but I wasn’t waiting around to find out if that was true.

Two weeks later I traded it in on a Civic. Obiously, not all Neons are total pieces of crap. But mine was.

I drove a 2001 Neon for about a year. In that span of time, it completely cut out on me in the middle of traffic no less than 5 times. The whole car would just go completely dead (I couldn’t even put on my hazard lights). It was some kind of electrical problem that the shop couldn’t seem to fix. I know nothing about cars, and my ex-husband always took care of the repair end of things, but it was terrible to feel like your car could just cut out on you with no warning like that. Other than that I had no problems with it.

I’ve had a '98 manual-transmission Neon for 4 years. Aside from one blown head gasket (IIRC, their oil lines run at a higher pressure than most cars), I have had no expensive problems.

Gas mileage is 28 city/33 hwy for me. I’ve driven for up to 11 hours at a time without the seats feeling uncomfortable, and I can fit my bike in the trunk. It’s been a perfect college/just-starting-out car.

One of the local rent-a-cop agencies uses Dodge Neons for patrolling in places like office parks. With a big light bar on the roof, they look like giant mice! I’d love to spray-paint some whiskers on the hood.

My younger brother has one, I think its a 95 and he got it in 96 or so. He now has 130k miles on it and it still runs but it has had some problems (electrical mainly). I know the dash electrical power went out and it cost about $600 to fix it, He may have had other problems but I don’t know what they are.

I would recommend a 2001 hyundai instead if you can find one, they are probably going to be more reliable, and maybe less expensive.

Heh. I also have a paint-peeling Neon that I got to replace a well-liked Tercel. What’s up with that anyway? How can a company manage to successfully put together a complex mishmash of machinery and electronics, then screw up something like paint?

Other problems:
[li]A transmission that likes to jerk when the car shifts gears. It seems to be less severe if I let off the gas when the car feels like it’s about to shift. I already paid to get this fixed once, but the problem came back in a few weeks. Recently, it also started to jolt hard when I shift from park to reverse to back out of my parking space.[/li][li]A strange electrical problem that kept the car from starting, and happened completely at random. A couple garages and the dealership kept telling me there was nothing wrong because they couldn’t reproduce the problem. Eventually the dealership figured it out. While fixing it, they managed to screw up something else, so now when my gas gauge shows that there’s 1/8th of a tank left, what it really means is that it’s completely empty.[/li][li]Power steering is out; I get an upper body workout every time I drive the damn thing![/li][li]A/C doesn’t work (of course).[/li][li]Driving faster than 60MPH makes the car shake in a strange, but very regular pattern.[/li][/ul]

In other words, run, don’t walk, away from the Dodge Neon. Well…, actually you can probably just walk if you want. The Neon won’t catch you. It’s broken.

But they say Hello!

Crap. I can’t believe I screwed that up.

But they say Hi!

I wouldn’t recommend a Neon. A co-worker had one, and it was nothing but trouble for her. The main problem was the brakes – they originally pulsated, requiring replacement of pads and disks. Then the brakes squealed, and not just during braking. These problems eventually led to some sort of wheel bearing failure.

I think for $5,000 - $6,000 you can do better than a 4-year old Neon. Get something with a bigger wheel size. The Neon has 14" wheels. In general, bigger wheel size = better car.

For this reason alone, I’d recommend against the Neon. I refuse to rent them anymore because of the queasy feeling I’d get when I’d try to accelerate to get out of someone’s way and the transmission just wouldn’t cooperate. Indeed, the fact that any car winds up mostly at rental car agencies is a huge warning - it’s a sign the manufacturer can’t sell them to retail buyers, and has to dump their production line somewhere…

I have a 2000 Dodge Neon with about 50K. Can’t say I’ve had any major problems. I did have some odd leaks that were fixed up under warranty, and I have had some brake work. I can’t say I love it and I don’t get good vibes about it holding up as long as my wife’s Ford Taurus (now at 150K), but it’s been a good car. The sound system is great. That almost makes up for my one real complaint…its inability to keep out highway noise.

I have a friend who has owned 2 Neons.

She loved her first one and drove it everywhere until another blew through a stop sign and slammed into her. The car was totaled but she was completely uninjured. It seems the car does not survive collisions well, but the occupants do.

Having loved her first one, she used the insurance money to buy a second one. Sadly, this one seemed to have been built on a bad day. She has had numerous mechanical problems with it.

I had 2 Neons. I had a '96 first. It was bought new, and started having a lot of problems. AC went out twice, and the driver’s seat “failed” - i.e. it wouldn’t stay upright. Traded it in for a new '98 Neon. (Both of these were the 2 door models, which were last made in '98). It lasted to about 125,000 miles when I traded it in. Never once changed the brakes…and it still stopped just fine (grin). Had the notorious head gasket problem, and they never did fix it right, so it was always leaking oil.

I am now the happy owner of an '04 Honda Civic.

I had a '96 neon (manual transmission) that had 117,000 miles on it when I traded it in. I never had a problem, it never broke down, never wouldn’t start. Ithad some zip and was fun to drive. I loved that car and was sad to let it go, but I needed a truck.