If you’re looking for a reliable, practical and cheap used car, look no further than the Pontiac Vibe. It is indeed all of those things — and it’s something of an unknown, secret used car, because most people have never heard of it, nor do they have any idea it shares all of its mechanical components with the ultra-reliable Toyota Corolla.
Here’s the basic situation with the Vibe. Back in the early 2000s, General Motors and Toyota decided to work together on a small hatchback that was based on the Toyota Corolla. The General Motors version was the Pontiac Vibe, while the Toyota Corolla version was called the Matrix. Both sold reasonably well — well enough to see two generations, one spanning 2003 to 2008, and a second one that came out in 2009.
The collaboration was an odd one, to be sure, but the cars it produced weren’t: the Matrix and the Vibe were practical hatchbacks with reliable Toyota running gear, and they remain excellent vehicles even 16 years after originally going on sale. But to me, the Vibe has always been the better buy, because it has faded into oblivion: while many shoppers don’t remember the Matrix, even fewer remember the Vibe, especially since Pontiac has gone defunct.
The result here is that the Vibe offers bargains to be had. Right now on Autotrader, used Vibe models are selling for far less than comparable Toyota Matrix models, with no Vibe listed for over $10,000 and many Matrix models over that figure. Admittedly, the Matrix was sold for longer — through 2013, versus through 2010 for the Vibe — but even same-year comparisons tend to show that Matrix models cost more.
The result is that the Vibe is a bit of an opportunity: a great used car under $10,000 that’s as reliable as a Toyota, but not priced like one. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in a practical, reliable used car that’s surprisingly cheap just because nobody really remembers it.