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The Pontiac Vibe Is the Secret Reliable, Practical Used Car

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.

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  1. I have a friend who owns an AWD Vibe. It’s a 2006 with over 270,000 miles on it and it’s still a decent car after everything it’s been through.

  2. Back in 2004, I had a Pontiac Vibe as a rental car for almost 2 months when the tan seats were stolen on my 2003 Honda S2000 (took forever to find replacement seats since they were so rare). Was impressed by the Vibe. Great seating position. Roomy interior. Great fuel economy. Decent stereo. Lots of storage.

  3. I’m not sure how GM selling a car based on the Corolla could be considered odd when they sold the Chevy Nova in the 80s? 90s? Then the Geo/Chevy Prism. 

  4. I’ll one up this and tell you there is an even more secret Pontiac Vibe performance model that even less people remember.  The Vibe GT, which has 180 hp and an available manual. 

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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