Discover The Worst Used Chevy Malibu Years to Avoid

Patrick Oziegbe
Updated On:

Are you looking to save some cash by buying a used car? Well, before you make a hasty decision, you need to know which Chevy Malibu model years to steer clear of.

Trust us; you don’t want to end up with a lemon. Imagine driving down the highway, and your engine suddenly gives up on you. Not a pretty picture, right?

That’s why we’re here to guide you through the process of choosing the best year for your Chevy Malibu purchase.

In this article, we’ll reveal the years to avoid, such as 2008-2011, 2013, and 2016, which are notorious for engine problems and other malfunctions.

But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. We’ll also share with you the well-regarded Malibu’s best years, including 2012-2013, 2014-2015, and 2017-2019.

By the end of this article, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make a smart choice when purchasing your Chevy Malibu, saving you time, money, and effort in the long run.

Used Chevy Malibu Years to Avoid

Chevy Malibu Years to Avoid

In this section, we will cover the Chevy Malibu years you should avoid, specifically focusing on the 2003, 2011, 2012, 2017, and 2018 models, due to significant issues with reliability and performance.

2003 – Transmission and Engine Problems

The 2003 Chevy Malibu is known for having transmission and engine problems. Many owners have reported issues with the pass lock sensor, coolant leaks, and ignition lock cylinder failures, leading to stalling and expensive repairs.

Additionally, the V6 engine in this model has been associated with severe transmission problems. We recommend steering clear of this particular year.

2011 and 2012 – Common Complaints

For the 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Malibu models, there are a few common issues worth noting. Among these are engine problems, power door lock malfunctions, and issues with the steering.

Although General Motors addressed some of these concerns in the later years, the sixth generation Malibu still presents enough challenges to warrant avoiding these particular years.

  • Engine Problems: Stalling and reduced engine power.
  • Power Door Locks: Malfunctioning locks requiring replacement.
  • Steering Issues: Difficulty turning and loss of power steering.

2017 and 2018 – Reliability Issues

Lastly, the 2017 and 2018 Chevy Malibu models demonstrate reliability concerns.

While they are part of the ninth generation Malibu, which features some improvements to previous years, these two years in particular have known issues that could affect your driving experience.

  • Water Leaks: Some owners have reported water leaks from sunroofs or windows, leading to interior damage.
  • Reduced Engine Power: Like the earlier models, some owners have experienced reduced engine power, affecting overall performance.
  • Brake Problems: These years have had some reports of brake malfunctions and premature brake wear.

In summary, when considering a Chevy Malibu, avoiding the 2003, 2011, 2012, 2017, and 2018 models can save you from encountering reliability and performance issues that could impact your overall satisfaction with the vehicle.

Detailed Problem Analysis

We’ll break down these problems into four subcategories: Transmission Problems, Engine Problems, Electrical Issues, and Brakes and Handling.

Transmission Problems

Some Malibu models have experienced persistent transmission problems, particularly in the 2016 and 2017 models.

Faulty pressure control solenoids can cause the transmission to skip certain gears, leading to a frustrating driving experience.

In addition to transmission skipping, these issues can also contribute to reduced fuel economy and decreased performance.

Engine Problems

Chevrolet Malibu models from 2013 to 2015 have been reported to exhibit engine power issues, such as:

  • Wheel bearing failure
  • Engine stalling
  • Power steering loss

These issues stem from a broken accelerator pedal position sensor, which significantly reduces engine performance.

The 2010 Chevy Malibu also faced numerous engine problems, making it one of the least reliable models in the lineup.

When dealing with engine issues, you can expect higher repair costs and potential safety concerns.

Electrical Issues

Electrical issues have plagued the Malibu, particularly in the 2001 and 2002 models. Common problems include:

  • Faulty passlock systems, leading to security concerns
  • Leakage issues, which can cause damage to the vehicle’s interior

These electrical issues often contribute to an unreliable and less enjoyable driving experience, which can detract from the intended family-friendly atmosphere of a mid-size sedan like the Malibu.

Brakes and Handling

Lastly, let’s discuss brakes and handling. Some Malibu models might not offer the most precise handling or most effective braking system.

Properly functioning brakes and responsive handling are essential for a safe and comfortable ride, so it is important to be aware of these potential issues when considering a used Malibu.

Comparing Chevy Malibu Different Models

Knowing the model years to avoid can save you from unnecessary frustrations and costly repairs.

Best Model Years

The best Chevy Malibu models years to consider are 2014, 2015, 2019, 2021, and 2022. These models are known for their reliability, performance, and overall satisfaction among owners.

Some features you’ll appreciate in these models include:

  • Updated design and styling
  • Efficient engines
  • Comfortable ride and handling
  • Advanced safety and infotainment features

Worst Model Years

Unfortunately, some Chevy Malibu model years are best avoided due to various issues. The worst years include 2010, 2002, 2016, and 2017. Common problems in these model years consist of:

  • Engine issues and costly repairs
  • Passlock and leakage problems
  • Electrical problems
  • Brake troubles

Another model year to be cautious of is 2020, where owners have reported issues with the variable valve timing system.

Tips for Choosing a Model

When comparing different Chevy Malibu models, consider these tips to make a more informed decision:

  • Review owner feedback and minimize the risks by avoiding the problematic years mentioned above.
  • Test drive your preferred model year and check its performance and overall feel.
  • Consult a trusted mechanic for a thorough inspection, identifying potential issues before purchasing.

Chevy Malibu Competitors

In this section, we’ll compare the Chevy Malibu to several renowned mid-size sedans, highlighting their key differences and similarities, to help you make an informed decision.

Hyundai Sonata

The Hyundai Sonata is a popular family-friendly mid-size sedan known for its practicality. Compared to your Chevrolet Malibu, the Sonata exhibits a more upscale interior and higher estimated fuel economy.

However, the Malibu has a slightly more powerful engine in its base trim. If you prioritize fuel efficiency over power, the Sonata could be a fitting option.

Both the Chevy Malibu and Hyundai Sonata boast:

Honda Accord

Regarded as a staple in the midsize sedan market, the Honda Accord stands out with its engaging driving dynamics and roomy, upscale cabin.

Compared to the Malibu, the Accord offers a more diverse engine lineup and higher fuel efficiency ratings. Keep in mind that both vehicles provide:

  • Comfortable seating
  • Generous cargo space
  • Advanced safety features

Yet, the Accord edges out the Malibu in performance and fuel economy.

Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is another well-rounded mid-size sedan that offers reliability and efficiency.

Although the Malibu might be more visually appealing to some, the Camry excels in terms of safety ratings and resale value. Both cars provide:

  • Comfortable rides
  • Spacious interiors
  • User-friendly touchscreen systems

However, the Camry stands tall with its better safety scores and long-lasting appeal.


For those seeking more athletic handling, the Mazda6 makes a worthy alternative to the Chevy Malibu.

While the Malibu might have a slightly more potent base engine, the Mazda6 dazzles with its sharp handling and engaging driving dynamics, though Mazda6 worst models should be avoided.

Both sedans offer:

  • Comfortable seating
  • User-friendly infotainment systems
  • Good fuel economy

But the Mazda6 pleases driving enthusiasts with its more agile performance.

Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima stands out for its available all-wheel-drive option, something rare in the mid-size sedan class.

The Altima also touts a comfortable cabin and user-friendly technology. Similarities between the Altima and Malibu include:

  • Smooth rides
  • Spacious seating accommodations
  • Advanced driver assistance features

Yet, the Altima’s all-wheel-drive system adds extra versatility compared to the Malibu’s front-wheel drive.

Kia Optima

Lastly, the Kia Optima could be a strong alternative to the Chevrolet Malibu, thanks to its stylish exterior, user-friendly interior, and abundant standard tech features. Both vehicles provide:

  • Spacious interiors
  • Comfortable rides
  • Advanced safety systems

However, the Optima has a bit more personality and a more robust standard feature set, which might draw your attention. Do remember there are some Kia Optima years to avoid known to cause more issues then others.


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