By on January 13, 2011

Why did someone from Atlanta keep this? An all-wheel-drive SUV is not exactly the best choice for Atlanta’s hot climates and long commutes. You get abysmal fuel economy. A mediocre safety record. Higher repair costs due to the all-wheel-drive system. Did I mention the solarium effect out here that takes dashboards and discolors and deforms them? When I bought this for $1000, I was seemingly going against the conventional wisdom. But I wasn’t… here’s why…

Sell: Consumers want to feel rich. About 2% do it by buying the most fuel efficient vehicle out there. The other 98% want one with leather. a sunroof, a premium sound system, and pretty much everything else under the sun. Minivan owners want TV screeens. SUV owners? They want luxury and safety. Even if both of them are a complete illusion on a vehicle like this. The miles were high (202k), but this Carmax trade-in has dealer records and an owner who kept it in the garage. I would easily expect $2000 for this vehicle during tax time.

Rent: You would think that based on this logic SUV’s would also be my best rentals. Not even close. My most popular vehicles by far are gas sippers. Then minivans. Then midsized sedans. The SUV’s do go on on the road… eventually. But they have a tendency to sit once gas gets north of $3. My rental customers tend to need long-term deals, and these folks are usually either getting minimal help from their insurance company or are renting on their own dime. I could keep it for a couple of weeks and see if I could make it a rent-to-own. But I would rather…

Lease/Finance: I can definitely get $500 down and $50 a week for the Bravada. That is assuming gas prices don’t zoom into the mesosphere or our economy isn’t jolted by yet another black swan. Or that the all-wheel-drive system doesn’t go South. Or the transmission. Or the cooling system. Or the… Like most loaded up domestic SUV’s, this Bravada contains an awful lot of expensive sensors and old electrics. Sunroof, ABS, Traction Control, yadda yadda. The profits can be lucrative but I already know this particular model may require more maintenance than a mid-level Ford Explorer from the same era.  I already have five of those on notes.

Keep: A place with lots of bad weather and minimal commuting needs would be ideal. Think the  Northern Country like Penobscot Bay, Maine (a favorite retreat of mine) or the U.P.  In a climate like Atlanta? No. Nein. Nyet. Not a chance. Heck even Subaru struggles to sell vehicles out here. There may be six inches of unplowed snow on the ground at this very moment. But I’m not about to a gas guzzler in my garage with the driving excitement of a 10 year old GE refrigerator. I hate ‘things’. But I would rather buy a boat, than to keep this boat.

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42 Comments on “Sell, Lease, Rent or Keep: 1998 Oldsmobile Bravada...”

  • avatar

    You don’t see alot of these Blazer-clones anymore. For some reason, I always liked the first-generation Bravada…and the last was the best of the quadruplets (the Rainer V8 wasn’t bad either).

    Maybe I should drive my excellent-condition 98 3.2TL to Atlanta and drive a Subaru home…probably a bit cheaper than west of the Great Divide.

  • avatar

    These were neither reliable nor very well built. Plus it’s an orphan make. Sell it before it becomes an albatross around your neck – making a one grand profit from the deal isn’t shabby at all.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    These were pretty junky even by ’90s GM standards. Dump it ASAP.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    Sell, sell, sell.

  • avatar

    Sell it and never look back.  This, much like the GMC Jimmy and Chevy Blazer were totally unreliable and seriously problem prone.  This vehicle is also prone to nickle and diming you to death.
    Get rid of it and never look back.

    • 0 avatar

      Really? I own a 2003 Jimmy. Its basically our winter beater. We use it for camping, hauling trailers dump runs,you name it. Other than its healthy thirst,in eight years it hasn’t cost me a dime.

       @ Steve Wouldn’t  that vehicle be 4wd I didn’t know they made them in all wd?

    • 0 avatar

      Granted that your Jimmy has given you a great deal of reliable service you should consider yourself one of the few lucky ones. It does not necessarily mean that ALL of them were just as reliable as yours.  Check out all of the forums on the internet that have a very large number of people who had nothing but numerous mechanical issues with their GMC Jimmy’s and Chevy Blazers if you think I am just being biased or making this up. There is even a forum for ones who still love their Jimmy’s, Blazer’s regardless how much it has let them down mechanically and financially.
      Keep in mind your testimony about your Jimmy is no different than somebody else saying that their 92 Ford Taurus, with the head gasket problem prone 3.8L V6 (or a GM car that has the same faulty gasket eating 3.1L V6), has been nothing but reliable and problem free for them.

    • 0 avatar

      @tanooki2003 ….I can Google “repair problems” for every vehicle sold in the world. Try VW, or Mercs or even Hyundai Sante Fe.

      My view is, that for the money the Jimmy/Blazers were, and still are, a great value. Is a Blazer comparable to a Four Runner? Not a chance. How much more money are you coughing up for a Four Runner? Does a Four Runner run forever and never break down?…No, anymore than a Jimmy or a Blazer will. The Four Runners,as good as they are, cost a fortune to buy,and when they break….cost a fortune to fix.

       Personally..I believe that any 13 old vehicle with 200K that can still fetch $2000 speaks volumes on percieved quality.

    • 0 avatar

      My mother actually owned both a Blazer and a 4Runner, and the 4Runner was a horrible POS that blew headgaskets like clockwork, had haywire electronics (Including a rear power window that had to be replaced something like 6 times), rusted like mad and somehow simultaneously made no power while sucking down gas like water.
      The Blazer might not have had soft touch plastics inside, and had some bigger panel gaps, but it was much more problem free, only needing a new stereo and alternator.
      That’s the reason why, when the Blazer died, mom got a new Trailblazer instead of a 4Runner.
      Of course, I still tried to talk her into a Subaru Forester…

    • 0 avatar

      Now i’m curious.  When did you come to the conclusion that I liked 4runners, which I don’t?  I never mentioned them, nor will/would I compare it to the Blazer/Jimmy, except that they both go down in my books as total junk vehicles.
      I’m just merely stating that granted that there were a few that escaped Q/C on good terms, many did not. Yes I am fully aware there are other unreliable junk vehicles that were manufactured by other manufacturers.  My point is the Jimmy/Blazer are on that list of ‘absolutely not recommended’ vehicles, along with others such as the 4runner.

    • 0 avatar

      @mikey — The Bravada’s sole claim to fame over its lesser siblings was its “Smart Trak” all-wheel drive system. No Insta-Trac shifter or buttons allowed.
      As for reliability… well, in my dark and shameful former life as a Chevy salesman, the very first vehicle I sold — on my first day on the floor! — was a leftover ’96 Blazer. This was in February 1997. Teal LS 4×4. I watched that vehicle roll off the lot with the sincere feeling I’d sold my first customers the very best vehicle for the money.
      I was so very wrong. I watched it roll back onto the lot — on a flatbed — barely two months later. The transmission had dropped on a trip to Las Cruces, stranding the young family on the side of I-25 until Roadside Assistance arrived three hours later. Not even 2,000 on the odo.
      These vehicles were, are, and forever will be, utter and complete shit. And so began my true awakening to the troubles of GM cars and trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      @tanooki2003…..I used the Four Runner to prove my point. The Four Runners are a complete POS,yet you can find people that love them. Go figure.

       The Jimmy does exactly want I want it to do. It rattles and squeeks and rides like Fred Flinstones car. It drinks gas like it was water, and the seatbelts won’t retract. However at minus 25 it will start. The Jimmy will pull a 3000 lb trailer and not break a sweat. It will go anywhere,that I want it to go. Above all, my wife loves it.

        If I had my druthers,I would sell it and buy a Mustang rag top. But reality tells me to keep it.

  • avatar

    This is a hot potato.  Sell it.  It has high miles, it is an orphan, it was not particularly loved when new. 

  • avatar

    Whenever I see these I always get slightly nostalgic.  My dad still has his 98 Blazer LT with 213k on hit and still going relatively strong.  Granted, he got it used for a good price in 2002 and it’s been a fairly reliable vehicle for him.  Plus he lives in Michigan so the 4wd is occasionally nice.
    But down in Atlanta, I’d say get rid of it fast as possible.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Sell it, on eBay, to someone far, far away!

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Sometimes you think you are going to bed with a lovely young college co-ed, thin and fine and wholesome and pretty.  You wake up the next morning and she has turned into Roseanne Barr….sell this car before it explodes on you!

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Sell, lease, rent or keep?

    Try kill with fire.

  • avatar

    Sell.  This has an electronic full time 4WD that uses some 1st generation electronic sensors that can go out.  I do like the 4.3L engine, though.  These trucks had more balls than the Trailblazer platform that replaced all the S-10 based suv’s.

    • 0 avatar

      If by more, you mean less, that statement would be correct.
      The Trailblazer’s (excellent) straight six had almost 100HP more than the old 4.3, and 27 more ft-lbs torque, while not weighing much more.
      You could also get the GMT360s with either the 300HP 5.3L or an LS2.
      Of course they had awful tupperware interiors and only slightly better visibility than a cell in the Bastille, but such is GM.

  • avatar

    The good is that these were pleasant vehicles, with decent (though still truck-ish) road manners, a comfortable interior, and a lot of cargo room.
    The bad?
    Craptastic electrical/electronic systems. There is a near 100% failure rate on just about everything. Trust me from first-hand experience,  everything electrical will break on this. EVERYTHING. Even stuff that doesn’t normally go…. like the Speedometer or HVAC headunit… they’re all going to need constant and expensive repairs. And don’t get me started on the mechanicals.

    • 0 avatar

      So true!
      My wife asked me what I was laughing about and I said “this guy had the same GM experience I had with my old S10!”
      Granted it was almost 20 years old but the fuel gage hadn’t worked in 12 years, the odometer stopped at 77,000 miles and 11 years ago, then the third delco radio/tapedeck went out, then the dash lights, then the speedometer itself. Aside from the radio this is the only vehicle I’ve ever owned that had all these items break…..being the son of a used car dealer that’s saying something.
      Fortunately the S10 was a simple 4 banger with a 4 speed and no creature comforts besides AC so none of these systems actually stopped it from running. Strangely reliable would be the best description.
      Unfortunately despite a high idle it would often shut down at stoplights (although it would always start back up) and my wife hated having to drive it to the nursery or recycling place so I sold it on craigslist for $1200 since the body was dent and rust-free and the original GM Heavy-Duty vinyl seats didn’t have a single tear.
      No way I’d keep that Bravada, it just looks kind of dowdy/dumpy and there’s no redeeming quality like ultrareliability to recommend it. Good choice.

  • avatar

    Sell it.

  • avatar
    N Number

    I always hated the Oldsmobile ads touting how smart this car was and how its AWD system would react to conditions.  It made me want to start a counter ad campaign “Because you are smarter than your car.”  This was before the advent of Smart Cars, smart phones, etc.

  • avatar

    As much as I like the styling, sell it.
    I’m a firm believer that GM totally lost the plot in the 90s with electronics reliability & interior durability. It’ll run forever but you’ll have stuff not working that might be necessary for reasonable travel.

    • 0 avatar

      It has been said that a GM car will run poorly for longer than most cars run at all.

    • 0 avatar

      I can attest to that, i’ve got a 77 Chevelle that only had 130,000 miles on it when I got it.
      the 305 V8 had a 6 cylinders firing, a 30 year old cap and rotor, a 2 barrel carb that was running on one barrel, two plug wires off, a transmission that didn’t know what to do when youd put in reverse. But yet it still made a 200 mile road trip shortly after I got it, since my Explorer ate a fuel pump and I didn’t have time to swap it out.
      The Chevelle also had 8 different types and brands of plugs in it. and it got 10mpg screaming along in 2nd gear at 60mph.

      Now it hits on all 8 cylinders, has a smart transmission and gets 20mpg

  • avatar

    “..a mid-level Ford Explorer…”

    Remember how simple the options sheet used to be on domestic SUVs?  You chose a 2WD or 4WD Suburban, it had trim levels for cloth or leather, and a sunroof was the only major separate option.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    My buddy had one of those in Chevy trim. A complete turd. I’ve never been in anything that creaked and groaned the way his did when it went down the road. Worse than the original Ford Exploder if you can believe that. I still can’t figure out how GM can build such great(the best IMO) full-sized trucks but never figured out the small truck. When I was looking for a compact truck to serve my towing needs even I passed over these road disasters and went with a Toyota.

  • avatar

    Our little ’98 Jimmy gave 220,000 miles with out much gripe. Starter, fuel pressure regulator, thermostat, wheel bearing, and regular brakes were about all it needed, and that was in 10 years and 220,000 miles.
    Their only real issues are fuel pressure regulators (common on this style GM EFI), and the 4L60E was a turd, and it was about to go so that’s why we sold it. Other than that, fantastic trucklet.

  • avatar

    Open the radiator cap.  Is the radiator full of orange mud?  If so, get rid of the thing.  I believe this era of gm had the radiator cap on the radiator.  Over time the expansion valve on the caps would allow air to get into the system and wreak havoc with the dex-cool. Turns it into mud. Pre 1995 gm’s (pre dex-cool) don’t have this problem, and it was mitigated when they put the radiator cap on the overflow tank on later gm’s (like my 03 Silverado)

  • avatar

    I think you’ve answered your own question.


    It would be an easy sell post snowstorm you had as the, “as God is my witness I will never be stuck in the snow again,” mentality is still alive and well in the mind of the buyer.  If its in good shape it will demo well and the 4.3 under the hood doesn’t just bow at the altar of torque, it’s one of the altar boys – it will “feel” far more powerful than it really is.

    Sell that puppy for profit – sell!

    • 0 avatar

      Absolutely.  As soon as people can get to your lot again there will be 4 or 5 of them who will want something, anything with 4WD, dammit, and it doesn’t matter if it bears an orphan badge.  Seize the moment.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I hate to judge other people’s choice of vehicle, as I don’t always have the most practical vehicle myself.
    But having one of these 4wd things in a place like Atlanta strikes me as a special kind of stupid.

    • 0 avatar

      Back when I lived in Atlanta (90’s), there was plenty of special kinds of stupid. I saw tons of 4WD ‘Burbans, Explorers, Jimmys, 4Runners, etc. The vast majority never had a tow ball or any kind of off road equipment. 12 MPH, 12 MPG, stuck in traffic on I-285. Good times…

  • avatar

    I hate piling on, but sell!  I’ve seen many Blazers/Jimmys firsthand  from that era to go 200,000 miles without 1 major problem, not even intake gaskets.  That is not the case with the 4 or 5 people I knew with that vintage Bravada, all except 1 were bought new.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    Mid to late 90s 4.3 V6s can be HELL. Want to know why? Go on any S10 forum and search for “spider injectors”. They also don’t like Deathcool too well. The 4L60E and AWD case are reliable enough, it’s the sensors and wiring that will get you.
    Sell it. ASAP. Maybe there’s a kid like me that’ll buy it and throw in a 350 or a 5.3 Vortec, but just sell it.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Like Oldsmobile, always felt weird about the Bravada.  Loved it at the time for it’s advanced technology, but hated it cause it was an SUV the creature that destroyed my beloved station wagons.
    I’d buy it if it was cheap enough but it would be THE winter beater if I didn’t already have a truck.
    I too really loved the last of the Bravadas and the Buick Rainier, I’m sometimes tempted by the idea of a loaded AWD Rainier or Bravada but then I would be giving into the unnecessary SUV.

  • avatar

    Am I to understand that you came into possession of a 98 Bravada (!) with 202k miles (?!?) and you’re still unsure of whether or not to sell it?
    Do I even need to answer that question?
    These things had Trabant-level build quality, a terrible safety record, etc. Get the thing out of your sight before it disintegrates.

  • avatar

    “An all-wheel-drive SUV is not exactly the best choice for Atlanta’s hot climates”
    A few years ago there was an all-wheel-drive SUV commercial on the air in the Deep South.  In this commercial, the character (stereotypical idiot soccer mom??) was whining about poor traction in the rain and how AWD was so great.  So yeah, who knows…
    Last weekend’s weather in Atlanta notwithstanding, yeah, AWD + Atlanta = a waste.  Even when there is any kind of snowfall and southern U.S. cities get shutdown by a light dusting, the most sensible thing then really is to minimize your travel for a day or two and just relax.

  • avatar

    I had a 98′ ZR2 Blazer with the 5-speed that I ran to 155k and sold recently.  Many of the comments here are very true…for me, the 4.3L and 5-speed manual were very robust, and even at 155k drove as new.  I never had any issue with the engine or 4wd.  I did have to replace a clutch. I also had to replace ball joints, alternator, radiator, thermostat, cat converter, O2 sensors, o-ring from the remote oil cooler ruptured, e-brake never worked.  Biggest complaint was the dexcool system…once you do anything to the cooling system, the delicate balance is thrown off and you’ll spend forever troubleshooting little niggling problems like air getting stuck in the system, heater not working, etc.  Yes, the truck started and ran every day, and never left me stranded.  But it was true 90’s GM all the same…strangely reliable, but with terrible quality all the same.
    That said, I bought it for $6k, drove it 7 years and 85k miles, then sold it for $2k, so in the end it was still a good financial choice.

  • avatar

    Sell it to a kid-that’s not to say these things don’t hold up-they’re indestructible-but with the dollar falling fast, gas will be $6 a gallon by July 4th.
    You’ll never move it then-those 4.3s suck gas…….
    I’m dying to move mine, but my wife has pointed out that after 11 years we’ve never had to fix mine-just had to clean it and you can’t replace something that won’t break-it’s senseless.

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