Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 2002 Chevrolet Camaro

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
rent lease sell or keep 2002 chevrolet camaro

The eyes were covered in a yellowish puss-like film. Jaundice? Nope, bad seals from the factory had made the headlights brittle and useless. Almost like old fly paper but without the elasticity. The leather seats up front were all cracked and peeling. Rear speakers were out. The alarm system had a mind of it’s own. Spontaneously singing it’s praises whenever there was a rare dull moment on the lot. But the kicker?

It’s the most popular car in my fleet. Teenagers, old(ish) hell-raisers. Even folks with the proverbial mid-life crisis without the means of a Vette want this car. I had six interested buyers within two hours. Meanwhile the minivans are molderizing in their appliance like utility. During tax time the “popular” cars can have price premiums as high as Cheech and Chong’s “Nice Dreams.” So this is what I did.

Rent: The Mustang has been a rental main-stay for nearly two decades now. The Camaro? It’s Hertz worst nightmare. Blind spots are not so bad. But you sit low and the car gobbles up speed like a demon. 80 mph feels like 50. 60 mph feels like 35. I love the chassis. But unless we’re talking about a convertible model, these Corvettes… uh… Camaros can be hooned to the nth degree. Not a good thing if you want your rental fleet to endure.

Lease: 1000 down. $65 a week for 24 months. The mid-7’s sounds like a lot in the finance world. But it’s not. Truth be told a Camaro with less than 100k and an automatic can be financed out the door for about $10k. Even more in some cases. But those will be ones where you sell the note after six months or so and get perhaps 70% to 80% on the dollar.

I don’t think that will work as a matter of conscience. But if 05 PT Cruiser’s can be financed for $15k these days (really) then the last of the Camaros can easily hit the five figures and then some.

Sell: Oh yes. The power of the quick and easy buck. Except this one promises to be neither. Between flushing out the Dexron infested cooling system. Replacing the headlights. Painting the roof. Fixing the speakers… and perhaps reupholstering the seats, I’m looking at another $1k on top of the $2565 ($2400 plus auction fee) that I paid for it.

With 98k, Automatic, and a V6, I may get around $6000 for my efforts. Maybe $6500 in this ‘pie in the sky’ used car market we’re in today. If a 2002 Escort with 105k and nothing special to offer can get $3000 wholesale right now, this Camaro can go for the low-6’s.

Keep: These are fun cars. The dashboard may be as cheap as a 1st generation Eagle Talon and the weak points are all too numerous and obvious. But it’s F-U-N fun. It holds the road and generates g’s with stunning enjoyment that you would never expect for what is in essence a plasticized compromise If I kept it, my travels along winding one lane roads would be full of engine ‘blams!’ and tailpipe ‘burbles’. It could work?

Unfortunately I’m at a point in my life where everything that is fun goes directly into my bank account. I can play with this toy for a while and enjoy it. But not too long. Experience tells me that this hyper-bullish used car market it unsustainable. I’ll profit now and enjoy an extra week at the beach with the family.

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3 of 34 comments
  • N Number N Number on May 11, 2011

    A buddy of mine had an SS model from this vintage, perhaps a few years older. I had no experience with Camaros and I really wanted to drive it. The expectation was intense. Once I did take the helm, it was like settling into bed with one of the finest looking women I'd ever seen, only to find out that she was severely arthritic and full of every STD imaginable. I had never been so negatively affected by a car. The manual transmission and clutch shifted miserably. Ditto everything everybody has said about the interior. Visibility was abysmal and it rattled terribly. The handling was hardly better than my Jeep. But then something magical happened. I got on the throttle. Never had I been so impressed with a powerplant as I was with that LS-1. The power was so confident, there was so much apparent torque, it took my breath away. Still, I couldn't get over the paradox of such a competent engine in such an abysmal platform.

    • John Rosevear John Rosevear on May 11, 2011

      "Still, I couldn’t get over the paradox of such a competent engine in such an abysmal platform." And that, my friends, is the history of GM high performance cars in a nutshell. They've gotten better recently, but even my CTS-V still has that old-school driveline slop that would horrify a BMW engineer. (I've mostly stopped thinking of it as a flaw - it's just part of the GM RWD performance-car DNA, or so I tell myself.) But wow, a well-tuned smallblock still rocks, doesn't it?

  • Kkollwitz Kkollwitz on Nov 20, 2014

    Bought my '02 Z28 Hurst 6-speed in March 2002. Still a car I like to drive and look at. Reliable, 28+ real mpg on the highway, no more rattles than any other 12 year old car. I have no plans to sell, and don't see much out there that tempts me, either.