By on May 10, 2011


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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

34 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 2002 Chevrolet Camaro...”

  • avatar

    I have repaired a few lately, they do have their drawbacks that is for sure. Some are inherent, some were just abused. But I do sometimes long for a B4C model, especially ex CHP. Or an 02 atomic orange z28 convert. Or a 97 30th anniv special.

  • avatar

    When these were still new, think mid-to-late 90’s, I wanted one bad. They had power and the look was pretty good. When they upgraded the six to the 200hp 3.8 (reminds me of what Ford just did with the Mustang, replacing the ancient Cologne with a much better unit)I found myself actually considering a non-Z.

    Every so often, when I’m bored, I peruse eBay for a low mileage, non-abused, one or two owner Z with t-tops. I think they are keepers. Fast, fun, not bad to look at. Most likely collectible.

    Ultimately, it’s the interiors and overall cheapness that lets the F-bodies down. As you, I’d rather dump my dough into something less than tragic (i.e. not a car, not even a 370 convertible, or a Boxster, or a Cayman, or a late 90’s air cooled 911, or, or….)

    Seriously, if you can grab a renter or a finance…And by all appearances, you’re really good (or shall I say, seasoned?) at the game…finance that bad boy out. Let them cut their deal, collect every time they pass go. Good for you!

    Thanks for all these write-ups, Steven. They are amongst my favorite reading.

  • avatar

    Oh…if only it was a drop top. A bullet proof 3800 26+ MPG a great car,and a blast to drive.

  • avatar

    I would keep it…this is a FUN car… but it sounds like you have answered your own question Mr. Lang, I believe you feel you should sell it now…

  • avatar

    I bought one last Fall, a 2002 SS. Love it. Plan to keep it forever.

  • avatar

    1. Sell the Camaro.

    2. Buy a Firebird or Trans Am.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re a man after my own heart. My salesguy at the local PBG dealer (now just BG) found a 97 TransAm in British Racing Green (or equivalent). LT-1, 4-speed auto, T tops, not bad condition for a native Michigan car (no winters). $14K.

      It wasn’t that nice.

      I think I will hold out for a Formula with a 6 speed.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Love these cars in the abstract, fear them because they are usually abused, abused, abused.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2002 Camaro, in my opinion, most closely channeled the 1970 model. I thought very seriously about finding a 2002 Camaro convertible a couple of years ago before we bought our Jeep, and again last year, but (wisely) decided on our MX5 instead. Abused? Yes. Too bad most of them seemed to want to wrap themselves around trees and telephone poles. Poor things, I miss them.

  • avatar

    I want to like these cars but I just CAN’T get past the interior. Its positivity horrid IMHO. It makes me think, “If the parts I can see look like they where literally sourced from Rubermaid, what kind of parts did they use where I can’t see.”

    Perhaps my expectations are simply out of line.

    • 0 avatar

      The gray knobs that GM used on just about every car during this time frame always made me think of styrene parts for models I built as a kid. I’ve always wondered how much of a cost difference there is between “quality” plastic and the crap that GM used. Could it really have been large enough that raising the car price to cover that quality difference would scare buyers away? I have to think not.

    • 0 avatar

      I had the same problem in 1999 when I looked at a new Trans Am. I had been jones-ing for one bigtime, ever since they upgraded the WS6 model to have those giant nostrils, it was just so “in your face” obnoxious, plus I had just gotten divorced and was going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, I wanted a toy, but I couldnt afford a Porsche or an M3. As I admired yet another black T/A driving by, my buddy said why dont you just go buy one? They arent that expensive, you’ve talked about it forever, so go for it.

      So off we headed to the Pontiac dealer, where they had a brand new dark blue WS6 with the 6-speed and leather. Good God was it fast. It also creaked and groaned as much as a well worn 1989 T/A, even though it was brand new. I couldnt see out of it either… too short… LOL. But it just felt like a total POS.

      I ended up keeping my Land Rover.

  • avatar

    It sounds like the lease would net the most cash but you’re most likely to sell it for a 70% profit. I knew that “keep” was never an option even before I got to that section.

    I lusted after these 4th gen Camaros when they debuted in the mid-90s and I had just gotten my license. Unfortunately, my socioeconomic status would never allow that lust to be consummated and I would have to vicariously live through a (much richer) classmate with a dark green over tan t-top. Seemed like a sweet car at the time and I never noticed the crappy interior.

  • avatar

    Man, these posts are informative but the lease and finance sections always makes me feel dirty just reading it since we’re talking about probably less well off people paying more than educated consumers do for brand new vehicles to drive around in cars that could be purchased for a fraction of their lease payments…just does not feel right to me.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      If it helps your “conscience,” consider that Mr. Lang’s posts, in a nice, non-self justifying way, also explain why these “less well off people pay more than educated consumers do”: they present a much higher risk of default and loss of the vehicle. Those are real costs which must be factored into the price of the “product” that Mr. Lang sells, whether that product is a lease, a rental or a financed purchase.

      Like anything else that appears to the uninitiated as the equivalent of stealing money from a baby, if it were truly that easy, everyone would be doing it.

      I recall a freshly-minted BS in finance whom I knew in my 20s who thought he was a very smart guy. He took a look at the economics of growing tomatoes in East Texas (cost of seed, labor costs for planting and harvesting, land rental, projected revenue based on sale price and yield per acre) and said, Wow! I can make some real money here.

      So, he took the plunge. Unfortunately, his calculus failed to account for “weather risk” (i.e. rain at the wrong times in the growing cycle, or lack thereof) and he lost his stake.

      For these folks who are Mr. Lang’s customers it’s not about ignorance. Most of them know there are better deals to be had from mainline dealers. But they also know that, for various reasons having to do with their personal financial situation, those deals are not available to them.

      As my oldest child continues to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles, supporting herself with a collection of part-time work, one-shot deals and so on, I remind her that her used car was financed by a mainstream lender in the easy credit days, on extremely favorable terms (almost zero down, low interest rate, 5 year term, on a Hyndai Elantra!) that definitely would not be available today. So, in order to avoid being a customer at a buy here, pay her outfit (which, admittedly, is very expensive) she needs to do one or more of (1) get a steady job, (2) save enough money to make a substantial cash payment for her next car, (3) take good care of her current car she has until conditions (1) or (2) are satisfied.

      Among other things, the subprime mortgage aspect of the recent financial crisis illustrates what happens when credit standards are excessively loose. Only, the folks in the car business like Mr. Lang, don’t have the government available to bail them out, if they take on excessive risk by lending to uncreditworthy customers.

      • 0 avatar

        I certainly know that they’re greater risks and thus get penalized for it. At the same time though it somehow bothers me that the system almost ensures that once you’re in that position you’re trapped into this cycle since now you’re paying so much that it’s more likely that you’ll default again, and you basically have a much harder time ever saving up a rainy day nestegg to stop being the poor person who’s a bad credit risk.

        But I “don’t hate the player” here, it just gnaws at me a little that someone who’s trying really hard to get a car so they can get to work and pay off their debts has the odds so stacked against them. I know people who were insanely irresponsible with credit and totally trashed their scores but their well off parents just pay for whatever they need, so it definitely sucks that your mistakes are so much more heavily penalized if you didn’t win the birth lottery.

        I also have to say that a lot of poor people really aren’t very educated financially-I’ve worked with plenty of folks who were nice enough people and hard working but just not educated or maybe smart enouh to know how to work the system. The same people who overppay at rent-a-center because they just don’t know any better. The same goes for those payday loan hotlines that charge several hundred percent interest-they’re basically preying on poor and uneducated folks and burying them further. Sometimes they’re even fairly well off in terms of income but they’re shocked when I tell Hem how much I paid for something compared to what they’ve been paying.

        Maybe some kind of peer pressure based system could be set up to give people lower rates if they’ve just had one largeish mistake before, kinda like how microloans work elsewhere.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Very good points.

        tekdemon, I covered a few of these issues in the past.

        I think you’ll enjoy the last article in particular.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s expensive to be poor.

    • 0 avatar

      People put themselves in very precarious financial situations, you can try to help but sometimes you just can’t. When I sold Fords in 2004/2005 I could have sold twice as much, if only I could get my customers financed. So many were so upside down it was ridiculous. Many times it was through no fault of their own, they were good people, you desperately wanted to help them but you just couldn’t. I had a nurse going through a divorce that was 12K upside down on a Freestar. We had to say no and she went up the road where a less scrupulous dealership financed a Taurus for 7 years on her. It was just plain dishonest and did not help her in the least.

  • avatar

    2011 Chevrolet Camaro Bumblebee is a car that is present in transformers movie autobot 3 as a car, the Autobot changing its form from their final form. 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Bumblebee that comes with a yellow color cast, and with a formidable performance.

  • avatar
    M 1

    I read this statement, “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,” and couldn’t help but think that THIS is the truth about cars.

    This article and this thread is exactly why the force-feeding of electric mediocrity-pods and anti-capitalist punishment-by-taxation should be roundly rejected by anyone sufficiently interested in cars to bother coming here regularly.

    Whether the car is even any good, or whether it strokes your e-Hippie Green-wood sensibilities is irrelevant. It’s what people in the real world want, and this is supposed to be the place where that’s reason enough. And if you find that troubling, then you’re in the wrong country.

  • avatar

    If this car spent any time in the Northeast in winter, have a good look at the brake and fuel lines – those were the things that caused me to get rid of my ’97 – the replacement costs/labor exceeded the value of the car. The exhaust system was still OK, but maybe a year or 2 remained.
    I had it for 11 years, and loved it; a sports car with a hatch! The new ones – not so much.

  • avatar

    Take the money and move on. Treat it like a chance to make a little extra cabbage for when the market turns.

    If the f-body holds a special place and you want to own one long-term, there are much better, more rare versions (30th (’97) or 35th (’02) anniversary SS or 30th (’99) or Collector Edition (’02) Trans Ams. If you want a something to have some fun with, do a Z28 or Formula (preferably with the T56 manual tranny). The T/As look better (IMO) but the price premium may not be worth it for a short fling.

  • avatar

    “The alarm system had a mind of it’s own. Spontaneously singing it’s praises…”

    it’s: contraction for “it is”
    its: possessive form of it

    +1 for consistency
    -200 for grammar
    TTAC editor also gets -400 for proofreading

    • 0 avatar

      Knowing the phrase “Go fly a kyte” has an error makes it all the more fun to say when it gets a prissy hen riled up.

      To the original question at hand. The car is fun and pulls on the emotional strings that may want you to keep it. Don’t forget that it is still an old car with no unique/collector value and there are many other cars that can provide as much emotional appeal while being reliable and repairable.

  • avatar

    Nice car, i feel your pain. I like these camaros more and more as they age. I thought of a nice ragtop at a good price, i might be dreaming…

  • avatar

    I am rather impressed with the build-quality, acceleration and apparent durability of my Kitchen-Aide food processor bought on sale at a ridiculously inexpensive price.

    As with better-quality electro-mechanical equipment (and sundry electric or gas-powered, etc. tools, equipment, etc) the beauty appears in the tight-fitting joints, the over-all feel, the smoothness of operation and other measurable variables AND emotional aspects that, together, give one that overall conclusion that the operator has a fine piece of equipment in his hands.

    Kinda like Jennifer back around 1984 or so? Sometime back then.

    Or was it 1982?

    Hey… laugh if you want. If lucky YOU may be around long enough to achieve Old Cootness and witness for thineself the effects of encroaching ancient age.

    What the heck was the discussion about?

    Dumpster dining?

    Scat!!! Get outta’ here!!! MY dumpster.

  • avatar
    N Number

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      “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?

  • avatar

    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.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • FreedMike: Hitler took Austria “without war” too. Just because the Crimea was taken with minimal force...
  • jack4x: Completely unrelated. Allison was a GM division (now spun off) that manufactured truck transmissions, they...
  • Inside Looking Out: The collapse of once proud Russian space program is another example of how well that system works.
  • MGS1995: Back, sometime in the aughts my brother had a Chevy 2500 with the 8.1 and what he called the Allison...
  • Inside Looking Out: They did it without war.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber