Sub 20K Miles: 1983 Chevy Cavalier


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It’s amazing to see cars that just a few years ago were nobody’s definition of valuable suddenly have more than one active bidder on an online auction site. This 1983 Chevy Cavalier wagon here on eBay has under 20,000 original miles and is approaching $3,000 in bids, but the reserve remains unmet. Still, where are you going to find a near-new first generation Cavalier wagon? 


When a car practically achieves throwaway status when new, it’s hard to remain optimistic one will survive in spectacular condition. Perhaps that’s why there’s some decent attention in the specimen. It’s either that or people are getting nostalgic about the car they took their driver’s ed classes in. Those vinyl and cloth surfaces look practically new, so I’d say this car has been garaged all of its life while getting very little use.


When the alternator still looks brand new and the lettering atop the air cleaner remains fresh and bright with color, you know you have a creampuff on hand. The question is, if the creampuff is of an otherwise uninspiring vehicle, do you still want to own it? Or even look forward to driving it? When I ask myself that question, I realize it’s fairly subjective. Lots of folks would find my project cars uninteresting to drive, so if you’re a fan of domestic economy boxes, you may be content just knowing you’re driving the best example on the road.


This one was well-equipped when new, with an automatic, mudflaps and pop-up sunroof (that may or may not have been dealer installed). Given this is another Florida vehicle, I’m guessing the odds are good it was owned by retirees at one point in time; now, it’s onto its next life as a cherished example of one of America’s most well-know entry level vehicles. Would you treat it to a spot in your garage, or is this one as undesirable as the others that have gone before it?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. piper62j

    Nice.. Real nice.. I remember working on these when they were in production.. This is a great little wagon for every day use.. Great find.. Very nice vehicle..

    Appears to be original.. Nice an clean with straight body lines and sharp interior.. Simple..

    Like 1
    • James

      I know I’m years late on this thread, but this model and this color were my first ever straight-from-the-dealer purchase. Lovely car, 160k when I sold it with only an alternator replacement as my big maintenance cost, and I’d buy another one today. I don’t know why small wagons disappeared. Could carry a lot of stuff and still drive like a car.

      Like 2
  2. Charles

    Wow that’s clean!

    I had a four door sedan that I drove the wheels off of as a home health nurse. It was a cheap little car that ran like a clock. No complaints. GM got those right.

    Like 1
  3. redwagon

    was looking to buy one of these back in the day but it was the first year they no longer offered a manual. deal breaker for me i went with a 2wd honda civic wagon instead. say what you will about reliability and build quality but the greenhouse on these is just lovely – you can see all the way around with ease.

    Like 0
  4. Paul Hudson

    Nice little car. I’m a Ford guy but think this is one of the better GM Products. We need more small wagons again. It’s nice to see the roll up windows too. This would be a perfect car to use sparingly to make runs to the hardware store or garden center. You could drive it several thousand miles a year and still keep it nice. I imagine it can get 30 MPG pretty easily too.

    Like 3
  5. jim s

    very nice looking car that would make a nice driver if the reserve is not to high. not sure that is a factory sunroof. great find

    Like 0
  6. Rando

    I *almost* like it. I could see it hauling my son’s drum kit or guitars and amps, or piano and small PA in it. I could see HIM driving it and not getting in over his head too much. Would look better with fancier wheels though. And the colors are definitely uninspiring. But about $1000 – $1500 .

    Like 0
    • dave

      You forgot another zero

      Like 0
  7. rmward194Member

    I worked at a Chevy store back in the day and this was the most popular color on just about every vehicle. That’s definitely not a factory sunroof, I don’t believe that was an option. Clean car. It will be interesting to see what it goes for if it meets the reserve.

    Like 0
  8. edh

    I’d go $1500 tops, and I like it a lot.

    Like 0
  9. Eric

    I’ll take it I need some new wheels

    Like 0
  10. Fred

    We consider these “disposable junk” because it’s been 30 years since we’ve seen a nice one like this!

    Like 0
  11. Hoos

    I had the Olds version of this wagon in this color back in the day. It was a great little car. It was our “second car” right up until “we” became just me. She wanted it not because of it’s wonderfulness, but because it had no payments.
    Oh well……..It was a great car.

    Like 0
  12. Karo

    It doesn’t have A/C and the sunroof is aftermarket, not factory. It might be very clean, but it’s not a very good example to begin with.

    Like 0
    • JeffAuthor

      I don’t know, Karo…find me a better one? I doubt it. The sunroof is a shame, but lots of 80s cars had ’em.

      Like 0
  13. Gary Oliver

    I still have my 1993 Cavalier. It is going on 227,000 miles and doesn’t burn oil or have any major problems throughout the years. Paint is looking bad and plastic parts like shift bushings, heater core tubes, fuel injector are brittle and cracked. Otherwise it consistently gets 35 mpg. Would recommend buying this wagon.

    Like 1
    • JeffAuthor

      They were solid cars, Gary. I’d like a clean Z24 from the generation between this car and yours.

      Like 0
  14. wera9666

    My friends that had these and most motors lunched between 60-80k. I took care of mine and sold it running perfect at around 150k. $3k though? Not for me thanks.

    Like 0
  15. Joe

    I agree with the consensus here. These Cavaliers WERE good little cars….Reliable, comfortable, and tough. And they actually had a pretty good radio for back in the day! Drove one as a pizza delivery guy back in the 80s when I was a teenager. The store owned it…and I couldn’t kill it. (I tried, I was a dumb kid back then lol)

    Like 0
  16. piper62j

    I bought a new 87 Cavalier 4dr and put 293k miles on it as an insurance adjuster.. Put a Maaco scuff and shoot overall on, sold it and it went another 30k miles with the new owners before it rotted apart. I still think these are / were great cars..

    Like 0
  17. Pinesebrine

    You would expect this to be listed on a common used car forum not here. There is nothing remotely interesting about this car. I remember driving around this as a teen. They were slow, and embodied everything mediocre about the big three in the 80s.

    Like 0
  18. ChebbyMember

    Ugh…you can see how cheaply made it is just by looking at the glovebox door: it’s a different shade of turd, the fit is poor, the latch hasn’t returned to full stop. This car must have been kept in the dark because those interior plastics turn to chalk in the sun.

    Growing up, my family had a 1980 Citation, and my grandma had a 1984 Chevette in exactly these colors. These are terrible, terrible cars and just because one example has survived doesn’t change that. If you disagree with me, consider what Honda and Toyota were building in 1983.

    Like 0
    • JohnM

      So, did your family ever have a Caviler? Or just other Chevy products in the same color? The Chevette and Citation were turds for sure, but Chevy corrected many of the flaws of those cars in the Cavilier. I owned all of them, along with many many Japenese cars of the same era. The Cavilier held its own against comperable Hondas and Toyotas, and, as an added bonus, didn’t turn to dust after 5-7 years.

      You’re too young to understand, but I guarantee you an 83 Cavilier with a stick shift and the z24 package was just as much fun to drive as an 83 Accord stick shift with the LX package–and arguably as reliable and without a doubt way more rust proof.

      Like 0
  19. Jay

    We had a 1985 coupe. It was a good car. We took it on our honeymoon and put our first daughter in it. Traded it in for a 1993 Plymouth Voyager, our first brand new car.

    Like 0
  20. Ron (Florida)

    I love these little cars, nothing but good memories of them. I’m from the area where they were made in Ohio and my grandpa hauled them out of Lordstown as a truck driver for years. My parents owned a few, as did almost everyone I knew at some point. I learned how to drive in a Cavalier, my first car was an ’86 Z24, and I had an ’02 sedan in college. This car is in amazing condition and is as my new Altima. I would actually like to have a Cavalier again as not a collector car, but an extra car, I’d just rather have a Z24 though, preferably like my first, but that’s not an easy find.

    Like 0
  21. Charles

    Any car that will hold up to the rigors of home health nursing has to be tough. The fit and finish was poor and the car looked cheap. Nothing on the interior matched even when it was new. Mechanically however the car was bullet proof. At 100K the starter failed, and that was the only time that the car broke down. The car was still going strong at 200K when it was replaced with a Volvo.

    Several patients lived on plantations in South Georgia and North Florida. If one worked most of their life on a plantation the plantation owner let them live in one of the worker’s houses for the rest of their lives after retirement. One elderly couple lived in such a house. The house was remote and could be accessed by a trail, or through the creek bed. There was no road or driveway. Their house had no electricity and water was from a dug well with a hand pump. The Cavalier made it through the creek bed every day up to the house. I ran a 120 volt IV pump from an inverter connected to the Cavalier’s battery for a daily IV antibiotic infusion that took 30 minutes to infuse. I am sure that GM never intended that their car be used in such a fashion, but the little car did fine and always went anywhere I needed it to go. Lots of dirt roads. It was a tough life for any car.

    I have never been a fan of small American made cars because it seemed that in the 70’s and 80’s only the Europeans and the Japanese could build a decent small car. The Cavalier changed my mind about small GM cars. It was made cheap to keep the retail price low, however the cars were engineered well and did well for what they were designed for.

    Like 0
  22. Ken

    Worked for a gov’t department,bet had a 100 of em on the road…idled all day for the A/C … on 4 lane hwys and gravel backroads ,deep snow in winter … no one ever check oil,not our job, just gassed em up drove crap out of and could not kill … only brake replacements often and body rust from minor dings and scrapes.
    When miles got too high replaced with newer ones.
    Had Toyota Corollas in fleet too… they could not take the pounding and were phased out, don’t think a one made it past 60,000 miles, either in shop for expensive repairs or were 2nd choice to take.
    Dollar for dollar to acquire and running cost the Chevy was best hands down.
    At $1500 I’d luv that lil wagon and live the Heartbeat of America.

    Like 1
  23. 427vette

    These old wagons are complete nerdmobiles, but you gotta love ’em. I bought this 94 Ciera Cruiser with 70K miles and the 3100 V6 from Copart last year for $300. Replaced the header panel/headlight, banged out the fender, and now drive it all over town every day loaded with car parts. My friends laugh at me and my kids love it because they have never seen anything like it. Like the other guys said, they are pretty indestructable and I plan on getting many more years of use out of it.

    Like 0
    • JeffAuthor

      That is probably the most stunning picture of a Cierra I have ever seen. If it weren’t for the trailer, it could be brochure quality!

      Like 0
  24. Ed P

    The company I worked for used Cavaliers as their fleet sedan. There must have been thousands of them. They took a beating and kept on ticking, as they say. These cars remained on the roster for 10 years each per standard practice. At the end, they did not look like much, but they were still running.

    Like 0
  25. Barry T

    I miss small wagons like this and wouldn’t be nice if they still built cars the driver could see out of, not like so many are today.

    Like 0
  26. piper62j

    I agree Barry.. Todays’ cars make me feel like I’m driving a cocoon.. “A” pillars are too large and roof lines too low.

    Like 0
  27. Joseph Conner

    Click on the link to ebay and read it’s history. It’s not a Florida vehicle. It’s spent most of it’s life in Northeastern Ohio. Up until 2014. Do some research before blabbing away on something you’ve clearly done no research on. Jerk off!

    Like 0
    • Gary Oliver

      I’m a Michigan resident in the summer and spend my winters in San Diego. Does that mean the 3 cars sitting in my garage in Michigan are not good cars? They have never been driven in the salt or sat out in the elements. Furthermore, why are you calling the people on this site jerk offs?

      Like 0
    • Ed P

      Can we remain civil, please?

      Like 0
  28. charlieMember

    Had an ’81 Cimarron, paid $2000 for it in ’89, went around the teenagers in the family, went well over 200,000 miles, steering rack went, otherwise repairs were minor, paint worn through from teenage polishing and waxing in several places, but maintained it, changed oil religiously, a great city car, and just fine on the road at 75 mph, you could drive this wagon all you wanted.

    Like 0
  29. ToniM

    My dad had an 84. His was two-tone brown with a darker shade on the bottom (more the color of the interior plastic) and this same lighter shade on top. The interior looked exactly like this one. I DID learn to drive and got my license on that car and pretty much shared it with him until I got my own car after high school. He continued to drive that car until it died. Had it for 10 years. Never gave him any problems. I bet if you asked him he still misses that car. He’s a wagon guy. He replaced this one with a gray wagon–that one was a Celebrity I think. When that died, he found a Buick Century wagon and drove that until it’s demise. By this time these were old cars but he kept buying them because he wanted a wagon, not an SUV or a minivan. He looked at getting a Subaru, the only company pretty much that was making wagons, a few years ago, but he just didn’t care for them. He finally gave up and got a crossover. I never understood all the hate on these cars. It was a good, solid, reliable car, not bad to drive, and as someone who isn’t into wagons, I actually found it more attractive than most. I had to drive this thing as a teenager and didn’t feel like I got stuck with the Bradymobile.

    Like 0
  30. Darrin

    Had an 83 coupe 4 speed no ac in fern gray. Original motor blew up at 194,000 miles. I had a new motor installed but the shop did a bad job. I drove it another 40,000 miles and sold it for $800 in 1995. I paid $3250 for it in 1986. It had 48.000 miles then.

    Like 0
  31. Al_Bundy Al_BundyMember

    Missed a few comments along the way. So many opinions about the Cavalier. Crazy that it gets to this point with so many commenting about a base production car as a POS.

    Never had a drive ability issue with it… 1991 graduation present to my wife from her aunt. Bought new off the lot with the option list of….3 speed automatic, AM/FM radio ! Drove it on our honeymoon in ’94. Back then, we never thought of not having A/C as an issue at all. Ended up trading in on an 89 Mustang 5.0 LX we still have.

    My family had and ’85 Cavalier Wagon, Hers had an 89 sedan when we met. What a match !

    Like 0

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