Buying a Used Chevrolet Spark – What You Really Need to Know

  • By: Sean Cooper

The Chevrolet Spark is already one of the cheapest new cars you can buy in America, which means a used Chevrolet Spark could be an absolute bargain as a first car for a new driver or as a second or even third car in a busy household. You need to know what you’re getting into when you’re buying any used car and a used Chevy Spark is no exception. So, let’s take a look at what you really need to know when buying a used Chevrolet Spark.

2021 Chevrolet Spark LS

What type of car is the Chevrolet Spark?

The Chevrolet Spark is a subcompact five-door hatchback city car that’s simple, straightforward, unassuming and very, very cheap. It’s one of the cheapest ways in America to get a brand-new car with a full manufacturer’s warranty, so it also presents an excellent opportunity for buyers to get a late-model used car at an extremely affordable price.

For example, the 2021 Chevrolet Spark MSRP started from just $13,600 for a base LS manual, so you can imagine how cheap a used Spark will that’s a few years old and out of warranty, can’t you?

You’d probably shop the Chevy Spark against the likes of the Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, and the Toyota Yaris, but all of them cost at least $3,000 more than the little Chevy when they were new.

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Chevrolet Spark history

Although rivals like the Yaris are no longer sold new in America, the Chevrolet Spark is still going strong after four generations and almost a quarter of a century in production. It actually started life off as the Daewoo Matiz, but the car didn’t make it to America until the 2013 model year.

There was even a limited-production all-electric version called the Chevrolet Spark EV sold in the U.S. in selected markets in California and Oregon in June 2013, which at the time was the first all-electric passenger car General Motors had produced since the demise of the old EV1 back in 1999.

As far as the U.S market is concerned then, the Chevrolet Spark has only been sold new in its third and now fourth-generation forms since the 2013 model year.

Before you even think about parting with your hard-earned money for any used car, please make sure you know what you’re buying by getting a vehicle history report you can trust like one from EpicVIN. If you’re buying from a dealer they should provide one, but if they don’t, get your own here and it could save you a fortune in the long run.

Third-generation Chevrolet Spark (2013-2015)

2013 Chevrolet Spark

The third generation of the Spark actually went into production in South Korea in 2009 as the Daewoo Matiz. By the time it went on sale in America as the Spark in early 2012 as a 2013 model year, the Chevy city car was already well-established and any early teething problems would have been sorted before U.S. consumers got their hands on it.

Although it was available elsewhere in a four-door sedan form, the American Chevy Spark has always been a five-door hatch designed to be cheap, cheerful and aimed at first-time buyers who were more concerned about their smartphone than what they were driving.

At just 12-foot-1-inch long, the Spark is three-foot shorter than the Chevrolet Cruze that I’ve also written a used buying guide to here. If you’re reading this you are probably someone who doesn’t dislike the hatchback body style, but I’ve also written recently about why hatchbacks are not popular in America. Despite such diminutive proportions, the Spark doesn’t necessarily look as small as it is until you see it parked next to something like an SUV.

A small, cheap and economical car is obviously going to have an appropriate engine under the hood, and in the case of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, it’s a 1.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec that produces a modest 84 horsepower and 83 lb.-ft. of torque. That appropriately tepid power is then sent to the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission, but plenty of used Chevrolet Spark models you’ll come across on lots will have been upgraded with the optional four-speed automatic.

You should be able to get something close to the EPA fuel economy ratings for the Spark with a manual transmission of 32 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 34 mpg combined. That’s as good as any of its rivals, but not quite as good as some bigger compact sedans due to the Spark’s questionable aerodynamics.

If your preference is for an automatic instead, a lack of gears see those numbers drop a little to 28 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined.

Fourth-generation Chevrolet Spark (2016-2022)

Unveiled to the public at the New York International Auto Show in April 2015, the fourth-generation Chevrolet Spark went on sale in the fourth quarter of that year as a 2016 model. This was a considerable upgrade on its predecessor in terms of its aesthetics, and it even benefitted from a power uplift too.

Under the hood of the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Spark was a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that put out 98 horsepower and 94 lb.-ft. of torque, which goes to the front wheels once again through a standard five-speed manual transmission. The alternative transmission is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which unlike the previous model’s four-speed automatic, actually delivers better fuel economy than the manual.

Manual versions are rated at 30 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway and 34 mpg combined, but CVT models improve on that slightly with 31 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway and 35 mpg combined.

These fourth-generation models are available in LS, 1LT and 2LT trim levels, but an ACTIV trim level was added for the 2017 Chevrolet Spark. The Spark ACTIV was based on the 1LT but featured unique exterior styling cues, interior accent trim panels, unique alloy wheels with dark gray-painted accents, and roof rails as part of its standard specification.

To be honest, the ACTIV trim level additions don’t make a huge amount of difference to the look unless you get one in colors that show the extras off at their best, such as black.

2013 Chevrolet Spark

Are Chevrolet Sparks reliable?

According to RepairPal, the Chevrolet Spark gets an Above Average reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5 and it ranks 10th out of 21 for subcompact cars, which means it’s classed as Excellent for reliability. With an average annual repair cost of $434 and a low frequency of repairs that are usually of average severity, a used Chevy Spark is regarded as excellent when it comes to the cost of ownership. For reference, the average annual repair cost for the subcompact car class is $652.

What problems do Chevy Sparks have?

There are no significant problems to watch out for when buying a used Chevrolet Spark, but the most frequent complaints listed by the carproblemzoo.com website include issues with the engine and cooling systems, powertrains, and the electrical system.

The graphs on the site could look a little alarming at first, but the increased frequency of problems as you go further back through the model years are only because older cars have been around longer.

What Chevrolet Spark model years should you avoid?

The 2013 and 2014 model years are the ones to avoid with the Chevrolet Spark as they had significantly more problems reported during their first year on the road than any other year, once again, according to carproblemzoo.com. However, RepairPal reports no significant issues with the Chevy Spark for any model year so it looks like Chevy really got its act together with the Spark.

Why is the Chevy Spark so cheap?

If you were to compare the Chevrolet Spark with a Nissan Versa or Honda Fit you’d soon see why the Chevy is much cheaper, and that’s because the materials used are of pretty low quality and will inevitably have deteriorated over time more than those in other more expensive cars.

How much should you pay for a used Chevy Spark?

If you assume you’re going to be able to get a used 2013 Chevrolet Spark in anything like decent condition for $1,500 or so then think again. Because the Spark is so cheap to begin with, once it’s gone through the first few years of depreciation and the warranty has run out they don’t continue to drop in price as steeply as you might expect.

I just did a quick search on Autotrader and apart from a totaled one selling for spares or repair, the cheapest one I could find was a 2013 Spark LT that had done 116,000 miles selling for $3,795.

Here’s a chart showing the average minimum and maximum prices you can expect to pay for all used Chevrolet Spark model years from 2013 onwards.

Model YearAverage Minimum Used PriceAverage Maximum Used Price
2013$3,495$14,998
2014$3,795$15,150
2015$4,500$15,999
2016$8,977$16,998
2017$9,000$19,900
2018$10,992$19,595
2019$11,600$21,698
2020$13,898$22,995
2021$13,995$22,998

To give you an idea of how affordable a used Chevy Spark is compared to its rivals, here’s a chart comparing a used 2016 Chevy Spark against rivals of the same age and mileage.

ModelAverage Min PriceAverage Max Price
2016 Chevy Spark LS$9,950$15,999
2016 Toyota Yaris L$12,499$15,952
2016 Nissan Versa SV$6,990$15,990
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage ES$7,995$14,990
2016 Ford Fiesta$7,500$13,990
2016 Honda Fit$10,990$12,995

How many miles is a Chevy Spark good for?

Studying all the used Chevy Spark models for sale at the moment reveals those with the highest mileage have usually done between 140,000 to 160,000 miles, so it’s probably fair to say that 200,000 miles shouldn’t be too much to hope for as far as how many miles the Spark is good for. Of course, if one has been particularly well maintained it could last for considerably longer, but I wouldn’t spend $4,000 on a used Spark that’s done more than 150,000 miles.

2017 Chevrolet Spark ACTIV

Is the Chevrolet Spark being discontinued?

Production of the Chevrolet Spark was scheduled to come to an end in August 2022 because Chevrolet, like most automakers, is going to concentrate manufacturing resources on bigger-selling and more profitable SUVs.

Chevrolet spokesman, Kevin Kelly, told Automotive News on February 3rd 2022, “The Spark is being produced through August 2022, then it will be phased out of Chevrolet’s product lineup. Customers seeking comfort, function and style at an approachable price still have strong options within Chevrolet’s family of compact SUVs.”

Chevrolet Spark EV

If you fancy something small and staggeringly economical to run, then keep an eye open for a used Spark EV. These were produced as a limited production run between 2013 and 2016, but you’ll probably have quite a task on your hands to find one for sale.

The problem with finding a used Spark EV is they were only produced as a compliance car to meet a US government mandate for manufacturers to increase the penetration of electric vehicles into the fleet of all operating vehicles on the road in certain US states.

The car was never intended for the retail mass market and wasn’t produced in anything like large enough numbers to meet the demand there would have been for it if it had been put on general sale.

Spark EV production came to an end in December 2016, and that’s because Chevrolet had started selling the Bolt by that point and the Bolt had a much longer range than the 82 miles offered by the Spark EV.

A Chevrolet Spark EV

Should you buy a used Chevrolet Spark?

If you’re looking for a cheap way of getting around and a car that you won’t cry over too much if it gets a few bumps and scrapes along the way, then a used Chevrolet Spark is probably a good idea. In fact, manual versions can even be fun to drive, but only if you drive it like you stole it.

As a second or third car in a busy household or as a cheap first car for a new driver, a used Chevy Spark is cheap, cheerful and perfect for the job as long as you don’t have expectations that are too high.

Before you even think about parting with your hard-earned money for any used car, please make sure you know what you’re buying by getting a vehicle history report you can trust like one from EpicVIN. If you’re buying from a dealer they should provide one, but if they don’t, get your own here and it could save you a fortune in the long run.