1996 Geo Tracker




Speedo bearing noise.

Coolant temp sender.

Front exhaust pipe leak.

Minor plastic trim parts breakage.

One manual hub clutch adrift (previous lack of maintenance).

Day/night mirror no longer switches.

Original rear shocks are partly wasted away, but still working after 8 years.

Driver's seatback latch required overhaul.

Concealed rust-through atop both front wheelwells (easily fixed).

General Comments:

I had long heard that they are hard riding & easily rolled over, but both have proven untrue.

I have the factory manuals & it's a fairly high-maintenance vehicle when correctly cared for. But it is easy to work on for the self-sufficient. The Haynes manual is almost useless for this model. It is as electrically & mechnically complex as any other '96 passenger vehicle & the factory manual is a must-have if you don't rely on a dealer shop.

27mpg in rural errands & 30+ on trips.

Using about 1/2 qt oil between changes. Oil filler is inconveniently rearward & requires a funnel.

Outstanding offroad performance due to short wheelbase, a real ladder frame, high entry/exit angles, agility, light weight & good balance. My fullsize 4WD Chevy truck is useless offroad or in snow compared to this vehicle. However, driving on frozen half-plowed snow-tracked roads can be a little hairy with the short wheelbase & narrower track width.

Almost no front-end bolt-on accessories are available to fit the '96 such as brushguards, etc., and some advertised as fitting it don't due to its redesigned bumper mount configuration. At present only one overpriced front double-tube replacement bumper is available, and no winch mount in sight.

Similarly, only one expensive cargo carrier is available and though it fits with the convertible, the top cannot be operated with it installed (though the famous vendor won't tell you this).

Lots of fun to drive, though buzzy enough to seem like it's in 4th gear when in 5th. Requires extra attentiveness due to short wheelbase & fast steering response; rubbernecking in this vehicle may put you in a ditch.

Noise level is very good for a bare-bones convertible. There is minimal top flap & a normal conversation is possible at highway speeds.

Manual transmission shifts balky when cold, and feels like a broomstick in a bathtub - exactly like a '70's Alfa Romeo sedan.

Thin & flat-paneled sheetmetal is easily dinged. But the paint is high quality & still looks like new when machine-polished.

These should be carefully inspected for rust on the frame and at the rocker boxes in salt country. Mine has some frame wasting, but plenty of good metal left. Many I looked at had wasted rocker boxes disguised by the vinyl trim.

The rocker area is structurally weak and aftermarket rock rails are a good idea. They do not lessen ground clearance because they are still higher than the frame. I wouldn't want to accidentally hump it over a driveway snowbank or a trail rock without them.

Maximum tire size without any rubbing or modification & the stock wheels is 225/75/15. It is possible to get about another 2" frame lift with just these and inexpensive spring spacers. I wouldn't want any body lift on it for everyday safe driving.

No water leaks of any kind with the still-original top. Having the rear window zipper accessible from the outside instead of inside is stupid for security, but great when you lock yourself out. Lowering the whole top is a more complex hassle for one person than most convertibles, but using only the sunroof feature is quick & easy.

Rain pours off the front corner of the top into an opened front window or door, needs aftermarket ventshields, also overpriced.

Almost no practical interior storage space, which requires some ingenuity to live with. Your cell phone may have to live in the ashtray & your cigarettes will hog one of the 2 cupholders. A mobile radio installation would be a real challenge or impractical.

Very good AM/FM/cassette as stock radios go.

Visor is too short to block oncoming sun unless you are tall.

Spare & 3rd stoplight obstruct rear vision & make backing up a daring experience.

Tailgate has no means to hold it open in a breeze or parked downsloped. Reaching past the first foot of cargo area (seat folded) with the rear window in place requires minor gymnastics. But it is much easier for carrying groceries than a pickup.

I wouldn't have bought it at its original new price, but for the $3,000+ it now goes for it's the best overall value I've ever owned. I am very happy with it. It is an ideal & economical compromise between a ragtop roadster & a serious 4WD that is very cute & capable. It's drivetrain components are small & light enough for one person to easily remove or work on. If anything happened to it, I'd cry & pray I could find another one in as great condition. It took me 3 years to find this one. Most high-mileage trade-ins are shipped to South America by auction buyers where it is the "Jeep of the 3rd world." I feel that Chevy lost the picture when they redesigned it in '99 as an expensive jellybean.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 13th October, 2004

14th Jul 2005, 15:26

Thanks for this very comprehensive survey. All others I've read so far touch on the obvious advantages and disadvantages, but this one is very in-depth; you o0bviously care enough about this vehicle to write about it so well. Thanks.

23rd Jul 2008, 18:47

I agree!

2nd Dec 2008, 17:20

I also agree! Great little trucks!

3rd Dec 2009, 12:27

I was wondering if any one could tell me where to find a Factory Manual? I need to pull the motor in mine, and put a new one in, and then rebuild the original... if it can be salvaged. I have both the Chilton, and Haynes manuals but they are both very vague, and not really usefull at all. You can contact me at the following e-mail address: garthmattjr@yahoo.com and my name is Garth. Thank you!

26th Dec 2009, 15:57

Very extensive review. Thank you for the insight.

1996 Geo Tracker


I think this car is worth the money I invested


I had to replace the battery once.

My heater went on the blink at 120K.

I replaced the timing belt as suggested (85k+) in the manual---nothing was wrong with it.

The convertible soft top is finally showing serious signs of threads fraying at 139K.

General Comments:

I cannot believe how long this car has lasted. I have the oil changed religiously (every 2K).

I still think this is the cutest SUV out there---other than its big brother the Land rover.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 17th August, 2004