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A white 2016 Chevy Malibu is shown driving on a highway to check out used car sales.

The Used Car Buyer’s Guide to the Chevrolet Malibu

When you’re looking into buying a new car, it’s easy to find out everything there is to know, given how automakers post all of the details about their new releases prominently on their websites. But when you’re looking into the world of used car sales, it can get a little more complicated. Models change from year to year—gaining new features, dropping old ones, and updating to adapt to changing styles and tastes—so if you’re interested in getting a used Chevy Malibu, it might not be readily apparent which model year is right for you.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at a few different factors that have changed significantly over the years. From technology to exterior style, these aspects differ wildly from one model year to the next—or even from trim to trim within a single model year. While we won’t be able to get into the weeds with every last detail, this guide should give you a good idea of what to expect when looking for a used Malibu.


The Malibu has long been a stylish car, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much while browsing at the used car lot. While the exterior isn’t flashy like its siblings, the Camaro and Corvette, the Malibu looks sleek and timeless and has for many years. Of course, if you’re looking for a more modern look, a more recent model will naturally be best; however, if you prefer a more retro styling, you can get the look you prefer and save a bit more by opting for an older model.

A generational refresh for the 2013 model year brought a body shape that’s both good-looking and practical, with aerodynamics that boost fuel economy and lower wind noise for a smooth and quiet ride. The 2016 model year launched another new generation that saw a complete redesign which especially transformed the front end with a more modern grille and slimmer headlights. The 2019 Malibu also saw a restyling in a mid-cycle refresh, changing up the design of the bumpers in addition to tweaks to the grille and exterior lights.

The Malibu has also been available in a variety of special editions throughout the years. For instance, the Sport Edition adds a series of black accents to the Malibu’s exterior, while the Redline Edition pairs some black accents with bold splashes of red, each giving the Malibu a unique look.

Hybrid Powertrain

If fuel economy is a big priority for you, then you may be interested to know about the Malibu’s hybrid powertrain, which debuted for the 2016 model year. A 2016 Malibu with the base engine gets 30 MPG city/highway combined, which is already better than the average 2023 vehicle, which only gets 28 MPG, according to the EPA.

But the 2016 Malibu Hybrid does even better than the base engine, offering 46 MPG city/highway combined and a range of about 598 miles on a full tank. Unfortunately for hybrid-loving Chevy fans, the hybrid option was dropped for the Malibu’s 2020 model year, so if you’re looking for optimal fuel efficiency, you’ll want to narrow your search to the 2016-2019 Malibus and keep an eye out for that hybrid label.

A black 2023 Chevy Malibu RS is shown parked on pavement.

Trim Levels

When the ninth generation Malibu debuted in 2016, it was available in five trim levels: L, LS, LT, Hybrid, and Premier. The L trim is the most basic and affordable; the Premier is the most luxurious, with plenty of extra features that make it worth its higher price tag; and the others fell between, allowing drivers to find the right balance between their needs and their budget. For the 2019 model year, a mid-level RS trim was added, providing a sweet spot right in the middle. The 2020 Malibu had dropped the Hybrid trim from its lineup, returning to five options.

For the 2022 model year, the base L trim was dropped from the lineup. This move made more features standard across the board despite eliminating the most affordable option from the picture. The opposite happened for the 2023 model year, where the top-level Premier trim was dropped; however, this top-tier trim was essentially replaced by the 2LT trim.


In the 2016 model year, the LS trim and above came standard with USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Safety tech like a rearview camera and stability control was standard across the Malibu lineup. Connectivity features like a 4G LTE onboard Wi-Fi hotspot were also available on the 2016 Malibu, so you can go pretty far back in the Malibu timeline and still get plenty of modern tech.

Fast forward to the 2019 model year, and every Malibu—including the base L trim—comes with infotainment staples like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a large 8.0-inch touchscreen interface. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto went wireless for the 2021 Malibu, allowing drivers to hook up their smartphones to the car’s interface without the need to plug in via a USB cable.

When it comes to safety tech, the Malibu has had a variety of available driver assistance features since as far back as the 2016 model year. If you’re looking for popular features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, forward-collision alert, and rear cross-traffic alert, then you ought to be able to find them on any ninth-generation Malibu. However, you’ll want to check for these on a model-by-model basis, as their presence can vary from trim to trim or even from model to model since they’ve long been available as additional add-ons.

If you’re a parent looking to use a used Malibu to help teach your teenager how to drive, you should keep an eye out for the Teen Driver feature. This makes it easy to monitor your fledgling driver’s progress and help them develop good habits. In addition to providing an in-vehicle report card that you can check once they get home, you can also disable certain features (like the maximum possible volume level) and make other features locked in the “on” position (like driver assistance features that can help them form good habits). If you’re going to be sharing the car with your teen, you can link the Teen Driver setting to a particular key fob, making it easy to switch back and forth without leaving the Teen Driver feature active while you or another adult are behind the wheel.

The tan interior and dash of a 2020 Chevy Malibu is shown.

Some Final Thoughts

The Malibu is a well-rounded car with a lot to offer. While a new model will come with all the latest features, you can still get a great used model if you know what to look for. Not only have popular features like Apple CarPlay been around for a while now, but there are some things—like a hybrid powertrain—that you can only find on the used market. And, of course, a used Malibu will almost certainly be significantly more affordable than a new one.

If some of your must-have features are only available on certain trim levels or model years, it can be easy to narrow down your search; many dealerships these days allow you to look at their inventory online, and most give you the option to filter by make, model, year, engine type, infotainment, safety features, etcetera. If the dealership you’re working with doesn’t have what you’re looking for in stock, you can always reach out and see if it’s something that they might get in soon or be able to trade with another dealer for. Armed with the right information, shopping for a used car can be simple and stress-free.