I test drove the car today, then had it checked out by a mechanic.
Before I took it to the mechanic, I put the scanner on it and there were no DTCs that came up at all. There was no smoke or unusual smells from the exhaust, it shifted fine, and the engine sounded fine. I did notice that the oil was above the “full” mark, but it did not look like it was mixed with coolant.
According to the shop that checked it out, the main issues are that the valve cover gasket is leaking, it needs a rear motor mount, and it needs both rear struts and strut mounts. The repair cost that they quickly estimated was $800.00. I assume that these are parts that wear out with high mileage and age.
Being that the asking price of the car at $1,600.00 was only slightly below KBB “Good” private party value, I let the seller know of the repairs that needed to be done, and that I couldn’t buy it as-is at their asking price.
They said that they have a mechanic friend who can fix it for them for much less, and that they’ll let me know when it’s done. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll follow through, but if they do call me back, I’ll have to check each part to make sure they actually did it. The rear struts will not be hard to check, but the valve cover gaskets and motor mount might be more of a challenge.
It is pretty interesting (and frustrating) how many details people leave out when selling their cars.
It seems to be mostly dealers who sell on cars.com, so there’s not much besides complete junk in my price range.
As far as the mileage of the cars that are listed there, most people probably think that there aren’t many people who will want to buy a car with that high of mileage, so they just keep the car, trade it in, or give it to a relative. There is someone in my area on another site selling a 1999 Avalon with 504,000 miles.