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2001 Toyota Solara with new motor... good buy?

I need to buy a car, cash no loan, and am not a car-person. I have found a 2001 Toyota Solara SLE being sold from a mechanics shop with 135k miles for $5500. He said the only thing that was replaced was the motor which now has 75k miles on it. Supposedly clean title, although I’d get a carfax on it. Drove well. I know Toyotas can last into 200k. Wondering if the other non-replaced items will be worrisome at 135k even though the motor is half that?

I won’t be driving it all that much, maybe 6k a year. However, I live in New Orleans and need a car that will be reliable should I have to evacuate again.

Worth buying for a person that doesn’t tinker with cars?
Thanks for your help!

It’s overpriced in my opinion and there are too many unknowns.
“New motor” is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot; often incorrectly. He states it now has 75k miles on it. Does that mean 75k since it was installed in the car? Was it a used salvage motor with 30k miles it at the time it was installed? See what I mean?

Do not put much faith into Carfax. It’s usually incomplete and often just flat wrong.

Any car can go 200k miles if not abused and maintained well. A Toyota badge does not guarantee it will go one inch further than anything else. That Toyota badge has already gotten this car a replacement motor and it’s anybody’s guess as to what shape the rest of the car is in along with the all important transmission.

If a prior owner trashed the motor at 60k miles then you should take into consideration how they treated everything else.

Good points. He said it was a salvaged engine that already had the 75k on it and replaced the old one when it was at 135k-ish miles. A friend recently purchased a Saab from him and while there were some problems found after-the-fact (radiator needed to be fully replaced) the guy has done all the work and not charged her one penny. On the one hand I’m nervous that more problems were found, especially a serious radiator one but its also good that he fixed them without charge.

I’m having terrible luck finding a decent car below $10k that hasn’t been in a wreck, hasn’t got major mechanical problems.

You need to find out why the motor was replaced so soon. If it was due to a maintenance error, like a quicky lube place forgot to put the oil plug in or it had a factory defect, then that would be a justifiable reason. If you don’t know why, then you might assume abuse or neglect which would mean that the rest of the car suffered the same thing.

Next, find out what was installed, a used motor, remanufactured motor or a brand new factory crate motor. These are listed in order of undesirable to most desirable.

If it got a factory crate motor installed under warrantee due to a factory defect in the original motor, then I would not hold this against the car, otherwise, be careful, be very careful.

The motor could also have been replaced due to an accident. Carfax is not the great indicator that it pretends to be.

I agree that this one is risky and the price too high.

You posted while I was composing. I would look around some more, this is not a good deal if you need reliability.

For $10k, there should be plenty of cars available. Look into Ford and GM models 2003 and newer, the reliability on these has been pretty good. They have been giving the Japanese makes a run for their money on reliability since then. Buicks have been doing particularly well.

ANYTHING “can last into 200k” if you treat it right - especially if you give it a new engine. Unless you know WHY it got a new engine, this price is way too high. They’re basically asking $1000 OVER blue book value for this car in excellent condition. Without knowing why the engine was replaced, I wouldn’t go over fair value, which is $3300.

This Solara came with a V6 that had abnormally high rates of engine sludging. Without other info, I’d be suspicious that the original owner neglected to change the oil frequently (no delaying) and that killed the engine… and then if they neglect the simple cheap job of oil changes, I’d question what else was neglected…

@mountainbike, didn’t know that about carfax.

@keith, 10k is super stretching it for me. i’d be more comfortable with 7k so i can accommodate TTL, changes in insurance, etc. i’ve found a couple pt cruisers but both fell through at last minute due to mechanical problems or finding out that the car wasn’t legally theirs to sell (nice, eh?). dealerships have advertised lower priced cars only to not have them upon arrival and then shown those that are twice as much. lol, i don’t remember it being this difficult. thanks for tips on ford and gm!

oh, there was also a guy i found who salvaged hondas from wrecks but that seemed like it would also be risky.

For the record, Carfax presents themselves as being a compiler and reporter of comprehensive data from some form(s) of mandatory databases. They are not. There is no such database. Carfax only has what’s reported to them, and that is very often, I’d bet usually, inaccurate and incomplete. I’d bet my paycheck that an audit of the data in their “reports” would be revealing, and I do not mean in a positive way.

If the solara passes a check out from another mechanic, it might be a good buy. Clean used cars are very expensive right now, $5500 sounds like a fair deal. As noted earlier, the V6 engines were known for engine sludge problems, so its possible thats what killed the engine.

To the OP:

About insurance - call and ask your agent what particular models would cost. A newer vehicle than what you had may not actually cost much of anything more in insurance.

When I sold my 14-year old 1997 Ford Taurus and bought a 2010 Mazda6 (end of model year), it cost me $3 more per month for insurance. That’s it. The higher insurance to cover the value of the car was offset by the fact that they have significantly lower injury claims… and the injury/liability is often the real expense for an insurance policy.