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2002 Toyota Corolla

My daughter is looking at a 2002 Toyota Corolla to purchase. The car has 78,000 miles on it and they’re asking $3300. There is some hail damage on the hood, thus the lower price, I think. I’ve owned 2 Toyotas, a Corolla and a Camry, both of them 1998’s and they’ve been wonderful cars. Are the 2002 models as good as the older ones? Are there problems I should be aware of with the 2002 models? What should I ask/look for when looking at the car with my daughter?

They’re typically great cars, but at 12 years old a lot depends on the maintenance and condition. I’d get a Carfax, if anything shows up besides the hail damage I’d pass. If that is OK, then I’d pay $100 or so for a mechanic to do a ‘pre purchase inspection’ to see if there are any significant problems. $3,300 is OK, maybe a little high, according to Edmunds.

If you buy the car, ask a paintless dent guy what he can do with the hood. You might be surprised

A friend of mine has a 2004 Corolla and it has performed flawlessly for the past 9 years, w/only routine maintenance suggested in the owner’s manual, except for one wheel bearing that started making noises and needed replacement. For specific reliable rating of the 2002, you could look it up in the “Consumer Reports Guide to Used Cars”. I expect you’ll find it has good ratings compared to other cars of this vintage. Sometimes a car rates well, except that maybe one option has shown problems, so that’s useful info if the car you want to buy has or doesn’t have that option. One further data point is how the 2002 hold up in price. So look at Kelly Blue book, compare the price of the 2002 Corolla to the 2002 VW Golf, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, etc … those all cost about the same new, so if one, now as a used car, is much less expensive than all the others, that means the buying public are aware of a problem with that car. It would probably make sense to pay a rusted mechanic (or a trusted mechanic … lol …) $100 or so to give it the once over and issue you a report of its condition of course before buying it.

Unfortunately, CR only goes back 10 model years

And the 2003 Corolla, the oldest one that CR would rate, is the next generation Corolla, vs OP’s car

Corolla’s of that generation had an issue with piston design that could lead to excessive oil consumption if oil changes weren’t kept up.
Look in and around the tailpipe. If it’s real sooty or even oily it’s an oil burner.

Just found a back copy (2008) of Consumer Reports. The 2002 Toyota Corolla has a “better than average” or “much better than average” for all areas, except brakes, which are “average”. In other words, as bullet-proof as you can get. The overall rating is “much better than average”.

Other compacts rated for 2002 were Subaru Impreza (average), Nissan Sentra (average), Ford Focus (worse than average), Hyundai Elantra (average), Honda Civic (much better than average), and Dodge Neon and Chevy Cavalier both as average. No rating for the Mazda Protégé, a good car.

All those rated average or less had significant flaws, and only the Civic was rated as well. None of this should come as a surprise.

However, the care and maintenance given will determine if the car is worth buying.

Any car…no matter how well it was built or reliable…maintenance is key. Without proper maintenance a well built vehicle can be junk within just a few years.

I also have a 1998 Corolla, which is the same generation as the 2002. My understanding is that the oil consumption problems were resolved by the 2000 or 2001 model year (there is a lot of discussion about this on the toyotanation forums). The odds are good that this would be a great car for your daughter, presuming you do your due diligence of getting it inspected by a competent mechanic before you purchase. I’ve had my car for 4.5 years and have only had to do maintenance and replacement of wear items (I suppose a starter is debatable as to whether it is a wear item or not). My goal is to give this car to my son in 9 years, and I think this is realistic.


“I also have a 1998 Corolla . . . My goal is to give this car to my son in 9 years, and I think this is realistic”

The car is 15 years old now

In 9 years the car will be 24 years old

Did I miss something?

No offense to anyone, but most kids wouldn’t be too thrilled to be receiving a 24 year old Corolla

That is assuming the car hasn’t become a financial burden by then

Like I said, no offense intended

But I don’t even see many 24 year old Corollas on the road anymore

If the 2003 is the first year of a new generation Corolla design, that means the 2002 is the last year of the prior generation. To me that’s another point in favor of the 2002. Most of the design bugs had already been found and rectified by then.


You’re right about the bugs

However, in my opinion, that next generation starting in 2003 was much nicer and much more modern than the previous one.

No, you didn’t miss anything and there is nothing to be offended about. Presuming it is still a safe vehicle, is still reliable, and is not worse for the environment than something else equally affordable at the time then yes, I do plan to hand down a 24-year old car. Compared to its peers, this car is light years safer and more reliable than the 20+ year-old cars that were routinely given to teenagers when I was a kid. I do realize I am making a lot of assumptions but based on my ownership experience I think it’s possible.

" This car is light years safer and more reliable than the 20+ year-old cars that were routinely given to teenagers when I was a kid. "

You’re absolutely correct. But I’ll also bet that a 5 year old car in 2022 will be much safer than your Corolla.

Driving a car is typically the most dangerous thing a teen will do in their lifetime (within the law).

I wholeheartedly agree. The other part of my goal is to be in the position to not need a car by then. Perhaps the thought of having to drive a 24 year-old car will make him want to drive less :wink:

"No offense to anyone, but most kids wouldn’t be too thrilled to be receiving a 24 year old Corolla"
I had a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon that I purchased new. I let our son take that car to college in the fall of 1992. In 1993, he went on an internship that took him 350 miles from home. My wife and I decided that he should be in a newer car to be traveling the interstates. Our son wasn’t very happy about the arrangement–he said that he and the old Oldsmobile “understood each other”. We put him in a 1988 Ford Taurus for the trip and I used the Oldsmobile as a town car. He hadn’t been gone a day when the ignition lock tumbler failed and the car couldn’t be moved because the steering wheel was locked up. Had he taken the car, he probably would have been stuck at a rest stop on the interstate. In 2001, he became engaged and when he brought is fiancé to our house, he had to take her out in the 23 year old Oldsmobile. I kept the car until it was 33 years old.

I had a 2002 Chevy Prism, which is mechanically identical as the Corolla except for a few options.It was a great car in standard transmission. It is a very good car with the four speed auto, it is a dog with the three speed auto. My biggest concern , and my only one, would be rust. Corollas of that age WILL rust if you are from the rust belt. You need to go over it critically and look at the fender wells, the rockers and the rear quarters behind the fenders. Ay bubbles in this area, pass on it. It will rust quickly from there.
We had them for both kids while going up and the wife . They are great kids cars whether they like them or not and I would only be concerned about he rust. Mechanically, they evolved very slowly and had little change from the 2002 to the 2004. The 2002 models was less space efficient

You are better with 2003 or newer corolla.I have a 2003 and a 2001. The 03 is much safer and rides much better. Also I was able to get the side bag option with the 03. Especially for a newer driver stick with a vehicle that is safer.The '02 in my view would not be the better choice.