I’ve got a '97 Camry with 200k+ miles that has been good to us, but the repair costs are mounting. Just this week I damaged the downpipe after bottoming out on a gravel road and my mechanic says the whole exhaust system from the downpipe back has to be replaced because of excessive rust, at a cost of about $1200. There are also a few other cheaper repairs that need to be done. Do you think I can replace the exhaust system much more cheaply, perhaps by finding used or oem parts? Where do you recommend looking for parts? Someone told me to try Meineke, but that seems dubious. Are there reliable sources online? If I can’t bring the repair costs down, I’m not sure the car is worth keeping. We will probably be getting another car sometime soon anyway, but had planned on keeping it for light use. People keep telling me that Toyotas like mine last forever, but at what point is it time to call it quits and say goodbye?
The high cost item will be the catalytic converter…A good muffler shop, perhaps even Meineke or Midas can usually use an aftermarket converter and replace your exhaust system for less than $1200…Many Toyotas also use a braided stainless steel flex coupler which if not eliminated can be expensive to replace…Used exhaust system parts are pretty much a non-starter…You can’t buy a used converter…Perhaps YOURS can be salvaged…
But you will have to fix it anyway to sell it for anything other than salvage value. …
You might check eBay or Craigslist for pipes and converters. You would be surprised at the number of converters that are being bid up on eBay with the listings stating they’re for “recycling only”. Wink, wink.
Autozone sells that down Y-pipe with converter and flex coupler for about $400. The brands are Walker and Bosal. I’ve had good luck with both. Add a few dollars for gaskets and you should be able to get it done for far less than $1200.
I do agree that the 97-era Camry is the last really reliable Camry. The bar started serving lemonade after that particular iteration. Like the guys will say, at this point stuff is just going to fail randomly for years: fuel pump, water pump, window motors… But if you like the car and everything else is hanging together and looking okay it might be worth it. I agree you can probably get the price down if you shop around for used parts or a cheaper mechanic.
The bottoming out may be partly due to worn out struts and/or sagging springs.