Advise: Fix or Junk?

I have a 1989 Toyota Camary station wagon. It has 230,000 miles on it. The transmission recently died and my mechanic said it would be $1800 to replace it with a used transmission. I have within the last 2 years replaced the water pump, brakes, alternator, and radiator. The car has always been in the family and has been taken good care of. Should I invest the $1800 with the risk of dumping more money into an older car in the immediate future or should I look for something else for 2000-3000 range, but not knowing if it has been taken care of as well as my car? Thanks for any advice.

Sentimental value is completely understood.

Opinions my vary, but keeping it and constantly replacing parts will add up, but at the same time keeps up maintenance.

Are you yourself ready to part with it? Is is getting lots of wear and tear inside,outside,and mechanically? Is it embarrassing to drive?

I grew up driving only old cars (Pre-'81) and insurance is dirt cheap. It’s the only reason I’m keeping my old Taurus ('96).

You can get another car, but what’s to say it doesn’t have transmission troubles? For 2000-3000 you probably won’t find lower mileage, yet you might get lucky. Back in 2004 I got this Taurus with 75,000 miles for 2,300. Great car.

Sounds like I’m going back and forth, but ultimately, you gotta ask yourselves these questions.

Is the engine next? or does it run really well. In my opinion, if the car looks good, all the parts you installed are sound, and you’ve got the money for the tranny, I’d say go with it. But a used tranny is a concern. I take it back, I did replace tranny in my Taurus, so I went with new. I really like my car and intend on driving it a long time so that’s why I opted for new.

You bring up a really great point of “…not knowing if it has been taken care of as well as my car?..” Sometimes its a gamble. I’ve never used so I don’t know if its reliable.

Are you ready for something new-er?
Hopefully more respond and see what they think.
Take care.

I recently sold my 98 Dakota. I figured I might have been able to squeeze another 100,000 miles out of it…which would have given me 700,000 miles.
But I noticed the problems were becoming more serious and repairs were getting more expensive. I quit before something major happened.

Your radiator, a couple water pumps, brake pads, wiper blades, a half-shaft boot and even an alternator, tension pulley and a timing belt are just costs of doing business.
230,000 miles is really not high mileage to a Camry…unless it was all 5 miles to work and back, off to the grocery, Walgreen’s or the mall.
Short hops, salted winter roads, teenagers and stop and go driving wear any car out faster than highway time.

The nutty Japanese force car owners to replace the engine at some absurd mileage, like 30,000. You may find a complete engine and transmission pretty cheap. That would be better than a tranny from a junk yard.

If the car is in excellent mechanical condition, and you do keep it, replace all the rubber, plastic hoses and lines and the flexible part of the brake-lines.

In the last 2 years replacing a water pump, brakes, alternator, and radiator sounds like pretty routine stuff considering the age and mileage of the car. These are the kinds of parts that simply wear out. Does the motor burn any oil between oil changes? Is the steering tight and safe? Is there any significant rust on the body and/or frame?

Since Camry wagons are a rare breed and if the car is meeting your needs I’d tend to keep it going. You may get some other quotes. A used transmission is a bit unknown, what warranty comes with it? Perhaps a rebuild of your current transmission is worth getting a quote on. Then you know you have new parts in the critical area of the trans.

If the motor is shakey, or the car is getting rusty then let it go. If it is solid (except for the trans) then put some money into it. More parts will fail in time as it is an old car, but so far it is giving your good service.

Just my 2 cents worth, but if the car is fine in most other ways and you are still happy with it, I’d get the tranny done/replaced by someone you know you can TRUST.

I know it’s a cliche, but since no one has said it yet, I’ll pipe it in:
When you buy a used car, no matter HOW great a condition it SEEMS it’s in, you are absolutely buying someone else’s problems, whether major or minor.

At least with your car, you know the maintenance history, and you know what may need maintenance soon. This kind of peace of mind is hard to put a price on.

Just something to consider with all the things that go into your decision on whether to replace the car or not. And again, just my 2 cents worth. : )


A used transmission is a really bad idea on something that old. The last year they made that tranny likely was 1991 in that generation. Betting $1800 on a 18 year old transmission you may do better at a casino IMHO.

The other items mentioned are really normal wear for a car this age.

Personally I think that if the car is in as good a shape as you indicate and has the known history, and if you like the vehicle, you may even be wise to invest in a rebuilt tranny. He should be able to get one for in the neighbothood of $2K + S&H (including the core charge). So it may run you perhaps a bit more than a used tranny, but where can you find a car you like with a known history in good shape for that price? Nowhere!

IF the car is good, and you have taken care of it, I would go for a rebuilt transmission. As mentioned, it’s a little more than a used one, which is a big risk.

It makes little sense to spend $2000 to $3000 on a replacement vehicle, which is bound to be worse than yours, unless you are lucky enogh to find a senior’s car with low mileage. Most people would want to trade up to a 5 year old car for about $8000 in good condition.

As you get older, you learn life has many gambles. If you put in the transmission,it may go out again soon, or something else big may go out. Don’t worry yourself sick. When you gamble, sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. Now it seems like a big deal, but ten years from now, whatever you decided and whatever happened, it will not be a big deal in your life. That is, assuming the car is safe to drive.

Check out a local rebuild service to make sure what rebuild will cost. Not the dealer, a transmission place. Look at the Mechanic files on this URL to find a good one. And, not a national chain place.

I agree withthose who say a cheap used car might even also have a transmission ready to go out.

Another point. Whatever you decide, pay no attention to the peanut gallery which will no matter what you do, tell you that you did it wrong. Do what suits you, unless of course they offer to pay, heh, heh.

Probably the best advice for life.

Wow… how much did you sell a Dakota with 600k on the clock for?