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Fix Up or Buy New

I have a 1997 Toyota Avalon with 187000 miles. I am the original owner. It needs about 3000.00 to put into great shape and I am thinking about fixing it up rather than buying a new car. It is a nice car, comfortable to drive and the body and interior are in good condition. Do you think it would be worthwhile to put the money into it?

What things are being fixed for $3000?

Please break down that $3000

For example . . .

Timing belt
x dollars for parts
x dollars for labor

x dollars for parts
x dollars for labor

Repail oil leak
x dollars for parts
x dollars for labor

You get the idea, I hope

I am just salivating at the idea of a 1997 car with a body in good shape. The only way we could do that would be to drive them only May-Sept.
If I had a car I liked and the body stayed good I would repair and drive it indefinitely.
I would still be driving my 56 DeSoto, well maybe not, I did throw a rod through the pan with the speedometer far to the right of an indicated 120 mph.

I’ll go a little off topic

That 1997 Avalon uses the 1MZ-FE V6, which is fairly robust and is a freewheeler

However, I’m fairly certain that the 1997 model year fell into the sludge category

While there have been heated discussions on this, many people would agree the sludge was in large part due to not changing the oil frequently enough . . . or at all

The 1997 Avalon had a pretty high “build standard.” Toyota has, unfortunately, slipped in recent years, by using inferior materials

So OP’s car probably doesn’t have a drooping headliner and/or a cracked dash

Buy new or newer. The cars not worth it.

If you like the car and it meets your needs, it’s worth it.
If you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth it. Where else could you find a known good car for $3K?
If you can comfortably afford to replace it and have been salivating over the new Lexus, go for it. You only live once.

In truth the old axiom about never spending more to repair a vehicle than its book value is, IMHO, faulty logic. It ignores way too many other factors.

The problem with a car this old is that things start to go bad that you dont even think about. Plastic clips holding wires get brittle, all kinds of rubber throughout the car gets old. Youll have alternators, coils, suspension, leaky gaskets, steering, trans, you name it. All kinds of things can and will go wrong. I have a 1998 car and I take very good care of it, but time takes its tole on the whole package. I am all for keeping a good car on the road, however, youre at 17 years old now. I just bought a 2003 well maintained truck with 115k on it for 4200. Thats 6 years newer. My point is, for 3 grand or a little more you can get atleast a newer vehicle. If you have an emotional attachment to your car, have the patience (and the wallet) to get nickel and dimed, then keep on rockin by all means! I just think for the average person, it becomes a hassle.

In my mind…a vehicle with 187K and is nearly 18 years old does not qualify as a keeper if it needs $3K worth of work. It’s just not economically feasible. Your car is worth roughly $2500 in my area of the country and that’s if it’s in very good condition.

It really depends on if the car really needs all this work to keep going

I suspect a lot of it is really just “optional”

For example

Valve cover gaskets seeping
oil pan gasket seeping
faded headlamp lenses

@hjbpapa‌, can you give us a list of work you need for $3000 to get it to ‘great shape’? I’m thinking a lot of that may be considered maintenance, which would not really be considered repair work. I can easily see a set of struts and a set of tires eating up more than half that budget. And I would not consider that a repair, since they are normal wear items that do need replacement occasionally.

1997 was a good year for the Avalon and I have owned many of that vintage. As to whether it is worth it financially I would have to inspect the car myself to see if I thought it would last another two or more years before spending more than the car is worth on it.

It would also depend on what you want/need from a car. Sure, you could use that money to buy a newer car with fewer miles, but it would be a basic economy car, not an Avalon with massive space, a plush ride, and an interior that would look right at home in a Lexus. If you live in a severe climate and have rust, no way you keep it Likewise if it has spent its life being baked in Phoenix, so all the plastics are brittle and cracking. If it has spent it’s life in a mild climate, preferably garaged, and the great majority of those miles are freeway miles, I’d definitely consider it. Seventeen years is not that old for a good car, which that Avalon was. Toyota was making excellent cars in the nineties without the cost cutting that is obvious on some of the newer models (though most of it doesn’t actually reduce reliability.) If you need/want a plush, smooth, beautifully finished car it’s unlikely you’ll find anything better for your money. If you just need reliable transportation you might.

A colleague of mine once owned a Toyota Cressida, the forerunner of the Avalon. He put over 300,000 miles on it when he was selling medical equipment. It was a superb highway car. He only had the cruise control break on him. When he retired he just kept the car and kept driving. Finally, after 20 years or so he sold it, still in good condition.

It was much more than basic transportation.

Another colleague owns an Avalon for business. He intends to drive it till the wheels fall off. The Avalon is a lot like a Lexus without the Lexus parts prices.

I rented a newer Avalon (late 2000s or early 2010s) for a long trip and I loved it. If it were my car, with the body and interior in good condition, I would keep it and fix it.

Mind you, I’d probably do most of the work myself (depending on what it is) and end up spending $500.00 or less, but I’d still recommend keeping it.

new brakes and rotors and calipers, slight oil leak around the exhaust manifold and maybe a transmission tune up and new plugs only because the current spark plugs have about 90,000 miles on them. The 3000.00 is just my guess as to what I think the maximum would be if we find something else. I don’t drive as much as I used to Only about 10,000 or 11,000 miles per year.

If you only drive 10k a year and your only problem is a slight oil leak and needing the brakes redone (which by the way, why all new calipers?) then by all means keep the car


“Transmission tune up” . . . please elaborate

Transmissions don’t get a tune up

The fluid and filter should get changed at 30K intervals for your car

“slight oil leak around the exhaust manifold”

Exhaust manifolds don’t leak oil . . . are the valve cover gaskets leaking ONTO the exhaust manifolds?

You’re not going to be spending anywhere near 3000 for that work that you just mentioned

I second all the db4690 comments/questions. I would add that if the timing belt has not been done for a long time–more than 90,000 miles, that should be done along with a water pump and that will add a lot to your bill, maybe $500?? However, I am leaning toward the “If you like it keep it”–assuming there is not a lot of rust underneath.

The timing belt was changed at 175000 miles. Yes the slight oil leak is from the valve cover gasket leaking onto the exhaust manifold. Calipers work but they are rusty. Computer shows a module in transmission may need to be replaced. I don’t know what that means but am told it would be about 200.00 plus labor.