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How many miles can you put on a Toyota?

We have a 1998 Sienna with 135,000 miles on it. Its still in one piece, running well…until this week. It failed inspection (leaking exhaust, engine mounts missing) & then started to overheat. Turns out the radiator is leaking, too. Our mechanic says it needs a new exhaust system – including catalytic converter–new radiator, thermostat & flush & engine mounts. Total: $2600. Is is worth it or is everything else going to fall apart, too? What is the life expectancy of the engine? The transmission? The chassis? We only drive this car about 3000 miles a year now.

These things are so hard to answer without looking the car over and knowing if buying something newer is even an option. It is not a make/model that is clearly a poor choice to take a chance on with major repairs, in fact probably one of the best. Can you tell us any more about the car overall? if it has been operated extensively while overheating this would make me very hesitant to proceede.

You can usually get 200,000 miles out of about anything these days. Of course it all depends on how well the car was taken care of, the driving conditions, environment, etc. A car driven on a lot of short trips in the rust belt, that never gets washed, that gets too few oil changes, etc. will not last as long as a well-maintained car with highway miles in a desert climate. Driving only 3,000 miles a year is actually not that great for a car, especially if it’s only short trips. The oil never gets hot enough to stay clean and prevent sludge. The exhaust system may not get hot enough for long enough to cook off all the moisture in it. The coolant, unless changed yearly, will slowly rot the system components. And transmission seals can dry out and leak, internally and externally if the fluid doesn’t get circulated enough to keep them wet.

Toyotas are generally accepted as being reliable cars, but any car over 10 years old is going to start costing you money. If your Toyota has an engine that’s prone to sludging, and you only change the oil once a year, based on mileage, it’s likely you have some sludge.

One thing for sure is if the body is in good shape, and you don’t have too many problems, is that it will almost certainly be cheaper to fix your existing problems than to buy a new car or another used one with someone else’s unknown problems.

The 2011 cars are in showrooms now, so your car is 13 years old. How are you now, compared to 13 years ago? Like people cars age with the years and miles driven.

Everything you describe is perfectly normal repairs given the age of the Sienna. The life expectancy of the motor and transmission is entirely up to how you have maintained them. Have you had the transmission fluid changed every 30K miles? If yes, the trans might last 20 years. If no, the trans would be ready for boot hill now. Is the motor quiet? Does it use oil, like 2 to 3 quarts needed, between oil changes? Have you had the oil changed every 5K miles? A good motor can last 200 to 300K miles, but things like alternators, power steering pumps and racks, and fuel pumps can fail.

What kind of shape is the body in? How much rust do you see, and how much can be seen if the car is up on the service rack? Rust in Detroit area is a factor as they do salt the roads in the winter. If their is little to no rust the chassis can last another 10 years. But rubber parts like mounts, struts, sway bars, bushings, rubber brake lines, etc. are all subject to failure due to age.

You can keep the Sienna safely and dependably on the road, but your yearly costs for repairs is going to go up. And, the frequency of repairs is going to go up too. There are lots of parts and systems on your car and noone can predict what will fail and when. You can expect more repairs and you need to budget accordingly. $2,000 a year for repairs is a decent figure. Some years will be more than that, and other less, but over the next 5 to 10 years it is a pretty good number. Tires, brake jobs, tune ups, and oil changes are not part of the $2,000; these are maintenance items not repairs.

$2,000 for repairs and another $1,000 for maintenance sound like big bucks. Yet, $3,000 a year is $250 a month. Price out a new, or newer used, car and you’ll looking at a much larger monthly payment than $250 and for a lot of months (48) before you own it free and clear.

Quick answer, you should be able to get another 100K miles out of your Sienna if it is good shape now. But you will spend more money on repairs in the next 10 years than you have had to spend to get to this point.

How many miles can you put on a Toyota? …What is the life expectancy of the engine? The transmission? The chassis?

This all depends on how well they are maintained. Yes, brand is a factor, but it isn’t that big of a factor.

Personally, I would get these items fixed, but it really depends on your needs. How reliable do you need your vehicle to be? Can you afford a new vehicle? The answers to these questions might help you decide.

I think I’d seek a second opinion, especially on the catalytic converter. They seldom develope leaks, and they are EXPENSIVE. Is there a scan code indicating that it doesn’t work? If no, take it to an independent muffler shop, not a “chain store”. They will probably install a “cat back” system, which is to say complete from the catalytic converter to the rear of the van.

You can generally be confident in a quarter million mils from most any model of Toyota sedan or pickup with reasonable care. We hear about exceptions on this board, but those are the exceptions. Sienna’s seem to be running a little less than that. Not sure why.

At 3000 miles a year, rust is a bigger concern than mechanical failure. Sounds like Detroit is rough on metal. I have older cars in my driveway that have exhaust systems that look virtually new.

If you really need a car that you only drive 3000 miles a year, and this looks OK and you like it, I would fix it. You will be hard pressed to get into something significantly better for what you can get in trade-in plus $2600. “A bird in the hand…”

Its still in great shape & its had all scheduled servicing, including the very expensive 100,000 mile service. No rust, runs well – not as smooth as it used to be (shocks are stiff) but amazing for its age. It started to overheat a few days ago but the temp gauge was still far below red. I pulled over & walked home. Came back a few hours later, added about a quarter gallon of coolant & it started to get hot again after about two miles, a block from my house. Shut it down & coasted home. Hasn’t been driven since, except to the repair shop, which is a few blocks away. We didn’t let it get very hot.

Thanks for the advice. We have been putting 8000-12000 miles a year on it until the past year & the oil has been changed every 3000-4000 miles. I didn’t realize that driving it less could be a problem.

No rust yet & its never been low on oil. Its lived most of its life in a garage in the mid Atlantic region. We’ve had the oil changed every 3000-4000 miles & all scheduled maintenance. Its really been almost no trouble at all for 13 years & that makes me reluctant to part with it. And we do enjoy not making car payments, but don’t want to sink too much money into it if everything is about to fall apart. Sounds like we will be spending money either way but if the engine can get another 100,000 miles I think its worth fixing.

Yes, I wondered about that, too. When we took it in for inspection, it failed because of an exhaust leak but I don’t know where it was leaking. We have taken it to our regular mechanic for repairs, a local independent shop. They have seemed honest about what we need to repair & what we can do without & still drive safely. I will definitely ask about the catalytic converter scan code & get a second opinion. Any other questions I could ask that would make me sound like I know what I’m talking about?

We have a 1999 Sienna XLE and my wife says I’ll have to pry it from her cold dead hands. So far it’s holding up pretty well. I keep the oil changed because she takes only short trips with it. It still rides well and the exhaust system is quiet.

With new vehicles you have to remember you’ll have higher insurance and taxes, monthly payment and still the same maintenance. If I were you I’d take it to several mechanics and get prices. I had a clutch replaced in an '89 Toyota pickup and found a reliable garage priced at 25% below the dealership price. If it’s in good shape I’d say spend some money and get it fixed up to drive for another 6 or 7 years.

With regards to a new vehicle, your costs may not increase as much as you imply…

Here in Ohio, our registration fees are a flat rate that doesn’t depend on age and value of the vehicle, so there are no higher taxes to worry about… And when I replaced my 97 Taurus with a 10 Mazda6, my insurance went up just barely over $4 per month… and that is with the same deductibles on collision and comprehensive as before. The overwhelming majority of my insurance cost is not due to the vehicle’s value, but it is based on liability and injury. The Mazda has higher safety ratings than the Taurus, and that offset its $17000+ higher value.

All the repairs you mention are typical of a car that age and mileage.

Those people driving their cars 300,000+ miles change their exhaust systems and thermostats several times and take it in stride.

The trick is to not let the problems pile up.

Short trips are hard on the exhaust system.
My 1988 Accord needed a muffler every 5 years,
when it was driven 20k miles a year as well as when I switched jobs and drove it 3k a year.

In my book, it’s almost a no-brainer to fix it. If you bought a new 2011 Sienna today you would loose the the $2600 in repair costs within 6-12 months through depreciation. Which would be a waste if you only drove it 3K miles a year. Your car will not (or barely) depreciate. As others mentioned, at that age you have to expect more repairs. $2000 a year on average seems about right. If you really only drive 3K miles per year it may in fact be much less. I don’t think you could find a cheaper family car to own.

detroit deb, you have to take a long term view of car ownership. I rode in a Toyota Taxi in Asia, a Corolla, that had 1.4 million kilometers (875,00 miles) on it. The seats were a little ratty, but it ran well other wise.

With PROPER CARE, Toyotas are good for at least 250,000 miles before anything expensive happens. Many have gone 400,000 miles and are still in good condition.

The average US driver spends about $1000+ per year on maintenance, tires and repairs. You need to budget that, even if you may not use it in any one year. A few hundred dollars a month is a lot less than $500-$600 per month on new car payments.

You are finding out that cars age with time as well as miles. Auto manufacturers have spent lots of money, engineering cars that are reliable mechanically for safety reason but always give you a reason over time to replace them. There is no need to have to replace motor mounts and radiators if the the manufacturer deems so. Profits dictate otherwise. Toyotas do the best job of balancing that thin line IMO. That’s the illusion of ultimate reliability while still generating profits.

One respondent said that the average car driver in the US spends around $1000 per year on tires, maintenance and repairs.

That confirms my thinking which is that it costs little more to buy new in the high low to medium price range, keep the car for around 5 years and then trade for new. A little more money than what a used or old car costs gets you into a new car; well worth it in terms of quality of life.

Move on. Buy a new car.

Engine mounts “missing”? If that is not a typo I would take about everything your mechanic said with a grain of salt.

Sounds like you are leaking coolant. Maybe a stuck thermostat or at worst, a leaking radiator.

Take it to another mechanic.