If not now, when? Time for a new car?

My husband and I have a 2003 Lexus ES340 with 130,000 miles on her. We have been diligent about oil change and other routine care, and we put new tires on last summer. The car is mainly used to travel back and forth to our weekend home (nearly every weekend) - about 100 miles each way of mainly highway driving on the Long Island Expressway (LIE-495) - if anyone is from around this area.

Although things seem fine, I am concerned that some unknown “thing” could happen to the car when I’m driving alone on the highway. I just don’t know if an imaginary problem is reason to get a new car. Thus, my question. How do you know?

You own 1 car? Do you have cash to buy new car? Or newer car? A 2010 model would not cost much after you sell or trade your current car.

Any car can have a problem on a trip. What you need to do is make sure you have answers to “what if” it should happen to you? Are you a AAA member? If not, I’d recommend it. Do you always have a cell phone with you? If the motor should suddenly stop you can still “drive” the car safely off to the side of the road. Do you know how to do this? It can be practiced in a large parking lot. Drive the car up to about 40 mph. While you are moving straight, switch off the ignition key and then move the ignition key back into the normal “on” position. Then turn the car left and right. The steering will feel very stiff, but the wheel will move enough so the car will turn. Then step on the brakes and stop. Power brakes have 2 - 3 stops in them before you lose the “power” brake assists. At that point the brakes still will work but need much more foot pressure pressing down on the brake petal. The get the feel of this get the car moving again and do the same turn off of the ignition. Do several short stops with the brake petal. Each time you use up some of the power assist, on the 3rd or 4 press you feel the need for more brake pressure to get the car stopped. The point of these practice tests is to build your confidence that you can handle emergencies if one should arise. Repeat these exercises several times and you should be competent about what you and the car can do. In a real situation you’d simply turn on the 4 way flashers, check your mirrors and steer the car over to the shoulder of the road/ Don’t use the brake until you have moved clear of other cars and traffic and then brake to slow and stop the car safely off the highway. If you hit the brakes immediately you are at greater risk of getting hit from behind by fast moving traffic, so avoid your instincts to hit the brakes. Focus on driving the car left or right first and foremost.

Whether or not you need a new car really depends on your confidence in the car. Your car sounds fine to me and I’d be happy driving it for many more years and miles. But, you are the key person here, so your level of confidence is key.

Your 130,000 miles on a Lexus is not very much if it has been well maintained. I agree with others that the age of a car is less important than your ability to cope with problems on the road. I’ve had problems with new cars, but a AAA membership and a cell phone gpes a long way to mitigating problems.

I work mostly as a reliability and maintenance consultant, and most equipment I deal with is about 10 years old and expected to perform continuously, except for maintenance downtime.

Taxi fleets routinely put close to a million miles on their good vehicles.

With regular inspections called for in your owner’s manual, the Lexus should be reliable till around 400,000 miles when various things start wearing out or failing. Lexus has one of the best reliability records; I would not say the same about Mercedes or Jaguar, for instance.

So, put you mind at ease; your Lexus is more reliable than you neighbor’s new Range Rover!

Yes, we are members of AA and also always have a cell, plus charger, in the car. My fear was exactly what you mention: What if car stops? I’ll practice what you have suggested. Thank you, Uncle Turbo. And also for your suggestion to trade for a newer, but not new car, Cavell.

Let’s simplify. A 2003 is less reliable statistically than a newer car. A 2011 will be more reliable. Will look better too. You are not getting any younger. Why not get a newer car.

After 10 years it’s your decision. Me, if I chose to change I’d want a new car to avoid any question about how the previous owner maintained it.

That said, we still use our '96 ES300 for around town duties.

Yes, we are members of AA and also always have a cell, plus charger, in the car.

I think you mean AAA.

130k miles on a vehicle that’s well maintained…and built by a car company that builds quality cars over and over again…I’d keep it. I still own my 05 runner (although my youngest drives it now). Has more then double your mileage (263k miles). I expect to easily reach 300k miles before I even think about getting rid of it.

You’ll be fine. Highway miles are the least stressful miles for a car (vs stop and go local driving). The Lexus is very reliable and has low miles.

Keep your AAA card and cell phone with you and you’ll be fine.

Older cars are harder for the NSA to track too. Recently an executive from Ford made the statement “I know when you are breaking the law” when referencing the new systems being installed in cars today.

Get a new Infiniti Q50 with awd. Your older car is not as sophisticated.

Your 2003 ES340 still has surprising value…Take advantage of that and trade up to say a 2012 model…Many Lexus cars are leased and turned in every 2 or 3 years. So dealers lots are well stocked with clean, low-mileage cars…The hard part is getting the right deal…They will want to steal your car from you and demand top dollar for the newer car you like…Trading cars is never a good time…The newer model Lexus cars will have air-bags everywhere and a panic button that will bring help in any form you might need in a matter of minutes…

I don’t disagree with the others but surely a ten year old car with 130K on it will at some point have a problem. I would feel a lot better with a new car. This is from someone that drove 300 and 500K mileage cars 100 miles a day. But I carried spare parts and had a good relationship with the towing company. More than once towed 50 miles home. Its no fun sitting on the side of the road and after all its New York.

That Lexus . . . ES330, not ES340, by the way . . . still has a long life ahead of it, if you keep up with the maintenance

Have you changed the timing belt yet? You have the 3MZ-FE engine, which, unfortunately, is an interference engine. If the timing belt suddenly breaks, engine damage could result

Have you had the transmission fluid and filter serviced yet? Do it now, if you haven’t do already.
Only use the Toyota T-IV fluid. No flushes.

The good news is that your Lexus is essentially a more luxurious Camry. And that’s a good thing, because the Camry is, generally speaking, a very reliable car.

As to how long you should keep the car, it all depends on your comfort level. Some people are comfortable driving older cars with some miles. Some people aren’t comfortable with that. If you’re in the latter category, it’s time to trade up to a new car.

If it’s a 2003 it’s an ES300. And Gates shows it as a non-interference engine.


In any case, they don’t have an ES340, because that doesn’t exist, as far as I know

But if it’s somehow an ES330, I believe Gates lists that as an interference motor

There are plenty of people who would happily trade places with you. You have a fancied up Camry, one of the most reliable cars of all time. 130,000 miles isn’t much for any modern engine, and for that engine is not a big deal at all, especially since they’re mostly freeway miles. If something is going to fail you, it’s likely to be something other than the engine itself. Not that knowing that helps. If your car stops running and leaves you at the side of an expressway it’s inconvenient whatever failed. At that age some bits and pieces will be wearing out, stuff like fuel pumps and some suspension bits and pieces. The good news is there are relatively few such items, but the bad news is that they do eventually fail on all cars, given enough time and miles. They’re not as predictable as tires and brakes, but they are more like maintenance than repairs, if a car is getring up there in years.

So, if your reason for getting a new car is to avoid ever breaking down, maybe you buy something new (or close to new) A newer version of the same car (or amything of similar reliability, which is fairly rare) will be much less likely to have parts wearing out from age and miles. Even a brand new car can break down, but they do so a lot less often. If you like your current car, the ES is still available and has changed not a whole lot. It’s still a fancy Camry, and that’s still a very good thing. Other vehicles closely related to the Camry and Lexus ES are the Toyota Avalon (a stretched Camry), Toyota Venza (a Camry wagonlike crossover), Toyota Highlander (mid-sized crossover), Lexus RX (a slightly smaller luxury crossover), and no doubt something else I’ve forgotten. Not a bad vehicle in the bunch, which is probably why Toyota has used the platform so extensively. Other vehicles of similar size and quality are the Acura TSX and the Infiniti G37. The Infiniti is available in an all-wheel drive version, if that appeals to you.

If you can accept that no car is perfect, your current car is worth keeping and drivng, as it still should have a lot of miles left in it, if well maintained. If you want a newer car, does anyone in your family need a really good, if aging car? Of course you can trade it in, but this is a car I can see providing great transportation for a long time to someone willing to risk a few repair jobs.

Thank you all. And to clarify a couple of things, it is indeed an ES300. Sorry about that. And yes, I carry an AAA card, as opposed to one from AA:) I think we will keep the car for a while longer, and then get a new car - probably another Lexus, and most likely a hybrid.

My daughter just purchased a 2012 Lexus CT-200h…A Prius with a different body style and lots of toys…A BIG step up from her still in service '99 Corolla…She gets 43 MPG while I can nurse 47 MPG out of it with careful driving…The keyless locking and ignition, the completely silent start-up and drive-off takes a little getting accustomed to.

A 2014 Lexus will be more reliable over the next 10 years than your 2003. Since reliability is something which concerns you, for your safety and peace of mind, I’d say the correct decision is to buy a new Lexus. You’ll have to accept that new cars have sample defects, so the first 6 months or first year your new Lexus may not be as reliable as the 2003. But eventually the sample defects will be found and corrected under warranty and then you’ll be in good shape.