Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Is it worth keeping a 1998 camry when it's costing over $2000 a year for big maintenance jobs?

I just got the starter motor replaced on my 1998 Toyota Camry, and earlier this year I had to replace part of the exhaust system, and there’s also the constant check engine light, replacing the sensors, the AC doesn’t work, and now we need to fix a hole in the muffler, replace the rear right strut, and the rear cross member in the suspension is rotted in the middle so I have to replace that. All in one year, it’s seeming like a little much. I’m betting the other struts might need replacing next year if we don’t do them now.

I know the Camry is a good car. It only has 165,000 miles on it. We drive it about once or twice a week around Boston (a lot of rotten pot holes and bad winters) but we like to go on longer trips at the weekends. Is it worth repairing this car’s strut, suspension, and muffler to keep it going for as long as I can? Or should I get something more roadworthy at this point? Thanks for any feedback!

The big question to me is the rust. Before I’d put any money in it I’d want to have somebody go over it and see what else is rusted.

But nothing you list is all that unusual, stuff adds up over the years. If the rust is not a problem I’d replace the muffler, the two rear struts, and the suspension part.

Thanks very much for your comment - I’m pretty much coming to the same conclusion - but that’s a good point about the rust - thanks.

Everything you’ve mentioned is normal for an older Camry, including the starter assembly, but there are two unknowns that need to be closely looked at.

One is the rot. The rotted rear crossmember could be a sign of other structural rot, and that can render the car unsafe.

The second is the check engine light. I’d suggest having the codes read and detremining what’s causing that before making any decisions. Unless I miss my guess, Mass inspectors should be failing the car for an unresolved CEL.

Thanks - yep, we’ve had the CEL checked out a bunch of times, fixed the problems and it’s gone off for the inspections. Sensors have caused it to turn on for the most part.

But the rust/rot could be a problem. Thanks so much for your feedback. I appreciate it.

I would get rid of it. Although it doesn’t have high mileage for such a reliable car, it’s age and the northern winters have taken their toll.

At first, I was thinking you should get your money’s worth for the repairs you have already made, but you are right that more are coming, and with rust an issue, it will probably be one issue after another. Perhaps Tom Magliozzi will be willing to buy it from you. It sounds like his kind of car.