CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Is my Toyota worth saving?

I have a 94 Toyota Corolla wagon that needs a new transmission. It was a great car which I’ve owned for the past 4 years. It has 220,000 miles on it, but I was told the engine is a rebuilt engine with less miles. It gave me no problems at all until the transmission went out on a cross country trip about a year and a half ago. It has been sitting ever since then. I have $2500 to either get this car fixed or put toward another car. I have no idea which decision to make and would be eternally grateful for some input!

When a vehicle reaches 200,000 miles or more, and a major component fails, ie: engine, transmission, body/interior, it’s time to move on.

Tester

I agree. Time to move on.

It sat for a year and a half? Move on.

I agree with Tester. Over 200k miles it’s probably not worth putting major money into the vehicle. The vehicle is close to 20 years old.

Scrap steel prices are pretty good right now… I concur with the rest of the posters, junk it and move on.

Why would anyone even consider spending over $2k to repair a vehicle whose book value is…at most…a few hundred dollars? If this was a potential classic vehicle, I could understand it, but, to “invest” that kind of money in a car whose best days are long past, and which is sure to need more repairs on a regular basis is just…foolish.

Move on! The rest of the car (except the engine) has gone aroud the world nearly 9 TIMES!. Don’t send good money after bad!

We don’t have the whole story here. What have you been doing for transportation for the last year and a half?

May I gently point out that if you can put away only around $600 a year toward a car that you’re perpetually going to be behind the eight ball, scrambling to pay for cars and repairs and probably breaking down more than you’d like? Try to save more, if at all possible.

The engine may be fairly new, but you have to consider that rust may have taken a toll on the structural integrity of the car’s body. If it has, and you get hit, the car might not protect you in a crash. You might also be needing new struts by now, and those aren’t cheap. I don’t know what all gets replaced when they rebuild an engine, but if it hasn’t been replaced, your alternator might be ready to die. Take the bus for a while and save up some more money. Get yourself a Toyota Certified used car somewhere down the line.

The biggest downside is safety. Only you can answer this: Does the car meet your needed safety requirements? Newer cars have air bags all around, and many have electronic anti-lock braking systems and stability systems. But many of those gadgets have proved to be reliability problems too. And made problem diagnosis & repair more expensive and time consuming. It’s a compromise. One way to look at: Look around you as you drive. There’s plenty of folks driving around on motorcycles, or air cooled VW Beetles. Your car is orders of magnitude more safe.

These early 90’s Toyota’s have proved extremely reliable and the fuel injection system on these cars is pretty much bullet proof. Since the engine is already rebuilt and will likely last for 100,000 or more miles at the very minimum, provided the body is for the most part rust free and in overall good shape, and the interior remains looking good, me, I’d invest in a rebuilt transmission. If you want to save some dough, put in a manual instead of the automatic. Concurrently, have all 4 of the drive shaft CV joints taken apart, cleaned, re-lubed, and re-booted. And have the front suspension system repaired if any problems are noted on a visual inspection. And install a new fuel filter. And have the selenoid contacts of the starter motor replaced with new ones.

Does it make sense economically? Do the math. Once back on the road with the new xmission and the improvements above, this car should serve you well and prove to be reliable, economic transport for another 5- 7 years, possibly more than 10 years. How much money will new car payments cost you over that time period?

Its junk ,sell it for parts-Kevin

If you just run the financial numbers, the answer is no. The car has virtually no value due to its age. If you put a new transmission in it, you go from zero value to about $500 and the transmission job will cost much more than $500.

The only way you can recoup your money for a new transmission is to drive the car for another 3 to 5+ years. If you think the car will last that long without another significant expense you MIGHT come out ahead on the deal. Chances are good the car won’t last and you could have used the $2,000 toward another car, in that case you lose.

I like the old Corolla wagons, but I won’t put much money into one. This is a car a mechanic, or a kid could buy. They can find a junkyard tranny and install it themselves and get a few more years and miles out of the car. Sell it “as is” for a few bucks and start looking for another car.

@UncleTurbo Yes, the figures just don’t add up. If the car had, say 100,000 miles on it and had a good maintenance history, a rebuilt transmission would make sense. It’s all about “remaining life”, which industrial accountants and engineers use to determine whether such repairs are economically justfied.

The fact that the engine was already replaced indicates that the car probably did not have first class maintenance.

I once spent $1400 on a paint job and body work on a car I had bought for $3000(wholesale value). In that case, the car was well maintained and had only 90,000 miles on it and was pristine every way. I drove it another 9 years and sold it for $1400.