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Lexus ES 350

Thinking of buying a 2012 Lexus ES 350 with about 52,000 miles. I would appreciate insights from anyone with experience with this vehicle on its reliability, longevity, maintenance issues and costs, etc.

We are considering this car or a Toyota Rav 4.


The common response here and other auto sites is that you should spend about $100.00 to $125.00 and have a trusted mechanic look it over. It is a used car so how it lasts or needs repair is no different that any used vehicle.


… plus the ten mandatory entries.

Thanks VOLVO_V70. We have had it looked over and it is in good shape. Just curious if people like this car, have any concerns or have any insights about buying this car vs. a Rav 4. We love Toyotas and drive our cars until they stop running - I currently have 327,000 on my Sequoia - so we would like a well built car that will last and not cost a lot for maintenance.

You are comparing apples to oranges. Is this for you or the son you recently asked about a vehicle for? This may sound rude but we all have bias opinions for brands, models and vehicle types. Any vehicle regardless of overall history can function a long time or die a painful death next week.

You said you looked it over, but have you had it checked out by a mechanic on a lift?

Lexus is, as I’m guessing you already know, a Toyota product through and through. Its reliability and longevity is just as good as any other Toyotas. Opinions here will be based on biases (we all have them), upbringing (how important are the dollars), opportunity costs (could you get a new car complete with warranty for less) and how important is that last point to you.

The bottom line is that this is a highly personal decision. I’d lean more toward a new vehicle at a lower prestige level because then I could break it in myself. My philosophy is that most used cars are for sale for a not-always-obvious reason. That makes any used car purchase a risk decision unless the buyer knows the history of the vehicle first-hand, like if you were buying your mom’s car. Me, I’m risk-averse. You might not be.


The ES is a sedan while the Rav4 is a small SUV. So they are a different in that regard.

Also, the ES is bigger (if it was an SUV, it would be the Highlander). Although you don’t mention the Rav4 year, which makes a difference because they have been getting bigger and bigger over the years.

And if you are familiar with the Camry and Avalon cars, the ES is in the same general size class. Some say the rides of these 3 cars differ, with the ES and Avalon being ‘better’.

As for costs, a Lexus dealer is going to be more than a Toyota dealer. That’s why some Lexus owners go to Toyota dealer when possible.

As mentioned above the ES is essentially a loaded V6 Camry with some extra comfort features. So you are comparing a luxury Camry to a RAV4.

Is the RAV4 going to be a new one? The Lexus is going to be reliable; probably, but it still has 50K miles on it.

You have to decide;

A- Do you need a sedan or a small crossover; the crossovers do get a bit noisy on long road trips but some like the high sitting position
B- Do you have to have a luxury car or anything would do

The first part is to decide what features you want. The RAV4 has more cargo capacity and you sit higher, enhancing visibility over shorter traffic in front of you. The Lexus IS more comfortable, significantly quieter, and will likely have more luxury features than the RAV4 does. Things like automatic dual zone climate control, auto up/down power windows, better seat adjustment capabilities, and an upscale stereo are some of the things you get with the Lexus. I’m sure there are others.

You said above that the ES was checked out, but not who did it. Unless you are a mechanic with the proper tools, you need to get a professional mechanic with a lift to check the vehicles. It is important to get a close look at the undercarriage to check suspension, body, and exhaust for damage. They also have equipment to check engine and transmission performance. Even though Lexus/Toyota are reliable brands, after 5 years of poor maintenance even they can be turned into junk. I don’t know that they have, but you rarely know how a car was maintained in the past.

Overall it looks to be a reliable ride. If it has been well maintained & it passes a pre-purchase inde inspection, I doubt your purchase will prove problematic. As a heads-up, I notice some recalls or customer interest bulletins for the navigation system, paint stains, hvac odor, passenger side front airbag, & trunk internal release lever. So make sure all those have been addressed. If you visit a Lexus Dealership they might be willing to print out a list of the title of all the recalls, customer interest, and technical service bulletins for you that apply to this car.

As far as luxury mid sized sedans go, I’d rather have a reliable Lexus ES, versus a european luxury sedan

Sure, the european car might be more fun to drive . . . but that’s not really important to me . . . but it’ll be easier on your wallet to drive the Lexus

I’m more interested in reliability and features, less so how exciting it is to drive the car


somebody here bought a great point that in reliability ratings Europeans now stand behind domestics in general… “German engineering” nowadays change its appeal somehow (?)

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for all of your input.

We are leaning more toward a sports vehicle like a Rav 4 or a car with good gas mileage like a Prius.
We are impressed with the construction of the Lexus, and it was checked out by a mechanic, but we do not really need a sedan - especially if the mileage is not great.

Any thoughts on the Rav 4 and Prius?

I appreciate your insights,

The Prius is essentially a sedan, unless you mean the Prius v. They call them hatchbacks (except the v), but the rear window slopes so much that they little, if any, more cargo room than a sedan. If the increased gas mileage trumps the cargo capabilities, that’s fine. IMO, the Prius plug-in (Prime) is not worth the extra cost for the small increase in battery-only range.

We own a 2007 Lexus ES-350. Little over 190k miles. The ONLY issue we’ve had is a water pump replacement at less then 100k miles. Without a lift I wouldn’t tackle the job, so it cost us $800. The rest are just maintenance items (oil changes, spark-plugs, struts, battery). We plan on keeping it another 100k miles.

But ANY used car (no matter how reliable they are) you need to it inspected.

The Rav4 and Prius are very different vehicles, and serve completely different needs

I’d narrow it down first, either hybrid hatchback or smallish suv

In any case, both should be extremely reliable, just like that Lexus ES350

We have several Priuses in our fleet, and to tell you the truth, I’m not that impressed with their interior. It’s fine, but that Lexus is much nicer.

A few months ago, I replaced the water pump on my brother’s 2008 Highlander. 3.5 liter V6 2GR-FE engine, same as in your Lexus. I did it at home, and it was quite a bit of work. I removed all of the bolts connecting ALL of the motor mounts to the cradle, and jacked the engine SKY high, in order to remove the water pump. It’s tight in there.

Heads up, several weeks ago, the engine oil cooler hoses from the oil cooler to the oil filter base sprung a BAD leak. Absolutely no advance warning whatsoever. It was fine the day before, and then without warning a pinhole developed. I put in the updated assembly, which does away with the rubber hose. FYI, this is not the hose from the recall. So when it happens, you’ll have to pay for it yourself. And it was somewhat tricky to install the updated part.

There was a recall on the 08 and 07 Toyota/Lexus 3.5L engines.

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The Lexus ES 350 is Lexus’ top-selling car over the past couple decades. It is also the best-selling premium car in America over that period. People generally love them. The ES has a long history of reliability. How does the 2012 rank? There is not one single owner complaint on Car, one of CarTalk’s partner sites, for that model and year. The RAV4 is also very popular and generally reliable, but a lot depends on what generation and model year you opt for. The RAV4 earned top safety score in 2016, but when IIHS tested it on the opposite side (passenger side) the RAV4’s safety score was poor. In fact, the worst among all popular small crossovers. If you are considering a 2012 RAV4 there is a gem out there. The V6 Sport model is relatively unique and has 270 hp. It has the same basic engine as the Lexus RX 350.

I am in the same thought as Mr. Mountainbike. If someone is worried about the reliability of used vehicles then they need to find new with warranty in their budget range. Besides this OP is all over the place in vehicle choices. We never did find out if their son bought the Subaru they were asking about.

This particular hose was NEVER part of any recall

If you take your car in for that recall you mentioned, they won’t touch the oil cooler hoses that I’m talking about

The rubber hoses not surprisingly develop a pinhole at the point where it’s a 90 degree bend, but this doesn’t happen until several years of service. And there is absolutely no advance warning whatsoever

The new part is at the bottom, and it’s much harder to install, because the oil cooler lines are attached with studs and nuts, not bolts

In all likelihood, you have the version on top, and it will fail. It’s not a matter of it, but when. My brother’s car is a 2008, and it left the factory with the part on top. Seeing as how your car is 2007, there’s realistically no way your car left the factory with the improved version on the bottom