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Lexus ES300

Hello guys,

I’ve started looking for buying my first car!

One of the cars I saw and liked a lot is a 2002 Lexus ES300. It has some 90,000 miles on it, but was owned by a single person. I took her for a test drive and to tell you the truth I was impressed! Maybe because I have never driven anything similar before… And the price they told me was very competitive… $12,500 out the door.

What bugs me though, is that her engine started only at the third time… The first two times, the engine went off just a couple of seconds after it had started.

I’ve heard that sometimes cars that stay long enough on a parking lot (and not being moved around) might have their batteries drained and won’t start. Is this true? Is there a way I can check (with the dealer) if that’s the problem, or if it’s something more serious? What is your feeling?


Yes, what you’ve heard is true.
Have the car gone over thoroughly by a trusted independant shop and be sure to ask them about the battery. If it’s the original, it’ll be overdue for a replacement anyway.

That thorough going over should always be done when purchasing a used car. If the independant shop discovers that the car is about due for a new battery, brakes, whatever, it can be used as a negotiating item. If he discovers something serious, you’ll be glad you found out before signing anything.

The dealer will not tell you anything, so do like TSMB said and pay for an independent pre-purchase inspection. This was the period where some Toyota V6 engines had the sludge issues, so he’ll want to check for that, too.

My '96 ES300 does have battery drain issues (it can sit undriven for 2 months) but once it’s jumped, it never stalls. That could be some other problem with the fuel injection system (MAF sensor, throttle plate dirty, etc.).

@ panos80

wow, you must really like that car, dealer should be lucky to get rid of it for $5K.

for $12K it must come with at least a bumper to bumper 2 year 30k miles warrantee, not just the standard lemon-law 30 day stuff

If your car need a new AC next summer how much will that cost you?

At 90K miles, whatever was not replaced is overdue, and whatever was replaced 6 years ago is looking for another replacement.

Thank you all guys for your advise.


Yes, I really liked the car, but I guess you are right; no matter how good the car might be, it’s 10 years old and many things will probably need to be replaced during the next couple of years.

I have had an 02 ES300 since 06 and have loved it every day. It is now at 115K and runs perfectly. The starting problem you described could not be due to the battery if it is turning over and then stalling out. If the battery were NG it would not turn over or turn over slowly. Stalling out will require a shop diagnosis and could be caused by several things, such as a bad sensor. Be sure you are not giving it any gas before turning it over - this is not needed. I agree with those that recommend a mechanic evaluation. I also agree that $12.5 seems just a little high for a car of that age unless it is in incredible shape

If it is loaded, it is worth about $11,000 from a dealer according to Edmunds. Put all the options in and check it in your zip code.

At 90K miles the car is due for a “major” maintenance service. This includes a timing belt and water pump if the motor has one, and I believe it does. Some Toyota motors are interference and others are not. You can research this issue for this car on the web site. This major service also includes new spark plugs and wires which might contribute to the starting problem you described. If the major service hasn’t been done, and it includes a timing belt you are looking at $1,000+ dollars for this service.

The prior service history on the car is important, look for documentation to support any claims by the dealer about the car’s service history. A pre-sale inspection by an independent mechanic of your choice is good advice. In general, these are good cars and this one is worth checking out and then see if you can negotiate a fair deal.

Two things. First, it is I believe on the Camry chassis and should be quite reliable for the forseeable future depending upon the maintenace . Secondly, I would be as much concerned about rust if you live in the rust belt.

@UncleTurbo ; he’s right. I would set aside about $2000 if the regular and major service has not been done yet. Timing belt, water pump and tensioner about $900, other belts, brake job, spark plugs and fuel system tuneup, flush radiator, new battery, transmission fluid and filter change, and a few other things. Only very few owners do these things (they are all required service) ; most drive the car for 10 years with minimal mainteance and then dump it.

If you can get it for $8000 and it checks out, buy it. But keep $2000 in the bank for that coming maintenance work.

I would take the car to an independent, do the timing belt change, which is the only big ticket item, do everything else as needed. Don’t be fooled by so called 60k or 90 k services as expensive items. Cars are expensive to own to begin with but be judicious. Don’t change a drive belt if it’s in good shape or an inside or air filter if it’s clean. A dealer will change everything just because it’s a 90k. Don’t go there unless you are ready to tell them what you want done or can learn to do simple filter changes and a few checks yourself.

I agree with Doc…you should set some money aside, just like you should for any car, any mileage. Buying an older car always means you should shop around for a service garage you can trust. It goes with the territory. Once done, you should get many more miles. 200 k and more is not out of the question for this car.