Older car has been seating, but runs, what to do next?

We have an older car (2001 Toyota Camry) that we bought as a spare car when our kids were in grad school so they’d would have something to drive when they flew in town. But they are married now and live a drivable distance from here.

Car has been sitting 2 to 2.5 years. Was completely dead but I put in a new battery and it starts fine, backed it up about 10 feet and drove it back into it’s parking spot.

Apparently it wasn’t a good idea to run a car that’s been sitting for years….:man_facepalming:

I am not planning on using the car. I am planning on selling it if we can get a few thousand out of it, if not we’ll donate to our local church and get the tax write off.

Need opinions on what to do next. Again, I want the car to work while I take it to the mechanic and a potential buyer test drive it, but I am not looking to do repairs that could wait a little.
Basically I want it do repairs that NEEDS to be done right now, but don’t want to do repairs that SHOULD be done soon, since we don’t plan on keep the car.

(1) Oil/filter change
Toyota dealership has the best price in town $45. I don’t have a jack to raise it or get into the mess, and $45 seems like a fair price plus they’ll inspect a few basic things (belts/hoses).

(2) Gas removal
Have a 1/3 tank of gas in the tank, the gas is about 2-2.5 years old. I think I can buy a cheap siphon and pump out the old gas and put in new gas and maybe add seafoam or heet. Hopefully this is enough. I”m not looking to drop the tank or remove the old gas from the lines.

(3) Spark plugs
Not sure if it needs to be done, repair shop quoted it as $400. Again, is this something that needs to be done for a test drive?

(4) Brake fluid
Again, I don’t know if it needs to be done, but if it does, can it wait for a potential buyer to do it?

(5) radiator fluid/coolant
Same thing, don’t know if it needs to be done, but if it does, do I need to do it, or will it be ok to wait for the buyer to buyer and have him to do it.

These are just items off a list I got, not sure if I am missing anything.
Basic question is obviously I don’t want to run 2 and half year old gas in the car, so that NEEDS to be done, I don’t mind doing the oil change since it’s cheap and they’ll inspect a few things and I can disclose those to the buyer. The question with the other things is, is it ok to run the car for a bit (i.e. have people test drive it) and just sell it to them knowing they might need to do some basic work (grade fluid, spark plugs etc). Or is there anything I listed or didn’t list that NEEDs to be done on a car that’s been sitting for 2 years.
has been seating, but runs, what to do next?

The brakes have to be rusted somewhat. Make sure you’re legal to drive it and run it around near home.

If the rust cleans off the brakes enough to quiet them down and there’s no over-heating or other issues, then don’t do anything to it. Just sell it!

I park cars for months and then fire them up and drive. Don’t over-think this!


How much gas is in the tank?

I would open the hood, start the engine, and as the engine idled until it came up to operating temperature while looking under the hood and under the car for leaks.

Then I’d drive the car slowly around the block to make sure the brakes worked and no warning lights came on.

Then check the car again for leaks.

If none are found, drive around the block again a little faster and repeat.

Then take it out on the freeway to see how it goes at higher speeds.

This is the bast way to find what condition the car is actually in.


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Since you have already started it up, I would just fill it with fresh gas and see what happens. I would do the oil change, they should tell you as part of the inspection if brake pads are okay. Air filters I do myself. Drive it a bit, if no CEL, don’t do anything else.

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Smell the gas tank if it smells like gas some tecron or sea fome, put some miles on it then decide what needs fixin, my thought.

I think draining the gas tank and re-filling w/fresh makes a lot of sense. An oil & filter change for $45 parts and labor is a great deal. I paid $20 just for 5 quarts of dinosaur oil the other day. So “yes” on the oil and filter change. No need to monkey w/ the spark plugs if the engine runs well. Same applies for the brake fluid and coolant, as long as the brakes work reliably and the engine doesn’t overheat, let the new owner deal with those items. Suggest to double check the tires aren’t more than 7-8 years old. Don’t be overly surprised if some battery, alternator, starter motor or fuel system problems develop during the transition from laid up to back on the road.

Sell the car and let the next owner use up the old fuel, towing the car to a shop to have the fuel drained will cost $500. Replacing the tires will be another $500. If you take the car to a shop for an oil change they will find at least $1000 in recommended maintenance and repairs.

It may not be possible to get $3000 for a 18 year old car, depends on condition and local vehicle market, you could end up spending $1500 to fix up a $2000 car.

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I’d fill up the gas, check (not change) the oil, do some short trips to confirm brakes, and sell it.

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The gas in my '87 Toyota Pickup is 2 years old. It runs fine. All the other fluids are, essentially, as good as they were 2 years ago. Check them all, drive it slowly, then faster. I expect it to run as well as new. Then sell it. There’s no reason to discount it because it’s been sitting around. You’ll lose money on all the other repairs.

Others have given you good advice, you already know the car starts leave the gas alone and forget the oil change. Neither add value to the buyer. If the car can be driven (registration and insurance) drive it enough to grind the rust off the brakes.

If you want to donate the car to your church, do it but don’t do it because you think the tax deduction will save you money. Do you have enough deductions to be able to itemize under the new rules. 90% of people can’t. If you do donate, you can only deduct what the charity sells it for. That is deducted from your income and if you are in the 15%bracket, it will only reduce your taxes by 15% of what they sell the car for. If the church is going to use the car and you want a tax deduction you would have to pay for a licensed appraiser to evaluate it . Then it would be adjusted by yorr tax bracket. If you don’t know if you can itemize, look at last years tax return.

I wouldn’t do anything but wash it, clean the windows and interior.

For Sale
2001 Toyota Camry
As is / Where is
Clean and Clear Title
Been parked 2 years
No longer needed
$2000.00 OBO

In my area newly purchased cars have to pass a State Safety Inspection before they’re licensed.
Costs about $100, items that fail have to be repaired to pass but reinspection is free.

You can still sell a car w/o passing Inspection but w/o any Inspection, Buyers assume serious problems and discount accordingly. And even if the car doesn’t pass the initial inspection and you don’t want to have the work done, you still have the report to show the potential Buyer.

And yeah, since the Standard Deduction was increased, for most people there’s no tax benefit for donation.