Oxygen sensor & front pipe repair on 1997 camry vs new car

My “check engine” light came on and the Toyota dealer told me it was the oxygen sensor and front pipe which needs to be replaced and would cost $2200. Friends tell me that it might be time to think about getting a new car since it is 14 years old. My car only has 112,000 miles on it and I am expecting it to go to at least 190,000 or more, so I am having it done. I have not had any major problems with it ever and think it’s a great car. Over the years, I had the head gasket replaced (expensive), brakes replaced, and recently had the struts repaired (fairly expensive) and have regular maintenance such as oil repairs done religiously. Also, the exterior and interior are in good shape. 1) How do you determine when it is reasonable to do expensive repairs (did I get ripped off?!) vs buying a new car? 2) Despite the not-so-high mileage, is this car indeed getting too old to repair? Many thanks for your input.

I’d definately get a 2nd estimate. $2200 is pretty bloodly steep for that kind of job.

It’s definitely too expensive if you keep taking it to the dealer. An independent mechanic will be able to, most likely, give you a lower price, although the front pipe is an expensive part. An oxygen sensor, on the other hand, is not. Since this car is long out of warranty and since it is a very popular car, almost any decent mechanic will have no trouble working on it. It’s very repair friendly. If you like the car I would keep it. Can you get a replacement car for the price of the repairs?

Holy cow! First of all, stop taking this thing to a dealer. $2200 means that want you to go into the showroom.

As noted, just find a locally owned, independent shop. Many will specialize in exhaust /muffler work. I have to assume that a new catalytic converter might be involved in that estimate, and if so it won’t be cheap. But holy cow! $2200 is criminal. If you found a real “down home” kind of shop they could probably take care of you with salvage yard parts for 10% of that price.

I suggest you start taking this car almost anywhere but the dealer for repairs. An exhaust shop would be able to fix you up for probably less than half the price the dealer is quoting you to fix the front pipe. Out of curiosity, what engine does your Camry have in it, and what is wrong with the front pipe? If it’s loud because of a break at the flex coupler, that can be repaired by any real exhaust technician. I used to fix them all the time in 20 minutes for less than a hundred bucks. I am also of the opinion that, by quoting you such an outrageous price that they are not interested in fixing your car or helping you out with repairs on this old Camry, they are trying to send you packing away from the service counter and into the showroom to buy a new Camry (although they will still gladly take your money and fix your car, but selling a new car is easier, cleaner, and more profitable than fixing your old one). Unless your car has loads of problems you have not mentioned, and is not completely rusted out, there’s still life left in your old Camry and you should drive on, but seek out a good repair shop other than this dealership to service your car. There’s probably not even any techs in that dealership who know how to work on something as old as your car, anyway.

It’s possible that the O2 problems, and maybe the front pipe, could have been caused by the head gasket problem.

The price the dealer quoted is expensive but they’re using Toyota OEM parts on this so they are going to be pricy and then some. Forget having this repair done at the dealer.
Talk to a local muffler shop about this. Odds are they can beat that 2200 price by a bunch and if the car runs and drives out fine you would be better off by keeping it.
To me, a 112k miles is nothing but I run most of my cars to 300-400k. At that point boredom often takes over and I go in another direction.

I’ve had the same repair done on my '03 Camry twice now. $350 at the local Meineke.

First time, I bought a flex section and then got under the car. No way I was going to be able to do a good weld without a lift. Called around. Most shops wanted big bucks to replace the entire pipe from manifold to cat. Local Meineke said they make their own replacement and weld it in. $350. Tires squealed as I arrived minutes later.

If you have the V6, it’s a real beotch. I have the 4 cylinder. They chopped off the old section and welded in the new. Gone in 30 minutes. Lasted 6 years. Just went back a month ago for the second one…

Thanks for your input. This is not a V6. I don’t know much about cars, so I go to the dealer thinking that they will take care of the problem honestly and I feel that they are honest, albeit expensive. They have never mentioned or even suggested that I consider a new car. I think they know that I’m not interested. I spoke with the guys at the dealer and they said the pipe is ~$1600 because it contains the catalytic converter which contains platinum. They do use Toyota parts. I suppose I will look into finding a good and honest mechanic which might be difficult.

You don’t need a mechanic you need a good muffler shop. Muffler shops do this everday and specialize in this kind of repair. The dealer and most mechanics are going to buy the repair section sold which includes the cat whether you need a cat or not. A muffler shop can cut the pipe and fabricate only what’s needed. Mechanics aren’t going to bother messing around like that for a number of reasons. If spending ~$1800 extra helps you sleep at night…