Used Honda or Toyota with 150XXX miles worth it?



We’re in a huge predicament! Our 97 Volvo died on us and now we’re down to one car which is a total hassle when it comes to commuting to work. We talked a little about getting a scooter, but now we’re thinking about just getting another car.

Money is tight (both grad students). We want something reliable like a Honda or Toyota, but for our price range, the only ones that we can buy have super high mileage. I know that the Japanese cars can last, but is it worth buying a high mileage car even if it is a Toyota or Honda???

Thanks in advance!


It depends absoolutely, totally, 110% on how the car was driven and maintained. Even a softly driven well maintained car at over 150,000 miles can be expected to need an occasional repair.

Personally, if my driving environment allowed a scooter I’d get one without hesitation.


IMHO if your money is tight no.

The problem with cars somewhere above 150k is the chances of repair start and maintenance items increase exponentially. I have kept three vehicles(Honda, Subaru, Toyota,AMC Eagle(first car :slight_smile: ) to around the 200k range and they all were the same. Problems really start to crop up, some are maintenance others repairs.

The honeymoon with cars is new-150k IMHO. I would budget for something with lower miles but possibly just as old.


So a '92 Toyota Camry with 65K miles is a good deal?


It does not matter so much what the brand is as that it has been well maintained in a high mileage car. Be patient and look for a car driven by an elderly person. My neighbor has an immacuate 1994 Accord with under 100,000 miles on it when he sold it (2005). It was garaged and had all the maintenance required in the manual. This one’s gone, but there are others out there. They might be Fords or GMs, but someone has taken great care of them. Your job is to find them.


Before you plunk down a lot of money, there are a couple of questions you need to answer:

  1. How long a daily commute are you talking about? A five mile round trip daily is a lot different than a 50 mile daily commute.

  2. How many years do you expect to use the car? (How long will you be in graduate school?) One or two years is different than a 5 year expectation.

Around any university, there always seem to be advertisements on bulletin boards listing cars for sale. Often these are cars being sold by faculty going on leave of absence or by students who are leaving and don’t want to take the car (possibly going overseas). You may find a car listed here that will fill the bill.

I would recommend that whatever you purchase, set back $500-$1000 for the inevitable repairs (tires, battery, etc) Many Hondas and Toyotas require a periodic timing belt change or the engine self-destructs. I would change this belt right away on a purchase of the Honda or Toyota unless I find evidence that the belt had been replaced within the last couple of years.


The problems you will incurr with a 15 years old car are age related. Seals can and will fail(some very pricey to replace, eg tranny, engine seals etc) along with other rubber components. In my locale this car would be partially eaten by rust. Don’t buy anything with rust as this costs far more to fix than the car is worth.


Thanks for the great advice. This will be my husband’s car. His commute is short… 5 miles and we have about 1 year left in school. Whatever we plan on buying (my dad insists on a foreign car), we are going to take it to a trusted mechanic to have it looked at before we purchase it.

By the way, what other foreign cars are as reliable as Toyotas and Hondas? How are Hyundais and Mazadas?


So a '92 Toyota Camry with 65K miles is a good deal?

For $15.00 in good condition it is good, but for $15,000.00 No.


I have a former colleague who retired a couple of years ago and has had excellent service from the small Mazda mode. In fact, he has two of them. Another retired colleague purchased the larger Mazda and was quite satisfied with it.

One other note: Check to see what makes are popular around your university. I live in a university town of about 75,000. The only foreign car dealerships are the Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai. The VW dealer closed its doors. The Mazda dealership is gone. The Pontiac dealer handled the Subaru line for a while, but gave it up. I mention this because even if you have an independent shop do your work, some parts are only available through the dealer for that make and can not be obtained at a parts store such as Autozone. When I was a graduate student, I had a Rambler. The agency had closed at the time I started my graduate work. Most of the time, I had no problem. However, a couple of times I had to wait while a part was sent by bus from a Rambler dealer 60 miles away.


Mazda sedans are pretty much just as reliable as Toyotas, but lots cheaper to buy. A 626 or a Protege is a pretty good bet. If you do go the scooter route, don’t get suckered into the recent cheap Chinese imports. They are really unreliable and parts are impossible to find. Get a used Yamaha or Honda.


How long do you plan to keep the car? Is it intended to only get you through grad school, or do you think you will be the kind of people that keep a car until it makes no sense to fix it anymore.

Looking at out of pocket costs over the next one year time period, any car you buy will be a roll of the dice. Probably the best you can do is to try to verify there is nothing currently wrong with the car (a good inspection and some confidence in the seller), and there are no past due maintenance issues (not always easy to find out). You should understand even a good inspection will not necessarily find everything - but it is your best shot.

I would leave a reserve fund of $1000 to fix whatever comes up, even if this means you have to spend $1000 less on the car. In other words, if your max price was $5000, reduce your max price to $4000 and set aside a $1000 to fix whatever.


If you anticipate much improved finances after you graduate, and just want the minimal hassle (not lowest cost) way to meet your transportation needs through grad school and slightly beyond, you could consider a 2 year lease on a new or newer car.


Never, ever lease a car!


I’m just curious. Why does it matter what your fater wants? It’s your car. Don’t take this wrong - I’m a dad and I want good stuff for my children, too. I just don’t insist that they buy certain things. It’s up to them to decide what to do after they become adults. I’m available to talk things over, but adults should make their own decisions.


With one year left in grad school I’d put the few thousand dollars you are going to plunk down on a used honda or toyota and go out and buy a brand new hyundai or suzuki . . . I’ve seen both advertised for $9999.99. The payment have gotta be less than $150 a month, and in a year you will only have $2000 into the new car. A five mile commute is nothing, and you can do that in a small econobox. The new car will have a warranty and will get you there and back cheaply.


Just checked hyundai . . .they have a new accent for $10,415.00. Gotta have payments that you can afford for a year.


I think you can get a lot more car for the money if you avoid Toyota and Honda if you’re looking for a low budget ride. I bought a '97 Mazda Protoge last year with 160000 miles and now with 175000 miles. This was a one-owner well maintained car that had a new timing belt/water pump and was only $2000. A comparable Corolla or Civic would be $3500. I bought the Mazda (my first Japanese car) based on advice from this board and it has been a great car. Not a single problem except for a recent EGR related code. What amazes me is how tight and solid the steering and suspension are at that mileage level. I also drive a '98 Ford Escort with 170000 miles and this car has required no unscheduled maintenance for the three years since I bought it.

I agree with the other advice: be patient and look for the right well maintained one-owner car. Nameplate is secondary, It’s really amazing how much car you can find for under $4000.


Since apparently you already have a vehicle, and your dad insists that you buy a foreign nameplate, would a used Mazda pick-up truck fill the bill? A 2 wheel drive (forget the complexities of a 4 wheel drive system) with a regular cab might be available in your price range. The rear wheel drive is simpler if a driveline repair is needed. Furthermore, the Mazda pickup is the same thing as a Ford Ranger with a different nameplate, so dad will be happy. Also, since it is a Ford Ranger just wearing a different badge, parts are readily available.