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What's my Mileage Say About Engine's Condition?

Hi, my mom’s pressuring me to buy a new car. It’s a '98 Camry 4-cyl auto. It has 230,000 miles on it, and it gets 24.5 mpg. in mixed city/hwy driving. Is that an indication it’s still in good shape? thanks.

The mileage sounds about average. How does the engine sound? Does it leak or smoke?
What doesn’t mom like about the old car?

We can’t tell anything about the condition of a car just by getting a figure for mpg. The transmission may drop out tomorrow.

Is this the"new" car you’re being pressured to buy? Is your mother knowledgeable about automotive mechanics? There must be a lot more to this story. For now, I advise you to lay off this purchase.

Nope. It’s only an indication that it still runs.

To find out what kind of shape it’s in you’ll need to pay a reputable shop to give it a thorough going-over with a written report. That should include not only specific tests of the negine (such as a compression test) to determine its condition, but also a thorough test and examination of the braking system (FAR, FAR more important than a good running engine is a good working brake system) as well as a thorough examinatiob of the chassis components including the steering system parts (end links etc. etc.), the suspension parts (links, joints, bushing, struts, etc.), an examination of the undercarriage for rot (remember, on this car your body is your frame), examination and testing of all safety items (lights, wipers, etc.) and an examination of the fuel system. As well as a few other things I’m probably forgetting.

The cost of an evaluation will be money well invested. But be sure to find out also how much it’ll cost to get the maintenance up to date, such as the timing belt, water pump, and serpentine belt replaced, brake system flushed, cooling system drained and refilled, etc. etc.

HOWEVER, if you can provide more information about the car such as “it’s my uncle’s wife’s car and he’s a mechanic, and he’s the original owner”, than I might be swayed to back off on the need. Unless, of course, he hates his wife…

My Mitsu Galant was getting to be more efficient toward the end of its life. Burning less gasoline but more engine oil! So everything is relative. How is the car overall?

Reading (imagining?) between the lines, it seems that your mom wants the best for you, wants to be proud of you, views you as successful and believes that you are able to afford a new car. She does not want you to ride around in an old car; thinks that you can do better. Possibly she wants you to be safer as well with a new car with multiple air bag protection.

If you or your mom don’t know auto mechanics, definitely have it looked over by a qualified mechanic or relative that does know cars prior to making a purchase.

The problem with a car that old, no matter how well it’s been cared for, is that there’s wear on all of the car’s systems, plus you just don’t know the history.

Is the Camry your current car, or the one you’re being pressured to buy? If you’re being pressured to buy it, I wouldn’t consider it with that mileage and age unless you can get it for a song. If it’s your current car, I’d keep it if nothing’s wrong with it. The more miles you drive an old car, the more you save.

I’m in agreement the post is a bit murky as to whether this is a currently owned car or one that is being considered for purchase.

If it’s a currently owned car then drive it until it won’t go any more.
If it’s a potential purchase then there’s a few questions involved; such as why mom would pressure you to buy a 13 year old, going on quarter of a million miles vehicle.
A car like this, unless maintained to the absolute hilt, is going to need some work. They all do.

That mileage is poor. I get 30 mpg in the same car (2001) in mixed driving.

It runs and starts. Be happy…

When it was new it was rated for 20 MPG city and 28 MPG highway. 24.5 MPG overall is just about dead on in terms of what the overall mileage should be. With that said, it does meant the engine is good or bad shape.