Author Topic: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?  (Read 10036 times)

tod

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Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« on: March 30, 2013, 07:43:48 PM »
My wonderful 98 Taurus just hit 200,000 miles last night, but I'm sorry to say that it may never see 300,000 or even 210,000 for that matter.

Last April I had my mechanic* install a new ball joint and he discovered extensive rust in the subframe. The engine mounts are rusting through. He didn't even want to put the new (well, salvage new) ball joint on but I had to have the car. He advised me that if the car makes it through one more winter, junk it and run.

I could keep driving this car, and perhaps find someone else to repair the subframe. I will always worry about lacking structural integrity if I'm in an accident. I know, I know, don't pay exorbitant amounts for imaginary safety. This might be different. If my engine mounts fail while I'm driving (totally possible) I'll cause the accident.

Buy a new car? Ha ha. Not even under consideration. I am considering buying a used Toyota, a Yaris or something. To get one in decent shape will still be $9000 and up. The money is not a problem. Spending it is. Also going through the hassle of buying a used car, getting it checked out by someone knowledgable, deciding whether I can trust the seller. (My current and first vehicle was a hand-me-down I am eternally grateful for).

I feel like $2000 should be plenty for a good car. Even if the fuel efficiency is not as enviable as a Yaris or similar, total operating cost will still be a lot lower than buying a $9,000 car. (9 grand for a car. What do they think we are, Rockefellers!?!) Of course, any car selling at that price is going to be a lot chancier...

Any advice, any at all, would be appreciated!

*I love working on vehicles but frankly, I have a phobia about my car falling off the jackstands and crushing me. Otherwise, I would absolutely have done the ball joint myself.

« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 08:08:27 PM by tod »

Forcus

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 08:37:39 PM »
If the subframe is the only problem, it can be easily replaced with a junkyard unit. Transmission shops use a gantry (can be bought at Harbor Freight) that holds the engine up from above while the transmission is taken out. Same concept, but can be used to drop the subframe and a new one put in. All that being said, that generation (97ish to 04ish) Taurus is especially prone to rust. The side sills underneath the plastic covers are vulnerable and that is a structural element.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 08:55:11 PM »
We've owned the following Toyotas since my husband and I have been together, and have had no regrets, other than $$$ outlaid for the Tacoma:

1) 1987 Camry station wagon.  We drove it from 430,000km to 470,000km, and about 6 years ago we sold it.  It belonged to my Mom when I was a kid, and she bought it slightly used in 1988.  Original engine and transmission.  The person who bought it from us, sold it to a guy my Dad knows, and used it to drive back and forth to his job up north, and put another 200,000km+ on it, before he finally sold it for scrap.  I don't know what my Mom paid for it, but my Dad got $300 for it, when we were done with it.

2) 1986 Tercel Station Wagon 4x4.  That car only had 130,000km on it when my Dad bought it for us.  It had been sitting, not running for 4 years in a barn, and there were a few issues with the carburetor that caused it to stall when idling low at stoplights and going down hills.  My Dad eventually got that issue fixed, but then it threw a rod in the engine a few months later, which was the end of the car's life. It was a total shitbox, but it was a tank!  Unfortunately, we only owned it for about 6 months. :(  I believe my Dad paid $600 for it, and then got $400 for the body.

3) 2007 Yaris Sedan, bought new in 2007, after the Tercel died (not the smartest move, but the payments were only $218/month).  It had wonderful gas milage, and for such a small car, it was easy for both DH (5'10) and I (5'4) to drive.  We sold it to my cousin in 2009, when we bought the house.  We made payments on it for 2 years, plus the $2500 we put down on it.

4) 2005 Matrix XR.  I loved this car!  It was sporty, and fun to drive, but still decent on gas.  We owned it from 2008 until 2012, and we owned it from 99,000km to 155,000km. We bought it for $12,500 and sold it for $7,200.

5) 2001 Echo Sedan.  We bought it for $2200 in 2009, and repaired some body damage, to sell it for $4500 in December 2010.  This was also an awesomely cheap car to run. 

6) 2006 Tundra TRD Crew Cab. I bought this in December 2010 for a work truck.  It had 155,000km on it, and I drove it until 218,000 last month, when I rolled it on some ice.  I paid $15,500 for it, and put about $3,000 into it, for tires/running boards/security/remote start/roll tarps.  Insurance is giving me $14,805 for it this week.  I love this truck!  It handled wonderfully, and was a real work horse for me.  It always started, no matter how cold it was.  I miss it. :(

7) 2007 Tacoma Access Cab TRD.  It had 92,000km on it when we bought it in summer 2012 for $19,000.  We took a loss selling it in November 2012 for $16,500 at 112,000km.  My husband bought it for work, but then changed jobs.

8) 2005 4 door Yaris Hatchback.  We paid $1,400 for this in October 2012, with no engine.  We put a used engine into it ($700 with 90,000kms on it) tires ($400) and a windshield ($200).  We still own it, and it rocks!  My husband drives it as his daily commuter.  Wonderful on gas, and kinda fun to drive.  Decent cargo space as well.

9) 1995 Tercel 4 door sedan.  I just bought this for $575, and $15 for a new mirror from pick-n-pull.  It also needs new wiper blades.  It has 220,000 on the engine, and it's in pretty decent shape.  It will do highway speeds as well!  This is going to be my summer beater until I go back to work.

Likely #10 will be a 2005 Tundra Crew Cab TRD.  I went to look at it today, and am mulling it over.  It has all the options I want (power roll down rear windows) and it's exactly the same as the one I rolled last month, but in a more kick-ass colour (blue).  It has 214,000km on it, but the engine shifts better than mine did.  $11,000 is the price, but I'll need to put a roll tarp ($600), running boards ($400) and a hands-free phone in it (unknown $$$).  This will stay parked in my driveway, and not driven, until I go back to work in the summer.

I'd junk/sell the Taurus now, and look for a 2001-2003 Echo with decent miles on it.  Pull a carfax, and check for accidents, and have a mechanic look it over.  We would have happily kept the 2001 echo, if I didn't need to buy the Tundra for work.

chardog

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2013, 09:12:53 PM »
Get rid of the car and ride a bike for most of your transportation.  If you need a car occasionally, rent one for a day.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2013, 09:14:59 PM »
Get rid of the car and ride a bike for most of your transportation.  If you need a car occasionally, rent one for a day.

I feel like that's what I should have said... :P

tod

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2013, 06:40:32 PM »
Get rid of the car and ride a bike for most of your transportation.  If you need a car occasionally, rent one for a day.

Would be nice, but not an option where I live. I already work from home so I have no commute, but the way things are laid out, even if I moved closer to frequent destination A, I would still have to drive to frequent destination B, and vice versa. Besides, my house was such an amazing deal that I could drive to the store weekly for the next 30 years and still come out ahead, versus moving into a much more expensive house within biking distance of the store.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2013, 06:45:02 PM by tod »

tod

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2013, 06:44:02 PM »
If the subframe is the only problem, it can be easily replaced with a junkyard unit. Transmission shops use a gantry (can be bought at Harbor Freight) that holds the engine up from above while the transmission is taken out. Same concept, but can be used to drop the subframe and a new one put in. All that being said, that generation (97ish to 04ish) Taurus is especially prone to rust. The side sills underneath the plastic covers are vulnerable and that is a structural element.

I'll have to look into this. Thought it couldn't be replaced because it's unibody. Mechanic said the same thing about 3rd gen Taurus and rust. It's so short sighted to design a car and not think about those things. A car needs to last at least 20 years. Shouldn't take any amazing technology, just making stuff easy to work on, not changing part specs for decades, and making sure you don't channel water into the wrong places.

tod

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2013, 06:52:31 PM »

5) 2001 Echo Sedan.  We bought it for $2200 in 2009, and repaired some body damage, to sell it for $4500 in December 2010.  This was also an awesomely cheap car to run. 

8) 2005 4 door Yaris Hatchback.  We paid $1,400 for this in October 2012, with no engine.  We put a used engine into it ($700 with 90,000kms on it) tires ($400) and a windshield ($200).  We still own it, and it rocks!  My husband drives it as his daily commuter.  Wonderful on gas, and kinda fun to drive.  Decent cargo space as well.

9) 1995 Tercel 4 door sedan.  I just bought this for $575, and $15 for a new mirror from pick-n-pull.  It also needs new wiper blades.  It has 220,000 on the engine, and it's in pretty decent shape.  It will do highway speeds as well!  This is going to be my summer beater until I go back to work.


All of these are very attractive options. So you've had good luck buying beaters? Maybe the reasons I've been told to stay away from cheap cars over the years have nothing to do with what really matters. All that matters is operating condition and safety. My car stereo, for example, hasn't worked since 2004, at which time the car had only 75,000 miles on it. (I drive without music, but I'm never bored). Many people would have considered it junkable for that reason alone.

So I would love an old car that isn't crumbling into ferrous oxide, runs well, but lacks the functioning infotainment systems people demand and is therefore cheap.

I guess I just have to look around.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2013, 07:07:07 PM »
All of these are very attractive options. So you've had good luck buying beaters? Maybe the reasons I've been told to stay away from cheap cars over the years have nothing to do with what really matters. All that matters is operating condition and safety. My car stereo, for example, hasn't worked since 2004, at which time the car had only 75,000 miles on it. (I drive without music, but I'm never bored). Many people would have considered it junkable for that reason alone.

So I would love an old car that isn't crumbling into ferrous oxide, runs well, but lacks the functioning infotainment systems people demand and is therefore cheap.

I guess I just have to look around.

I have an extra added bonus of my Dad being a Toyota Mechanic, so he's helped me buy quality beaters.  I was talking to him today about the older Tercels, and he said to steer away from about 88 through 93 Tercels.  They were shitty years for their carborator engines, and they had nothing but problems with them, and it cost Toyota millions in recalls and warrantee repairs.  I doubt there are any on the road anymore, but don't buy one, if you find it.  :(

kendallf

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2013, 07:20:18 PM »
I'll give a +1 for the Toyota beaters.

My daughter's car is a 1995 Camry that I paid $400 for (I had to put the brakes back together to drive it home).  That was 6 years ago, it has ~280,000 miles on it, and I have put perhaps $1k into wear items such as suspension bushings, CV axles, and a timing belt.  Runs like a top still.

Look for the 4 cylinder Camrys, Corollas, those Echos, maybe a Scion xA or xB if you want to carry stuff in a hatchback (though the Scions are going to be newer and above that $2k range).

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2013, 07:58:56 PM »
Also avoid the AWD Matrix :(

I believe they made them from 2003 to 2005, but they apparently have some issues, and are more expensive to fix.

Jamesqf

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2013, 09:52:43 PM »
I'll second the recommendation for older Toyotas (and Hondas).  I drive an '88 Toyota pickup as my hauler/dirt road transport, which I bought about 5 years ago to replace an even older one with a carbed engine that ran fine but wouldn't pass the local smog.

That would be my only caveat on pretty much any Toyota or Honda: don't buy one with a carb.

Forcus

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2013, 09:56:41 AM »

I'll have to look into this. Thought it couldn't be replaced because it's unibody. Mechanic said the same thing about 3rd gen Taurus and rust. It's so short sighted to design a car and not think about those things. A car needs to last at least 20 years. Shouldn't take any amazing technology, just making stuff easy to work on, not changing part specs for decades, and making sure you don't channel water into the wrong places.

If it's the engine subframe that bolts in to the unibody it is replaceable. If it's the unibody itself.... no. But if everything else was in good shape I'd slap some metal stock on it, weld it up and call it a day.

Forcus

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2013, 10:03:50 AM »
All of these are very attractive options. So you've had good luck buying beaters? Maybe the reasons I've been told to stay away from cheap cars over the years have nothing to do with what really matters.

The funny part about beaters is they have gotten vastly better. I'd call my 02 Focus a beater and yet it doesn't smell, leak (for the most part), break down all the time, or cost much to fix. I've had 50's through recent new cars and while the cars now are more complicated, they require less "tinkering". For example, just about every car on the road through the 80's required the wheel bearings to be repacked every 5-10k miles. Now they are unitized bearings and generally last 100k miles or more without any maintenance. I am definitely not advocating buying new or newer but I've seen brand new Mazda 2's (a fun car to drive!), Chevy Sparks (small and as yet unproven) and Fiat 500's for as low as 12k locally (Chicago). New Focus with PW, PL, cruise, side airbags, CD player for around $14k. If you look at total cost of ownership (TCO) and your lifestyle includes lots of driving (for better or worse), some of the newer options start to outshine the traditional beaters. For a truly decent beater that is somewhat safe and doesn't cost too much, I'd look at early to mid 2000's even with some miles and skip the 90's and 80's stuff.

MMMdude

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2013, 03:17:40 PM »
I'll give a +1 for the Toyota beaters.

My daughter's car is a 1995 Camry that I paid $400 for (I had to put the brakes back together to drive it home).  That was 6 years ago, it has ~280,000 miles on it, and I have put perhaps $1k into wear items such as suspension bushings, CV axles, and a timing belt.  Runs like a top still.

Look for the 4 cylinder Camrys, Corollas, those Echos, maybe a Scion xA or xB if you want to carry stuff in a hatchback (though the Scions are going to be newer and above that $2k range).

Another hatchback option is the Celica.  I have a 2000 and gas mileage is great at over 35 mpg if I use some hyper-mile techniques.  Can fit a tonne of stuff in the back too.  Avoid 2000 to 2002 as the 1.8L engine starts burning oil as it gets older and mine is starting to do that at 230,000KM's

shelfins

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2013, 04:46:54 PM »
I have a 2003 Toyota Echo that I bought in '06 off of craigslist w. 64000 miles for just under $7000. It's a fantastic car. It's now up to 125,000 miles and I've never had a single problem with it. I personally favor buying the "newer" used cars rather than a beater bc you get so many worry-free years out of them, and I'm not knowledgeable enough about cars to know which ones will last forever and which ones are going to require expensive repairs 2 years down the road. I don't know what area you're in, but I bet if you buy on craigslist, you can get a 3-5 year old Yaris or Scion for less than $9000. Craigslist sellers are usually happy to negotiate the price, especially if they've been trying to sell for awhile without any bites. My seller originally listed the car for $8300, but ended up selling it to me for just the amount she still owed on the car. Just make sure to get the car checked out by a mechanic you trust before you buy.

Rural

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2013, 04:58:34 PM »
We have an 82 Tercel that runs like a top, though "beater" is an understatement. Can't beat 45 mpg, though.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2013, 06:24:29 PM »
We have an 82 Tercel that runs like a top, though "beater" is an understatement. Can't beat 45 mpg, though.

Sweet ride!

Rural

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Re: Buy a beater, a used Toyota, or keep driving my rustbucket?
« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2013, 12:44:31 PM »
We have an 82 Tercel that runs like a top, though "beater" is an understatement. Can't beat 45 mpg, though.

Sweet ride!

I knew there was a reason I liked this place! :-)