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Considering buying a 2nd gen...

45463 Views 914 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  Kingdom934
Hello. I've owned two cars in the past; a used 2008 Toyota Yaris (that I only owned for five months before totaling it in a car crash), then a new 2011 Mazda2, which I totally loved every day until it was repossessed and immediately auctioned due to financial troubles on my part earlier this year. I've been without a car now for three months in the most car-dependent state on the planet, and yeah, it sucks.

So now that I'm steadily employed and relatively financially stable again, I need another car, and fast. I absolutely do not want to deal with monthly payments, aside from auto insurance and regular maintenance/gas. At first, I was looking at 4th generation Camrys, since they're still everywhere and those were the last generation of said reliable car before all the cars started getting really fat and bloated (high beltines, anyone?). But the average price of those Camrys is too high for me to save up for at the moment ($2300-$3300). I also looked at used 2000s cars to buy outright, but most under $2500 are full of problems. So I opted for pre-1997 cars for less than $2000.

That's where the 2nd generation Camry comes in. Here in Southern California, especially in L.A. and vicinity, there are still quite a few of these 1987-1991 Camrys zipping around, and with no rust. In my city alone, there are probably a dozen or so of them on the roads (white seems to be the popular color of choice). I see enough of them daily to where I feel they have proven themselves to be sturdy, reliable vehicles for their age. I see just as many 1986-89 and 1990-93 Honda Accords and Civics here, but those are stolen even more, and I don't need that. I also could have opted for the just-as-good-if-not-better 3rd generation Camrys (1992-1996), but they're too round and ordinary-looking for my taste. The 2nd gen Camrys got it right IMO, not too boxy but not too round either.

So I've been doing extensive research on these 2nd gen Camrys every single day for the past month now, and there are over 100 of them for sale locally on craigslist. Many have between 100K and 200k miles; I've even seen some with 300,000+ miles on them (!!!). So I'm currently saving up about $1500 for one, that seems like a reasonable price to me. Now I am not a mechanic nor am I very mechanically inclined with cars (the most I've done is change the air filter on my 2011 Mazda2), however I'm willing to learn what is needed to keep the car running smoothly. In fact, it kinda seems like it would make me feel more personally attached to the car, thus making it even more special. I would not typically drive long distances in the car, I just need to get to my job and college (all within a few miles) and occasionally my friend's house and stuff like that. Local driving, mostly. However I should mention that the roads here are pretty crappy in general. We also have many, many curvy & twisty roads, often with long, gradual as well as very steep grades/inclines. I hope the Camry can handle it.

I do love listening to music, oh man do I love me some good tunes. So I've already looked into Pioneer audio systems for the car just in case, as I don't believe the stock stereo/speakers will do the bass any real justice.

As for safety, to be honest, I'm not all that concerned. Post-1985 cars I'm not worried about. It has just enough for me, I'm fairly minimal in my preferences in a car. All I need is a good sound system, A/C and the typical power steering/etc and I'm set. I'm 23, by the way.

So tl;dr - are these good cars? Is $1500 worth it? Any advice/tips/recommendations/etc? Thank you.
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I'd recommend the 4 banger since it's easier to work on and the consensus is that it's more reliable. And as botee, the earliest gen 2 is approaching 30 years old and the newest 25, so most you'll come across will have some issues most likely depending on the owner. A cream puff clean one will go for more than $1500.
I think at this point if you're buying a 25 year+ old car any accidents it's had in its life and repairs probably aren't an issue. If a 1991 model was totaled in 1996 and then rebuilt and has gone 20 years, I think it's safe to say it's okay.
The sun will explode before a CA car rusts.
The white one in Marina del Ray looks good. Not my cup of tea bare bones model, but looks to be a well maintained one. Call 'em up.
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I couldn't buy a base model or older DX for the simple reason I can't stand the ugly black bumpers and rough upholstery and vinyl on the insides. I can stand roll up windows in a truck but not a car.
Nice Lexus. Still, I'd like to know what I can do with the speaker setup in the 2nd gens. Do you think I'll have to carve spaces for speakers to fit in the doors?

Also, saw another 2nd gen while I was going for a walk this evening. Paint is oxidized, but pretty much all of them here are like that at this point. Every time I see one, I feel better about my decision to get one.

License plate lookup shows it's a 1991.
You can tell it's a '91 from the front valence panel as well.
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106 mile trip should be no problem for a properly running car.
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Id give that Cressida a call asap. $850 will go fast.
There's a 929 floating around my neck of the woods that is in good shape.

And why are we mentioning the fucking Cavalier?
I don't know, I loath those cars. There used to be a banana yellow one next door it never ran right the owner was finally able to dump it off to some sucker. I'm sure they had a big party about the whole thing.
Those cars are part of the many reasons GM went bankrupt. Absolutely terrible cars. Its even note embarrassing they made those well into 2005. The Cobalt was a big turd too. The Cruze is a decent car though.
GM went bankrupt for a reason I will not be surprised if it happens again. The Toyota Echo I believe is the most reliable Toyota model out there, possibly of any car except maybe a Lexus. The car is incredibly simple and well built the cost of ownership is criminally low. But the car is not very comfortable and you don't want to be seen driving it.

I found this the other day so beautiful

Wow. What a find. Even has digital dash too. Gonna add it to your fleet?
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For that matter, adding a single-DIN radio to it is VERY simple.

The VIN was in the ad - AD7427EECO75523 - but if you have a limited number of Carfaxes, you might wait until the OP sees it in person first.
That's an odd vin. Shouldn't the second digit be an "H" for Honda?

It's also only 15 and not 17 digits - I suspect he left off the initial 1H or JH.

For that age, JH (Japanese-built) would be preferable, but that wouldn't be my primary consideration - it's a plus if it is, though.
At this point it would make no difference. I don't have any qualms against USA built Toyota or Honda. My '91 was built at TMMK.
I couldn't own a car with a carburetor anymore EFI is so much better and essentially zero maintenance. Hope it works out for you.
Even though it was still common on a lot of cars of the era still, a carb on anything in the mid-80s on is so foreign to me. My Cressy had EFI and was so advanced for the day. The Camry from the start was also all EFI.

Cadillacs and Lincolns had carbs until the early 90s in some cars. Totally unacceptable.
Drivers side shim.
Cars that have power brakes and steering that have it disabled are often times worse than cars that were built without them. It's not the same.
Brakes I would get done asap, belts and hoses next. If it were my car it would be parked until brakes were 100%.

Clean oil, filter, air filter, coolant flush (use factory Honda), maybe transmission service if not done.

Shocks are not required unless rusty and if it's a CA car all its life ignore that.

Fluid leaks...if it's slow or seeping, not high priority. Monitor levels.

Washer nozzle is likely bad pump. If it's like the Camry, pretty easy job to do. Go to junkyard.

A/C is up to you. Can you live without it? I can't and I Would've passed (and the bad brakes).
if you are directing that at my comments, perhaps you'll notice (or not) that i didn't claim a carbed engine would run "better" (by which i assume you mean smoother), rather, i claimed that some carbed motors can be made to run more reliably than some efi motors, especially early versions of efi motors. there is a difference.

when everything is functioning correctly, my 4runner runs great. the issue is that it doesn't consistently run great. my older vehicles with carburetors run reliably. i can ALWAYS get them to start, quickly, and they will run all day, without issue, and i can drive them. no issues with bogging, hesitation, zero acceleration, unlike the 4R.

the 97 corolla has a little bit later efi version, and it runs excellent, and has for 15 years (238K now). haven't had any driveability issues with it (at least related to efi/ignition). no question it's reliable.

hope the same will be true of the 89 camry. i've only had it for a year (it has 84K).

per your post, i assume you mean an 83 22re (efi), rather than an 83 22r (carb)? otherwise, your comment makes no sense.

Just because your old 4Runner has problems doesn't take away from the fact EFI is more reliable than a carb. My Cressida never had EFI problems and the early Toyota systems are robust.
Take it from someone who owned a Cressida. Amazing cars to drive, reliable, so many positives. Parts were getting a bit harder to get at the end but not impossible, but it's a challenge. But seeing how you are on a budget I would stay far away. They take time and $$ to keep going the way you want them to. You've already sunk so much into that Accord, drive it until you can't fix it anymore. Then look for something newer.
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A Cressida will cost you more to operate than a Corolla/Camry and Accord.
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