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.