By on April 26, 2011

12 years. That’s how long I drove a 1994 Toyota Camry LE coupe. It was red with a sunroof and ABS. Truly loaded for the time. But not quite loaded for the modern day. I never even considered anything else because to me this was just like an underpowered Lexus without the cost.

We’re talking the type of quiet and serenity that many compact vehicles (which this technically was) still can’t match. The 3rd Generation Camry was the absolute peak of Toyota’s over-engineering prowess and my car pulled a straight 239k with nary a hiccup. One owner later, it just recently crested the 300k mark with plenty of life left on the original powertrain. With that in mind I can…

Rent: Does anyone know how to drive a stick anymore? I swear that the only folks I ever get who even have a clue how to drive one are either over 45 or are immigrants. The Camry would have no trouble pulling in a $25 daily / $175 weekly rental rate. There are still millions of folks who would rather drive an archaic Toyota than a new domestic. That’s too bad for them. This car is good. But not that good. It is 18 years old after all.

Lease: Now we’re in the Camry’s sweet spot. $500 down. $50 to $60 a week for 18 months. Preferably to someone who is 45 or older since they are by far the easiest segment of the population to finance.

These customers want reliability, a little size, and very cheap operating costs. The Camry would be the perfect for it. Of course I have to endure the risk of them not paying or totaling this car without having full coverage insurance. Despite an eagle eye on insurance, this has happened to me twice. I made money on both cars. But not nearly as much as I could have.

Sell: With 188,000 miles and a body that is in near showroom condition, I am probably looking at around $2500. I used to price them right near their out the door price. But today’s market is different. There is so much finance fodder out there that you can’t help but try to get a healthier margin on your inventory. The lack of any good old-school Camry’s that haven’t been rebuilt or Frankensteined by someone with a very strange foreign accent will probably make my life easier if I decide to sell.
Keep: I am tempted. The fellow who owned this car put his kids through Emory, Annapolis, and at least three or four private high schools. He took care of this car from day one, and the interior is surprisingly strong with nary a rip on the seats or a cracked piece of plastic on the dash. I can probably hit close to 35 mpg’s on the highway, and I can still service this particular car with my eyes closed.

In fact, I just did an oil change without so much as blinking an eyelash. Everything is as I remember it. 12 years of familiarity breeds not only acceptance and rote memorization, but respect. With gas prices cresting four dollars, it may now be time to say bye to the 1st Gen Insight hybrid and ‘Hi’ to a familiar thrifty beater. I’m only in for $1150 so depreciation shouldn’t be much.

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64 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1993 Toyota Camry DX – 5 Speed...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Keep it and sell the Insight.  With gas prices rising you’ll likely get what you paid + whatever you have in it and you will never have to think about battery prices again.
     
    Enjoy the over-engineering of Toyota of the early 90s.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      Keep it — $1,200 beaters don’t get much better than this. Insurance, registration and tax will cost more than the car over the course of a couple of years.
       

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I read that very ad… in 1993.
     
    If it’s so clean, I’d keep it. Is that the one with the black stripe panel in the trunklid between the tail lights?
     
     

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Although this model was my least-favorite Camry – I like the late 90′s models better – more American design than most American cars of that vintage.

    If it isn’t too shopworn, rent it if your investment is minimal and reap the profits.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Get rid of it.  Why would you drive anything lacking a modern air bag system?  Do you value life?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      It does have dual airbags. Are you referring to the ‘generations’ of airbags?

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        I can think of lots of reasons to drive a vehicle without modern airbags; I enjoy driving older cars and (for example) there just weren’t many ’69 Continentals made with airbags.  “Less safe” does not mean “unsafe”.
         
        How do you “put a kid” though Annapolis?  Aren’t the service academies free to the students?

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      Side airbags are a must have.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @jj99:
         
        Side airbags are a must have.
         
        Just like DVD players in minivans are a ‘must have’ for some people (not me).  The side air bag is a nice safety device, but it’s definitely on the diminishing-return curve, positioned way below the value of sober driving, obeying the speed limit, defensive driving, wearing a seat belt, ABS, and front air bags.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        How about just looking before you pull out into cross-traffic? There, problem solved, no need for additional pyrotechnics inches from your head.

        I don’t know how I manage to not die on a daily basis in the summer when I drive my Spitfire. No airbags, no crash beams, barely a crumple zone. Seatbelts are mostly decorative. Oh yeah, I PAY ATTENTION to what I am doing!

    • 0 avatar
      Derby129

      Define modern – this model was equipped with a big ol’ lunchbox of an airbag in the steering wheel and one for the passenger, if memory serves.

      @Athos – I also remember seeing this ad, in C/D I think, when I was a young’un in 1993.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      This sort of mythology is why the press didn’t cover the Ford F150 self-detonating airbag story last year. Wouldn’t want to confuse people.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        You kidding? They loved the “passenger side airbags will kill your child!!1one1!” story that was going around a few years back. The only thing they don’t want to run is “Hey, how about you put down your beer and cellphone and buckle your damn seat belt. Driving a little defensively might help too.”

  • avatar
    focal

    that brings back memories…I had a 92 4 door loaded LE in 5 speed manual 4cyl.  That was a awesome car.  and I got 6-7 years out of it and 180k mileage.  It was mint when I sold it for a Jetta GLX VR6.  The new car was more fun but definitely not as reliable.

    Still, I loved that I had a rare manual Camry that easily got me over 500miles a tank on the hwy.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      One of the local retirees has the sedan version of this (4cyl, 5-speed manual) and extremely well kept, and it ought to be since he’s owned it from day one.  He says he get’s 40mpg on the highway.  (His other cars are a Miata and a Mini Cooper so he’s not exactly a “boring car” sort of guy.  BTW I don’t think there are any auto trans vehicles in his fleet.)

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        i had one, and drove pretty conservatively (130K miles on orig brakes and clutch) and I never saw more than 32 HWY.  if he is getting 40mpg hwy, he is driving 40MPH in 5th the whole way

  • avatar
    MR2turbo4evr

    Definitelly, definitelly keep it!!!! Camrys with manual transmissions are so hard to find these days and the 3rd gen Camrys are such good cars. My cousin recently bought one with 370,000km (~227,000mi) on it, if I remember correctly. The engine starts and runs like new, the transmission shifts smooth and it rides nice.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Four or six cylinder? I’d say lease it; it sounds like a bit too much of a cream puff to use as a personal beater. Might want to skew just a tad younger- I don’t know how many 50+ folks will have left legs that agree with a clutch pedal.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    Lease: Now we’re in the Camry’s sweet spot. $500 down. $50 to $60 a week for 18 months.

    Jesus H Christ on a popsicle stick, who in their right mind would lease an 18 y/o Camry with 188K miles on those terms???

    I leased a new ’10 Accord sedan LX (manual trans) for $500 down and I pay $170 per month.  Just sell it and save someone the ignominy of falling into that hellacious lease.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      “Jesus H Christ on a popsicle stick…”

      Can I steal that?

      My brother is in a similar situation as you describe. He is “leasing” a 2002 Kia Sedona, before Kias were beginning to be known for being quality vehicles for the non-brand snobs, with 150k miles and told that he will have spent $11k by the time the lease term is up, unless he can come up with the buyout payment early.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Lord a 2002 Kia Sedona, was the dealer all out of 1990 Hyundai’s for him to lease?

      • 0 avatar
        PartsUnknown

        t-i-b,

        I can’t claim it as my own.  It was a line from the original “Fletch” movie with Chevy Chase.  Always found it funny for some reason.

        There are such cheap leases these days on new cars, particularly on Toyotas and Hondas, that leasing a beater just doesn’t make any sense, to me anyway.

        That sucks about your brother, but now you can advise him in the future with all the wisdom you’ve surely gained as part of the B&B. Just keep him away from Lang! ;)

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Unfortunately, he’s a little credit challenged and couldn’t have gotten a lease on a new car if he wanted to. Let’s just say the CarHop bug bit him twice, and both times ended badly.

  • avatar

    I could swear that both dual airbags and the 2-door body weren’t added until 1994?

  • avatar
    findude

    Does anyone know how to drive a stick anymore? I swear that the only folks I ever get who even have a clue how to drive one are either over 45 or are immigrants.
    We make our kids learn on our manual-transmission cars.  The only other teenagers I run into who can drive stick have at least one parent who is into cars and an “enthusiast” car in the driveway.
    Our kids are proud and wouldn’t have it any other way.  But it is a dying skill (at least in the USA), and, yeah, I’m over 45.
     

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I’m learning how to drive a stick. I kind of forced myself to learn because I wanted to, and no, neither of my parents are “enthusiasts”, but my dad was always stingy, and since sticks were cheaper that’s what he bought.

      There is one skill I don’t have down yet, rev-matching a down-shift and “heel-toe”ing, but I always hear these mentioned in the same vein as racing, and, since I’m not trying to race, I figure they are largely unnecessary for everyday driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I’m a 33 year old who learned to drive stick at age 32.  I was taught by my 26 year old fiance.  She comes from a family where they like to drive new cars but also like to save money.  Given the fact that manual trans vehicles (used to) get better fuel economy and that manual trans vehicles were cheaper to buy, she was expected to learn.  Her father had 3 girls and taught each one how to drive stick.  (Now he double-clutches (even in her 2005 Vibe) but he also has a CDL.)
         
        My fiance says she enjoys being more involved in the process of driving and likes the manual trans for that reason.

      • 0 avatar
        Slow_Joe_Crow

        Rev-matching is actually a universal skill, since matching flywheel and road speeds reduces the loads and wear on the synchromesh and clutch. While a full double clutch downshift is only needed in special cases a simple blip of the throttle, motorcycle style will give you a much smother downshift. Heel and toe is mostly to slow down and shift at the same time so you can mostly save it for the track or special roads.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      I’m a youngin’ at 43 with two kids not even close to driving age (4 and 2).  They’ll learn to drive a stick, assuming there are any left in ten years or so….

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      I’m 32 and drive stick, forcibly taught myself when I bought my truck at age 23 (talk about rare as hen’s teeth…I drive a full-size 2wd quad cab 1/2-ton pickup with a V8 and a 5spd).
      I had previously driven a late-60s/early-70s vintage Cub Cadet tractor with a 3spd so I had had practice clutching, but the gearing and rotational inertia of that beast was in a whole different league than automotive manuals.  Also it was non-synchromesh with a left-hand shifter under the seat and a left-hand throttle on the steering column support post, so rev-matched shifts were a no-go there…”grind it till you find it” and starting out in your desired gear worked though.
       
      I managed to teach my wife to drive it functionally, although she never enjoyed it and never drove the truck often enough to get truly good at it.  Now she’s suffered several left knee injuries and a couple surgeries and can’t quite muster the pain tolerance to utilize foot-operated parking brakes when parking a car, so I think manuals are going to be limited strictly to my own vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      I taught both my daughters to drive a stick, and they both own shifters for themselves. My older (25) daughter feels that mechanics take her more seriously. They both have loved having guys hop in the car with them and seeing the guys realize that they wouldn’t be able to drive this car. Priceless moments!

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Fiance recently took her Vibe in for a recall on the PCM and of course after telling her she could bring it in for the repair they had to turn her away because they didn’t have the unit for the manual equipped cars!  (To the Buick/GMC dealers credit they were able to get the part within 2 days.)
         
        BTW when she bought the car in 2005 she had to special order it because they’re weren’t any manual trans models on the lot.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Slow_joe

      How would I safely teach myself without getting into an accident or damaging the car? The first time I tried it I ground out 4th, and I can’t imagine that’s good either. I know I’m like the dumb kid in an AP class here, but I have looked all around online and everybody discusses it like everybody already knows how to do it. Does the fact that the car has DBW, with about a quarter inch deadspot, make this process more difficult?

      • 0 avatar
        smokescreen

        I (mid-30s) never learned stick when I learned to drive, but I called up a driver’s ed school out of the phone book for a couple of hours of lessons (on their car) before a recent trip to Europe.  I still need a heck of a lot of practice before I call myself adept, but I saved myself a couple hundred dollars on car rentals, since European rental agencies seem to only offer slushboxes on higher-end cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      I’m 36 and I learned to drive in an 82 F-100 with a 3-on-the-tree transmission and my wife learned to drive in a Festiva with a 5-speed. Most of the people I work with, however, that are younger than me never learned to drive a car with a manual transmission.

      One 25 year old told me that manual transmissions are barbaric and reminded me of the year.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I’m 40 and drive stick. Learned on my mother’s Dodge Omni. She liked driving stick because those style cars were peppy and got good gas mileage. I taught my wife to drive stick on my ’83 Civic and now she flat out refuses drive automatics since they are S L O W. Now my truck is auto just because pulling a boat up a slippery ramp is no time to messing with a clutch. Our other two vehicles (VW Passat and Volvo C30) are both manuals. It is a dying skill, at this rate in a few years nobody will remember how to drive stick. The good news: I’m not worried about my car being stolen, based on watching “Bait Car” none of those idiots would be able how to even start a car with a clutch.

    • 0 avatar
      Forty2

      If you ever want to rent a car outside US/Canada you’d better know how to drive a manual. I just came back from Romania and rented a new Ford Mondeo diesel (why oh why can’t we get that car here? So nice) with six-speed stick. Avis at OTP had no automatics. Fine with me, nici o problema! Despite slow traffic we got 32mpg in that big car at $US7.78/gal for diesel, better than my old ’94 Camry LX automatic which, since we’re on topic, only has 41K miles and is a Japan-made specimen. Wish it had std trans but Mom gave up on those in the 50s.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Let’s just say the CarHop bug bit him twice, and both times ended badly.”

    What did he do, wait on cars at Sonic?

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      He had a great 93 Escort wagon, in 2004, that was perfectly serviceable and in great shape, but wanted something better. Due to the aforementioned credit issues CarHop was the only place willing to deal. He got sick of that car went for something bigger, due to pending children, owed too much to trade at a real dealer and went back to CarHop, smashed that car without full coverage.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    I’d lease it or sell it.  No way I’d put an 18 year old manual tranny car out for rent, unless you like replacing clutches often.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    This was the last good Camry, the next gen after these were severely decontented, and ugly too.  One of the posters above said they preferred the late 90s models better?  WTF??  You prefer the flat squared off and ultra-boring 80s Buick wannabe styling to this?  Triple door seals?  Interior (padded) plastic identical to Lexus?  Over-engineered everything?  Cmon…

    Just recently I saw a sedan version of this same generation, had TRD suspension and anti-roll bars, 17″ rims, and nothing else… not riced, no fart can, etc.  Looked like it was brand new.  But the coupe is a looker, and generally more well taken care of.  All that engineering goodness with some extra styling.

    • 0 avatar
      Twin Cam Turdo

      Mark me as another with a strong preference for the subsequent generation as well.

      Better cars in almost every regard. This judgment comes from someone who fixed them.

      There were definitely 2 schools on styling though. Those who liked the angular car, and those who liked the rounded one. Only a few truly seemed happy with both shapes.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Sell it – to me! (Only half-kidding.) You are right: these things are the best.

  • avatar
    focal

    my daughter will learn to drive stick when she is old enough to drive.  As a reward, she’ll get access to my car or my car.

    advantage…more involved driving…less likely to text, or gab away on the cell

    I will trust her driving more than some boy she’ll be dating at the time….and almost assured that boy will not be able to drive the car.   her driving also means she won’t be as quick to drink and be the default DD.  This is how my folks kept my drinking in check.  I was always driving and usually the only one with access to a car.

  • avatar
    Vladimir

    Those manual Camrys truly are rare birds.  My daily driver is a 2001 CE with the 5 speed, my dad’s old car.  I remember when he bought it new.  He was looking to replace a 1993 Mitsubishi Galant (also a manual) and being a fervent reader of Consumer Reports the Camry was high on his list.  Only he only buys manual transmissioned cars…with only stripper options…with tape decks…and it had to be white.  Even by 2001 this was a problem of the highest order.  After what must have been weeks of searching and annoying various Toyota dealers in Texas and New Mexico a suitable car finally turned up.  It had power door locks (to him a negative feature) and a big dealer logo on the trunk (ditto) but it was a stick-shift.
    When my mom and I went to pick up the car at the dealer you could tell the salesman was only too happy to be rid of it.  Stripper 4-cylinder Camry CE, white with beige interior with a manual?  I somehow doubt it was attracting a lot of adoring attention on the lot.
    A good car though.  Even with its underwhelming engine the stick makes driving enjoyable, plus incredible mileage.  Runs between Austin and El Paso can be done on one tank on occasion.  I’m not looking forward to replacing it.  Compared to the current Camry this one is a svelte compact and its lack of electrical devices to fail has been refreshing.  But finding stripper manual four door sedans these days?  Might as well be looking for dodo birds.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    My Father’s 1990 Chevrolet Corsica went 250K before needing a fuel pump. And it had great clear coat and paint probably due to my waxing it. Can’t say the same for mid-90′s Jap cars in Cleveland area salt as they bleed rusty red from every seam like Camry and late model Prelude I saw. Your so called over engineering was limited by the social economic person in control over the maintenance. My Beretta had similar results but drove much exuberantly. :)

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Your mileage may very.  The Japanese had rust pretty well control by the early ’90s and seemed to solve it altogether by the end of the decade.  My parent’s ’91 Camry had terrible rust in the fenders and rear quarters, but the ’92+ seems largely immune.  Honda had chronic but minor rear quarter rust through about ’95.  Detroit wasn’t too bad with rust by the ’80s, but then they had decades of experience with Midwestern climate conditions.

      Paint and clearcoat varies by region.  Only the most abused cars seem to have bad paint up North anymore (unless you bought a red car in the ’80s/early ’90s and Toyota was the absolute worst).  But down here in the South, clearcoat takes a major beating….any dark colored car more than 10 years old that hasn’t been meticulously maintained is pretty much shot.

      I used to see a lot of Corsicas with major paint peeling issues…now I just don’t see Corsicas much anymore.  Good basic maintenance and a little luck go a long way.  My ’02 Honda recently developed a paint peel problem on the hood, thanks to a bad respray.  As much as we bang on about “Car X is unreliable, Car Y is bulletproof,” the best cars can be lemons and the worst cars can be troublefree.

    • 0 avatar
      lzaffuto

      I think you are the exception that proves the rule. I see at least two of these generation Camrys every day on my metro Atlanta commute. I haven’t seen ONE Corsica since the late 1990s.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Keep it, at least for awhile.  This really was the peak for the Camry.  As much as the Camry gets knocked for being boring, the 3rd generation was quite appealing when it debuted.  I was green with envy when our neighbors showed up with a new ’92 LE, while my folks had a dumpy base model ’91.

    This car, and the two concurrent generations of Honda Accord were great cars.  But it’s rare to find one that isn’t beat to death anymore.  I thought my old Accord was tired after 10 years, but it was a cream puff compared to most of the ones I’ve seen since.  It was worth way more than the $3800 I sold it for…should have kept it.

    Besides, now might be a great time to unload an original Insight.

  • avatar
    baggins

    I had a beige 1994 Camry DX with a 5 speed.  Sold it in 2004 with 130k miles for 2,000 to a used car lot.  

    Car was amazingly well built.  Still had orig brakes and clutch, and the paint was amazing. I dont recall an substantial repairs in the 10 years I owned it.  When I bought some touch up paint, I saw that it was used for both Lexus and Toyota.  Clearly the paint was lexus spec.  

    The car so quiet and smooth on the hwy and the 2.2 liter engine pulled fine with the 5 speed.  Got bout 28 mpg.

    I dont think the 1993 has dual air bags BTW.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There is no such thing as “Lexus spec”. A Lexus is a Toyota, full stop. What was sold in the US as a Lexus was sold in the rest of the world as a Toyota. Only in the past couple years has the Lexus brand been used outside of North America.

      That certainly was the golden age of Toyota though. Been nothing but downhill ever since. Now they are boring and a little crappy. At least they used to be boring but beautifully built.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    This generation of Camry was an absolutely brilliant car.  I had a 96 for 8 years. So very boring but so richly built.  Even the door panels were softly padded all the way down to the sill.  The dashboard underneath the steering wheel was padded.  Ran smooth as silk and oh so quiet.  No driver feedback or any kind of sensory input, but you hardly cared.
    Damn near faultless car, part of me regrets selling it.   Sure beat the pants off of the Luminas, Tauruses, and Altimas of the day.   Toyota has really fallen from that high water mark.

  • avatar
    threeer

    This is a classic definition of a “no-brainer!”  A five-speed coupe Camry?  Hell, I’d want it…even with the 188k!  I feel your pain, as I am severely struggling with sending my son his 1997 Tercel (with 192k on it) to him out in Colorado Springs, as he is not known for his ability to keep up on maintenance of his possessions (thank God that if he does become an Air Force pilot that there are crew members that will be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of whatever he flies!).  I’d rather keep that little jewel of a car parked here in the South, where I can use it as a daily commuter.  The mid 90s were certainly a sweet spot for Toyota.  Keep the Camry, enjoy the solidity and cheap upkeep…and keep shifting those gears!

  • avatar
    windswords

    Steve,
     
    I will buy this car from you. Two things I want to know: does it get 30+ on the highway and does the AC take R-134? If so I’m in north Florida. I will send my private email to you if you are interested. And yes, I’m over 45 and know how to drive stick.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      It still takes R-12. I was planning on converting it since the Freon is low and I have about a half dozen vehicles to go through. This model does get 30+ on the highway (31 to 32 is typical).

      Contact Ed Niedermeyer and he’ll forward your email. I should be able to send you some pics as well.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        Oh well. R-134 is a requirement for me. I knew that was right around the time that they started switching over. Our new 94 Grand Caravan had 134 and it wasn’t even a redesign.

  • avatar
    william442

    Come on people. A ten speed, non synchro, Road Ranger, takes some time to master, but passenger cars are easy. The 15 year old took about ten minutes,with me as a teacher! Just do it, and save the rev matching for driver’s school.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Soft touch plastics everywhere, from the lower door panelss to the glove box, and the steering wheel is great. The 2009 Camry I drive is a shit box compared to the 96 model. Only problem is they added the side impact beams in 95, I think. I wouldn’t feel safe in that 1993 camry.


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