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.