TTAC Commentator Ralph Schpoilschport writes:
Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged! But. I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA. My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual). Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) and a muffler on its last leg. Spark plugs, starter, timing belt and water pump are recent repairs/maintenance. As I type, an attempt is being made to seal the rear diff. If that is successful I am having the mechanic give the chassis a once-over.
If the inspection is clear or things are easily fixed I am planning on making the trip with this car. I figure the car is worth approx $2500 – 3000 as it sits. Am I nuts?
- Rent a car one way. Haven’t looked but figure this to be well over $1000.
- Trade the rig in. Nice leases for Rav 4’s going on right now. Not sure how the bank would feel about my plan esp. considering I am leaving my job of 9 years for a new one in SoCA.
- Buy a newer used vehicle. This doesn’t seem like a good idea. If I were to do this I’d rather do it in CA than here (rust).
You aren’t exactly taking a trip: moving to California, needing something to move your stuff is more of a life-changing moment.
- Renting is out of the question: sell the 4Runner instead, then take a plane and ship all your stuff instead.
- You are averse to getting a new car, which is acceptable in your position.
- Getting another used vehicle is both buying someone else’s problems and asking to lose more money on two trade-ins in the near future instead of one.
Honestly, you need this thing to make one last road trip. Sounds like the motor is fine, and hopefully there’s a decent band-aid fix for the axle. If not, just swap the axle with a junkyard unit to give peace of mind and increase resale value.
My biggest concern is the tires: if they are worn and/or 5+ years old, they might not survive that much highway cruising. And odds are the spare isn’t in better shape! So get new tires for the same reasons you’d replace the axle. Ditto other rubber items you’ve overlooked (belts, hoses, vacuum lines, etc) but could explode on the trip. Because your 4Runner (or any Toyota from that era, for that matter) is a hot commodity in any market, especially California. New rubber and a non-rusty axle speeds up the sale and adds value. You’re not gonna waste your money here.
Best of luck in your new career AND your new digs. Do the basics and the 4Runner will do just fine.
Who knows, you might just keep it!
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.