By on March 23, 2016

Scion-tC

Sophia writes:

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer this email, it’s greatly appreciated.

I have a budget of $6k and would like to buy a used car (automatic transmission). I really like the Scion tC models from ’06-’08 (I’m a fan of its smooth curves).  Is it worth spending $6k on a car that has ~100k miles? I live in Silicon Valley and most the Scions I’ve seen for sale are in Sacramento or LA; I wouldn’t mind traveling a bit for the right car. By that measure, I love to drive and need a car that can take me all along the West coast as well as the weekly commute and won’t break the bank when it comes to repairs. Am I asking too much of a used vehicle? My 2001 civic made it through 235k miles, and while I prefer to stick to the Honda or Toyota family, am I missing out on a reliable American vehicle?

Again, thank you for the advice.

Regards,

Sophia

Back when I used to judge high school solo and ensemble music competitions for money in college, I seriously considered buying a rubber stamp that said “More dynamics.” I mean, every single kid needed to use more dynamic contrast (loud and soft playing), so I literally wrote “More dynamics” on every single judge’s sheet. The stamp would have been a YUUUUGE time saver. After about three months of doing the Ask Bark column, I’ve decided to buy two rubber stamps—one that says “Pontiac Vibe” and another that says “Scion tC.”

I say this not to be (entirely) facetious. There are good reasons that people are attracted to these cars — they’re reliable, they’re functional, and they’re attractively styled. They’re also holding their value like a mother. I sold my 2005 Scion tC for about $9000 in 2008. I could probably get close to that for it today, eight years later.

Let’s address the actual question that Sophia has asked here — is it reasonable to spend about $6,000 on a car with 100K on the clock? Well, it obviously depends on the car. In the case of the tC, it’s a definite maybe. Let me explain.

The tC typically attracted one of two types of buyers:

  1. A nice young lady (such as you) who just wanted something sporty, fun, and cute to drive.
  2. A Toyota JDM aficionado who really wanted something like the FR-S, excuse me, Toyota 86, only it didn’t exist yet, so they bought a TRD supercharger and TEIN springs and god-knows-what-else for it. Like this one.

If you find one that was owned by the former, I’d say that 100K on that Toyota 2.4 liter motor shouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, you should be able to knock out another century of miles and still be in good shape. The tC isn’t a particularly complicated car, and there aren’t many known issues with any of the main components.

However If you find one that was owned by the latter, run away as fast as your little legs can carry you. It’s likely had a hard life. However, since most of the ricer-types preferred stick shifts, I think you’ll be okay.

Now, with all that being said, I did a search for tCs in the Valley, and you’re absolutely right about it being difficult to find one in your price range. In fact, even searching 500 miles out, the options aren’t fantastic — lots of cars with salvage titles, super high miles, damage history, etc. 100K miles might not be to much to ask of a used car, but once we start getting closer to 200K, we’re pushing it a bit.

However, if you bump your budget up to about $8,000, the selection is much better. I would never tell you to stretch yourself beyond what you can really afford, but if it’s only a few more months of saving, you’d be better off with a fresher car. You could also look at some Civic and Accord coupes in that price range, but after several years in a Civic, it sounds like you’re ready for something different.

Are you missing out on something American? Well, unless you consider the Pontiac Vibe to be American (where’s my little stamp?), I’m gonna go ahead and say no. $6K and below doesn’t get a lot of American two-door fun (think Cobalt or unloved-gen Focus). Based on your love of the tC, the only option I’d recommend for you in your price range would probably be a 2005+ V6 Mustang, and I think you’d have better reliability out of the Scion.

So Bark’s final recommendation is that you scrape together a few more bucks and go Scion shopping. By the time you do that, the favorite son brand will be completely dead, which might help drive down prices a bit, as well. I hope you enjoy your tC as much as I enjoyed mine.

Are you looking for some sensible car buying advice? Or, just looking for some justification to spend a lot of money on a purely emotional purchase? You’ve come to the right place! Email Bark at [email protected] or get all up in his DMs on Twitter at @barkm302. 

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126 Comments on “Ask Bark: Is $6,000 Too Much To Spend On A High Mileage Car?...”


  • avatar
    motorrad

    Used car prices are crazy. I’m looking for a car for my 16 year old daughter and I’m dumbfounded by prices. What happened to the $1000 beater? She learned on an Integra GSR so I want to get a manual so I don’t have an automatic transmission repair hanging over my head. I’m looking in the $2500-$3500 range and there is nothing in that range that isn’t on the far side of 150K miles. Right now my short list is a 99 Accord EX with 163K asking price $3500 and a 98 Acura CL with 201K for $2200. I’m probably going to have to up my budget to get her anything decent.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Today’s cars generally have more features, last longer, and hold value better. At the same time, today’s dollar buys less than it did yesterday.

      When was the last time you actually bought a $1000 beater? I would argue that the prices aren’t crazy, but more like you haven’t adjusted to the market reality of 2016.

      • 0 avatar
        Ko1

        I bought a pretty good $1000 beater about a month ago. The only disclaimer is that I work for the dealership I bought it from.

        It’s a 2006 Buick Allure that used to be my dad’s car. He traded it in at 150,000 km. They couldn’t sell it for some reason so the dealership kept it internally for running around between our dealer group here in Southern Alberta. It had just over 419,000 km on it when I picked it up for $525.

        Add a thermostat and gas cap to clear some CEL codes ($32), plugs and wires ($150), tranny flush w/internal filter ($150), oil change w/ air filter ($30), and a new windshield ($235) bringing the total price so far up to $1122.

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        Look for Panthers. I bought my son’s P71 for an even grand. You can’t be afraid to buy a car with issues for $1000, my son’s was running on 6 cylinders, but we swapped some coils and found an injector plug loose. $50 later it ran like a top. It looks like hammered dog crap, with hail dings, half-assed removal of Department of Safety stickers, and fender dents, but the A/C works and so do all the windows and door locks. If you want to swap on some Mustang wheels, look for an ’03 or later, but expect to pay nearer to $2000.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        This right here. I bought a $1000 beater a couple years ago, like 2013. It was a 1992 Rodeo 4×4 with a manual and some minor issues. It was also by far the best car I found under $2k in my area (greater DC/Baltimore).

        Beater really starts at $2500-$3k, anything below that is actually a crapcan.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Weird. I am asking 9k for my 07′ 94k Honda accord coupe and getting no action.

      I know I am a bit high on price, but compared to a car that is almost a decade older with way more miles one would think the 07′ was worth a look.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        That’s weird. Jack has an Accord coupe, and all he talks about is the action he gets. Maybe buy a gold lamee jacket or a fancy watch?

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        @ 87 Morgan

        2 things:

        First, wait a couple more weeks. As people really start finishing up their taxes and are fat on cash you’ll probably have more luck.

        Second, you might just have to wait for your car to depreciate more. In my experience selling privately, the sweet spot is between $5-7k. Higher than that, most people have problems producing cash and need to get financing, which they don’t know how to do, don’t have the credit for, vehicle is too old, etc.

        I’ve had more than a few deals fall through on the 2 cars I’ve sold in the 8-10k range because the buyer couldn’t secure financing due to the age/mileage of the vehicle. At 9 years old and almost 100k miles, many banks and credit unions won’t finance a vehicle, regardless of credit.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If you want a used Japanese car, you’ll have to pay the premium for it.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The issue is, new car prices haven’t gone up as much. In many situations, it’s worthwhile to buy or lease new. For that $6000 you are likely close to a 3 year lease on a new TC. why buy a $6000 beater? Not to mention that the old car will need some maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      sbvaeth

      Too bad you missed out on that 300se on BAT

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “What happened to the $1000 beater?” Cash for Clunkers

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      The $1000 beater got crushed back in 2009 when it was a $3000 beater for which someone was paid $4000 to turn it into a $0 beater.

    • 0 avatar
      kobo1d

      I priced out both of our cars to see how we should be insuring them. Black book about $2500 (’03 Eclipse GTS @ 138k) and $4000 (’08 Mazda3i @ 112k). Sounded pretty reasonable. Then I started looking around to see what people are selling in this price range. It’s insane what people think is worth $2500-$4000 here. What an eye opener. The bottom of the market is trashed right now. Meanwhile you can get almost brand new compact cars for $10000. Unreal.

    • 0 avatar
      sbspence

      You can thank Obama’s cash for clunkers program for your woes. SO many GOOD used cars were destroyed by this program. The individual stories would break your heart!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Yes but don’t forget the steep production drop off after 2007. MY08s and 09s should have become today’s beaters and production more than halved after 2008 until around 2011/12. So there’s a large gap of missing supply combined with a horrible program which took serviceable pre 2007 vehicles off the streets. They could have played the same Keynesian BS and not destroyed the vehicles, instead auctioning them off to the public. True junk would not have gotten a bid and ended up scrap, but that’s statist thinking for you.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        No, the Clunkers program isn’t the cause of the used car shortage. Most qualifying vehicles were pre-2000 gas guzzlers, hardly high-demand items today. New car sales fell off a cliff during and after the 2008 crash, that’s why there’s a shortage of used cars now. Actual numbers:

        New vehicle sales 2006: 16.56 million
        2007: 16.15 million
        2008: 13.2 million
        2009 10.4 million
        Using 2006 as a baseline, that’s 9.8 million lost sales over 3 years. The Clunkers program crushed 690,000 vehicles. I realize it’s fun to blame Obama for all the world’s ills, but in this case the numbers don’t add up.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Sources?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Per this source:

          USA 2,195,588 3,513,843 5,709,431 -34.3%

          http://www.oica.net/category/production-statistics/2009-statistics/

          USA 3,924,268 6,856,461 10,780,729 -4.5%

          http://www.oica.net/category/production-statistics/2007-statistics/

          So I was wrong, production almost halved but just barely squeaked by.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          Russcyle you also have to figure in the annual crush rate remains fairly constant.
          So in those years that new car sales fell off a cliff approximately the same number of cars were totaled out in wrecks or ‘retired’ and now find themselves in Murilee Martins segments.

          The used car price inflation was very predictable and will start to fall here shortly. See yesterdays article regarding Toyota trying to figure what to do with off-lease cars.

          • 0 avatar
            jim brewer

            Yes indeed. I bought a 7yr old 750 IL for 12k before the crash. With the fleet average age of 11 years or so at one point, it will take awhile to normalize.

            There are deals out there in new cars.

            One thing about a high mileage car is that it’s harder to hide abuse and easier to evaluate.

        • 0 avatar
          sbspence

          “According to a recent TriCities op-ed from Mike Smith of Ralph Smith Motors in Virginia, CARS created a dearth of used cars, artificially driving up prices. For those who needed an affordable car, but didn’t qualify for the program, this increase in price meant affordable transportation was well out of reach. It also meant used-car dealers, most of whom are independently owned, small-business owners, had little to no stock. According to Smith, 122 Virginia dealers chose not to renew their licenses after that year. ” per Yahoo op ed circa 2014. “shrug”

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        There are more than 40 million used cars sold in the US each year.

        Cash for Clunkers involved 690,000 units, or about 1/4 of 1% of the used cars sold since then.

        So no, C4C did pretty much nothing to the used car market.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “So no, C4C did pretty much nothing to the used car market.”

          But did it do anything to the very, very bottom of the used car market or the market for old SUVs and full-size cars?

        • 0 avatar
          SP

          690,000 / 40,000,000 = 0.01725, or 1.725%.

          It’s true it’s not a huge number. But it did make a significant dent in the affordable end of the used car market.

          It also cut parts availability for the people that were trying to keep their cars on the road, probably causing some additional affordable cars to go to scrap.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        The legislation for C4C was started under Bush FWIW. But you can blame Obama anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      rcx141

      American used car prices are insane. I thought that when I came here in 2002, more so now.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Compared to where? I’m just asking because I understand there are boatloads of used cars being shipped from the US to other markets, presumably for even more insane prices.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I worked with a guy that had a stamp for all work birthday and special event greeting cards. It said “Happy (blank event) (blank name)! -Greg-“

  • avatar
    seth1065

    USe car prices have stayed high, the $1,000 beater is now a $3500 beater, with anything under $5,000 grand your rolling the dice. Instead of a TC which hold their value maybe go in the mazda 2 or # direction, ou in Calf rust should not be a issue and maybe you get more bang for your buck. Agree that if the car has been taken care of 100,000 miles on a Toyota should not be a issue.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      In my corner of the world I’d say that the price floor is $4000, but your point still stands. The cars I’ve seen when shopping with my stepkids and their limited funds were atrocious!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Somehow I lucked out and got a truly excellent car (although with high miles) for $2700 when I bought my Acura Legend. Most of the ones in that price range had either blown head gaskets or interiors that had evidently been gnawed on by bears. For a truly good car, even with 200k miles, these days it seems like you’re usually looking closer to $4000.

      The catch (which will apply to any beater): I had to spend another $2000 or so on preventative maintenance to make it good for another 100k miles. If you just need emergency transportation and don’t need it to last this may not apply.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The legend of the Legend.

      • 0 avatar

        In general if you have time and are open to more options you find better deals. But at the moment used car prices are still high but better than they were 2-3 years ago. I’m just in shock by how many 5 year old and less cars I see with well over 120k miles lots of people driving lots of miles. I think 6K for a car with around 100k and less then 10 years old is pretty good at least here in the northeast.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    Does it have to be a coupe? My friend just bought a nice ’08 Saturn Aura with 65k miles for $6000 for his daughter. I liked it way better than my old ’04 Civic.

    A few years ago, I bought a ’97 Volvo 850 with 59K miles for $3000. I put another 100k miles on it without any real problems, then sold it for $2000.

    My point is there are deals to be had if one looks down the road less traveled. Everybody else is looking at used Hondas and Toyotas, driving up their prices like mad. Reliability? I’d take a nice Malibu with 70k miles over any Honda with twice the mileage (and probably twice the price) and never look back.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Less travelled: a Saturn. Or go with an older model,lower mileage Pontiac or Buick. We’re talking 3800 here.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      The time has passed to get into Saturn. The youngest ones are over 6 years old, which is past “best before” for GM products, and dealer-only parts are gone. Still OK for a $1,000 gamble, but not on the list if she has a reasonable budget and doesn’t want complications.

      As far as 3800s are concerned, it’s a different size category. She may not want a car that big. She may not even have space to park a car that big in Silicon Valley.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “As far as 3800s are concerned, it’s a different size category.”

        This sounds like a job for the Reatta!

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        “The time has passed to get into Saturn…“best before” for GM products”

        Well that depends on which one. An ’02 L300? Definitely past its expiration date. An ’07-’10? Not so much. Most later-model Saturns shared major components with other mainstream GM stuff (Malibu, Traverse, etc.), cars that are still in production today.

        Also, the gulf in quality between GM and Japanese isn’t what it was 20 years ago. A lot has changed since the 90’s.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Personally I’m not going near most Saturn product after 2002, Relay might be the exception.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          The late-model Saturn in her price/size range is the Astra, which shares almost nothing with other GM USA products. They are probably OK if you already have one, but I wouldn’t encourage someone to buy into that whole saga if they are looking for a Honda/Toyota ownership experience.

          • 0 avatar
            e30gator

            The Aura is also in that price range and is essentially a rebadged Chevy Malibu.

            Also, having owned several examples of both, the storied/flawless/perfect Honda/Toyota ownership experience is mostly a myth in this day and age, perpetuated by the tinfoil hat crowd.

            At her price point, most Toyondas are going to have plenty of miles on the clock and are probably coming off their second or third owner. Unless they come with a folder full of maintenance records and repair history, she’s likely going to be paying a premium for the second owner’s dodged bullets. And for what? The privileged of announcing ownership of an old, high-mile Civic or Scion TC?

            When looking for a cheap used car, condition and ownership history trumps brand name. If I only had $6k to buy a used car, I certainly wouldn’t limit the scope of my search to just two expensive Japanese products.

          • 0 avatar
            jlimm

            Avoid late-model Saturns at all costs. Google 2008 Saturn Vue and try finding any forums or any useful repair information. I had to go to three different part stores to find a head light relay. The third one was able to look at a picture I had and cross reference it with a similar relay in their catalog. Luckily it worked. There are no repair manuals available for the car. These cars are rebadged Opels and prone to annoying electrical issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        The Aura was the same exact thing as the Malibu, and it was a pretty solid car.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Coming from a higher mileage Civic and looking at a tC, Sophia strikes me as an appliance owner. 3800 would serve her well but dealing with all of the GM cost cutting on the rest of the car I think may not meet her needs.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Someone who likes the image a tC projects is not going to be happy driving around in an old LeSabre or Eighty Eight.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I paid $6700 OTD for my 2007 Altima with 122k on the clock and a 4- or 5- page 1-owner carfax showing an obsessive maintenance history. 20 months and 23k miles later I have no regrets. Car doesn’t exactly stir my soul, but it’s reliable. As much as I want something newer I am fighting on the inside because the thing won’t die and not having a car payment is a nice feeling.

    OP Can’t go wrong with a Toyota, and since you’re getting an automatic the odds of abuse are much lower.

    And my caveat as always- if you’re looking at a TC, get an insurance quote first!

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Now that sounds like a case study for CVT durability. I’m always curious as to how people are doing with CVTs and direct injection at high mileage.

      Keep us posted.

    • 0 avatar
      DanyloS

      Similar situation, acquired a 2006 Altima 4cyl with ~125k/mi (4sp automatic) on it about 5yrs ago. It’s big and boring, does nothing to “stir my soul” but it takes a beating and keeps driving fine with minimal maintenance.

      At 230k now have only done tires, Shocks, pads/rotors, one wheel bearing and one tie rod end and an exhaust flex pipe. Just did a weekend round trip from Philly to S.FLA w/ no issues. Fortunately/unfortunately this one looks like it will continue to soldier on for a while. (good for my bank account, bad for fun)

      At this millage its not worth selling. It need an ABS module replaced but that’s over $2k and the car isn’t worth that much.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My wife and I had our tCs in the exact scenario Bark mentioned. We were both younger and not married at that point.
    I was slightly more reasonable than the guy in #2. I did modify it quite a bit but for the most part I used only TRD parts. I also didn’t supercharge it, which more than likely all the ones that were are no longer on the road. The TRD superchargers were notorious for exploding.

    I want to suggest that she save up some more and get a tC, however I sold my 2005 (for about $9500 – I think) in 2010 with around 56k miles. So I don’t really know how they have held up over the long haul. I’m sure fine but I have no basis for that.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Generally speaking, is it too much to spend 6K on “high mileage” vehicle? Yes, BUT, 100K over ten to eleven years isn’t high mileage at just under average at 10K per annum.

    The other factor to consider is California is a bit different than many places due to its large size, climate, stringent emissions, and plethora of highways. What I might look at with 80K in X condition for Y dollars might be 180K in X condition for Y dollars in Cali and still be a buy. This was odd to me ten years ago when I first encountered the concept of 200K+ commuter cars, we didn’t have these back East.

    Would I look for a tC in Cali if I were Sophia with about 100K? Yes I would.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The difference between East and West Coast is a thing, both in terms of prices and the impact of mileage. A lifetime West Coast car with 100k miles often looks and feels similar to a lifetime East Coast or Rust Belt car with 50k miles. On the other hand you can expect to pay 20% to 50% more on the West Coast.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    If you have some good indie guys around, Saab 9-3. Twice the car with half the mileage for less money.

    https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/664141270/overview/

    There are a ton of ’em around. OK, it won’t be quite as reliable as the Toyota… but you can get it with a lot fewer miles on the clock and it’s going to be a vastly better car.

  • avatar
    jimf42

    I bought a Lexus RX300 with 190K miles on it for 6K…it has been a great car for 40K miles since then. The key is buy a car like that which was built well to begin with and the engine and trans will easily last…as will the other creature comforts. I have had to do normal maintenance like brakes, shocks and starter, but nothing you would not expect on any used car.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    That’s definitely a tough segment of the market to shop IMO. I started somewhere there ($7500ish for a 4cyl commuter) and by the end of it all, ended up with an 11k mile Civic bought for $15k. The problem with those cars in that price range in this day and age is that they tend to be so darn used up. That $6k car will need approximately the same maintenance items that a $1500 car will. Tires, some suspension work, maybe a timing belt and fluids, an O2 sensor maybe. I’d guesstimate the average cost of those ‘baselining’ repairs will run close to $1000-1500 all said and done. I think doing what Bark is saying and going a bit higher price wise will open up much nicer condition options.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah as a lifetime cheap car owner (18 years of driving never paid over 6500 for a car yet). It’s always nice when the car you buy has good tires because there really are few good cheap ways to get a set of decent tires. My last two cars have been AWD which is double annoying because I have to replace whole sets.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    She wants an automatic. And this is going to sound like I’m bordering on heresy, but Miata? Craig’s has several nice models in her price range, automatic, 2004-2006, decent mileage, rust is not a concern. They’re reliable, and with the automatic – probably not hooned, and maybe elderly owned.

    Oh, and Camry Solara is always around.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Good call.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I think a jump from a surprisingly practical coupe with a hatchback like a TC to a Miata is a big one. However on the list of “least likely to be abused and unmaintained” an automatic Miata has got to be at the top of the heap.

    • 0 avatar

      A woman in my neighborhood, probably over 80, still driving her Miata. She’s a great character, but I doubt she’s a hooner. So, what Frank Galvin said.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_Miata

      Given my user name, it might surprise you that I briefly considered making the same recommendation, but then rejected it pretty quickly.

      I daily drive a Miata, but my commute is under 15 minutes one way on surface streets. For a commute much longer than that, especially if it involves freeway traffic, a Miata’s ride quality will wear on you pretty quickly unless you are a committed enthusiast.

      There’s the safety element as well – smaller cars like the Miata are at a disadvantage due to basic physics, not to mention the problem of not being seen. I regularly get cut off by drivers who seemingly are blind, something that does not happen to me when driving the same roads in my wife’s Forester.

      Add in the theft-related security issues of a soft top, the small trunk, and the inability to take along more than one friend, it seems to me that a Miata is not the answer in this case.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        There’s a reason I commute 4/5 days a week in my Mazda 3 and not my S2000. And that said, it’s also the reason I’m looking to dump my Mazda 3 in favor of something comfier and quieter. I’m getting tired of road and wind noise if I’m not having the opportunity to drive the car in an irresponsible manner.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    If you do up your budget to ~$8,000 you can find 1-2 year old Mitsubishi Mirages with anything from 12,000-24000 miles on them. With the remaining warranty intact, you can’t beat a value like that if your primary goal is cheap motoring and easy parking. Of course, that all depends on whether you have a Mitsubishi dealer nearby to honor that sweet, sweet warranty.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    American iron gives more bang for the buck in beaters. In 03 I bought a buick regal 3800 for 1200 bucks. Ten years later I sold it for $1000.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The best used car values are found with cars that are solid, but unloved. A used Camry drive train costs ~50% more in a Camry than a Tc. The problem with buying a Japanese car in Cali is that they are popular beyond any sense. For my college-graduating son last year, I bought him a 2006 Tc with 54,000 miles for $5700, and it’s not an unusual deal for Michigan. Western cars generally have buku miles, but no rust. Midwestern cars have far few miles, but a history of bathing in salt. An enterprising sort could make a decent living “swapping” low-miles with no-rust cars between the coasts.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Just frigging depressing. You’re actually advising this woman to pay 50% of MSRP for an 8- to 10-year-old penalty box with 100,000 miles on it.

    Jesus Christ.

    She says she’s willing to travel – at least have her expand her search to those areas where people are not willing to sacrifice their firstborn for a Japanese car.

    • 0 avatar

      Go ahead and do a 500 miles search from the Bay Area for a tC. I’ll wait.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        No tC ever sold new for $12,000. And they were far from penalty boxes.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          He’s advising her to pay $8k. Read the article.

          The tC was not considered a standout entry-level car in 2006-2008 and is not a standout entry level used car now.

          Go American or go further from LA. Maybe a nice 2010 Fusion SE with around 75k on it for the same $8,000 – ? In Utah – ?

          50% of MSRP for an old car with 100k miles on it…smh…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Other than a low low mileage example, the Scion is a better buy.

            MY10 Ford Fusion S, I4 (the cheapest trim)

            03/02/16 CALIFORN Regular $6,500 38,896 Above SILVER 4G 6 Yes
            03/09/16 CEN FLA Regular $5,600 65,295 Avg BLACK 4G 6 Yes
            03/02/16 MILWAUKE Lease $6,100 75,995 Above SILVER 4G A Yes
            03/15/16 PORTLAND Lease $7,300 88,166 Above WHITE 4G A No
            03/15/16 ARENA IL Lease $4,900 95,229 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
            03/16/16 SAN DIEG Regular $4,500 101,859 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
            03/08/16 OHIO Regular $5,650 109,806 Avg RED 4G A Yes
            03/01/16 OHIO Regular $5,500 111,024 Avg SILVER 4G M Yes
            02/24/16 SAN ANTO Lease $3,100 124,367 Avg BLACK 4G A Yes
            03/17/16 ALBANY Regular $3,650 131,479 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
            02/25/16 TX HOBBY Regular $4,400 131,677 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
            03/02/16 CALIFORN Lease $3,500 133,382 Avg WHITE SU 4G A Yes
            03/03/16 ATLANTA Lease $3,800 173,082 Avg WHITE 4G A Yes
            03/03/16 NORTHSTR Regular $1,800 194,834 Below SILVER 4G A Yes

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      Japanese cars hold their value because they are more reliable in the long run and people know it. I bought a new Nissan Titan in 2004. Eleven years, 140,000 miles, and countless construction jobsites later it has never had a malfunction of any kind. Ive replaced the tires and battery twice, upgraded the front brakes to 14″, and installed airbags on the rear suspension. None of my friends with Chevy/Ford/Dodge trucks have had that level of reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Japanese cars hold their value more, but aren’t you paying the difference upfront, and then some? Isn’t their better reliability more perceived, than real?

        My anecdotal evidence is opposite of yours, but is there really any kind of demand for used/older Titans? Even in California??

        • 0 avatar
          TOTitan

          Good question so I looked. 2004-2006 Titans with my kind of mileage average $12-13,000. 2004-2006 F150’s with the same mileage average $10-12000. I was surprised….T thought the values would be the other way around.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            So you’re up $1,500? You must have paid much more than that upfront, vs an F-150 or Silverado with rebates/incentives, no?

          • 0 avatar
            TOTitan

            DenverMike I got a factory subsidized lease with the cap cost set at $500 over invoice. Total drive off was $500.00. Lease pmt was only $340/mo, after four year lease was up I bought it for the residual of $17,000.

      • 0 avatar
        e30gator

        140k on an F-150 or Silverado is just past the break-in period. My family has had several go past the 300k mile mark and still be decent enough to pass on to the next owner without guilt.

        Is a ’99 Civic better than a ’99 Cavalier? Abso-effing-lutely! Is an ’07 Civic 2-3X better than a ’07 Fusion? No. Is it worth a 50% premium in price? No.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You’re not understanding car buying in California, people will put stupid money on anything smog tested/running and frequently get it. Here’s the tC nationally:

      MY06 Scion tC I4

      03/16/16 TUCSON Regular $4,400 75,243 Above BLUE 4G M Yes
      03/17/16 OMAHA Regular $3,200 79,307 Avg WHITE 4G A Yes
      02/25/16 NEVADA Regular $5,000 80,128 Above BURGUNDY 4G A Yes
      03/09/16 DALLAS Lease $2,700 83,933 Avg BLUE 4G 5 Yes
      03/02/16 HAWAII Lease $4,200 84,282 Above SILVER 4G A Yes
      03/02/16 NY Regular $2,600 85,661 Avg BLUE 4G 5 Yes
      03/02/16 KC Regular $2,700 87,039 Avg BLUE 4G 5 Yes
      02/24/16 NJ Regular $2,700 89,335 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/09/16 FT MYERS Regular $4,400 92,018 Above GRAY 4G A Yes
      03/09/16 CALIFORN Regular $4,800 92,837 Above SILVER 4G 5 Yes
      02/26/16 DALLAS Regular $4,600 96,233 Above GREY 4G 5 Yes
      02/23/16 BALTWASH Regular $3,500 97,317 Avg BURGUNDY 4G M Yes
      03/17/16 PHOENIX Regular $5,600 97,725 Above SILVER 4G A No
      03/17/16 PALM BCH Regular $3,400 100,008 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
      03/10/16 RIVRSIDE Regular $3,400 100,652 Avg White 4CY A Yes
      03/15/16 OHIO Lease $3,400 101,384 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
      03/03/16 FRDKBURG Regular $5,200 103,677 Above BLUE 4G Yes
      03/03/16 FRDKBURG Regular $4,400 104,098 Above SILVER 4G Yes
      02/24/16 CEN FLA Regular $4,200 104,164 Above GRAY 4G A Yes
      03/01/16 NYMETSKY Regular $2,400 104,694 Avg GRAY 4G A Yes
      03/15/16 BALTWASH Regular $3,600 105,528 Avg BLACK 4G A Yes
      02/26/16 NC Regular $3,700 106,181 Avg GREY 4G 5 Yes
      03/09/16 CALIFORN Regular $5,100 106,466 Above BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/01/16 BALTWASH Regular $3,600 108,533 Avg BLACK 4G A Yes
      03/15/16 ST LOUIS Regular $3,300 112,722 Avg BLACK 4G 5 Yes
      03/04/16 FT LAUD Lease $2,600 114,730 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
      03/16/16 STATESVL Regular $5,400 114,903 Above GRAY 4G A No
      03/15/16 OHIO Regular $3,500 116,642 Avg GREY 4G A Yes
      03/16/16 NJ Regular $3,000 117,650 Avg MAROON 4G A Yes
      02/25/16 FRDKBURG Regular $4,700 117,997 Above BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/17/16 PHOENIX Regular $3,700 118,172 Avg BLACK 4G 5 Yes
      02/25/16 FRDKBURG Regular $2,500 118,172 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/16/16 PITTSBGH Regular $4,200 119,077 Above BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/15/16 FT LAUD Regular $3,000 119,195 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
      03/02/16 SAN DIEG Regular $4,000 119,754 Avg BURGANDY 4G A Yes
      03/03/16 PALM BCH Regular $2,800 120,428 Avg SILVER 4G 5 Yes
      03/17/16 PALM BCH Regular $2,500 120,577 Avg WHITE 4G A Yes
      03/17/16 TX HOBBY Regular $4,300 123,507 Above SILVER 4G 5 Yes
      03/03/16 SO CAL Regular $5,600 125,019 Above BLACK 4G A No
      02/24/16 KC Regular $3,500 125,852 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/16/16 HAWAII Regular $2,100 126,580 Below PURPLE 4G A Yes
      03/09/16 NJ Regular $3,600 129,873 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
      03/01/16 NEWENGLD Regular $2,200 130,776 Below LT BLUE 4G A Yes
      02/23/16 STATESVL Lease $3,900 131,640 Avg BGDY 4G A Yes
      03/17/16 EL PASO Regular $3,300 132,399 Avg GRE/PURP 4G 5 Yes
      03/16/16 SAN ANTO Lease $2,500 135,182 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
      02/24/16 CALIFORN Regular $2,400 136,173 Avg GRAY 4G A Yes
      02/25/16 CENT CAL Regular $3,400 136,913 Avg GREY 4G A Yes
      03/04/16 HRSNBURG Regular $4,200 138,836 Above GREY 4G A Yes
      02/23/16 ATLANTA Regular $3,100 139,540 Avg GREY 4G 5 Yes
      03/09/16 DTNA BCH Regular $3,300 139,583 Avg GREY 4G A Yes
      02/23/16 ARENA IL Regular $4,100 140,009 Above BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/03/16 ST PETE Regular $2,800 140,022 Avg BLUE 4G M Yes
      03/22/16 NASHVILL Lease $2,300 141,355 Avg GRAY 4G A Yes
      02/24/16 CALIFORN Regular $4,100 141,473 Above WHITE 4G A Yes
      03/17/16 SO CAL Regular $2,600 141,733 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/08/16 ST LOUIS Regular $3,200 142,734 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/02/16 CALIFORN Lease $2,900 142,750 Avg WHITE 4G A Yes
      03/16/16 CALIFORN Lease $3,000 143,181 Avg SILVER 4G A Yes
      03/22/16 NASHVILL Lease $2,900 144,082 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/10/16 ALBANY Regular $1,200 144,162 Below SILVER 4G A No
      02/24/16 NEWORLNS Regular $1,100 146,932 Below BLUE 4G A No
      02/23/16 ST LOUIS Regular $2,500 157,884 Avg WHITE 4G A Yes
      03/10/16 DETROIT Regular $2,400 158,796 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      03/17/16 FRDKBURG Regular $3,800 159,261 Avg BLACK 4G A Yes
      03/16/16 NJ Regular $3,200 159,374 Avg GRAY 4G 5 Yes
      03/08/16 NYMETSKY Regular $1,450 162,085 Below SIV 4G A Yes
      03/22/16 NEWENGLD Regular $2,600 162,280 Avg BLUE 4G A Yes
      02/23/16 DALLAS Lease $2,500 167,279 Avg PURPLE 4G A Yes
      03/08/16 BALTWASH Regular $2,000 178,475 Below DKGRAY 4G A Yes
      03/15/16 HOUSTON Regular $2,400 180,110 Avg SILVER 4G Yes
      03/10/16 PALM BCH Regular $800 181,715 Below 4G Yes
      03/17/16 PHOENIX Regular $1,800 183,086 Below GREY 4G 5 Yes
      03/17/16 SO CAL Lease $2,700 188,300 Avg BLACK 4G A Yes
      03/17/16 PALM BCH Regular $1,500 199,608 Below SILVER 4G A Yes
      02/24/16 CEN FLA Regular $1,700 227,157 Below SILVER 4G Yes

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        Thanks. This tells me that if the model you are looking for is almost twice as expensive where you live as it is in other areas of the country, you either look at other models or travel to those other areas.

        You can have an independent technician check out that first car in the list, grab a cheap Southwest flight to Tucson, drive the car home, get something with 75,000 miles on it instead of 100,000, and still save three thousand bucks.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I agree with you, but California AFAIK can be particular with bringing in cars from other states due to their stringent emissions theocracy. Maybe this is relaxed for newer models? I haven’t been to Cali in over a decade so I don’t know what the rules are these days.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Yes, that would be part of the inspection – to see if its a 50-state car or not.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            This. One of the fundamental economic problems here is that she lives in CA. One can argue whether the Bay Area is better or worse, but her locality is partially to blame.

      • 0 avatar
        gasser

        28,
        What does the “Yes” mean at the end of each listing??
        Thx

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Not arguing with your numbers – but you have shown other numbers that have low auction pricing and very high retail pricing that don’t jive.

        For example I know you posted what the auction price for G8 GTs and GXPs are – the retail price on those same cars are in some cases $10K higher, and the dealers are getting it.

        People are paying stupid money for clean used cars.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          This time of year especially. Working poor are getting their IRS tax refunds this time of year, and going straight to the used car lots to make a down payment.

    • 0 avatar

      I take it you don’t buy used cars much prices are up there.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Those first generation tCs are dead reliable, thoroughly enjoyable cars. The grade of interior materials is dramatically nicer than what you find in the second-gen, not to mention how they uglied up the styling on the refresh. I got 120k out of mine doing nothing but oil changes and brake pads.

    However, if you have less than a perfect driving record, insuring one will cost you. Insurance companies hate this car. I saved real money on my premium replacing it with a Challenger.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    My quick Autotrader search found a 2005 Mazda RX-8 for $6500! That’s a stylish 2-door good for cruising the coast, and the good news is that it has only 100K miles on it…with 47K of those on the replacement engine so it’s bound to be trouble free. I see no downside here.

    If that doesn’t work how about a Chrysler Crossfire for 7 grand?

    Seriously though, I found several 2008ish Mazda 3s for under $7000 and even a 2005 Accord 2door with 96K on it. Both of those would be nice to drive and good to commute in. If the Accord is in that price range, a Civic coupe would be too. I’d branch out from the tC.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I see where you’re going with those suggestions but of those the Accord and possibly the Mazda 3 are the only attractive ones. Crossfire is a one off and will be problematic as time goes on as is the RX-8 essentially a one off with its drivetrain.

      The advantage the used Mazda 3 has is a general climate where rust isn’t an issue, its kind of a game changer actually… or do those rust in the Greater Bay Area as well? Educate me.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I totally agree, 28. I was joking about the first two but as usual I didn’t take enough care in my writing to get that across. I thought it was amusing that the RX8 owner was bragging about the “new” engine with 47K miles when the first one lasted only 53K. And the Crossfire…well, has anyone seriously recommended a Crossfire? :)

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          A former co worker originally from the UK purchased one in 2009 for peanuts. He then in 2011 was trying to get me to buy it from him, I think he wanted ten at the time. I distinctly remember him saying to me when he bought it: a Mercedes engine for not a Mercedes price! I thought, as if that’s a good thing.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    A couple notes on looking for older cars in the Bay Area:
    * Sadly, craigslist has by far the most options. Cars.com and Autotrader don’t turn up much around here.
    * Be careful shopping near Sacramento. There are lots of salvage yards up there. Even if the car claims to have a clean title, odds of an accident are better than in other areas. Definitely get a pre-purchase inspection on anything you look at up there.
    * I would advise being patient for something more local than driving to Sacramento or LA to look at something of this age. I am always disappointed at what I see after making the trip, and then I’ve burned most of a weekend day. It gets pretty old after a while.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    If that $6000 is a hard ceiling, here’s a crazy suggestion: 2000-2005 Grand Am/Alero. The V6/4 speed auto is gutsy, smooth, and bulletproof (change the coolant!), other components not so much but pretty cheap to repair/replace. Yes, the interior is pretty depressing, but you can pick these things up for cheap, if you can find one that hasn’t been trashed.

    I’d rather have a tC, but a clean GA will probably cost half of a comparable tC.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      $6K will get you in a last gen Grand Prix. As long as the intermediate steering shaft fix has been done, they’re about as reliable as a boat anchor, will get 30 MPG highway, 20 MPG city, even the plebian 3.8 can do the 1/4 mile in 15.7, seats 4 comfortably, the front folding passenger seat gives it surprising cargo hauling ability.

      However the interior is complete crap. The tC is almost in a class to itself, shame they are euthanizing it.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I sold a 92k mile, ’05 Scion xB last Fall for $4000.

    Replaced it with a 113k mile, ’90 Acura Integra for $2500.

    Plenty of good cars under $6k. Just gotta shop.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Scion with 100k miles at $6000 is a fair deal IMO, because:

    New Cars depreciate around 60% over 5 years and around 75k miles. That is $12,000 or $2400 every 15k miles.

    I expect to pay $1000 for repairs a year for a car over 100k miles. It will also depreciate at least $1000 every year. So $2000 a year to own a car over 100k, fair IMO. I expect a car to last 185k. FYI: Used cars have lower insurance, taxes, and over benefits.

    So a car with 170k is worth $1000 to me.
    155k:$2000
    140k:$3000
    125k:$4000
    110k:$5000
    95k:$6000
    80k:$7000

    Bought my used cars with this logic. An Accord with 80k for $5000, and Mazda 3 with 130k for $3300.

    $300 worth of repairs on the accord after 34,000 miles (not including oil, filters, or tires since those are needed on all cars IMO)
    $200 on the Mazda after 3,000 miles.

    That is what I call winning!

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Using your formula, you would say that a $16,000 (new) 2007 Scion tC would be worth $6,400 when it had 75,000 miles on it, or an $18,000 higher-line one would be worth $7,200 – back in 2012 when the cars were five years old, mind you – but today, in 2016, at 9 years old and with 100,000 miles on it, $6,000 is a fair deal.

      Check.

      • 0 avatar
        DearS

        $16000 adjusted for inflation that would be $19200 today.

        Also with 100k miles that is equivalent to driving 15k mile for 6.67 years, so this cars engine should work just as well as an average one from 2009-2010 cars in most areas. There are a multitude of factors to consider.

        I agree that this formula does not work for many cars, every car has different depreciation, a Toyota tends to have less depreciation. 60% is an estimate I often see with online websites.

        Considering Toyota’s better than average reliability and resale value, IMO it is a fair deal for many people if they value these things a little more, like the person looking at Scion above.

        Fairness in this case is also to some degree subjective. I am giving my baseline, you may have your own.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    ymmv….

    spend $3,000 for a down payment on something sensible (ie, Camry, CRV, Civic)—new or factory-certified.

    put $2,000 towards any debts.

    save $1,000 in your checking account.

    drive your car til it hits 120,000+ miles.

    ymmv.

    • 0 avatar

      True, but you would own 9.5% sales tax on a 18,000 car instead of a 6,000 car. You may be able to roll that into the loan (in most states you can I think) but still that’s going to add into your monthly payment. Also you paid 6k for a car nothing says it has to be worthless when your done with it. Plus you have added flexibility if your situation changes by not having a monthly payment.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      New cars are more expensive to insure. It could also be a cash flow issue – maybe she has the cash for a purchase with hopefully some left over, but committing to years of payments is sketchy.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’ll mention since the Vibe was recommended, 04-07 Vibe has Takata airbags and the highest failure rate (Vibe/Matrix/Corolla 04-07) of any make/model with Takata airbags – over 2%.

    If the vehicle is still on the “waiting for parts” to have the swap, be mindful there is a better than 1:25 chance there are Claymore mines in the dashboard and steering wheel (2 airbags, 2 chances for failure, failure rate about 2.3% so around 1:49ish per vehicle divide by 2)

    Just something to consider. The tC and the iA are probably the two best things Scion is offering right now.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    Call your insurance person before you buy. Some of the cars on the list are horrible to insure. Chevy Cobalt I’m looking at you.

  • avatar
    otaku

    I think Bark mentioned the “unloved generation Focus” in his response above. I’m assuming he was referring to the two-door variant from 2008 thru 2010. While it may not be as swoopy or sporty as the TC, I wouldn’t be quite so quick to write it off.

    A few years ago I was looking for a dependable used coupe and originally figured the Scion TC was the clear choice. That is, until I sat in one. The interior might be composed of high end plastics, but I wasn’t really a big fan of the layout, seats, control placement, or the design of the gauge cluster. I’m almost six feet tall, but it felt like I was sitting in a bathtub. Outward visibility didn’t seem to be a high priority. Also, for a car with such sporty pretentions, I thought the steering feel wasn’t anything special.

    According to the specs, it weighed almost as much as the mid-size Honda Accord coupe and the fuel economy estimates were a bit underwhelming for a Toyota motor. The dealer’s asking price was a fair amount higher than most of the other compact coupes I was considering at the time and they weren’t willing to negotiate with me. Despite being FWD, I knew I would need to purchase a set of snow tires to survive the winter months and, with the standard seventeen inch wheels, factored that in as an extra operating cost (right along with the significantly higher insurance rates for this model). Suddenly the choice was not so clear.

    I looked around a little more and eventually found a much less expensive 2008 Ford Focus SE coupe with fewer miles. Its Mazda-sourced 2 litre gave up about twenty horses to the same era 2.4L engine in the TC, but the Focus weighs at least three hundred pounds less. IMO the lower curb weight helps the Focus feel a bit more lively and tossable driving around town while delivering slightly better gas mileage.

    The driver’s seat in the Focus was a lot kinder to my back, the steering felt a little heavier and more direct, and (without the low-profile tires) the ride seemed a little smoother. Also, I think Ford either used thicker glass or better insulation than the Scion, because there wasn’t as much road noise.

    In my almost seven years of ownership, I’ve only needed to replace the front brakes, windshield wipers, and a set of four (inexpensive) all-season tires, which get me through New England winters without any problems. I don’t know whether there are any available in good condition for $6K out there on the left coast, but based on its overall track record, it might represent an even better value than a similar year Ford Fusion, which a few of the other posts mentioned above.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Now is not the time to buy a used Scion. The dead brand market adjustment has not occured yet. That won’t really happen until the general public notices that there are no Scion dealers anymore because there are no 2017 Scions. Buy it now and expect to wake up one morning in 3-6 months and find out that the car is now worth $1000 less than it was the night before.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    $6K? Is that including tax, title and tags? I always tell my kids, if you’ve got x amount of dollars, take about 10%-15% from that for TTT, and have about another $1K in reserve for the “oops, I missed that” items that always come with used cars.

    I don’t know what the tax rates are in California, so I have no idea how much that takes off the top. Let’s say it’s 10%, so we’re already down to $5400. Maybe a couple hundred for tags and title? So, closer to $5000-$5200. That’s going to be a big step down in selection now. Again, insurance is a whole other problem too.

    I agree with others, go for the unloved domestic iron. For the money, I feel you can’t go wrong with an Epsilon body GM, Aura, Malibu, G6. If they can stand driving an older model, the Ecotec 4 cylinder, 4 speed automatic equipped cars are pretty decent on fuel. Even so, the push rod V6/4 spd auto cars aren’t that bad on fuel. My personal favorites have the 3.6 OHC V6 with the Aisin 6 speed autobox, they’re rockets and are pretty solid overall. Oh, with the domestic GMs, no Takata claymore mines, either.

    Be honest, the tC is nearly a mid-size car, you may as well go for a mid sized car and take advantage of the better pricing and cheaper insurance you can get on a domestic car. The Ford Fusion is a nice driver, too. I wouldn’t ignore the original Chrysler 200, as the early ones should be pretty cheap by now.

    There were a lot of other good mentions too. I think if she looks beyond the tC, she might find something that will work really well for her.

  • avatar
    Acd

    The spread between some low mileage, late model cars and older high mileage cars is getting really small. Example: In Metro-Atlanta you can find a 2013 Jetta 2.5 automatic with 51,000 miles for $8989. If that one isn’t to your liking there are 13 others under $9k with anywhere from 37,000 to 114,000 miles. Dropping down to $5-$6,000 and you’ll be looking at 2003-2009 with 100,000 + miles in most cases. At some point the number of newer cars will cause prices of older cars to drop but it hasn’t happened yet.

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    Sorry I’m a couple days late to the party, but let me tell you about my wife’s 06 automatic tC….

    About 6 years ago she decided it was time to trade up from her battered but loved $100 89 crx dx automatic that she’d spent most of the last five in. Despite the fact that I (and all my friends) are Honda guys, nothing in the mid 00’s Honda lineup fit her needs. the tC, however….sang to her. she’d loved the styling since they came out, and they were now in her price range.

    she ended up buying a dark blue 06 with 70-ish thousand miles for 12-ish thousand dollars from a reputable small town domestic dealership. she loves that car. we use it for all of our road trips (since it’s far nicer than my collection of beaters). over the last 70,000 miles and six years, it’s been a stellar performer…..

    until this winter.

    you see, the tC has a fatal problem. google “06 camry overheat”, and you’ll find pages upon pages of mid 00s camry, rav4, and tC head gasket failures.

    in the mid 00s Toyota updated the 2.4 4cyl used in those cars, and they screwed them up. in 06, they finally rectified the problem with a new collection of block and head bolt part numbers, but the three previous years of cars are time bombs waiting to happen.

    put simply, the headbolt threading in the block is too deep for the headbolts used. the head bolts only engage the top bit of the threading. after several years of heat cycles, the differences between the heat expansion of the aluminum block and head and the steel bolts finally add up, and the rear most three bolts lose tension allowing the head gasket to fail.

    five years after Toyota suddenly changed the block’s part number mid year (scion has a five year powertrain warranty…coincidence?), Toyota issued a service bulletin to their dealerships as to how to solve the problem of pulled threads in the blocks of the aforementioned cars. apparently, people complained of overheat, loss of coolant, or poor running, and the tech would diagnose blown head gasket. upon pulling the head (a twelve hour job, by the way), the tech would find the threads of the block would come out with the bolts. Toyota even had the Time-Sert company develop a special insert tool kit to insert six of the ten bolt holes.

    if you contact Toyota/scion, they’ll tell you they have no idea what you are talking about, that your problem does not exist, and that the overheat was your fault.

    however, their insert kit proves just the opposite. the insert kit actually places the new threads 7-9mm higher in the block than the originals were. when you are dealing with an 11mm bolt, that’s a significant change (it’s almost double).

    in reality, the threads give up, the bolts loosen, and the head lifts just enough to allow water out. that water goes into the foam insulation behind the block that protects the plastic intake manifold from engine heat. once that foam is fully saturated (about a gallon of coolant) it will finally start dripping…onto the exhaust pipe, where it burns off before it leaves a puddle on the floor. you’ll push almost all of the coolant out of the motor before it starts leaking enough to make a puddle. if you are lucky, it’ll happen in the winter, and you might notice a lack of interior heater at idle before you totally cook the motor.

    I just did the job on my wife’s car. it can be done by a shadetree guy (assuming you can get the $450 time-sert kit), but it’s not for the faint of heart. If you have your local Toyota dealer do it, it’s almost 20 hours of labor above the $250-$300 in parts. a whole lot of the car has to come apart to get to the head gasket, but Toyota’s crappy layout is not the real culprit here…their original block design and their refusal to acknowledge the fault is.

    how this hasn’t become a class action suit is beyond me. a couple hundred bucks for a junkyard motor and some time in a shop with a big band saw and a grinder would prove their defect beyond a shadow of a doubt. I can only assume that they can hide behind the overheat and most customers won’t know any better.


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