By on July 19, 2011


I was happy as can be this past Monday. A 1999 Firebird with T-Tops was bought for the princely sum of $2750 at a recent sale. Then there was something I hadn’t experienced in a long while. A $300 car. A ‘good’ $300 car. The type that may have nothing more than a banged in door or a mechanical issue easily corrected by visiting an enthusiast site. The car in question was a 1986 Toyota Cressida. Older than dirt as far as cars go.

But then again could I…

Rent: Yes I can. The silver paint on top may be more faded than 25 year old blue jeans. But everything else was fine with it. That is if you’re legally blind. The leather interior had cheap seat covers and the rear driver’s side taillight was held with tape. But what the hell do you expect for $300?

I had bought a 1987 Acura Legend last year for $350 that managed to survive 10 weeks of rentals and nearly 10 months of financing up to now. The weekly payment and rental rate may be uber-cheap due to it’s age. But so far I’ve yielded $2500 from it. This Cressida, another over engineered Japanese marvel, may have serious potential here.

Finance: This is always the tough part. Someone who only has $300 may just trash and neglect this old codger. But at $500 down? They want something nicer. The trick is to first rent it out for a very reasonable rate. Say, $15 a day or $105 a week, and have half the payment goes towards the down payment on the vehicle. In due time you should be able to figure out if the car and the potential owner will last.

From that point forward you can either offer the car as a 50/50 ($50 a week for 50 weeks) or $40 a week for 15 months. What you are selling at this point is transportation. Cold air. Power everything, a sunroof, premium sound… yes the car in question is older than dirt. But you are providing a fair amount of features and convenience for a price that comes close to mass transit in metro suburbia.

Sell: This one has been kept in metro-Atlanta since day one. No rust. Everything works (really!). When I opened the hood I found this…

And let me repeat this… everything works on the vehicle. It’s a time capsule. As such it belongs in one place. Ebay. A rust free classic car usually finds it’s sweet spot online. Even if it’s not much of an enthusiast’’s vehicle. All it takes is two aficionados to send the selling price to the moon.
What I would do is give it a scuff and shoot paint job for $200 and then perhaps find someone with a wrecked spare like this guy.

Offer the spare for a fixed price on Ebay to the high bidder, and sell the Cressida at no reserve with the nicer interior parts already installed. This will give the new owner easy access to cheap parts and enables them to keep a nice looking classic for the long haul. My experience is that when you do this the final bid amount increases by about 15% to 25%.

Keep: Old cars are an addiction. A blinding and financially parasitic addiction that will force you to spend big money on outdated technology. On a car or truck with ‘presence’,. you get the return. A Cressida though is not a collectible. It’s a consumable. The type of car you use until all that’s left is an immovable shell destined for China.

If I hauled the Cressida around Atlanta as my daily driver I would spend well over $2000 extra in gas a year. The Cressida averages about 20 mpg. The Insight… 55 mpg. It’s not even a contest. Plus everyone loves that little hybrid. I don’t see the Cressida stepping up to the daily driver spotlight anytime soon.
So what should I do? Rent it and potentially make it into a finance deal? Sell it on Ebay? Maybe I could make it into the ultimate luxury sleeper by buying up that wrecked car’s interior and use it whenever the mood is there.

Screw that idea. I’m not in the keeper business unless the numbers line up. So what says you?

NOTE: I do have to give special kudos to Jeff Nelson for writing a brilliant article about the 1986 Toyota Cressida only a couple of days ago. How two people in the same state end up writing about the same car for two different editors with the name Niedermeyer is beyond me. Who knows?: Maybe I will just have to sell this car to Jeff.

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39 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1986 Toyota Cressida...”

  • avatar

    eBay fodder.

  • avatar

    “A Cressida though is not a collectible. ”

    Wrong wrong wrong. What you have here is basically a four-door ’80s Supra. Not in a good way, but still. These things are fetching ridiculous coin from the dorifto kids who swap ’em and drop ’em. Well, drop ’em anyways. Rent it? It’s going to get trashed on a track.

    Sell it on your local drifting forums. Job done.

  • avatar

    Please, whatever you do, don’t rent it out. The Cressida deserves so much better than that. I own a 1988 Cressida which I bought as a winter car, and it quickly turned into my favourite car i’ve owned. It’s reliable and built like a tank. Excellent build quality and it rides nice and smooth. The engine idles exremely quietly and has decent power (though is quite thirsty unfortunately). Please, please sell it to someone who appreciates the car. In my opinion, it’s one of the best cars Toyota has built.

  • avatar

    We need some pictures of this car because I don’t see how you got it for $300, even with worn seats, faded paint, and a cracked tail light.

    It sounds like you’ve hit the Ebay jackpot.

    I think you are underestimating the appeal of this one. It’s the second car you’ve done that I really wish I could have (the other being the ’89 750il), and I would probably way overspend for the one in the banner pic.

  • avatar

    Sell it…to me. I have a soft spot for large Japanese sedans, my favorite being the Toyota Century.

  • avatar

    Rent a car on a 50/50 plan? Sure glad I’m not poor (yet), I couldn’t afford to be poor!

    Sell it on Ebay for all you can get, after all, you’re in the car business, and you know better than to fall in love with any vehicle!

  • avatar

    I didn’t like these when they were new, but they’re interesting with the perspective of hindsight. If anyone asks why the first LS400 was such a blatant marriage of a W126 front and an E32 rear, just show them this car to see what Japanese designers were capable of on their own at the time. They have a decent mechanical specification though, and they’re amazingly close to being the cars many enthusiasts say they want automakers to build.

    The rent to own scenario leaves someone short on money paying $3,100 for a $300 car. I don’t think I could do that to someone just because they should know better.

    • 0 avatar

      You might if the rent to own went to a union member. All joking aside, that does not sound like your typical posts. I would have thought that if the market would allow for such opportunistic sales practices you’d be for it.

      • 0 avatar

        My problem with unions is that they’re immoral. I believe in treating people the way I wish to be treated. I won’t prey on uninformed people any more than I’d prey on tax payers by buying politicians.

  • avatar

    The ’86 Cressida would have had an L badge in the grille if Lexus existed back then.

    Straight 6, rear drive, 80’s Toyota quality? eBay that puppy for glorious profits.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Sell on eBay. If this was exactally one year from now and wedding was over I’d consider buying it. A classic that I wouldn’t feel guilty driving the 10 miles to work every day and subjecting to the other idiots in the parking lot. Heck I could even park next to the guy who drives a mid 60s Corvair 3+ times per week and he’d likely get a kick out of it. (He’s an enthusiast in the sense of loving everything with wheels and an engine.)

  • avatar

    Steven, I’m “just down the street” over here in Huntsville, AL and would virtually KILL to have a car like that as a back-up “insurance” car to use back and forth to work, etc…even at three times the price you paid for it! Makes me really regret sending my son “his” 1997 Tercel out to him in Colorado Springs a few months ago. With a MAACO paint job, it’d make a fine commuter for years to come. Sigh…or I’d send it to my sister as compensation for taking said Tercel back from her to send to above-mentioned pilot-in-training.

  • avatar

    Dear Mr. Lang,

    How come you keep finding great cars like these at ridiculously low prices, whereas the only cars I tend to find in these ranges are complete crapboxes? Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places?

    John Williams

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Take that godforsaken Georgia fan plate off the front and that’ll double the car’s value! Go Dawgs and take FSU with ‘ya!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    These cars are almost impossible to find, in any condition. Those who own decent ones won’t let them go, they’re from an era when Toyota build quality was as good as anything on the road.

  • avatar

    Not sure which is more shocking: people that actually think an ’86 Toyota other then a Supra is valuable, or the fact that anyone would rent or lease such a ride. Based on these posts it seems like it will be an easy sale at double the price.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know…if I could find a stock (good luck with that) Corolla GT-S of the same year, that’d be a great vehicle, as well…

    • 0 avatar

      Well for one thing the Cressida shares underpinnings with the Supra, and it’s rather more comfortable as a daily driver.
      Lots of Toyotas of that era are very sought after and beloved cars…the AE86 Corolla GT-S was refreshed in 1986 so this is one of the most valuable Corollas you can find so 1986 was a big year for collector Toyotas. Outside of the US the Celica All-trac also launched in 86.

    • 0 avatar

      Which shows you don’t really know anything about these cars or the appeal for older Toyotas like these. They are worth something and worth restoring.

  • avatar

    What a great find, sell it to a TTACer for double. Or EBay.

    I love these overbuilt Japanese cars, RWD or FWD. The 2nd-gen Legend/Vigor/1st-gen TL is another one…with it’s unusual (for a Japanese car) longitudinal FWD layout. No torque-steer from the 90 degree V6. My 98 3.2TL is a high quality vehicle, even compared to the 02 E430 4matic my mom had. However, the clearcoat is flaking in a few small spots and it has some dings…but also has 140k miles and runs smoothly.

    The best thing is the feel of the materials and switchgear.

  • avatar

    I was in the 11th grade when this car was new. I remember thinking that the Cresida was a great looking car. The only people who owned them in our small town were doctors or lawyers. I told myself that I would know that I have arrived in this world if I was ever be able to afford one. I have tracked these cars off and on since then. I am so envious of this fantastic find of yours. I would be interested in buying it if it were placed on EBAY. Please do not rent it. The renters will more than likely not appreciate the absolute classic that this car is. IMHO you are a lucky man to have found this vehicle. Please sell it to someone who can really appreciate what Toyota accomplished with this vehicle. For your viewing pleasure I have found on youtube car salesman promo for this car. If you are interested in this car it is worth the time to see it.

  • avatar

    I’ve been in these Cressidas….but 20 years ago. No matter what the build quality, these are 25 year old cars and the law of averages will begin to catch up. If you rent it, maintenance and hooners will catch up with you. Also you are in business to maximize profit, but that means profit per unit of your time. Today, I note that the number of later payers and no payers is increasing. You don’t want to 50/50 it or you become someone’s partner for the next year. Paint it, perhaps find a new tail light and sell it, with a reserve on eBay. Here in L.A. if it runs and isn’t a total dent-mobile its worth $2K.

  • avatar

    This last-generation Cressida was rarely available with a 5-speed manual. If anyone stumbles upon one in at least this condition, pls to let me know ASAP.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Oh Man , Ive lusted after one of these for 20 yrs. But then , I’m not wrapped very tight. If I had’t just picked up a 600$ Ranger, I’d be planning a 500$ offer. These are a straight forward, old school car. OHC I6 right wheel drive. Just like my 528es only more hp. Once in a while they get it right, or at least, didn’t mess up so much…
    Steven, dont waste your money on paint. Keep it original and flog it on an old Toyota fans forum. Google is your friend. How many miles on it?

  • avatar

    I would kill to find this car for 300 bucks. I would drive it around until it died but that might take a few more years. These old toyota cars are becoming collectible.

  • avatar

    I had an 87 model like that one except with the cloth interior. It was a comfortable, quiet, well-built car that had every little gadget on it. Unfortunately, the used car dealer that sold it to me neglected to tell me it had been T-boned in a crash and it kept wearing out the tires on opposite corners. I lost my job and it was repossessed. Part of me was happy to see it go but another part of me still wishes I had it.

  • avatar

    Rust magnet.
    And the wiring harness on Toyotas (or anything for that matter) starts to die after 25 years.

    Some dumb kid might pay $600 for it…

    • 0 avatar

      Excuse me? Where did you get this information from? My family and relatives have owned 15-20 Toyotas over the years, older ones too, and not one had any sort of electrical issues. I’ve never ever heard of any wiring going bad on any Toyota, and I visit different Toyota forums on a daily basis.

      • 0 avatar

        @MR2- Completely agreed. Literally all the electronics in my 27 year old Cressida worked perfectly the day I got rid of it. I’ve never experienced electrical problems in a Toyota.

  • avatar

    Not that it matters to the R-L-S question at hand, but does this car qualify as one from the “Fat Engineering” era of goodness at Toyota?

  • avatar

    One word: LeMons. Suddenly the tail light, interior, and paint aren’t such a problem anymore, and you’ve only spent 3/5ths of your budget!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I ended up selling it for $1200 this morning. Two guys test drove it the day before for quite a while. They seemed to know quite a bit about the model.

  • avatar

    It really seems like a few here are under estimating the value of these things or older Japanese cars in general. Older J cars are quickly becoming collector items and increasing in value as the enthusiast base grows. Don’t think for a minute that this Cressida if it were in better shape wouldn’t be worth a good chunk of $$ for a 25 year old car. Just because you don’t like it or don’t see the value in it doesn’t mean others see it the same way. I don’t see the big deal over many of the old Big 3 cars that I consider trash, but some do so…

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