By on December 22, 2015

2011 Chevrolet Camaro LT with an RS Appearance Package

Casey writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I have another question for you. My wife has wanted a Camaro and lately I have been thinking about surprising her with one for her birthday or maybe Christmas, so I have been searching the listings for a nice used example.

First thing I noticed is these cars sure seem to hold their value!

I found a Craigslist ad for a very nice looking, well optioned, 2011 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT with the RS package. “ALL scheduled service and maintenance has been performed by Chevrolet certified technicians,” the ad says and the price seems reasonable.

Then I see the kicker: the mileage is high for the year at 117,800. I know that a documented maintenance history is more important than mileage, so I wonder what impact higher mileage would have on a car like this? What problems could I run into sooner by buying a well maintained, high-mileage car?

Sajeev answers:

How funny. I bought my (then-eight-year-old) Lincoln Mark VIII with 117,xxx on the odometer, too, which was also fairly high mileage for a vehicle normally owned by “old people” who “only drive it to church on Sundays,” but I digress.

And it came with a few valuable service receipts! I’m a big fan of buying high mileage used cars with service records versus a low-mile example with no history — especially dealership records, as they document repairs with detail and note the condition of wear items in their automated reporting systems. Having more information about a used vehicle is never a bad thing!

So what problems will you run into sooner with a high mile, well-maintained machine? That really depends on how much you drive, and how you maintain it.

In theory, the transmission should be a concern, but that’s far more likely with trouble prone/bizarre gearboxes like the one-off Saturn CVT discussed here. And most engines easily surpass 250,000 miles with nothing more than good, fresh oil and regular tune-ups. I assume the Camaro’s powertrain is the same, unless you Hot Rod the thing.

It’s possible that lesser-known wear items such as power window motors, shocks and even floormats could see a shortened lifespan because they’ve already been cycled too many times, but that is far from probable. Perhaps the bias of my relatively trouble-free Mark VIII skews my opinion, but I have zero reservations owning a car like that Camaro.

Just do more homework on the Camaro Forums to see what you oughta keep an eye on.

[Image: Chevrolet]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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29 Comments on “Piston Slap: High Mileage, Low Maintenance Camaro?...”

  • avatar

    I would certainly stay away from a 117k camaro, receipts or not, but that’s just me.

    I would also think that with the arrival of the new model, the previous should start dropping in value. It’s a normal cycle on most cars and I can’t imagine it would be different here.

  • avatar

    I agree with Sajeev. I learned this the hard way by buying older cars with lower miles when in turn they always needed more work than a newer vehicle with higher miles.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes – this.

      I knew a few older Americans who had cars squirreled away in their garages that were hardly driven. In the Midwest (where it is damp) this meant cars that looked gorgeous but were soft and rotten underneath. Here in the Desert Southwest where I live now it would mean anything not metal/glass would be cracked and dry rotted.

  • avatar

    The perception alone of getting a 117k mile car for a “surprise gift” will put you in the doghouse probably until NEXT christmas. Take your time, expand your search area, and find a better deal. A weekend getaway that ends with her driving a Camaro home when she didn’t expect it would be pretty awesome.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    American or Japanese car at 117K? Sure. Parts are generally inexpensive and readily available. And all you usually need are common tools.

    European? Forget it. They’re usually falling apart at that mileage, parts are quite dear, the special tools required to do even basic maintenance – and what is considered basic – mean you must want that car, and have another driver available.

  • avatar

    It all depends on the service history.

    Since it appears to have been driven about 2x the normal miles per year. The running gear should be fine, it’s the suspension wear that will creep up on you first, and the interior wear points of having someone in the seat 2x the normal rate.

    The concerns on this one will be the wheel bearings/hubs and rubber bits in the suspension. You can usually replace those fairly cheap if you catch it early and do it as preventative rather than reactive. If you let those bits fail, then the stresses will be transferred to the more expensive bits like the entire control arm assembly, etc.

    I never mind high milage cars like the this, because they are usually owned by someone who knows the value of maintenance and it’s almost always highway miles. Since the car is highway driven the running gear is kept at the proper temps, all of the lubricants are moisture free and the internal wear is usually minimized.

    Let your local mechanic spend some time checking it out on the rack, build a suspension wear item list, and you should be good to go. A sacrifice at the altar of the GM gods couldn’t hurt either.

    • 0 avatar

      This. I could quickly tell when a used car was junk, but the little wear bits on a nice used car are the ones that can make it an expensive experience.

      Whenever I bought a used car, I’d take it straight to the wheel alignment rack at a trusted repair shop. After it got a quality four-wheel alignment, I’d get a list of the suspension, exhaust and underbody repairs it did need, or it would need soon.

      I’d buy the parts and replace the bits that I could, and I’d budget to have the shop repair/replace the ones I couldn’t as quickly as I could. Then I’d drive it without worry for many miles with little more than an annual checkup/state inspection by the same trusted shop.

      Friends and business acquaintances would marvel at how I could drive older used cars on crummy New England without problems. This was how.

  • avatar

    I like low mileage used cars with service history (lol). But that’s just me. A Camaro with 117k isn’t a great gift, as someone above mentioned.

    “Here, happy Christmas, wife! I got you something worn out.”

  • avatar

    I agree as well, years ago I sold my late mom’s 92 Sentra with only 12k miles to a buddy who wanted it real bad due to its low miles, well as soon as he started using for his daily grind, things started to break down, so much so that he flipped it within a few months. But lost money due to all the repairs.

  • avatar

    Are the service records for just scheduled maintenance? Or do they include things that aren’t, like replacing the starter? If it has lots of unscheduled repairs, don’t get it. My Fiesta looked great until you see all the things that went wrong. Bad cars don’t start being good cars. If the price isn’t well below half what a new one costs, it a bad deal regardless what they sell for.

  • avatar

    A good history is great, but 117k is still 117k. If you’re paying cash, are handy or aren’t planning on it as a daily driver( or a combination of those), then maybe. Things do wear out and even if you start putting just average miles on it, in two years you’re at 140k-ish miles. Now you might really have to start putting money into or you might run into something that’s worth more than the car to fix( even on a Chevy)

  • avatar

    If watch out for a stretched timing chain and coked up valves on that lfx v6.

  • avatar

    Right now you could also consider a nice new model. Dealers want to move metal before the end of the year. You also didn’t mention the price of the high mileage car. Where the car spent it’s life is important too. 1 year in Michigan is like 15 in the Pacific northwest for chassis parts and corrosion.

  • avatar

    You have obviously been living right. No blend door problems on the Lincoln? As for the Camaro, surely he can spend $2500 more and halve the mileage? It’s for the wife, man. I would be gunshy on a high mileage car for someone I sleep with every night, but that’s just me.

  • avatar

    I was curious about the same thing when I was looking at turbo Subarus. I still kick myself for not buying an Impreza GT from the original owner that had 40,000 miles on the odometer and all the records. I got scared off because of the horror stories I’d heard about blown head-gaskets and replacing turbochargers.

    I still want to roll the dice on a Scubie when my Accord’s lease is up. I must be insane.

  • avatar

    A Christmas gift for your wife with 117K (200K kilometers) the optics are all wrong.

  • avatar

    Depends on the negotiated price. I might roll the dice if it’s $5,000. For anything more, it’d want a lengthy inspection and long drive.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    I think I would go car shopping with the wife and let HER pick out what SHE wants.

    I doesn’t really matter what it costs. Happy wife, happy life.

    If you want to surprise her with something, a weekend getaway or spa treatment would be a lot safer and cheaper. Not as much chance of making a mistake.

    In fact, based on the general lack of visibility, room, and user-friendliness of a Camaro, maybe you should rent one and let her try living with it for several days. She if she likes driving in traffic with it, and parking it. Trying to fit shopping bags into it. All the swoopy looks in the world won’t matter if she ends up hating driving it.

  • avatar

    If you have the Camaro bug, go rent one for a week to see if you could live with it day in/day out. I did, and I couldn’t.

  • avatar

    You have to be very careful what you pay for a high mileage example of anything. Right or wrong, most buyers frown on high miles. 100k might not be scary to most anymore, but if you drive average miles it will be close to 150k in a couple of years. Now people start to think twice. You could easily get it close to 200k under your watch, which will make resale a big problem.

    You might not get killed by maintenance and repair, but pay too much and you will get killed by depreciation (always true, but it’s easier for this to happen when buying something with above average miles).

    It might be a moot point; I think something like a car is too big of a purchase for a surprise gift unless you know exactly what she wants (color, options, etc).

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    Yeah. And if you don’t get it just right, YOU will end up driving it.

  • avatar

    Reads like a “Letters to Doug” from that other site. Buying a high-mileage, used Camaro from Craigslist as a surprise gift for your wife? There are so many things wrong with that DeMuro would do a whole column.

  • avatar

    I’ve just returned from this rabbit hole. In the driveway is a 2010 CTS Performance Pkg with the HFV6-it’s a nice engine. It appears the issues are as such…

    The engine is not forgiving of slack oil changes. Do not sludge it.
    The early runs had timing chain issues….I’ve seen a few teardowns, and each engine torn down has sludge in the passages. The tensioners have small passages, so if they clog, D’oH ! If you do the 5k change with syn you are OK. If you wait for 0% every time and complain about the price of syn, not for you. GM recalled the cars early on and reprogrammed the oil monitor for this reason with shorter intervals. The oil filter is tiny, compared to my BMW….

    Supposedly they fixed the chains beginning the 2010 model year. There is a 120k extended warranty for some engines.

    My car was dealer serviced every 5-6k with Mob 1 oil changes, so I felt good about it…..the carfax showing religious oil changes sold the car. That, and the fact the car had 60 + days on the lot helped me do a good deal for this RWD (in my area, everything else is AWD….need it or NOT) car. Carfax cuts both ways !

    • 0 avatar

      Is there much oil from the pcv in the intake tube going to the throttle body? Apparently a lot of camaro and w body impala guys have taken to installing catch cans to keep all that oil from burning onto the backs of intake valves, the motor being DI and all.

      • 0 avatar

        I saw some sludge in the intake tract when I changed the air filter. For 72k I wasn’t stressed out but I cleaned it out and will keep an eye on it at the next oil change….if there is another puddle then I will look into a can. My driving habits involve “redline” so I’m not worried….the prior owner drove like an old guy so I can’t assume anything in my hands…or feet…

  • avatar

    I would trust a Mustang with that kind of mileage, any day before a Camaro. GM quality is just not great in the long term…be it mileage, or age.

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