The 340,000-mile 2004 Toyota Camry Is Finally Gone, But It's Far From Dead

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

The story of the 340,000-mile 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 that became the 15-winter story of a 347,000-mile Camry now belongs to another author.

My in-laws’ beautifully-maintained Camry ticked up to 352,000 miles – 567,013 kilometres on the odometer, to be precise – when they finally replaced their stalwart sedan with a 2019 Kia Optima.

The decision was not prompted by a breakdown. The Camry isn’t destined for a junkyard. It’s not being parted out.

We listed the Camry for $1,200 on Kijiji, quickly fielded 26 inquiries, and ended up selling this famous Camry to, you guessed it, a Camry owner who wants to add to his Camry stable.

The V6-powered Camry was a beacon of hope when my father-in-law snatched it up more than a decade ago. He became the second owner of a car that would provide exemplary service. These people, just so we’re clear, are past owners of Chevrolet Ventures and Mk2 Jetta diesels; people who were as accustomed to car trouble, CAA roadside assistance, and the persistent art of being stranded as an auto journo is accustomed to free shrimp and $TSLA debates on Twitter.

The Camry was a wildly different episode for a family who wore their stories of vehicular meltdowns as badges of honour. It refused to let them down, whether it was hustling down crowned dirt roads to the beach every day all summer long or making multiple trips between Prince Edward Island and Ontario during its 13th winter.

The V6 maintained roughly the same level of fuel efficiency in old age as it did when fresh off the Kentucky line, though consumption in urban settings was always frighteningly V8-like. More apparent was the 210-horsepower 3.0-liter’s silky startup and lively power delivery. The five-speed automatic’s shifts are still nigh on perfect, a shock given the number of new cars that feel as though the shift from first to second will cause the tranny to fall out of the car. The Camry’s sunroof glides open smoothly. The doors thunk satisfyingly.

To be fair, all was not perfect as the Camry left my in-laws’ Summerside driveway for life in the far west of Prince Edward Island. (We call it “up west,” as opposed to “down east.”) The time required to slide the power driver’s seat back from its most forward location to its rearmost resting place is best measured in weeks, rather than seconds. The timing belt’s replacement is overdue, likely at a cost of $400-$500 installed. Tire tread depth is, well, perhaps depth is not the right word. There’s also a fleck of rust just above one wheelwell. Faded paint and corroded wheels are obvious.

None of these issues were negative factors for any of the potential buyers, nearly all of whom lost out because the eventual buyer was a friend. One shopper said he had no interest in an older Camry with fewer than 200,000 miles, but if it was over 300,000 he was game.

Another said simply, “man that’s a ton of kilometres lol.” (Punctuation added for clarity.)

A handful of buyers thought that I, as the intermediary, would be seduced by a lowball offer so long as it came in the form of cold hard cash. Sometimes they phrased it as, “cash in hand,” as if the temptation, not just of bills but of bills touching epidermis, would cause me to accept a $600 offer.

Some shoppers wanted to take the Camry to their favoured mechanic some 30 miles east in order to see “if the car has any issues.” I ain’t lying when I say the V6 purrs like a contented kitten, but if you’re worried about “issues” with a 340,000-mile, 15-year-old car that’s lived its entire life on an island essentially made of iron oxide, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

This Camry isn’t ready for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

It’s ready to fight for its life.

And because the Toyota’s still in fighting form, the switch to Kia wasn’t taken lightly. The process was gradual, involving a Sorento test drive and a pair of Optima experiences. One level up from the base LX, Kia Canada’s LX+ doesn’t include the coveted sunroof but does feature memory settings for the driver’s power functions, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, an eight-inch screen with Apple CarPlay, proximity access, auto high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, and rear parking sensors. The 185-horsepower 2.4-liter is punchy and efficient. With just enough mileage for a huge pre-owned discount, the 2019 Optima was a USD $15,000 car.

Sounds good. But we’ll measure the Optima’s true value by its status in 2034 after 350,000 miles.

[Images: Tim Cain/TTAC]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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  • Onyxtape Onyxtape on Apr 25, 2019

    I sold a 1999 Camry w/ just under 100k miles. J-vin. Everything was butter smooth. The low-ballers came out in force, despite me pricing it below market just to sell it quickly. One guy was showing me how a slight ding on the door justified the "rough trade-in" KBB value. Then he does this awful exaggerated brake checks. After wasting nearly an hour of my time, he says he'll "think about it" and for me to "have a chance to think over his reasonable offer". I sold it an hour later to another guy in a 15-min transaction. Guy #1 calls back in 2 days asking if the car was still available. It felt good to tell him I sold it for full price on that same day.

  • Johnds Johnds on Apr 11, 2023

    It’s been 4 years now, do they miss Toyota? I see the 2019 Kia/hyundais are affected by engine recalls, and many fire investigations?

  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern
  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!