Would you buy this used Toyota Corolla?
January 23, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Would you buy this used Toyota Corolla? I've got a line on a 1997 Corolla with 150k on the engine, but the transmission was replaced five years ago (after dying at 125k) with a used transmission from JapanDirect. That transmission now has ~75k on it, in addition to whatever it had before it was installed. I'm having my mechanic look at the car this week, but have no idea if any of this is a warning sign. Is JapanDirect reliable, in your experience? Would you buy a used car with a replacement transmission?
posted by mediareport to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Actually, looking at the math again (ugh, no milk at home for coffee), I'm guessing the 75k on the transmission *includes* the previous miles before it was installed.
posted by mediareport at 9:15 AM on January 23, 2011

Seems like the price is a relevant detail here.
posted by jon1270 at 9:21 AM on January 23, 2011

Asking $2500.
posted by mediareport at 9:24 AM on January 23, 2011

In general...No, unless the price was REALLY right. Corollas hold value really well. This is actually a bad thing when buying a used one. They price tends to be high for the utility of the car. You can pick up a used car from an american maker for almost half the price and save money on replacement parts down the road because more of them were made and more of them end up junked.

As is said above, the price point is going to be the real key. Just keep in mind I payed 1,500 for my 2001 ford focus with 90,000 on it. A Corolla would have cost me about 4k for the same year and mileage.

If you are dead set on this make and model, no it does not matter if the trans was replaced, so long as it was done well. You do need to know if the timing belt has been done, along with the CV joints and the starter. Head gaskets would be the next big issue after that.
posted by Felex at 9:31 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Transmissions don't last forever. Engines do, nearly. Many if not most cars with lots of mileage have had transmission work. Sometimes it's easier/cheaper to replace it with a 'good used' trans.

I am a former mechanic and to me it's a non-issue. Don't let this scare you if it's otherwise a good car. Good idea having it looked at before you buy it.
posted by KenManiac at 9:33 AM on January 23, 2011

At that price, heck no. Regardless of how good Japan Direct might be, you're dealing with a '97 Corolla with 150K on every part except the transmission, and the transmission has been mucked about with by someone who was not the Toyota factory. The replacement transmission might not decrease the car's value, but I can't see it increasing the value significantly either.

FYI, Edmund's prices for a '97 Corolla with 3 speed automatic transmission and 150K miles, in average condition, adjusted for Raleigh, are about $1000 private party / $1500 dealer retail. $2500 is the dealer retail figure for one that's in pristine condition with fewer miles on it.
posted by jon1270 at 9:35 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

It would be an issue if the transmission had 1000 miles on it since replacement as who knows whether a quality job with decent condition parts was used (and it's a bit weird to sell a car so soon after making such a major repair). After 25K I can't see much difference between the replacement and the originally installed equipment. If you are comfortable with buying a 150K Toyota for the price asked I'd say go for it and not give the transmission a second thought.

No opinion on the price. At the sub $3K range so much depends on how condition of tires, brakes, exhaust, glass and battery. Tires, battery, brakes and exhaust can easily set you back $1000 or more if you need them all. The other thing is timing belt interval is 60K. I think the FEs are non interference, if so you can drive it till it breaks if you don't mind being stranded.
posted by Mitheral at 9:49 AM on January 23, 2011

When you're dealing with a used car with 100k+ miles on it, the condition of that individual car more than the reputation of that make/model. In general, $2,500 seems like too much for a car with that many miles on it.

A replaced transmission, in and of itself, would actually be a good thing to me. Often, it means a new transmission with a new warranty. A used, rebuilt transmission is probably the next best thing assuming the source provides quality parts. You mechanic might be able to determine that and assuming the 75k on the current transmission includes plenty of post-install miles, any problems would likely have shown up by now.
posted by VTX at 10:32 AM on January 23, 2011

Honestly, this question is a lot like the medical questions on AskMe. Most of us are not mechanics, and none of us are your mechanic. We can't see this car. You're having the car checked by your mechanic, and that's the person to ask.

Before I bought my current car, I took it to a mechanic. He checked it thoroughly and told me it was in excelllent condition, and even told me what I should offer against the asking price. Every time I get my tires balanced, or an oil change, or an insurance adjuster looks at it (people keep hitting me), they tell me what a great car it is. I've put about 42k miles on it and it now sits at 126k miles, and I've had no problems with it at all.

TL;DR - find a mechanic you trust, and then trust your mechanic.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:11 PM on January 23, 2011

That's way, way, way too much money. I'd stay away. At this point, over 150K miles... what do you imagine the life of the car is? I suspect you'd be in for one repair after another. That's just too many miles - yes, there are cars that go 200K+, but you are playing the averages here. As to the transmission. Here's the sad truth - transmissions are a black box. It would cost too much to open it, it's not cost effective. Therefore, you really have no way of knowing how good/bad a transmission is unless you see (1) metallic particles in the transmission fluid (very bad), or (2) it's slipping/jumping (bad) - otherwise it's a mystery. So to me, it's not a factor. Really, I'd pass for two reasons: price is too high, and miles are too high.
posted by VikingSword at 2:41 PM on January 23, 2011

that's too much for that corolla. other than that, the real question is whether the transmission was put in by a real mechanic or after hours with a friend who works at meineke... or something like that. if the transmission was put in by a real mechanic it's probably good enough, even better if they replaced the clutch at the same time... if not, if it runs fine now, your mechanic probably can't tell just by inspecting it whether they botched the job or not.

message: the used transmission part is probably fine, it's whether it was installed correctly that is the question.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:59 PM on January 23, 2011

That's way, way, way too much money. I'd stay away. At this point, over 150K miles... what do you imagine the life of the car is?

I was planning on offering $1800 if the mechanic gave it the ok, hoping for 3 years of reliable, just-local driving out of it.

FYI, Edmund's prices for a '97 Corolla with 3 speed automatic transmission and 150K miles, in average condition, adjusted for Raleigh, are about $1000 private party / $1500 dealer retail.

Can someone show me where to enter the mileage when appraising cars at Edmunds? Am I missing it on their True Market Value page? I'd seen the $2500 here, but can't find search options that let you enter mileage. Thanks, and thanks for helping me recalibrate my idea of value in this situation. I'm not in any rush on this and am happy to keep looking.
posted by mediareport at 4:21 PM on January 23, 2011

$2500 is too much for that car regardless of the transmission issue. The transmission thing is a wash; it's been replaced is good, but non-factory is bad. The rest of the car has $150K on it and I've driven two Toyota Corollas and a Camry, and I can tell you that's about the point at which stuff starts falling off of a Toyota. (One of my Corollas had a transmission replaced at about 100K. They had an issue in the early 90's with that.)

But you will start having trouble with things like window regulators and other nuisancy stuff. Basically you are getting what amounts to an American car with a lot less miles on it; the Toyota is at the point where you will no longer to be able to "weld the hood shut." Don't pay a premium for it. The car is worth maybe $1500 and that's if it is totally clean aesthetically.

You can probably get an American model that will be just as reliable and easier to keep in repair once stuff does start falling off for $1000 or so.
posted by localroger at 4:25 PM on January 23, 2011

For what it's worth, in Fall 2006 I replaced an automatic transmission on a 1990 Toyota Camry V6 with a transmission from JapanDirect. (Reverse failed on a cross-country drive, which gave a whole new meaning to the "Toyota -- Moving forward" ads.) I had it done by a shop that specialized in Toyotas. I think the car had about 170k miles on it at the time. It now has about 210k and I haven't had any problems with the transmission since.
posted by Killick at 7:02 AM on January 24, 2011

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