Help me not hate my Camry.
February 13, 2015 1:28 PM   Subscribe

I recently acquired a 2007 Toyota Camry XLE. I dislike this car far more than I ever would have thought possible. Please help me learn to tolerate it. Many more details under the fold.

I’m frankly embarrassed to write this question. I find myself, thanks to a family member’s generosity, as the owner of a car that should be more than adequate for my needs. I simply dislike my new (to me) car, though, and I would really like some advice about how to live with it, or whether I should bite the bullet and trade it in.

I had a 2011 Honda Fit Sport (with 22,000 miles) until November, when I gave it to my mother-in-law, whose car was near the very end of its useful life. She is of very modest means and relies on my wife and me for some measure of financial support (which is absolutely OK – it’s been like this the whole time I’ve known her, we love her, and we are happy to help her out as we can). She also lives in an area where driving is essential to get around, so having a reliable car is particularly important to her. My father was interested in getting a new car at about the same time. He was happy to give his car, a 2007 Toyota Camry XLE with 56,000 miles, to me (but preferred not to give it to my mother-in-law). My mother-in-law had scrounged up a few thousand dollars, which she gave to my dad, and he bought a new car.

This deal seemed to be a good idea in several ways:

• My dad got the new car he wanted.
• My mother-in-law got a low-mileage, reliable car that will hopefully last her many years. Plus, she frequently hauls things, and the folding seats and cargo capacity of the Fit are ideal for her.
• I got a “nice” relatively low-mileage car with some decent amenities – moon roof, seat warmers, leather seats, automatic transmission – that I would not have otherwise had. Also, a larger car seemed like it would be generally safer for me and any other occupants in the event of an accident, and that was appealing to me.
• My dad is the wealthiest of the three of us and he effectively (and generously!) subsidized this transaction to my mother-in-law’s considerable benefit by foregoing a trade-in of the Camry and agreeing to this plan.

It might be a red herring, but I mention all of this history to point out that the circumstances under which I got the Camry weren't perfectly ideal, and I've been trying to honestly determine if those circumstances have adversely affected my take on the Camry. After all, I liked the Fit and it is newer than the Camry. It would have maybe been simpler for the Camry to go to my mother-in-law rather than to me, but my dad wasn't comfortable with that and I was honestly kind of excited to get a car with nice amenities like the Camry. So, I feel pretty good about the way the transaction went down. It is very important to my wife and me that my mother-in-law have a reliable car, and the Fit is ideal for her. I also am pleased that my dad (a) has a new car he likes, (b) could effectively subsidize the transaction, and (c) was willing to provide me with his car. I love both of them and am grateful that this three-way transaction has worked so well for them.

Some three months in, though, I just can’t seem to get used to driving the Camry. I’m not a “car guy” by any means, but I have driven many different cars over the years without problems. I just dislike this Camry intensely. Some complaints:

• It’s like driving a mattress. I have no sense of the road - the steering is unresponsive and the suspension is cushy.
• After driving a Corolla and a Fit, each with a manual transmission, for the past 13+ years before getting the Camry, I find it hard to adjust to an automatic. I particularly struggle with speed. There are many streets near me with a 25 MPH speed limit and I find it hard to drive that slowly once the Camry is accelerating. Putting the car in a lower gear is a solution, as I would do with a manual, is an option, but hinders my gas mileage even more so than usual (see below).
• It’s huge! Absolutely huge! I know it’s “only” a mid-size sedan, but I still sometimes struggle to park it, to parallel park it, and to properly determine where I am within my lane. It’s a much bigger car than I need.
• It squeaks and rattles. The center console has an intermittent rattle.
• It's a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things, but the auxiliary jack is glitchy and music played through a phone or similar MP3 player comes out with a pronounced hiss of static.
• It idles poorly and I usually wind up putting the car in neutral at stop lights to stop the shaking.
• The mileage is bad. I only drive about 7,000 miles a year, about 85% of which is stop and go driving in an urban environment. I’m averaging about 19 miles per gallon; I got over 30 in the Fit.

By the way, I took the car to a mechanic after I acquired it from my father, and it checks out just fine. It’ll probably need new tires within the next few thousand miles of driving, but the current tires are OK and the car is otherwise mechanically sound. I have my doubts that this car, with the fabled Toyota build quality, should have problems idling or with squeaks and rattles, but that may just be me being churlish – it’s a 2007 model, after all, not something brand new. I accept that in general it is in decent shape.

It seems like the obvious answer would be for me to trade in the Camry for something smaller, more responsive, and more fuel-efficient – another Fit, a Mazda 3, a Corolla, etc. There is certainly a part of me that simply thinks that it isn't worth it to keep trying to get used to a car that I don’t like – it’s just a car, after all! (Albeit one of the most popular cars sold in the U.S., which makes me wonder why I can’t just get used to driving it, already.) However, while I could manage a trade-in, doing so would be a bit of a financial challenge for me at this time. If at all possible, therefore, I’d really like to make things work with this car.

Is there any hope for me and this Camry? Should I keep plugging along in the hope that I’ll gradually get used to it, even if the last three months haven’t been at all promising in that regard? Are there any tips you might have for improving my comfort with this particular car, or, more generally, for someone struggling with the transition from a smaller manual transmission cars to a bigger automatic transmission car? Or should I just trade it in, either now or after saving up a little more money to make a trade-in more financially viable for me?
posted by cheapskatebay to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total)
I have been driving a silver 2005 Camry LE since 2006. There are one miiiiillion of them on the road, mostly driven now by old ladies. :7)

It's not a 4x4, and it's not a Rolls -- but the price is right, and mechanics have already seen most of what can go wrong with them. So have it checked over again -- at dealer maybe? -- because I got 23mpg last week, and I am in stop-and-go (at 75!) throughout my commute.

It's not a sweet ride, but it's cheap and functional. *shrug* Yes, the radio sucks, too. But it's paid for!
posted by wenestvedt at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would try to take the perspective of: this car is free and reliable. Its purpose is to get you from place to place and it does the job. Is it really that important to you that you love your car a whole bunch? I don't really love my car, either, for some of the reasons you don't like yours (too big, bad mileage, etc.) but the thing is, it does the job and it's paid for. I certainly don't hate it enough to pay money for something else. I would try to file this in the "how important is this, really?" box and wait until it dies, or at least get a few more years out of it. I don't think it's really something to spend all this energy being worked up about.

Also, you might try putting something heavy in the center console to stop the rattle. After my dad died we discovered he had a spoon in his car's center console and my sister and I were like "why is there a spoon in the center console?" but then we took it out, and it rattled. So we put it back in. My dad was no dummy.
posted by something something at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

A 2007 Camry definitely should not have rough idling; have that checked out.

Beyond that, I would say yeah, get the car you want. Driving a full-size sedan would bug the heck out of me.
posted by selfnoise at 1:37 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm biased, because we have a 13 year old Camry. It's never going to be an exciting car, but it's very dependable. We have the LE model, so our gas mileage is better (24 city/35 highway - I have no idea why it's this good, but we don't question it.)

Have the aux jack replaced. It's a small thing, but the ability to listen to music or podcasts is such a pleasure thing.

The rough idling is odd. Have you had the mechanic take a look at that specifically?
posted by heathrowga at 1:37 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

You might never love the car, but a minor tune-up should take care of the last two items on your list and make it a lot more tolerable. If you have any mechanical ability at all, you could wing plugs and wires at it yourself (<$100) and hope that takes care of it. Otherwise just go to a neighborhood mechanic.
posted by LowellLarson at 1:43 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is the xle a V6? That might explain the gas mileage and difficulty going slow.

Just have to learn to be very gentle on the gas to go slow with an automatic.
posted by TheAdamist at 1:45 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Get a second opinion on that rough idle. There are a surprising number of mechanics who can't hear or feel smaller problems. (I was elated to find a mechanic who didn't think I was imagining a problem with my wheel bearing.)
posted by Monochrome at 1:46 PM on February 13, 2015

It's all relative. If you think the Camry is too cushy and too big, try driving a Mercury Grand Marquis or something like that. The fact is, there are tons of people who drive cars that are both bigger and cushier. And the vast majority of Americans drive cars with automatic transmissions without trouble. Now, I'm a car guy, and I get it. I wouldn't enjoy that car much either. But I think you should try to get some perspective in terms of what actually sucks about the car, and what you're just not used to yet.
posted by primethyme at 1:48 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I get it 100% about the Camry. I'm a Honda person and Toyotas are just not going to do it for me. It's like steering a coffee table.

Get the Toyota tuned up, that should optimize it and have the gas mileage and idle feel better to you. If you can't afford a new car, it's best to drive this perfectly cromulent vehicle until you can save up to get the car you'd like (another Honda, its the heroin of automobiles.)

You can drive it for a year easily. You may learn to like the room. After a year, I'm sure your Dad will not be hurt about your trading it for something you like better.

Perhaps you should personalize the car in some way. Maybe have a mural airbrushed on it, or install a good stereo.

Drive it in good health!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:01 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you should get the rough idle looked at, as others have mentioned.

That said, now I'll be blunt - your question reads like, "I have a mid-size sedan, but I want something else, but I can't afford it."

Be honest here - none of your complaints scream, "buy a new car" to me, nor do I think to you. Gas mileage? The difference between 30 mpg and 19 mpg for you is ~135 gallons per year, which is all of $270-$405, depending on gas prices. Cushy suspension? If you're looking for a sporty car, you shouldn't be you caring about gas mileage. "It's huge"? This is America, and that's a mid-sized vehicle here. Learn to drive it; it's highly unlikely you'll never have to drive a vehicle larger than a Fit in your future.

This is part of being an adult. Either you decide to devote a significant portion of your income to your car (which a lot of people do, whether or not it makes sense to) or you just accept that cars are a form of transportation.

If the worst thing you can complain about is a rattley center console, then I'm going to assert you aren't doing too badly. To be honest, I make a heck of a lot of money, but still drive a 2009-vintage car that's even more boring than yours. The center console doesn't rattle, but it also doesn't close properly. The reason I do so is because the cost of an exciting car is not worth it to me. As an arbitrary comparison, for the cost of a newer car, I could have a newer laptop and a (very) nice bike and a vacation to Europe. All of those have significantly more utility to me than my car does. What do you value in life? If it's just your car, then you probably should get a new car (just don't trade it in - that's silly and a waste of money). I hope you have other things, and you should focus on why those things are more important to you than a car.
posted by saeculorum at 2:07 PM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

Get the rough idling checked. That's not normal. Get the audio jack fixed. That's also not normal.

The rest of it will just be a question of you getting used to a very different car. If you find that you absolutely can't get used to it in another 6 months, trade it in for a newer manual Fit. Given that you only drive 7K miles a year, you can probably live with it but are just missing your little, fun, not-a-Dad-car Fit quite a bit.

The difference in gas mileage isn't a huge issue these days considering the price of gas. I'd let that go for now.
posted by quince at 2:12 PM on February 13, 2015

It's not stupid to want to drive a car you like. It's a marker of privilege, sure, but it doesn't make you a bad person. You miss your old car, it suited you better, now you've got someone else's castoff, that does not suit you. But then: money.

So why not set a deadline? "When I get a raise/am making X$, I will trade this sucker in and get one I like more." Conversely, you can start setting aside money for your down payment. Then you have a Countdown to a Better Car to keep you going.

Even rattle-y old Toyotas go forever, so you will end up trading it in at some point. The thing about them is that if you wait for them to actually die on you, you'll be waiting a looong time. Which is good most of the time, but not in your case.
posted by emjaybee at 2:21 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I understand your father not wanting to give "his" car to your MIL, but now that it is "your" car what is the barrier to you switching with your MIL?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2015

Make it your car (as opposed to your Dad's car), somehow.

Try giving it a (nick)name. My hubs drives an old white VW Golf — it is "The Golf Ball," of course. My Dad's first car was "Randy." The Dodge Aspen station wagon of my childhood was "Brenda." My in-laws inherited a giant boat of a Buick that they called "The Battleship Potemkin." it's fun, and it's easier to love/be amused by something with a name.

Maybe get it detailed? Pinstriped? Glue a million action figures to the hood?

Nthing having the idle/aux jack fixed.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2015

It's a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things, but the auxiliary jack is glitchy and music played through a phone or similar MP3 player comes out with a pronounced hiss of static.

Someone smacked the cable when it was plugged in to the jack, and now the jack is hosed. I've done this repair on laptops and other random devices about 10000 times. If you're lucky, that little socket is attached to a cable and is a $12-25 part that can just be swapped. If you're not, it can still be soldered back on to the board(don't accept just replacing the overpriced OEM stereo, the socket itself can easily be repaired, although it might be a bit laborious to access). The cheapest solution might be a basic aftermarket stereo with free installation at a place like best buy for like $50.

It squeaks and rattles. The center console has an intermittent rattle.

Get a general checkup done. This could be suspension bushings, or other suspension components worn out. It could be something as crappy as a broken tie rod. Definitely worth looking in to, and it should not be that way. My grandpas old camry, and my friends, were/are silent. Like mercedes/lexus silent. The ones of your generation are even nicer than those early 2000s ones.

It’s like driving a mattress. I have no sense of the road - the steering is unresponsive and the suspension is cushy.

The "well then you want a sports car lol" responses come from people who haven't driven one of these, and other similar cars. Equivalents from other manufacturers like an altima(not to mention a maxima) or an accord feel like freaking porsches compared to a camry. A camry is japans great swing at making a ford taurus, or even like a buick. It feels more like a couch with wheels than any other non-luxury japanese car.

The fit feels like a freaking mini cooper compared to it, because on the grand chart of things it's way closer to that than it is to this. I have a suspicion so many old people like them because they drive more like old american cars than any other new non-american car.

It's ok to hate this. Even a sentra or a subaru forester feels like a ferrari compared to a camry.

It idles poorly and I usually wind up putting the car in neutral at stop lights to stop the shaking.

This is not normal. In my experience of owning and family having toyotas, driving friends, and driving many other cars... even my crappy 80s tercel idled like a freaking mercedes. You heard it, but you didn't feel it. Even if the check engine light isn't on, something is lightly screwy here. It could just be that something is causing it to think you're pressing the pedal slightly so it's applying a tiny bit of throttle. People like toyotas because they'll run, albeit slightly shitty, for 300k miles with basically no maintenance. But they don't have to. My grandpas camry idled smoother than my friends slightly older mercedes.

I'm also suspicious that your gas mileage is related to this issue. The average for that model/configuration on fuelly is 25mpg-ish which sounds about right to me. Something is amiss.

Honestly, i think that's a pretty nice car. I get that you gave away a car that you liked more, but my friends dad gave her a very similar(might even be the same year) camry and i was jealous. If you can sort out why it's getting bad mileage, and the other minor issues, it's a cheap to maintain reliable car thats only real flaw is being boring to drive.

owever, while I could manage a trade-in, doing so would be a bit of a financial challenge for me at this time. If at all possible, therefore, I’d really like to make things work with this car.

I'd say get that stuff checked out, then wait until it isn't. I've humped along things that weren't working well, or weren't working well with me for 6 months or a year before while i saved up cash or waited for an opportunity where i knew i'd have the money to replace them. And you're doing that in relative comfort, here. Boring and mildly annoying is a lot better than janky or shitty, and this car should have a pretty damn decent trade in value because it's the toyota everyone seems to want(and toyotas hold great value).

But seriously, in reading this question i just wanted to be like "...well i'll trade you".
posted by emptythought at 2:36 PM on February 13, 2015

I was you. I sold it. Best decision I ever made.

Like you, I was gifted the car, which was reliable and paid for, but also had some quirks that I haaaated. I also had some Feelings about being gifted the car in the first place, perhaps like you do, and no matter what I tried I couldn't reason myself out of them. I knew they were irrational, but those feelings combined with the actual irritations of driving this car (like you, poor gas mileage, huge, not to my taste) meant that I just hated driving that damn car. Every minute I drove it I hated it! I sold it after about a year, and wish I had done so sooner.
posted by stellaluna at 2:40 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree with getting rid of it. Cars are like a bed - you spend a lot of your life in one, and you should be comfortable. You clearly are not comfortable in this car, and nothing is going to change that.

I just bought my first new (well, certified pre-owned) car, and I spent a lot of time researching cars and test driving them and I was terrified to spend this much money, but let me tell you, I LOVE MY NEW CAR in a way I never thought was possible. I've always been a utilitarianist, and I would have scoffed at "car people" but, now - I get it. I totally get it. I have to drive a lot, and I am so much happier now that I have an enjoyable vehicle to drive.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:51 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you should trade it in. It sounds like you just don't like it, and it's okay to want to like your car. KBB gives a trade-in value of around $12k for the Camry, and under-50k-mileage Fits can be had for the $13k - $15k range for the base model. Maybe wait another couple of months to save up a bit more, and if you still aren't liking the Camry, trade it in and get another Fit!
posted by aka burlap at 3:20 PM on February 13, 2015

If you can't afford a new car, and it sounds like you can't, at least not comfortably, then don't. I lived with an old '98 Nissan Sentra that had many more problems and didn't get rid of it until maintaining it started becoming more frequent/expensive than I liked, by which point it had racked up almost 200,000 miles. While the car (being a manual) was kinda fun to drive, I generally disliked everything else about it. Driving in traffic sucked due to constant shifting or dealing with idiots cutting about in front of you if you tried to leave enough space to not have to shift so much. Hills sucked because the car would roll backwards if you weren't careful. The driver-side window stopped rolling down, the cupholders sucked, the radio was kind of annoying, the windshield had wiper streaks etched into it, the rearview mirror interfered with the sunshades, etc, etc...

Thing is, it still worked quite well for getting me from point A to point B, which is really what a car is about in my mind. The other things are kinda annoying, but they ultimately are pretty small things to deal with. I'd say give it more time (like around a year) and see if you don't start getting used to the quirks. I'm willing to bet they'll fade into the background for you. And hey, think of all the money you're saving on car payments. I'll bet it stacks up pretty favorably against your lower gas mileage.
posted by Aleyn at 4:40 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

In 2009, my mother gifted me with her old Camry (a 2001, with 170K+miles at the time, so not as new/nice as the one you got) when my '97 VW Golf had become untenably expensive to fix everything that was going wrong on it. I'd loved my Golf, but I just couldn't afford to fix everything it needed.

It was really nice of my mom. It really helped me out in a tough spot. I was super grateful, really.


I hated that car. I hated it every single day I drove it. For another 50K miles, until I could get a new car last summer. Five. Years.

The Camry was huge. It was like a boat, not a car. It wouldn't *go*. It had things that needed fixed all the time (Ha, 300K miles with no maintenance? No.). It just wouldn't start sometimes; mechanic could never figure out why. Its tape player (which I used as an adaptor to plug in my iPod) stopped working. Its roof leaked. Noises. Smells. And did I mention it was huge, and I never felt safe driving it?

I never got used to it. It became known as the Meep!Mobile because of the amount of anxiety it caused me.

So.... when I could finally get a new car? Yep, back to a Golf. And yes, I know someday it will cost more to fix than the Camry usually did, but for now, it is *perfect*. I don't worry about hitting things anymore because the car is the right size, not an unnecessarily huge sedan. I can even reach the pedals! (I couldn't comfortably on the Camry; I have very short legs--I couldn't quite reach the ones on the Fit I test drove, either.) It accelerates! It is NOT a Meep!mobile!

Do I still feel a little guilty about how much I hated that Camry, when it was such a kind thing for my mom to do? Yep. But I feel about a million times happier with a car I like and can drive comfortably and safely.

Get something else, if you can. Don't spend five years with a Meep!mobile.
posted by lysimache at 5:08 PM on February 13, 2015

Don't feel guilty about selling this car. Look up how much similar cars are selling for on craigslist. Then look at other craigslist ads in the same price range. I guarantee you find something that you will be happy to drive.
posted by 256 at 7:16 PM on February 13, 2015

As a Honda person here, I hate to say it, but tough love answer here: you blew it, and you just have to accept that. There's not much any of us can say to make you feel better.

Now it's time for me to make you feel worse. Sorry. :)

The Fit was definitely a better car for your needs and wants as you describe them in this post. You did something nice for a family member, and you should realize how very, very, very nice that was... late-model Fits with that kind of low mileage are VERY in demand in the used car market right now. Fits are well-regarded for being extremely reliable, very easy to work on and maintain, and surprisingly fun to drive (despite their puny engine). They are so light-weight and agile that they can be a real blast, even if it's hamsters on wheels powering the thing.

That model cycle (2009-2013) is especially in demand as many people consider it to be far better than the new Fits that came out in the '15 model year. Plus, the 09-13 models were the last to be built in Japan and not in Mexico. 09-13 Stick-shift Fits are even MORE sought-after on the used car market as they get tremendous gas mileage. People can drive them very aggressively and still pull over 30 mpg on average.

The reality here is that you gave away a more valuable used car in exchange for a less valuable one. You did something very nice for your mother in law. If there is one piece of solace to make you feel better here, it's that. Way to go (and I mean that sincerely). That was a cool move and I hope it scored you some points at home. Your spouse should realize how generous that was.

Anyway, don't get me wrong. Camrys are not pieces of garbage. Toyota builds very dependable, cheap to maintain cars. But it's not just you. They aren't fun cars, and they're not as functional as other brands... they are extremely vanilla and horribly boring to drive. They handle poorly. They are not responsive. They don't accelerate well. Civics and Accords are boring to drive (not counting the Civic SI here, which is actually fun), and they're light-years better than Camrys and Corollas. Subarus and Mazdas are light-years more fun than automatic-transmission Hondas.

Toyotas are pretty damn boring and you're not alone in feeling that way, and you're not an asshole for being unhappy with the car you ended up with.

I wouldn't want a Camry either, for the reason that it's just not enjoyable to drive whatsoever. It's a car made for people who don't like driving.

This comment above just doesn't resonate for people like me: "this car is free and reliable. Its purpose is to get you from place to place and it does the job. Is it really that important to you that you love your car a whole bunch?"

Yeah, for people like me, and for you, cheapskatebay, it does seem to matter, right? I spend about 45 minutes a day commuting in my car. I want that 45 minutes to be in a vehicle I enjoy. I love cars and I love driving. I read about cars. I work on my car and I mod it. It's one of my hobbies and interests. It matters a hell of a lot. I've tried to be a guy who says "it's just a car, I should be thankful," but that's just not me, and it sounds like it's not you either.

So pat yourself on the back for doing a really nice thing for your mother in law. And start planning to save some money, sell this car, and buy yourself something you enjoy. Start planning to sell this car because you don't like it, and from what you're saying, I don't think you ever will like it. You want something more fun to drive, and something with better gas mileage too. And unlike what others are saying above, that's very easy to find... the Camry is just about the most boring car out there, and V6 Camrys from those model years really guzzle gas. Mazda alone makes several cars with better gas mileage and far better performance, or example.

Get rid of it and see if you can look into getting another small, manual hot-hatch or smaller sport sedan. It's going to be hard to find a used fun-to-drive hatchback like the Fit you gave up, but it's not impossible to track something fun down. Maybe look into used Ford Focus hatchbacks, or the Ford Fiesta, which is a pretty powerful little car. Maybe a used late-model Civic SI sedan if you can find one (though it's challenging). Or a used Golf or GTI, though they're more expensive to maintain.

And, finally, I would say to think about how you handled this entire situation. You really did something generous here, right? You make it sound like you were cool with this initially but then it soured on you later. Was that actually the case, or were you hesitant all along? If doing something nice for someone is going to put you in a shittier spot and cause you this much aggravation, then that's not the way to go. Don't be afraid to be just a bit selfish. There's no need to be a martyr. You should be looking out for your interests and your spouse's interests first... then looking out for extended family... then other people out there. Help your mother in law, but if it's going to make you miserable to do so, don't be afraid next time to say "you know what... no, I don't think that works for me after doing some pros and cons... can we come up with a different idea? I want this to be win-win for everyone."

Hang in there dude and/or dudette and/or duderino and/or whatever nomenclature you prefer.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:42 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

If this were me, I'd call my dad and ask him if he's ok with me switching with my MIL, because his gesture was super generous but I just haven't quite been able to get used to the car.

You have the right to do this without getting his blessing of course, but if it were me, I'd level with my dad. Since he didn't want to give it to her right away, I suspect it's basically that he felt some affection for the car and would have preferred for you to have the utility of it, but he isn't trying to bum you out.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:50 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

"It’s like driving a mattress. I have no sense of the road - the steering is unresponsive and the suspension is cushy."

The Camry is not a driver's car. It's not for people who want to know they're driving and feel the road. The Camry goes for the diametrical opposite: a largely anesthetic experience designed to insulate you in every possible way from the driving experience. Don't blame the car - it's beautifully engineered to give a certain sort of customer exactly what they want. If you don't prefer bland food, your bad for choosing to dine in Lithuanian coffee shops!

You will not change this situation, because it's a feature (exquisitely designed in) rather than a bug.

And it's not about your having sports car dreams. There are plenty of nice conservative sedans out there for drivers who like to drive. Mazdas, Accuras, absolutely the VW Golf R.......
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:55 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

My 1999 Camry gets ~25 mpg, so something seems amiss. The rough idle is also abnormal. Maybe get your knock sensor looked at?

I've driven Camrys for all the car-possessing periods of my life, so I'm used to the mushy handling. But I did drive a carshare Fit for a spell and I absolutely loved it, so I get where you're coming from.
posted by Standard Orange at 10:28 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hate to pile on, but I was gifted a Toyota after having a beloved Honda Accord. I hated the thing like I couldn't believe. I whined about how it was like driving a waterbed around town. I felt guilty. It was, technically, a very nice car. I eventually traded it in for a sports car (I know I'm totally reinforcing a lot of people's suspicions with this revelation), even though it had crappier options (a single power seat, a blah interior, etc.) It's still a much more fun overall driving experience.

I wouldn't put myself in a financial bind to unload the car, but I also wouldn't feel terribly guilty about getting rid of it, at some point.
posted by nobejen at 11:43 AM on February 14, 2015

Your question makes me so sad and nostalgic for my old Camry. It was one of the first models, from 1985, and I had it for 18 years before some bastard stole it and stripped it for parts to fix his damn Camry.

It was small, manual, reliable, and its idiosyncrasies were my idiosyncrasies. Plus, 30 mpg in the 1990's.

But when we looked at the new Camrys to replace it we were sadly disappointed. They were huge and floaty to drive with egregiously worse mileage, just as you describe. There was just nothing about them that I could connect to. We ended up with a used Prius which suited me a lot better.

You have my sympathy.
If you decide to keep the car, do a couple of thing to make it yours.
Get it fixed. It's not not running right and should be idling easily and getting better mileage. Get the rattles taken care of. Then, have it detailed inside, just thoroughly thoroughly cleaned out. Put in some touches that make it yours-a steering wheel cover that you like, an air freshener. My daughter did this to her grandfathers minivan when she had the use of it for a couple of summers and got down right possessive of the beast.

Good luck!
posted by SLC Mom at 12:00 PM on February 14, 2015

I'd trade it in. After I talked myself through it and agreed with myself that doing so isn't a rejection of my dad and/or his generosity. And I might tell him before I did it that you just can't get comfortable driving a bigger car.
posted by summerstorm at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2015

I just want to interject one important point (and I'm the one who dissed Camry's road feel, above):

Yes, the car drives pillowy, with scant road feel and awfully soft suspension. But that doesn't mean it doesn't handle well or turn/stop on a dime. It actually does both those things quite the most anesthetized fashion. A Camry will make normal driving a snooze, and exciting driving banal. But that doesn't mean they're not really good at both. If some critter runs out in your way and you need to make a panicky lane adjustment, Camry can make that happen on a twitch.....and the kids in the back seat will never awaken. Don't expect much feedback from the controls. But the car will do what you tell it to do.

So let's be careful to distinguish between snoozy farfignugen and crappy actual performance
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:57 AM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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