Reader Question: Vouch for Corolla?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Terri asks: I heard you on the Bill Meyer show; you talked about the Toyota Corolla as one of the best cars to buy for dependability. Is that true for a used car as well? If not what would be a really good used car to buy for the long haul? Thanks!

My reply: It is very hard to go wrong with the Corolla – which is the world’s best-selling car, ever. More than the VW Beetle. More than the Model T. But the most persuasive testimony I can provide is out on the road. Take a look. You will regularly see Corollas from the ’90s still in service as daily drivers. How many Dodge Neons do you see? How about Chevy Cavaliers? Res ipsa loquitur! 

Part of the reason for the Corolla’s enduring goodness is that Toyota is very conservative with the engineering – and with the changes, model year to model year. Even the newest Corollas (2020) still have naturally aspirated (no turbo) engines. And the recent vintage ones still used simpler six-speed automatics (the current car’s optional automatic is a CVT, but it seems to be well-built and in A to B cars, these transmissions usually perform well).

Note also the Corolla’s unusually roomy for the class interior; it actually has more backseat room than many mid-sized cars.

These cars also tend to be purchased by people looking for value – and such people usually take pretty good care of their cars, making a used Corolla a safer-than-usual bet.

The main thing is due diligence. Check the car over thoroughly – or have it checked over by someone competent to do so that you trust. If it checks out, you should have a new friend for a very long time!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. When I was looking for a car for my daughter, I had a conversation with my trusted mechanic Jock. I threw out a couple of car suggestions and he just laughed. He told me to buy (this was 10 years ago) a mid to late 90’s corolla with maybe just 100K in mileage. He said you’ll pay more but these cars were designed to go 300K. Jock said GM believes in hard rings and soft cylinder walls, Toyota believed in hard cylinder walls and soft rings. Kinda makes sense to me. My girls are grown and out of the country, I still have the corolla and it’s my daily driver commuter. I’ll give this car to my grandkids before I sell it.

      • V6 Cavalier says hi. I don’t care what you say, they are one of the best “do everything cars” ever made. They can even handle light off-roading if you’re careful.

        • Hi Chuck,

          The V6 Cavaliers were ok cars; but there’s a reason you rarely see them anymore – even though they once were every other car. Meanwhile, one routinely sees Corollas from the same era. It speaks for itself.

          • eric, I might be all wet but the V 6 Cavalier probably got driven more miles on average than the Corolla. Even Corolla’s of the ’08 vintage were raving(loud interior, shitty ride and bad fuel economy). A friend drove one as a company car and couldn’t believe the sorry fuel mileage. He drove fast but his Q ship was nearly as good and a 100 times nicer car. He drove it till all the suspension was worn out and just like everything Nissan, the parts were just too high to replace.

            I’ve always avoided Fords because of part that cost 3 times what GM parts did and the complexity and specialized tools needed to do simple stuff like a water pump replacement not to mention the cost of the pump.

            BTW, I had avoided ruined water pumps since the early 80’s when everything I bought I changed the coolant to plain old green stuff and put a large jar of Bar’s Leak in them. It not only makes them cool better but keeps the pump so well lubricated it doesn’t wear out.

            I know there are waterless coolants out there that never require a change but I can’t afford them.

  2. Can’t believe you included Cavaliers. Man, they were so….Cavalier. The SIL had one and she loved it. It was new and parked behind my pickup and I needed to go somewhere so she said “take it” and I did. It was undeniably the worst POS I had ever driven that was a new car. Buzzy, weird steering and a drivetrain straight from performance hell since you could make it get out of its own way.

    I could forgive the styling but everything else about it stunk to high heaven. It will be the ultimate classic someday because no one will be pulling out a 40 year old Cavalier that’s never been driven and looks like new and if they do, everyone will respond the same way…..WHY? I heard some people got 30K out of them without Major repair.

    • Not sure what this comment was about but I loved my 1993 V6 Sunbird (same car, different badge). Actually thought it was quite fun to drive, and decent enough power. Internet Car Hipsters hate it because it’s not a Honda Civic, but who cares what they think.


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