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Toyota Reliability Mistake Used Car Shoppers Make

Toyotas can take a lot of abuse and still be drivable. However, here is an apt warning why even Toyota’s best models still need a pre-purchase inspection before buying used.

In an earlier article we learned that when it comes to used cars and durability, Toyota Corolla models between 2003 to 2008 would probably earn a “The Most Reliable Car That You Can Abuse” award...if such a thing existed.

Oddly enough, that well-deserved reliability reputation is a double-edged sword for customers shopping for a used Toyota. Especially when a used car shopper places their faith on Toyota’s reputation and not so much on what a pre-purchase inspection would have to say about a particular used model’s actual condition.

Related article: The Best and Worst Used Toyotas To Buy Recently Reviewed

An Apt Toyota RAV4 Warning

This was a message in a recent Toyota Maintenance YouTube channel episode where the host displays a recently purchased 2004 Toyota RAV4 a new customer brought into his garage for an inspection, diagnosis, and repair.

While the particulars of exactly how the new owner came into possession of the RAV4 are unknown, the host points out that many used Toyota owners base their buying decisions typically on Toyota’s reputation; because a car possesses relatively low miles for such an old model; and because someone found it for a good price for a used Toyota and snatched it up before it was sold to someone else.

However, the new owner of this RAV4 mistakenly believed that only some front-end work was all that the car really needed to take care of the noise he noticed while driving and was confident it was still a roadworthy purchase.

Related article: Easy Toyota RAV4 DIY Fix That Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars

He was unfortunately wrong and could have avoided a problem car if only he had a pre-purchase inspection before buying a car that will now cost him a minimum of $3,000 in repairs just to cover the major issues the vehicle possesses.

Don't Buy a Car Like This, Run Away Fast!

Follow along with the host as he demonstrates the multiple problems he found with the used RAV4, most of which should have been red flags for the new owner had he been less optimistic about the Toyota model and made some effort to at least inspect the vehicle himself or had taken it to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection.

In the case of this RAV4, it appears multiple home-made repairs and jerry-rigging DIY attempts were made to this car over the years.

The Value of This Video

The video holds value for anyone looking to buy a used Toyota RAV4 with some practical and easy pre-purchase inspecting tips demonstrated by the host that includes:

  • Why you should not ignore those pesky check engine light warnings on your dashboard display.
  • Test drive noise is not normal even for an older vehicle that may be advertised as “Runs Great!”
  • Finding creative AC line repairs.
  • Seeing brake fluid that is as black as old motor oil.
  • Looking for creative electrical system wiring including dead ended wires and zip tie routing around an engine.
  • Noticing obvious aftermarket parts or creative use of plumbing fixtures or other items from a hardware store.
  • Detecting engine bay area paint destruction from leaks.
  • Finding signs of rodent damage on the engine.
  • Checking for worn ball joints in steering system using a pry tool.
  • Testing the CV axles for excessive play.
  • Looking for broken and leaking joint boots.
  • Seeing new brake pads on some wheels, but not all wheels along with old brake discs with worn grooves on their surfaces.
  • And more…

In short, the take-home message is that a used cars’ reliability should not be taken for granted based on the maker’s reputation, but more importantly on how well-maintained it was by the previous owner.

Related article: Mechanic Talks Candidly About the Best Used Car You Should Not Buy


For additional articles related to used car shopping, here are three for your consideration:

Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on  “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites  and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.

Image source: Deposit Photos