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Would You Buy a Toyota?

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My wife and I are looking for a new (or used) family car. Or van. Or something a little more family friendly than the vehicles we currently drive. This weekend we drove to a couple dealerships to look at vehicles on our list and we drove by one dealership several times without stopping. But had this been a year ago, it is probably the first or second place we would have gone.

I’m referring to Toyota. Until he last few months, Toyota was the darling of the car world – top ratings in quality, safety, and customer satisfaction.

I was one of those happy (former) customers. I currently drive a Mazda, but I have owned 3 Toyotas in the past, and I had nothing but good experiences with them. The Toyotas I owned were high quality, never had mechanical problems, were fuel efficient, had high resale value, etc. In short, they were everything you want out of a vehicle.

But a lot has changed in a few short months. Toyota had some major safety issues and recalls (find more information here: www.toyota.com/recall) that extended over several makes, models, and years. There was evidence that Toyota withheld information about the safety issues from the public before finally coming clean, and the problems have even spilled into Toyota’s luxury line, the Lexus.

It took Toyota decades to build such a robust track record for quality, safety, and value. But it took a month or two to seriously tarnish their image.

Should you buy a Toyota?

By all professional accounts (car magazines and respected websites), Toyotas are still very good vehicles. Many sites have gone so far as to recommend buying a Toyota now if you were already planning on buying a Toyota because prices are depressed. They also recommend delaying trading in a Toyota because you may get a lower trade-in value now than you could possibly get in a few months.

How do you feel about Toyota now?

I’d like to say that I feel the same way about Toyotas as I did 6 months ago, but I can’t. Part of me wants to blame the media for over-sensationalizing the situation, but let’s face it… Toyota could have handled things better.

Would you feel comfortable or safe buying a Toyota?

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Published or updated January 22, 2014.
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Investor Junkie

We looked at the 2011 Toyota Avalon. We liked the car, but did not have the Limited edition in stock and their 0% for 5 year loan only applied to the 2010 model. We also had on our short list the Hyundai Genesis. We looked at that car and thought for the same price it was a much better value. The interior in the 2011 Avalon while much better than the older Avalon it does not compare to the Genesis. We got the Genesis. While I think Toyota have good vehicles, they have much more competition. Heck even Buck and Chevy autos are built much better in the past 10 years. In some ways Toyota is today the “old” GM. Building safe and boring cars. Hyundai I believe is up and coming and compete against Honda and Toyota much more heavily in the next 10 years.

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2 Ryan

Thanks for the insight, Investor Junkie. I like the way Hyundai has improved their lineup over the last 5-10 years. My wife and I plan on looking at Hyundai before making our final decision.

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3 Joe Plemon

Ryan,
Although I am not currently in the market for a vehicle, I would not automatically rule out Toyota if I was…meaning I would compare the Toyota with other similar vehicles to see how it stacks up. This being said, because of the hype about Toyota safety issues, I probably wouldn’t buy one unless I was getting a REALLY good deal. But I am not adverse to taking advantage of the hype to get that great deal.

Thanks for the mention…greatly appreciated!

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4 Ryan

Joe, that’s a great point, and one that I agree with. But, if the wife doesn’t feel comfortable with a Toyota, then you can’t go through with it. ;-)

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5 Investor Junkie

If you look at my post:

http://investorjunkie.com/is-owning-a-toyota-risky

My wifey also had an issue. I was able to discuss logically about it. Plus the 2011 Avalon added a emergency braking feature (by pressing on the gas and brake at the same time). In our case buying the Hyundai Genesis was purely an econ decision, not based upon the recent troubles they have had.

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6 Ryan

I have the same feelings. I would consider it if we got a great deal, but there are other vehicles that are of similar/better quality for a similar/better price.

7 Joe Plemon

Well spoken by a wise man who is planning on a long and successful marriage.

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8 Kristen

My husband and I are also looking for a new family car. I do not feel comfortable buying a Toyota right now. I told my husband I’m not putting our baby in a death trap on wheels. I know that’s being dramatic, but I don’t feel the same about the company as I used to. What bothers me the most is that Toyota knew there were problems and tried to hide it instead of doing the right thing by their customers and disclosing there were problems.
Another thing that concerns me is that, at last I read, they still hadn’t been able to figure out exactly what was causing the excelleration problems. I read a really interesting article in the New York Times about why it was taking so long. It made sense. But until they nail down the root cause, I’m going to have to skip the Toyotas.

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9 MFO

I would without a doubt buy a Toyota. Like you said, right now their prices are probably depressed, so you could get a much better deal. This is how I look at it: They have a proven track record for excellent cars in every category (as you stated, resale value, MPGs, Safety, etc). With this recent safety issue, not only will they CONTINUE to have very safe cars, but now I’m sure they will be even safer – and by that I mean less chance that you will have a vehicle with the sudden acceleration problem, despite how small that chance was to begin with.

Yes, yes I would buy a Toyota. But I’m an American car kinda guy:)

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10 Ryan

Half the Toyotas are made in the US anyway. ;-)

You know what’s funny… I guy I used to serve with in the AF made multiple comments about me driving a foreign car (Toyota Tacoma) and he was a “Proud American” who only drove American cars. (He had a Chevy truck, I think).

Anyway, we were leaving the squadron one day and he made the comment again and I told him to come with me. I opened the door of my Tacoma and pointed to the sticker that showed it was made in the US. Then we walked over to his truck and and we looked at where his truck was made – Mexico.

He never made another comment along those lines.

There is so much crossing of the borders with car manufacturing these days – Japanese and German cars are routinely made in the US, US cars are made in Mexico and in Europe, etc. And when they are sold in the US they support jobs and local economies. I guess it’s all good. ;-)

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11 MFO

Wow great point! However, do the profits go to the headquarters which, in Toyota’s case, would that be in Japan? The trick would be to buy an American care made in the U.S..

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12 Ryan

I’m sure profits go back to the Japanese HQ, but you have to keep in mind that much of the money is distributed along the way.

Keep in mind that there are employees at the manufacturer, people working for parts suppliers, people who ship the cars, dealerships and sales staff, advertising agencies, etc. Car manufacturers also put money into R&D which employs people here and abroad and brings out new cars… repeating the cycle.

I don’t think anyone can look at the auto industry in a vacuum; there is a wide range of people and industries affected by the auto industry and foreign auto makers help drive the American economy and vice versa.

13 Cory Ellerbee

I love hearing people say they would never buy a Toyota again but then go on to say, but they would at 0% interest. Either you think it is a good car or you dont. Interest rates wouldnt really change your mind if you thought it was a dangerous car would it?

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14 Ryan

I haven’t heard that argument. I can see someone using the recent recalls as a context to negotiate a better deal, though. And I believe it is a legitimate argument from a consumer’s standpoint, especially regarding resale value.

As for buying at 0% interest, I would prefer to pay with cash and negotiate a lower purchase price. ;)

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15 WR

I have had several Toyota vehicles. I would absolutely recommend them. I pay cash for my vehicles and bought a 1995 T100 (medium sized truck) about 7 years ago for a great price. Only minor maintenance and repair and now runs great with well over 200k miles. I bought a newer Tundra in 2007 during the $4.00 gas crisis. There was a minor engine problem that occurred on a subset of these trucks. As a result, even then, they offered huge cash rebates. (I did not care about the 0% interest so i leveraged my cash payment into an even lower sale price. I broke my own rule of never buying the first model year here but the deal was too good to pass up)

The point is, Toyota is experiencing a minor PR blip if looked at in the larger context. They make excellent, reliable vehicles that hold their resale value.

My advice: buy a used Toyota with some guidelines:
1. research the specific model/year on consumer reports.
2. make sure the recall has been taken care of.
3. do not buy the first model year of any vehicle (that is when 90% of the kinks get worked out of a production run, don’t be a guinea pig. In my case, I found that both the engine and the transmission have been in use by Toyota for a few years so my concern was lessened a bit.)

Great car we have owned and HIGHLY recommend:
2006 Toyota Sienna LE – great family car. Safe, reliable and roomy

-WR

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16 Ryan

Thanks for the comment, WR. We are considering a van and the Sienna was high on our list before the recall issues started. I’ll talk to my wife about this before we purchase our next vehicle.

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17 WR

A side note. We owned the Sienna for 4.5 years (2005-2009). When we sold it had @65k on it. We never experience any issues related to the recall (or any issues whatsoever aside from regular maintenance). We used it to tow a small camper, drove X-country and as a commuter car. I would make sure the recall work is performed but would not hesitate to own this vehicle again.

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18 Cory Ellerbee

Ryan

I am an Internet Sales Manager for Toyota, I hear that arguement daily.

On the resale point of view. I can say for a fact, that recall factors have never once come into a discussion when appraising someones trade. It might if they are going to purchase from a dealership other than Toyota. All I can really comment on is what happens here. We have full faith in all of our products new or used.

so much so, I have a 2009 camry and have yet to do either of my recalls. One main reason. I am not worried about it. I will get it done when I get my next service

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19 Jersey Mom

We’re not looking for a new car right now but our next car would most likely be a Toyota. Almost every car brand has gone through some sort of problems. Years ago even Audi had break problems… I’m sure the problem will be resolved and fine especially in 2-3 years (when we’ll be looking for a new car).

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20 R.Starinsky, Chicago, IL.

When we purchased our 2005 Toyota Sienna minivan (our first Toyota) we looked at and drove every competing product on the market. We found the Sienna to be the best choice in this class. At the time, the made-in-Indiana Sienna was 85% domestic content – higher than most any other vehicle sold for that model year. Now, 60,000 miles later, sans any problems. we have no regrets and will likely replace our Sienna with another in 4 or 5 years – hopefully a Hybird edition. We recently purchased a second Toyota, a 2010 Prius (last December) and would purchase that exact same vehicle again. We have confidence that Toyota will resolve their current problems and regain their status as a high value vehicle producer.

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21 Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog

Thanks for the mention Ryan! I would still trust a Toyota, never owned one yet though. I’ve been driving Mazdas and Hyundais for the last few years.

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22 Jc

I just recently, well, in June, bought my first Toyota. A 2009 Toyota Corolla(just off lease from a rental company. Second ex-Rental car I’ve owned. 9th car I’ve owned in the past 7 years)

I traded in a fully loaded 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix. Leather, Sun Roof, remote start, the works. I’m happier with my Toyota.

I live in PA. My Toyota(as recently as today) shows it heats up faster(I do miss the heated leather seats though, they would heat much quicker, but the air of the car was cold the whole way to work, 15 mins to half an hour. My Toyota is pretty much good about 7 minutes. Even considering I would remote start my Pontiac twice before getting in. 10 minutes each time)

I have less power now(can’t cut off that Jerk trying to cut me off from a stop light) but, I can park in smaller spaces. It’s still very zippy. I can pick up when I need to be, but I can’t be a jerk, which my partner likes.

I’ve had no recall issues. I push gas, it goes. I release, it acts like it should. One odd thing, It shifts like a manual. About half of the cars I’ve had are manuals. I like that. It does downshift on hills. Freaked me out at first, but now I like it, except the engine wear. I would rather wear brakes than engine.

That being said. My partner’s mother has a Hyandai Elantra. Same basic size car. So much more appealing inside. I want that car. When looking for a new car, I didn’t look at Hyandai. My sister has one that’s a few years older and I didn’t like it. So I didn’t look. The newer ones are very very nice(and his parents got the top of the line so they probably spent much more than I did)

In the end though. I am so glad for the recall hype and craziness. I got a car I like(and may actually keep a few years) for much less than it’s worth, and I got a very low rate(2.9%. My pontiac was financed at 13.99%. I don’t have the best credit). and a good overall deal.

I think that’s what matters. A Toyota is not a death trap. OMG. The accelerator is sticking(mine never has the least) What do I do? Panic and mow down that group of school children with a nun or be calm and use the emergency brake I read about in the manual(BTW, RTFM).

Oh and just MHO. I think the only reason the Toyota recall became such a big issue is because a large number of older people, who will panic, bought the car and ran into the supermarket with it because they didn’t know what to do when something they expected to happen didn’t. Again, just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure cars have emergency brakes for well, say emergencies.

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