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February 16, 2010


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Risky--compared to what?

I'd still rather buy a well-engineered Toyota instead of your typical poorly-designed American-built car.

When it comes to cars, I expect them not to break down, ever, under 100K miles. That's all I want, and I'm willing to pay more. I'd only ever buy Toyotas or Hondas for that reason.

Toyotas are fine. I don't own one myself, but I'd suggest looking at some statistics on crashes vs miles driven. (where to find? I haven't a clue)
I respect Toyota for doing the recall rather than publicly preferring to face lawsuits (Ford, I'm looking at you!). It is also natural that once a recall gets "notorious" that they will review their specs and results with a fine-tooth comb, and issue more recalls to be more cautious.

If I were in the market for a new car, I'd definitely look at Toyota. There are bargains to be had these days.

Personally, for my wife, I would recommend the Highlander or Sienna (I'm biased though, we have a Toyota Sienna already :)). Many cars have recalls, and at least the car isn't blowing up.

That said, the American cars have improved greatly over the years (although I hate my 2003 malibu). I would take my time and try to get the most car for the buck! Lately, Ford has brought out some interesting looking vehicles. I think any route you go, American or Japanese will be good choices.

All the car companies are pretty much the same. Buy what you like and fits your needs.

If you're in the market, I think now is a great time to buy a Toyota! The recall is really hurting dealers (in combination with that already pesky recession), and they should be ready to cut you a good deal.

I'm not worried about the recall affecting Toyota models across the board. Recalls happen with every manufacturer at one time or another, and Toyota's quality has been running high consistently for years.

Don't rule out Hyundai either in your search. I bought a 2005 Hyundai Tucson in Nov. 2004, and other than routine maintenance I haven't had to do any work on it at all! That 10-year warranty was a big selling point for me too.

Toyota has had some many problems that I don't think they're trustworthy.

I'm also biased and believe that favoring one of the American automakers is the preferable way to go. I know you're from Michigan as well, FMF, so at least consider an American car given how the downfall of the American auto industry did a lot of damage to our great state.

The entire concept that Japanese cars are superior to American cars has been dated for some time. The Ford Fusion destroys just about every other car in its class and is generally cheaper than its Japanese and Korean counterparts. Also, the new design on the Malibu is unreal. I hated this car for years but the 2011 model is simply amazing.

Before trashing American cars, have any of you actually shopped for one? Test driven one? Too many times I hear "I know this guy..." or "I owned x in 1990..." Well I had a 1990 Toyota that did not even make 100K before dying and horrid death. Currently I have a Pontiac Vibe...which is the same car as the Toyota Matrix but in some areas, owning an American car is seen as the equivalent as shopping at WalMart. I love my Vibe. I would probably like the Matrix too but why would I want a Toyota sticker on my car built in California when I could have a Pontiac?

Before bashing all American cars as poorly designed, etc. you should shop around a bit. For years I would not buy American cars (who wanted and Oldsmobuick?). Now, I see no reason to throw my money across the pond.

My husband loves his Toyota - 2007 Prius - and we'll still buy from them in the future. My grandparents just bought a 2010 Camry and couldn't be happier. It wasn't part of the recall, but my grandpa said he would have bought it even if it was since it had every feature he wanted and drove so smooth.

If I was in the market for a new car, I'd look out for good deals on Toyotas now while their sales are low.

I don't know about risky, but all car companies are pretty much the same now. Toyota has been ruthlessly cost cutting for the last 10 years. Other companies have caught up in design and quality. At least take a look at the Ford Edge and some other competing brands. There is no advantage to buying a Toyota any more, and the recent recalls only emphasize that they have been riding on reputation for several years. Google around for "Toytoa sludge" "Tacoma frame" "FJ Cruiser frame" "Toyota transmission problems".

Strictly from a financial perspective, the bad press has reality hit the Toyota values according to the Kelly Blue Book. It is hard to predict the long-term perception despite the fact that Toyota has built reliable vehicles when compared to others.

At the same time, competition smells blood in the water and many other brands are eager to take their business. It may be a very good time to check on similar vehicles, such as the Honda Pilot and see what kind of deal you can strike.

Look carefully at the the latest quality rankings and Ford has pulled even with Toyota (possibly ahead if you consider the latest recall). Don't rule out an "American" vehicle, especially Ford (if the bailout bothers you). The quality gap between most auto companies is so small now it almost doesn't matter, however, I would avoid those at the bottom (Chrysler).

The Ford Escape is every bit the vehicle as the Highlander, don't be afraid to take a look at a Ford dealership and research the quality numbers, you will be surprised.

Only if you plan on meeting girls!

My 2005 Chevy Aveo rattles and had to have a belt and O2 sensor replaced at 39,000 miles (two months ago). I needed a cheap car out of college and the Aveo was the cheapest at the time. I wanted a Cavalier but they had replaced it with the Cobalt. I should have bought something used, but I didn't know better at the time. I will probably never buy a Chevy again and will sell my Aveo if it needs any more work in the next year. I yearn for a Yaris. I might splurge on a Prius.

If you do look at something other than a Toyota, my father-in-law loves his Hyundai Sante Fe. Lots of room, lots of features, comfortable seats in front and back, good gas mileage for an SUV, and a 10 year warranty to boot.

My husband was actually going to buy one until he saw the storage capacity of the Prius. He only needed enough room for his ref gear and teaching stuff - the Prius had more than enough room and was less expensive. Our Prius has over 60,000 miles already (a 2007 model bought in mid-2008) and has only needed a new set of tires and routine oil changes.

I'm a Toyota fan.

Crystal --

My leading candidates have been:

Toyota Highlander
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Sante Fe

Though I'm open to considering more.

I've owned two American cars (both Buicks and both junk) and three foreign cars (Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and all have been GREAT) in my lifetime.

BMW vs Toyota Highlander

Love the highlander.

I used to visit the BMW dealer all the time. Always busy. Spent $1,200 on new tires that lasted 30k miles. Coffee was good. Glad to be rid of it.

At 90k miles on the highlander its never had an issue. Had the oil changed last month and asked about the brake pads (never replaced) I was told they should last 100k. Place has always been empty. Never a line. Coffee- I've never spent enough time there to try the coffee.

Glad I own the Toyota.

I have been happy with my Lexus LS400 -- best car I have every owned. I have not done any maintenance to it outside of oil changes in 2 years -- 200,000 miles on the clock.

I think the Toyota brand will take a hit -- but they still build long lasting cars -- unless you can't brake and run into something ;)

"Before trashing American cars, have any of you actually shopped for one? Test driven one?"

I have multiple as in more than 3 close family members with GM cars built since 2000 that have had nothing but trouble with them and with more than 1 model each. My brother has a 2001 chevy venture that has probably been in the shop over 20 times and it has less than 100k on it. I am not making that number up either. He always says it should be fixed now, there is nothing left to go wrong, but in 6 months, something else does. It is truly a lemon. My dad had similiar issues with his van and his pick up all though not nearly as often as my brother. My cousin had the transmission drop at 37k miles on his pickup, just outside the warranty. Dealer and company would not do anything about it (they weren't obligated to as the warranty was off) he told the service guys he would never buy another chevy, they told him "they don't care." I personally had an older chevy in the 80s that was pure crap too. And I know the 80s was different but I have enough family evidence that the 2000's aren't much better.

So please, stop with all the accusations that those of us loyal to Japanese manufactors are somehow just biased against "American" car companies and need to go drive "American" cars everytime we want a different car. NO! The "American" car companies have proven to me over and over again that they are not reliable enough for me to even consider. Have they gotten better? I am sure they have. Are some better than others like Ford. It seem likely they are (GM is so broken I don't know what it would take to get me to ever consider them again). However, the Japanese manufactors have proven themselves to me over and over again. No car is without mistakes but I have had 4 japanese cars. A new 1996 Nissan Maxima that I drove to 180k until someone hit me and totalled it. The air conditioner quit working in the last couple years but that was the only problem I ever had with it. A 2001 Nissan Pathfinder that we drove to 100K with zero issue before we sold it. A 2002 Honda Odyssey currently with 150k on it, zero problems since buying it with 70K 4 years ago. And a 2002 Nissan Maxima with 130K and zero problems with that as well (bought it used 3 years ago with 100k miles).

So must I go drive "American" cars every time I look for a new car to satisfy those who think I am bashing "American" cars. Trust is earned and the Japenese Manufactorers have earned mine. Until they lose it, I see no reason to leave them. The interesting thing about Toyota is they passed GM as the biggest car maker in 2008. With huge size and success comes complacency. Perhaps they got GM disease. I suspect they will respond much better and quicker than GM but they still might have some short term issues. I have never had a toyota and with Nissan and Honda, they have less market share and might be a little hungrier and have to fight for it a little more. That helps.

And speaking of outdated thinking. The "American" car label is very outdated. All of my "Japanese" cars were built in America by Americans and have just as many American parts as an "American" car. Meanwhile GM is building a lot of their cars in Mexico and Canada.

I am loyal because of what the car companies have proven to me. They have earned it. If my loyalty is ever proven misplaced due to changes in the quality of those car companies then I will move it. Until then I see no reason to. Some people however are loyal because of an idea or because of legacy or because of what a certain car company used to be. I don't find anything compelling about that kind of loyalty. And while some companies like Ford may have improved their quality and be back in the game so to speak, most people who argue they have good quality now were still advocating for them in the 90s when their quality was pretty horrible. So that argument is also not very compelling.

I missed most of the story but NPR had something about Toyota will be aggressively trying to make up for lost sales and trust by having some tremendous incentives such as 200K warranty, and lots of price drops later this year.

I don't know if it's the entire Toyota line or just certain models, but I the main idea is that Toyota will not write off the US market share they've enjoyed for so long.

FMF, how are you measuring reliability in the first place? Are you looking to buy a late model used car or a new car?

The recent Toyota recalls aren't really that significant in the terms of your chance of seeing an actual problem from the recall. The recalls are damaging the Toyota brand and reputation for high quality and reliability. Frankly I think most of the brand reputation for quality and reliability is based on peoples perception and emotion more than true apples to apples comparisons of real frequency of failures and maintenance/repair costs.

Jim --

I use Consumer Reports to gauge reliability. So far, they've never let me down.

I've always favored Toyota and Honda over other car brands. I tend to think this is just a blip for Toyota who has always had a stellar reputation for quality.

I don't know anyone with a Highlander so I can't give an opinion on it, but our friends have a Pilot and they love it. And as I said I'm happy with Honda...I've got an Accord and my wife drives an Odyssey and they're both great vehicles.

I've owned and driven Toyotas most of my life, and they've never given me any serious safety issues.

The fact that they've went ahead and voluntarily made a mass recall for a part that an outside contractor made (Toyota themselves didn't make the pedal) just means that they are very serious about safety.

Furthermore, with all this negative media and mass recall, I'll bet you can score a deal with Toyota much easier than before.

I'll be in the market for a replacement car soon, and you bet Toyotas (and Hondas, which also made a recall for air bags) are near the top of my list.

Rumor has it Toyota is going to go all-out to win back customers. That could mean larger incentives, a longer warranty (I saw a 10 yr/100k like Hyundai tumbling around the rumor mill), or both. If it were me I'd hang on and see what happens. If it's nothing you might as well stay on schedule, and if a real steal comes along you can grab it.

If Toyota does go all out, I might dump my Aveo a lot quicker than I thought. It would be nice to get a car that is expected to last way more than 100,000 miles...I'll even spring for automatic locks this time.

I went through the car buying experience last year for this size of car. We were looking for used and did see a big difference between brands. We loved the Highlander and Pilot but the used prices were a bit out of our range. We hated the Ford Fusion, Jeep Liberty and Chevy Blazers we test drove. They were not as smooth, didn't have the features, and overall didn't impress us at all.

We ended up finding a Saturn Vue which was a compromise in features and comfort but price was right. We have had a few random issues like a subframe bolt needing replacement and a heated seat has failed. The car has 70,000 miles. While I am fairly satisfied with the Vue, I wish I had ponied up the extra $5,000 to get the Highlander or the Pilot.


The Chevy Aveo of that year was a rebadged Daewoo and not an American engineered product. Dumb move by GM as a way to have a cheap small car IMHO.

I would not allow that to bias you against all American cars as it was really a Korean car by a company that tried and failed in the NA market place.

I'm not looking to buy a Toyota however I am seriously considering buying Toyota Stocks. This despite the fact that within my retirement investing strategy I do not own individual stocks.

Two reasons for this thought:
1. The stock is trading around book value.
2. The general public have very short memories and as soon as the next scandal comes along it will all be forgotten about allowing Toyota to get on with what they do best.

@FMF - I would recommend checking out Motor Trend Magazine when comparing cars. They're very rigorous in their testing and their awards are one of the standards in the business. Just a thought.

I wouldn't even think twice about going with an American car over Toyota or Honda. Toyota and Honda make excellent vehicles. Amen to what Apex said! American car manufacturers have really improved their quality? Sorry, but I have heard that one before - Quality is Job 1, etc. You know the saying, fool me once...

My parents have a 2004 Highlander and other than oil changes and tires, there have been no other expenses.

To whoever said: "Have you driven a xxx lately" - as a matter of fact I have! I rent a car once or twice a month and the typical rental Chrysler or GM car feels cheap and flaky. And something is ALWAYS broken on the ones I get with 15,000 or more. When I get a Toyota, it feels solid and everything works. Fords have been OK too. It's quite clear why neither Ford nor Toyota needed a bailout - they don't make $%@^& cars!

I have bought 7 or 8 used Toyotas over the years - including a Tercel wagon bought at 60K miles and driven to 120 over 10 years, a Camry wagon bought at 107 and driven to 160 over 4 years, and a 2003 Highlander bought for my 16-yearold in 2009 with 125 that feels better than the 2010 Chrysler I rented in Fort Lauderdale in January.

This accelerator issue is a blip and if they had handled it better it need never have blown up in their faces like this.

I just bought a 2007 Lexus RX 350 with 40Kmiles on it and semi-regret my decision. I'm pretty sure I would have been just as happy with a 2004 with 80K.

We bought a 2003 Honda Pilot and have loved every minute of it. (Other car is a 1995 Accord still going strong.) Only other brand I would consider is Toyota, and I too have thought this is a good time to shop. I would not hesitate with either brand. Government is trying to downgrade Toyota to get people to look at government-owned brands.

MasterPo's family has owned Toyotas for the better part of 30 years. Never had a serious (or even minor) factory problem.

MasterPo's main concern is being able to afford a new Toyota when the day comes to get a new car. But that isn't Toyota's fault per se.

ps- Mrs. MasterPo has a Hyundai Tuscon and it seems pretty good too. Possible alternate if push came to shove about Toyota.

Similar to Mark, I also travel frequently and have the opportunity to drive various brands through the rental companies. I find that many of the domestic brands have rattles, loose parts, etc. after hitting the 20,000+ mark. The notable exception is some of the Ford models, which seem to hold up better.

When I travel to California, I usually get a Toyota Camry or a Nissan Altima. With both, I have never had a problem. Also, I have been pleasantly surprised by the Hyundai brand. They seem to hold up well and are a pleasure to drive.

I have a 2004 Honda Pilot with almost 90 k miles. It's never spent a day in the shop except for routine maintenance. We have a family of six and sometimes I wish I'd gone the minivan route instead since they offer easier entrance and egress. The ability to seat eight is awesome, but don't expect to put adults in the rear seat; it's a bit of a squeeze. The car is solid, sturdy, and so far ultra-reliable. About the only complaint I have is the mileage, which, while in town, varies from 15 (if I spend a lot of time in carpool lanes) to as much as 18, but it's still a good bit lower than I'd like.

Usually when I rent a car I wind up with a late model American car and I can say they are not built as well as the higher end Japanese & European cars. Having owned a BMW & VW in the past, they are very fun to drive but the reliability is poorer than the Japanese cars and the cost for parts and service are exorbitant.

I've got some new slogans for Toyota (who I like in spite of the bumps in the road they are hitting right now):

"Toyota- we never stop moving"

"Toyota- Hang on and enjoy the ride!"

"Toyota- Full speed ahead!"

"At Toyota we have the pedal to the metal 24/7"

"Nothing will stop Toyota- nothing"


I have never owned a Toyota but in the past I have owned two Honda Civics, one Honda Prelude, and one Honda Accord. All four cars were highly reliable and trouble free.

Not too many years ago the driver's controls for the accelerator, brake, gear shift, ignition control, and door entry were 100% mechanical linkages that operated directly between the Driver and the Car. I like that and it gives me a lot of confidence that I'm controlling the car, not a computer.

Now, more and more electronics and wireless devices are being substituted, which, as a long time mechanical engineer, make me uncomfortable. Especially when I see on TV that to fix the Toyota's recent braking problems, they hook the car up to a computer and reprogram the software.

Yesterday I picked up my new $282 key for our 1998 Mercedes. I love the car but I am not crazy about the keyless entry device. If the entry device fails, as mine did, the device contains a key that allows one to open the doors but it does NOT allow one to start the car. Starting the car requires that the keyless entry device makes a wireless connection to the ignition switch before the key will even turn. Thus if the chip inside the device malfunctions you can enter the car but you cannot start it and cannot drive it of course. So instead of a $2 key from the hardware store we now need a $282 key from the dealer, mailed by FedEx from Texas to California - Is that Progress or not? They say it makes the car harder to steal - big deal.

Also the dealer told me that on a new Mercedes before you can use a new key you have to insert it into the ignition and wait between 30-60 minutes while it makes wireless contact with many devices on the car and reprograms itself. Fortunately on my '98 model it worked right away. I guess I'm showing my age, I wish I still had my '55 Chevy.

Mike, thanks for the laugh!

My favorite was "Hang on and enjoy the ride!".

(quote)The "American" car label is very outdated. All of my "Japanese" cars were built in America by Americans and have just as many American parts as an "American" car.(Quote)

You are generally correct with one small error: The bulk of the money STILL goes overseas!

I have always said: Buy American, save your kids future!

I'm not having kids, Go Japanese Cars!

Patriotism is great, but I'm not making my purchasing decisions based on my nationality. That's just un-American. :-)

I agree that your Japanese cars were built in America by Americans.
The big difference is that they were built to exactly meet the Japanese manufacturer's specs. for quality and precision. Hondas and Toyotas had higher precision castings and forgings than American cars right from the GetGo, so as for quality it doesn't matter where they are made - they won't leak oil all over your driveway, garage floor, or in the engine compartment.

I bought an expensive Nikon DSLR a year ago and even though Japan designs the best cameras in the world these days, my camera and its lens were both made in Thailand, not a country that you think of for making high quality, very intricate, hi-tech parts. I have bought high quality, famous manufacturer, German cutlery, now made in China, and high quality American Baldwin Brass lanterns, now made in China.
It's not where it was made that matters any more, it's the specifications and quality control insisted upon by the company that designed the product and oversees its manufacture.

The powers that be made the choice long ago to outsource everything possible to countries with the lowest labor rates so that consumers paid less and company profits and stock prices went up. The losers of course were American workers and now we are all paying the price.


If you care about your kids future with respect to where the money goes then you should not buy any products imported into this country. It's taking jobs overseas, money overseas, creates a huge trade deficit, results in lots of money in the hands of foreigners with nothing to do with it but buy up American debt and own us.

So while your statement is correct that most of the profit goes overseas this is true of all foreign owned products and even more true when products are made overseas and shipped in here.

So if you always buy American/made in America whenever possible and when there isn't an American option try to do without the item whenever possible to keep from mortgaging your kid's future then my hats off to you for your consistency.

If not, then excuse me but, shut the heck up! I really can't stand preachers who don't practice it.

Toyota & Honda dropped the ball on handling the recalls , they should have came forward with a full disclosure. Instead of waiting for a huge media blitz and tons of public pressure. But Toyota & Honda are not alone , I never seen so many car companies having recalls all at the same time. I had no idea my car which is not even a Toyota or Honda, was affected until I searched on and found I had a bad Anti Lock control unit on my 2008 Pontiac G8 , So be careful check daily, it seems more and more cars are being recalled .

I have only owned Toyotas over the years, and here is one reason why- the Toyota dealers just let me buy cars by politely helping me. Every American car dealer I visited in Michigan behaved like a hungry, scary shark. I am frightened by their aggressiveness.

FWIW, here's my experience with my 3 cars:

'97 Pontiac Firebird TA - bought new. Runs fine, since the warranty expired in '03 it has needed about $4k in work.

'99 Toyota 4Runner - bought in '96. Since I bought it, it has needed about $3000 worth of repairs.

'98 Honda Civic - wife bought new. Recently has had major oil leaks. Fixed one for about $700, still has a rear main seal leak and needs a new radiator.

So between the 4Runner and the Firebird not a whole lot of difference in repair costs, with the Honda not far behind. While I thought Honda/Toyota would be trouble free that has not been the case. That said, we enjoy the cars, the Civic gets excellent gas mileage (better than current Civics which is pretty sad), and the repairs have been far cheaper than buying a new car.

@ Old Limey - our '98 Honda Civic has leaked far more oil than my '97 Firebird, so your blanket statement is not true.

FWIW, here's my experience with the two cars we own.

1991 Mercedes 560SEL - purchased in 1996. Apart from batteries, tires, plugs, filters hasn't needed repairs.

1998 Mercedes 230C - purchased in 2002. Check engine light $800, new key $282, only routine maintenance.

We don't put much mileage on our cars, the '91 gets 500 miles/year, the '98 gets 3,000 miles/year. Neither car leaks oil.

I'm sure Toyota is okay.... I just think companies need to trash the Toyota Way books and quit pushing them on everyone! lol....

The best value for the $ is a Hyundai, hands down. Moreover, they are saying something by offering a 5yr, 100k bumper to bumper warrenty. That alone says alot. I own two, a 03 and 04 with both 60k + miles and never had one single problem.

Then again, don't rule out Ford, they have made HUGE strides recently with Quality and perks such as better mpg.

Jclimber - Since you bought a 4Runner presumably you bought it for the 4x4 aspects. Can we conclude you drove it harder than you would have a non-SUV car?

That may account for the extra repair costs (more ware&tare).

Also depends on what repairs you're speaking of. Shocks, breaks, muffler, windshield etc are pretty common repairs. Even timing belt, water pump etc. are not uncommon for all cars. And if you had the dealer do it that adds to the cost.

IOW, just quoting $$$ as repair costs gives an uneven picture at best.

MasterPro - nope, my 4Runner is 2WD. I bought it (used) to replace my aging Jeep Cherokee (still ran fine though it didn't have an A/C and that was a killer in Texas). I knew the previous owner and I doubt she ever took it off the pavement so why the axle seals were leaking is beyond me. I like the SUV for cargo space, hauling the dog around, and for high clearance during the infrequent times it goes offroad. The repairs I quoted were mostly for non-scheduled maintenance:

- leaking axle seals (at 90K miles)
- bad rear abs rings (caused by the axle seals leaking)
- O2 sensor
- Mass Air Flow sensor
-- then over 3 years of no repairs followed by:
- leaking valve cover gaskets
- one rear selt belt mechanism had to be replaced

Timing belt was already replaced before I bought it. Now that all the above is done I feel pretty confident it will run for a while with minimal maintenance. Maybe sensors are a common failure? But I wouldn't have expected the axle seals or valve cover gaskets to be leaking.

Ford Fusion is getting a lot of respect. It's hybrid version is North America car of the year and the full Fusion line is Motor Trend's car of the year. With Toyota's reputation and resale value taking a beating, this will shine some light on Ford, GM, & Hyundai's new products. Pretty soon the Accord and Altima will be fighting off the Sonata for sales.

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