Am I being stupid buying a 1997 Corolla?


New Member
Doing my homework it looks like the 1997 Corolla with a manual 5 speed transmission is arguably the best car Toyota has ever built.

That said it's getting up to 20 years old and parts availability is going to be limited in the coming years.

The used 1997's I can find have about 150,000 so miles on them.

I plan on sinking several thousand into maintenance, to get everything up to speed.

Does buying a 1997 Corolla make sense?

2012 is the next closest year I would consider but prices are so outrageous.


New Member
How much will you have into the car all together after your planned maintenance?

I'm also curious about your aversion to the pre-2012 corollas.


New Member
Hi RK97, I will probably sink 3-4 thousand into maintenance, just not all at once.
if you're okay with that, then you've got your answer.

I generally believe that it is less expensive to maintain an old car than have a new-car payment, so I'd love to see this work out for you. That said, could you get a better car for the same average cost per month on maintenance?


New Member
With regard to parts, I find that auto-parting warehouses/yards have plenty of used and non-used parts because there were and are so many of these cars on the road. My '95 with 242k seems to continue running strong despite burning some oil (not excessively except after a several-mile steep decline). Several thousand $ sounds steep unless it's about $1-2k/yr; remember to consider insurance replacement value should some schmuck interfere on the road. I've pushed mine hard on- and off-pavement (witness stunned looks on peoples faces) and steepest cost has been the clutch: needs its second rework... so these _can_ be durable.
If you're planning on spending several thousand on a 97 Corolla, you're looking in the wrong places. I have a 97 and a '15. The 97 cost me 1K, it has 103K and just had the clutch replaced before I purchased. It's a base model, no frills...A/C, 5spd, and manual everything. Seats are a little cramped(I am 6'3/230lbs) in the 97 vs the '15. It also gets about 5mpg better if I keep it below 70mph. I bought this as a beater 2nd car for the wife to drive, does just fine for that. Doesn't burn oil, no funny noises, interior is worn but useable. The pluses=parts are all over, and cheap, you don't have to look far to find somebody to work on them if you can't do it yourself, Tires and other consumables are dirt cheap. It's not a Bentley, don't expect it to be, don't try to make it one. It's a reliable economy car. If you're spending a couple grand on top of purchase price, it's no longer economical, and you will never get that back out of it.
Totally buy this car. The engine in it (the 4A series) is bullet proof, parts are incredibly available, and will likely continue to be so. For maintenance... I dropped about $1.2k in mine when I got it to do all belts and hoses, head, head gasket, radiator, timing belt, fluids, other gaskets, etc... And that was all in parts, other then about $300 for the head rebuild. I've put 40k miles on it since then and other then the time somebody stole my batter (argh...) it's never let me down.

For parts, is awesome. Cheap prices, they have practically everything, it's great. 40k miles with a total cost including purchase of $1.5k Comes out to about $0.037 per mile (doesn't include gasoline). If you buy a new car for $10k, and drive it for 100k miles, (pretty normal for alot of folks) it comes out to $0.10 / mi.