I bought a 2004 Toyota Camry Solara back in November of 2012 from Jon Lancaster Toyota Scion. At first, this car seemed too good to be true. It was on clearance for over three thousand dollars below market value because the owner of the dealership was retiring and wanted to clear the lot of his used car inventory. Cosmetically it was in amazing condition for a used car with only a few dings and minor scratches. I fell in love with it immediately and none of the cars I saw after measured up.
I'll admit that I was foolish for not doing more research on the manufacturer ahead of time, but everyone I talked to either didn't know much about Toyota or only said good things about them. Little did I know that Toyota actually has one of the highest amount of recalls of all the major car manufacturers.
A few days after I got the car the tire pressure light went on. The most common result of this light going off when the tire pressure is alright is when they rotate the tires and mess up the sensor in the process. I've been told that anyone who knows what they're doing wouldn't throw the sensor off when they're switching the tires out. This was the first sign that the Toyota mechanics aren't as good as you'd expect from a major dealership.
Then not a week later the check engine light went on for the first time. I took it to Toyota and they said I needed a new O2 sensor that would cost me $500. This wasn't under warranty, so I would be liable for the full amount. Toyota was "nice" enough to offer to meet me half way with a $100 deductible. It came out to $320 in the end after sitting there for five hours.
For a few blissful days everything seemed fine, until the check engine light went off yet again. I took it back to Toyota only to find that it was the catalytic converter that needed to be fixed. Apparently this is standard procedure to throw in a few O2 sensors before the much more expensive catalytic converter.
This time the bill would come to $1,200. Less than a month after buying this vehicle I would be putting 15% of the total cost of the vehicle into it. I had yet to even make a single payment on the car and already the money I'd expected to go to the payments was already going to fixing it.
I was done blindly trusting Toyota so I took it to a local mechanic that was trustworthy. He recommended putting in another O2 sensor first and charged far less than Toyota to fix it. A few days later the check engine light went off again and since they'd replaced two O2 sensors already the local mechanic suggested that the only option left was to replace the catalytic converter.
Turns out that it was the catalytic converter the whole time and the check engine light has yet to come back on, but even after putting nearly $2,000 into the car I can't help but wonder how Toyota couldn't have known that the catalytic converter was weak.
You would think that it would have turned up on the emissions test, but either they weren't concerned with a high emissions reading or they didn't think it was worth pursuing. Who knows, they might have even known about it beforehand since it was a trade in. I'll never know for sure what they were thinking, but it doesn't stop me from thinking that at the very least they weren't completely honest or straight with me when it came to the repairs.
The mechanic who replaced the catalytic converters (there are two on this car) said that on Toyota's website they recommend that you change both of them out at the same time. Jon Lancaster Toyota Scion was only going to change out one of them, despite the fact that the manufacturer recommends otherwise, and it cost less for the mechanic to do both than it would have to do only one with Toyota.
At the first least, I want to warn people away from doing any of their repairs at the Toyota dealership's service center. Not only do they overcharge for their services, but they don't actually explain the problem to you or disclose all your options. They're out to make money and you're better off trying to find yourself a reliable mechanic elsewhere.
Actually, I would warn anyone against getting a Toyota period. Maybe the newer models are more reliable, but I no longer trust this manufacturer or the dealership with my future car purchases. Someday I might try a Honda, but other than that I think I'm going to stick with the American car dealerships.