By on April 24, 2019

2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 - Image: © Timothy CainThe story of the 340,000-mile 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 that became the 15-winter story of a 347,000-mile Camry now belongs to another author.

My in-laws’ beautifully-maintained Camry ticked up to 352,000 miles – 567,013 kilometres on the odometer, to be precise – when they finally replaced their stalwart sedan with a 2019 Kia Optima.

The decision was not prompted by a breakdown. The Camry isn’t destined for a junkyard. It’s not being parted out.

We listed the Camry for $1,200 on Kijiji, quickly fielded 26 inquiries, and ended up selling this famous Camry to, you guessed it, a Camry owner who wants to add to his Camry stable.

2004 toyota camry le v6 pei farm - Image: © Timothy Cain/PaardensexThe V6-powered Camry was a beacon of hope when my father-in-law snatched it up more than a decade ago. He became the second owner of a car that would provide exemplary service. These people, just so we’re clear, are past owners of Chevrolet Ventures and Mk2 Jetta diesels; people who were as accustomed to car trouble, CAA roadside assistance, and the persistent art of being stranded as an auto journo is accustomed to free shrimp and $TSLA debates on Twitter.

The Camry was a wildly different episode for a family who wore their stories of vehicular meltdowns as badges of honour. It refused to let them down, whether it was hustling down crowned dirt roads to the beach every day all summer long or making multiple trips between Prince Edward Island and Ontario during its 13th winter.

The V6 maintained roughly the same level of fuel efficiency in old age as it did when fresh off the Kentucky line, though consumption in urban settings was always frighteningly V8-like. More apparent was the 210-horsepower 3.0-liter’s silky startup and lively power delivery. The five-speed automatic’s shifts are still nigh on perfect, a shock given the number of new cars that feel as though the shift from first to second will cause the tranny to fall out of the car. The Camry’s sunroof glides open smoothly. The doors thunk satisfyingly.

To be fair, all was not perfect as the Camry left my in-laws’ Summerside driveway for life in the far west of Prince Edward Island. (We call it “up west,” as opposed to “down east.”) The time required to slide the power driver’s seat back from its most forward location to its rearmost resting place is best measured in weeks, rather than seconds. The timing belt’s replacement is overdue, likely at a cost of $400-$500 installed. Tire tread depth is, well, perhaps depth is not the right word. There’s also a fleck of rust just above one wheelwell. Faded paint and corroded wheels are obvious.

None of these issues were negative factors for any of the potential buyers, nearly all of whom lost out because the eventual buyer was a friend. One shopper said he had no interest in an older Camry with fewer than 200,000 miles, but if it was over 300,000 he was game.

Another said simply, “man that’s a ton of kilometres lol.” (Punctuation added for clarity.) 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 interior - Image: © Timothy CainA handful of buyers thought that I, as the intermediary, would be seduced by a lowball offer so long as it came in the form of cold hard cash. Sometimes they phrased it as, “cash in hand,” as if the temptation, not just of bills but of bills touching epidermis, would cause me to accept a $600 offer.

Some shoppers wanted to take the Camry to their favoured mechanic some 30 miles east in order to see “if the car has any issues.” I ain’t lying when I say the V6 purrs like a contented kitten, but if you’re worried about “issues” with a 340,000-mile, 15-year-old car that’s lived its entire life on an island essentially made of iron oxide, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

This Camry isn’t ready for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

It’s ready to fight for its life.

And because the Toyota’s still in fighting form, the switch to Kia wasn’t taken lightly. The process was gradual, involving a Sorento test drive and a pair of Optima experiences. One level up from the base LX, Kia Canada’s LX+ doesn’t include the coveted sunroof but does feature memory settings for the driver’s power functions, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, an eight-inch screen with Apple CarPlay, proximity access, auto high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, and rear parking sensors. The 185-horsepower 2.4-liter is punchy and efficient. With just enough mileage for a huge pre-owned discount, the 2019 Optima was a USD $15,000 car.

Sounds good. But we’ll measure the Optima’s true value by its status in 2034 after 350,000 miles.

[Images: Tim Cain/TTAC]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at Paardensex and Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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57 Comments on “The 340,000-mile 2004 Toyota Camry Is Finally Gone, But It’s Far From Dead...”


  • avatar
    SixspeedSi

    I think it’s a testament to how far Kia/Hyundai has come if a 300k+ Camry owner decided to switch brands.

    Totally get it, though. I’d rather drive a new Optima with that level equipment than a base Camry. Will it last as long? Probably not, but I don’t expect it to give them many issues.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      Or they switched brands because they fell for all the misplaced hype about Hyundai and Kia. You totally get it because you’re probably a Hyundai/Kia fanboy who also fell for the hype and trendiness. Yeah, good luck getting that Kia to half of that number.

      • 0 avatar
        mjg82

        This may surprise you but there are in fact people at exist in between the extremes of H/K fanboi and H/K haters. H/K isn’t all roses but they also aren’t all hype lol.

      • 0 avatar
        Raevoxx

        Or they switched brands because they get more bang for their buck. And most modern vehicles can go further than ever. Perhaps they are being savvy about their decision.

        • 0 avatar
          SixspeedSi

          That’s exactly what I’m thinking. I’m not a H/K lover, I’m just an enthusiast who takes great interest in the industry. I’m willing to bet a base-ish Camry doesn’t offer that level of equipment + the great H/K warranty.

        • 0 avatar
          formula m

          Ya their Kia will be worth $8000 in two years. There is a reason for it. 5yrs from now it will be worth $4500Cdn with 160,000kms.

      • 0 avatar
        SixspeedSi

        I own a 17 GTI lol. Relax, pal, and no I don’t expect it to last as long as a Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “Or they switched brands because they fell for all the misplaced hype about Hyundai and Kia.”

        Eh. Maybe they figure, a brand new Kia should last as long as that 2004 Camry did, given that technology marches on. And it was no doubt cheaper.

        I was shocked at how well I adjusted when I made the switch from 35 years of Japanese iron over to a GTI.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Ah, the lowball idiots, the “cash in hand lol” crowd.
    Seriously, there will always be those clowns, just ignore them. In my years ( lots ) of selling, the modern iterations of marketing have made me leery of several platforms and their users. As per:

    Facebook Marketplace: Short attention span, with no “cash in hand” Good if your a buyer though, as there are so many flakes it can yield decent deals (Seller “had fifty calls, but no one showed up for appointments”

    Craigslist: Similar to FB, but with marginally more cash, but atrocious manners.

    Kijiji: (Canada) Much more effective for actual buyers, who are willing to travel distances, and show up with money.

    Note to sellers: Take clear photos, of the actual car, recently, and answer inquiries promptly, all you need is one motivated buyer to move the goods.
    And FWIW, I would have no issues with a 500K vehicle, it shows pride and care for maintenance.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    That gen Camry with 352k? No surprise there. A couple of weeks ago I tried to talk Daughter No. 2 into taking a 112k one-owner Super White 2003 LE with gray leather (immaculate leather!) and a moonroof, but she wasn’t having it. It was mainly about being a 2003 model, and the grey interior (also it being leather).

    So, what did she wind up with? A 2013 Cruze LS (one-owner, 97k), with what interior? Black and grey cloth. Oh well.

    The Camry had been sold to another buyer, but their financing fell through. They came back a couple of days later and paid cash for it.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      She was right though. Old leather is going to crack soon and moonroof is about to leak soon too, 2013 cruze with black cloth is a lot less maintenance, and more life left consider all the plastic age with years rather than miles.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Yeah, maybe you’re right. I could tell that someone had been taking care of the leather, because I’ve seen Toyotas with less years on them (our ’94 Previa, for example) that had serious cracks.

        it was also about a 2003 Camry not being cool enough.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Kids don’t make rational decisions when it comes to cars, but there is a good reason to choose that Cruze over the old Camry – safety features.

        I think you can do a lot worse than that generation of Cruze, in any case.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    A car company builds you a great reliable car that goes the extra mile (hundreds of thousands of them) for you and you reward that company by buying a competitor. Not much incentive to build durable and reliable cars. This isn’t an exception to the rule but common. So why should Toyota or any other company go to the extra expense to build great cars when they get nothing in return?

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      65

      Yeah but long durablilty insures high resale which helps the brand reputation.

      But to replace it with H K? They are crap. Lower price than Honda/Toyota but you get BRUTAL depreciation. 2 grand cheaper on the front end but you lose 4-5 grand on the back end.

      Not so smart.

      tail lights that burn out early
      funky driving dynamics
      self destroying interiors.
      smell weird.
      Bad resale.
      zero prestige.

      You got to be crazy to buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        Raevoxx

        If they are the type of people to keep a Camry for 300k+ miles, I doubt they are all that concerned about resale value.

        At that point, I bet the Camry and Optima sell for the same amount. $1,200.

        I’d venture a guess that aside from getting more for the same or less, than the Camry, they probably found it more interesting to look at, and the Camry a little too… “aggro”…

        • 0 avatar
          Timothy Cain

          @Raevoxx is right. Depreciation is a major factor for many buyers, but it hardly enters the equation for shoppers who have, for decades, drove vehicles to the edge of the grave. Meawhile, with the Optima, they benefited from its poorer residuals.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Cars that depreciate the least last the longest. People who drive cars to the edge of the grave will get there in a much shorter time frame if they buy stuff that depreciates heavily. At best, it will just cost them far more in repairs and inconvenience. How many miles did their Chevrolets and VWs last before they gave up on them?

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Redapple: Lots of subjective comments there, but can you prove any of the above?

        Seems to be some hate for H/K on this board, with zero reference to actual reliability or longevity numbers.

        Guess that “haters got to hate”.

        And I write that as someone who cannot drive a current generation Optima due to the angle of its headrest.

      • 0 avatar
        saturnotaku

        >tail lights that burn out early

        Never had that happen with any of the dozen or so current and former H/K vehicles owned by myself and immediate/extended family.

        >funky driving dynamics

        Not really an issue on post-2011 cars as H/K got their suspension game in order. Only exception is the awful DCT on the 2016-17 Tucson, Veloster Turbo, and Elantra/Sonata Eco.

        > self destroying interiors

        Again, no such issues on any H/K in my family. Does the interior on my parents’ ’11 Santa Fe with 100K look as good as the cloth on the Camry in this article? No. But it’s no worse than any other car of similar vintage and mileage.

        >smell weird

        They don’t smell any worse than other new cars I’ve driven, and I’ve driven a lot of new cars.

        > Bad resale

        It’s nowhere near as poor as it used to be. Still, you can get some amazing bargains, like the OG Hyundai Equus. First-gen models can be had for around $15,000, which is crazy for the amount of luxury you get, and it won’t break you bank to fix, unlike a BMW or Benz.

        >zero prestige

        As if anyone buying a H/K cares about that.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          Are you talking vehicles that were introduced after 2011? Car and Driver wasn’t too fond of the 2014 Forte, with the suspension being the worst of it:

          “For all the mileage Kia has gotten out of its “a lot for a little” strategy, the company continues to neglect—or simply fails to grasp less-tangible aspects of vehicle integration. The Forte completely lacks dynamic substance. Its body control is abysmal: The car bounds about on its springs as though the dampers were all leaking. The Forte responds to steering-wheel inputs with directional changes, but otherwise the driver gets no indication that the round thing in front of him or her is connected to anything. A sport button on the steering wheel increases the required effort, but that’s all. And while the Forte aced the braking test, the stopping system’s human interactions were rated the worst here. It’s as though Kia is incapable of understanding the nuances of vehicle dynamics, and the result is a car with distinctly nautical road manners. At the end of his stint on the Tail of the Dragon, technical editor K.C. Colwell noted in the logbook: “Now I’m really carsick. I’m going to wander into the woods and throw up.””

          https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/comparison-test/a15111276/2014-honda-civic-ex-l-vs-2014-kia-forte-ex-2014-mazda-3-i-touring-2014-toyota-corolla-s-2014-volkswagen-jetta-se-comparison-test/

          Not that a mid-2000s Camry was much better. When my buddy’s mother was looking to replace her beloved 200k mile ’92 Camry V6 MT, we took a 2006 Camry for a test drive and the suspension had such poor control that she was uncomfortable driving it on the highway. It floated around so much she said it felt unstable; reminding her of her old LTD. The interior was also a serious downgrade from the ’92. She bought a Forester instead. Loved the visibility.

          Buddy took the ’92 Camry to around 300k miles before replacing with a MT CX-5 for his growing family.

          • 0 avatar
            Jason801

            As the owner of a 2011 Forte5 SX that I’ve owned since new, I don’t recognize anything that guy wrote as being connected with reality. Creative writing exercise?

    • 0 avatar
      mjg82

      Both the Camry and Optima were bought used so I’d wager neither purchase put much money into their respective manufacturers pockets

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “and you reward that company by buying a competitor. Not much incentive to build durable and reliable cars.”

      Maybe Toyota/Lexus should stop using a Sci-fi bionic sea monster with a hockey puck jammed in its mouth as design inspiration.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Take a look at the current Camry and tell me that car’s going 300,000 miles.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Have the same power seat track problem you mentioned (and power window problem), moonroof leak, but otherwise my FIL’s 97 XLE V6 is fine and still doing well.

    It’s leaking through all sorts of gaskets but it is driving fine.

  • avatar
    Robotdawn

    I like, and generally buy GM cars, but I know two different people who’ve put over 400k miles on Camry’s. I’ve always thought Toyota’s stuff was boring and/or cheap feeling, but there is no arguing with results.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    I getta get driving, have a 2004 Accord with 175k that’s in semi-retirement and in year 16 of ownership.

    Besides regular fluid/filter changes…changed front discs 1x. Rear drums lasted to 160k with an ample safety margin.

    new A/C radiator and compressor 110k.

    front bushings at 130k, rear axle at 110k, front CV joints 160k. dang roads/potholes around here.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Fluid changes are good! I have one of the last Camrys of this body style and it’s pushing 250,000 miles. Never done a transmission drain and flush but I’ve done fairly regular drain and fills (replaces about half the fluid), changed brake fluid once, drain and fill power steering fluid once, coolant with each new timing belt. Second set of brake pads all around have some life left in them; original discs. Second windshield too, heh.

      The brownish-yellow plastic on the headlights has seen better days though.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Jim,

        Grab yourself a new pair of headlamp assemblies from rockauto dot com (under 50 bucks per side) – you’ll be surprised how much it freshens up your vehicle’s face.

        (I’ve gone the 3M ‘Headlight Lens Restoration Kit’ route and I prefer just replacing the headlamps – unless they are heinously expensive dealer-only units – yours aren’t.)

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Be warned, the cheapo Chinese replacement assemblies will yellow in a few short years, but it is certainly an effective and very satisfying short term solution (and yes polishing and clear coating the original ones can be a pain to get a similarly temporary result).

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Would that be a ton of kilometers or a tonne of kilometres?

  • avatar
    gtem

    I’m right there with your relatives on being prepared to jump ship from the Japanese to the Koreans, the latter are “hungrier” to prove themselves and drive a hard sell on value. I’ve mentioned several times how poorly built the interior is (in terms of actual things breaking) on my in laws’ ’13 Rav4 with 60k miles. They are massively disappointed after putting 170k miles on their ’05 Highlander Limited, which was one of Toyota’s last truly “overbuilt” cars IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      You’re not kidding about their recent interiors, Im dealing with a rental Corolla atm (forget the year but its only a year old or so), the seats are hard enough to make our back ends sore on hour long drives, and the plastics seem to be the same stuff used in kids sandboxes. Honestly Ive been in nicer Chevy Malibus.

      May as well go Korean and get something cheaper and better equipped.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Last week, I had to talk a family member out of buying a 2012 Camry with almost 250K miles on it. It looked OK and drove good, but who would buy any car with that many miles. Stupid, especially when you can get the same year Camry with under 70K miles for only a few thousand dollars more.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Last week, I had to talk a family member out of buying a 2012 Camry with almost 250K miles on it. It looked OK and drove good, but who would buy any car with that many miles. Stupid, especially when you can get the same year Camry with under 70K miles for only a few thousand dollars more.

  • avatar
    loner

    Lately my sweet spot for buying cars has been a Toyota/Lexus product with 100k to 150k miles. Still lots of life left, mostly depreciated, and I’m not afraid to turn a wrench for maintenance and most repairs.

    Between my three Toyota/Lexus products now I have about 400k miles, and all are in pristine cosmetic and mechanical shape. I expect all of them to hit 200k miles easily, but im not sure my attention span will allow me to hang on to them long enough to hit 300.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    @Timothy Cain – I’m just flat out amazed that Camry looks as good as it does and still runs given PEI winters. I’ve been up there three out of the four seasons (I guess winter shuts the place down and I don’t like winter THAT much to try to go up there during a PEI winter) and even just seeing the pictures of what happens on that island during the winter is enough to kill most cars!

    Remember how simple car interiors used to be (including the Camry’s?) compared to now? Knobs for climate control. What a concept. Don’t have to go through three submenus to adjust the slightest thing.

    And I thought the required photo stop up there was a picture next to Green Gables, or at least Cow’s for ice cream?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    New Camrys are, from a durability and lesser facsimiles of their former glorious selves, and will last as long (or slightly longer, since Toyota does build a durable engine still, staying away from turbo-grenades, along with durable transmissions) as the average vehicle in this class (even though the epitome of Camry excellence was from 1993-1997, and the 1998-2000 copy was pretty good, also, in terms of refinement, in addition to durability).

    But the new Honda Accords, are travesties, with their all turbo motor lineup, largely CVT transmissions, and cheap interior and underbelly materials, are FAR worse.

    The new Accords (2018 and forward) will mark the final and conclusive end to Honda’s once solid reputation as a builder of incredibly durable, reliable, engineer-driven vehicles.

    The new Accords look great, will drive acceptably for 3-4 years, and then the inevitable creeks, groans, rattles and mechanical problems will drive their owners mad.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      There may be things people say they don’t like as much about current Camrys as they claim they did like about older Camrys, but their gap over everything else on the market in durability and dependability is bigger than at any time since the Citation was considered a competitor. Nobody else has a drivetrain I would expect to hold up better than what Detroit was selling thirty years ago. Toyota is now the only keeper car company, and you’d better make sure you pick the right product from their line. Accept no Mazdas, BMWs, Subarus, turbos or belt-CVTs.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Peak Camry ended in 1996

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Impressive.
    – Canada is tough on automobiles
    – They don’t make ’em like they used to (not even Toyota)

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My cousin has this XV30 generation of Camry (2.4L, 5spd manual) that he bought heavily used in Siberia, with literally 1 million KM on the car. And it was an original Russian import, bought and driven entirely locally in a place with regular -40C winters and roads many times worse than anything we see in North America, a fair bit of gravel/dirt roads as well. He had to put a new motor when he bought it, granted, but the rest of the car held up fantastically (has had several accidents and some body work and resprays accordingly).

      His friend works as a cabbie and likewise runs an XV30, a European import, 2.4L+auto. DOn’t remember how many KMs but similarly a heavily traveled vehicle. He has it converted to run LPG, it was a very comfy cruiser from Novosibirsk to Biysk when we hired him to drive us a few years ago.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I might have bought it changed the timing chain and put new tires on it and kept driving it to see how long it would last. As little as I drive I could have gotten at least another 10 years out of it.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    I have a 140 mile round trip commute everyday and this is what I drive. 2003 V6 Camry LE. I inherited the car at 129k and it is now at 224K in less than 3 years making this commute. I’ve had an alternator replaced and changed the oil, fluids, and brakes. That is it. The car gets good mileage (28-30MPG) on the highway. It has a .29 drag coefficient which is pretty good. It is hard to get rid of the car when it has been so consistent. This was the last generation of Camry before Toyota decided to conquer the world sales crown. They still make a good car, but not as durable as this one. It simply can’t be. The new cars are far more complex electronically.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I agree bluegoose, XV30 is still very good and predates the epic cost cutting that took place with the XV40 (’07+ in US) although the 4cyl 2AZ had an early run of head bolt issues. Interior is kind of cheapened on US “LE” trims, elsewhere the base interior was XLE-grade (pushbutton climate controls instead of cheap knobs).

  • avatar
    prabal34

    I have a 329k mile 2004 Highlander that used to be my dad’s that’ll be up for sale soon. He retired and doesn’t drive anymore and we’re just looking for a new vehicle. Was gunna trade in but it seems like I’ll find a better home for it myself and possibly make more than a trade in.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    I sold a 1999 Camry w/ just under 100k miles. J-vin. Everything was butter smooth. The low-ballers came out in force, despite me pricing it below market just to sell it quickly. One guy was showing me how a slight ding on the door justified the “rough trade-in” KBB value. Then he does this awful exaggerated brake checks. After wasting nearly an hour of my time, he says he’ll “think about it” and for me to “have a chance to think over his reasonable offer”. I sold it an hour later to another guy in a 15-min transaction.

    Guy #1 calls back in 2 days asking if the car was still available. It felt good to tell him I sold it for full price on that same day.


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