Which Used Toyota Camry Should You Buy?


The Toyota Camry isn’t the most stylish, exciting or highly desirable car around, but it’s hard to argue with this car’s sheer practicality or its incredibly enduring success here in America. It may have been discontinued years ago in other markets around the world and it may be facing a continuous onslaught from the growing popularity of SUVs, but the Camry is still a firm favorite with American car buyers.

Because it’s been around since 1982 in no fewer than 11 generations and sold in massive numbers since production got underway, there’s an absolute ton of them for sale in the used market and more entering the market every day. If you’re one of the many people every day who is considering buying a used Toyota Camry you’re probably wondering which Toyota Camry you should buy and what to look out for when buying a used Toyota Camry?

The used Toyota Camry you should buy if you want the best overall value would be a mid-range hybrid version such as the XLE Hybrid from the 2018 model year onwards. These models are now reaching the point where they’ve taken the heaviest hit from depreciation and they’re modern, well-equipped mid-size sedans that will last as long as you want them to.

Why Choose a Camry Hybrid?

The hybrid powerplant is the best of all worlds. It’s more rewarding to drive than the base gas engine and it’s also the most fuel-efficient unit you can have under the hood of your Camry. There’s no doubt now that the auto business is going increasingly electrified, so starting your journey towards electrification with a non-plug-in hybrid is a nice way of beginning the process of weaning you away from gas.

There’s nothing wrong with the 2.5-liter inline-four that produces a healthy 206 horsepower, and Toyota deserved credit for still offering a V-6 option in the new-generation 2018 model. The V-6 is going to temp a lot of you with its 301 horsepower and the allure of an eight-speed automatic with either gas engine may also make you think twice about the Camry Hybrid as it comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead of a regular auto.

However, CVTs are becoming more and more prevalent as hybrids become increasingly popular and the unit in the Camry is seriously good, so you may as well get used to them as fully electric cars just have an accelerator.

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Why is the XLE the Best Trim Level?

You can make a case for any trim level if you want to, but in this article, I’ve got to generalize by trying to get into the mind of the type of buyer who’d be attracted by the Camry. If you’re buying a Camry you’re not a luxury buyer, so the highest trim levels will probably have you paying for features that could be pretty superfluous.

Also, if you’re buying used then good value for money is probably going to be very important to you and mid-range models often tend to deliver above-average standard equipment for not a lot more money than base models. Base model cars are only really for those who want the cheapest version possible, and if that’s your aim for your next used car there are cheaper options with better standard features than a used Toyota Camry.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

How Much Does a Used Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid Cost?

A brand new Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid costs a little over $32,000, but you can pick up a 2018 used model with around 30,000 miles for about $23,000. That’s a pretty tidy saving of around $9,000 compared to buying brand new and a 2018 model that has been well cared for will look just like a new one when it’s been properly detailed.

Of course, that’s the retail price so if you buy a brand new for $32,000 and look to trade it in to a dealer after three years you’d expect it to be worth more like $21,000 if it’s in good condition.

What About an Older Camry?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying an older Toyota Camry if that’s all your budget will allow, and if you do need something cheaper the first model year I’d suggest would be 2016. Obviously, there are a lot of cheaper Camrys out there and you can pick up something decent for about $5,000, but any car of that sort of age is going to leave you open to some potentially ruinous repair bills. You’re not going to get a decent 2016 Camry Hybrid with average miles for much less than $15,000, however, so I’d still suggest trying to bridge the financial gap to a 2018 if you possibly can.

I have to state right here and now that there are few cars more reliable than the Camry, but even the most durable and reliable vehicles start to fail as the years pass by. Just like us, as a car gets old and older its components suffer from wear and tear and eventually begin to fail. Even though the Camry is exceptionally reliable, a 20-year-old car is a 20-year-old car so keep that in mind if you think a low purchase price is the cheapest way of running a car for the least amount of money.

If you buy a Camry that’s less than ten years old you should be okay for a few years, but the Camry is the sort of car you buy and keep for more than a couple of years which is why I suggest going for the youngest one you can afford.

Used Camry Known Issues

There aren’t too many issues that plague the Toyota Camry, and any issues that do appear are common to a lot of other cars of the same age such as the airbag problem that plagued so many cars a few years ago.

Camry models earlier than 2010 can be oil burners, however, and sometimes they can burn through so much of the black stuff that it can end up destroying the whole engine, and replacing one in a car of that age and value isn’t really a viable option. I must point out that early hybrid models are not immune to this oil burning problem either, so once again, newer models are better used buys than older models.

2018 Camry XLE Interior

My Verdict

As long as you’re not looking for a thrilling driving experience or something that will have the neighbors drooling with envy when it’s parked outside your house, then you can’t go far wrong with a used Toyota Camry. The Camry is roomy, reliable, comfortable, well-equipped, economical to run and affordable. It makes a lot more sense for the budget-conscious family buyer than an SUV of the same price that will probably have to be older or higher mileage to get to that price and won’t offer any practical advantage over the Camry sedan.

As I said at the start; the Camry isn’t an exciting car that will get your pulse racing, but it really is hard to beat in terms of sheer practicality and value for money, especially over a long period of ownership.

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and an automotive writer and journalist for the last 8 years

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