Home » Faultless In Seattle: 2000 Toyota Solara vs 1996 Toyota Avalon

Faultless In Seattle: 2000 Toyota Solara vs 1996 Toyota Avalon

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You all have been a really tough crowd this week. Lots of “those are both awful” and “I’m sitting this one out” comments. And yeah, I’ve hit you with some problematic vehicles: undesirable specs, questionable titles, unrepaired damage. But not today! Today’s cars are so squeaky-clean they’ll make you sick.

First, let’s see how our Ohio players did:

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Looks like the Saturn wins it handily. Park that in your garage, and it becomes a room with a Vue.

Anyway. Today’s contestants are both from a rust-free part of the country, both are six-cylinder Toyotas known for mechanical immortality, and neither has any damage beyond normal wear and tear. You wanted “good” cars? You got’em. Be careful what you wish for.

2000 Toyota Camry Solara SLE – $2,750

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Puyallup, WA

Odometer reading: 231,000 miles

Runs/drives? Of course

How do you make a Toyota Camry more interesting? Trick question: You don’t. But taking away two doors and giving it some swoopy styling makes it at least more palatable. Make it the fancy SLE model with a V6 and leather, and you’ve got a reasonable Japanese facsimile of an American personal luxury coupe like a Monte Carlo, only more reliable.

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This Solara has covered 231,000 miles, but it wears them well. Apart from a small seatbelt-rub hole in the side bolster, it’s just about flawless. Toyota’s 1MZ-FE six-cylinder, driving the front wheels through an overdrive automatic, is about as indestructible as drivetrains get; I’ve seen them with way more miles than this. And outside, it looks practically new. Too bad it’s appliance-white.

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I have seen Solaras with manual transmissions, but I believe it was only available with the four-cylinder engine. But manual Camrys of this era aren’t exactly sporting machines anyway. Might as well just settle for the automatic; it suits the car’s character better.

1996 Toyota Avalon XLS – $3,800

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Seattle, WA

Odometer reading: 91,000 miles

Runs/drives? What do you think?

Two-door coupe too exciting for you? Fear not; here we have the fabled “Japanese Buick,” a car as gentle and soothing as the Roxy Music song for which it is not named. The Toyota Avalon is a nap in car form, a Snuggie capable of highway travel. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It is.

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This first-generation Avalon has the same V6 powertrain as the Solara above – smooth, reliable, and almost completely characterless. Perfect for a car like this. Even better, it only has 91,000 miles on its clock, which is practically new for one of these. The seller says it has been carefully maintained, the necessary timing belt and water pump replacement has been taken care of, and all is well.

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It’s not perfect; there is some minor damage to the back bumper, but it’s superficial. The rest of the car’s paint looks a little dull, but maybe it’s just the photos. But at least it’s a real color.

Well, there they are: two shining examples of perfectly good used cars at reasonable prices. You’ve got your choice of two flavors: Vanilla and Plain. Choose carefully, but don’t worry – it’s February 2nd. If you get it wrong, we’ll just repeat today until you get it right.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)



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64 Responses

  1. The Avalon certainly looks like the better deal, though being a Florida resident I never look down on white paint. You have never truly suffered until you’ve opened the doors to a black car in August in Tampa. It’s transcendent.

    None of the images of the Solara had a good view of the wheels. Our 2003 has a bad case of rim rot – the finish is just chipped and pitted like crazy. Be interesting to see if that’s normal, or if ours was particularly mistreated by its previous owners.

  2. I only prefer 2 doors on genuinely sporty or fun cars. On practical cars, I’ll always prefer 4 doors. And I’ll never prefer white over any color other than off-white.

    Since these cars are otherwise equally snoozeworthy, I pick the lower-miles Avalon.

  3. Speaking as a guy who regards paint color as nothing more than incidental, and has never been particularly afraid of high-mileage vehicles, I have to pick the Avalon, because it’s red and has fewer miles on it.

    In all seriousness, I feel a little bad. This is like when a company needs to choose between two candidates for the same position, and their qualities are so equal that they have to differentiate them based on something stupid, like one guy had a 0.1 point higher GPA in college, or has six months more experience using that MicroMac Softintosh Crashware 2.0 software package that the company uses.

    As job candidates, both of these cars are guys who went to a decent state college with a slightly above average football team and graduated in the top 25% of their class. They’ve both been married for 10 or 15 years, have two kids, a dog, and a comfortable house in the suburbs. Coincidentally, they both drive Toyotas, with the radio tuned to your local pop mix station (the one that plays the greatest hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and today, you know the one).

    Are either of these guys remotely interesting? Not really. Do they have personalities? None to speak of. But will they show up every single day on time, do their work competently and without incident? You bet. Pretty sad state of affairs when you have to turn one of those guys down, but when you do, it’ll likely be over something dumb, because they’re the same car, err…person, in every other sense.

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