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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated Jan. 8, 2024



Older Toyota Corolla Review (1998 - 2013), Reliability, Possible Maintenance Problems, Overall Pros And Cons

Related: How To Get The Lowest Price On A "Brand New" Toyota Corolla

In today's extremely overpriced used car market, many shoppers are now looking for "older" models that have aged well as a way to save significant dollars. The Toyota Corolla is one of these models, making them a viable and definitely more economical option at this time.

2013 Toyota Corolla S

Reliability and dependability become all the more crucial when considering an older vehicle. And history has proven that older Corollas have earned a solid reputation for reliability.

In fact, with proper care and maintenance, they can last well over 200,000 miles, and some owners have reported driving them for 300,000 miles or more. The key though, is limiting your search to those vehicles that have actually had the "proper care and Maintenance".

And we're specifically referring to the 8th, 9th and 10th generation Corollas, those produced between 1998 and 2013. That's where the largest savings are. And well below average annual mileage candidates can still be found out there with careful shopping.

Still, this is not to say an older Toyota Corolla is immune to mechanical problems as it ages. All vehicles have them. It just means that for those on a tighter budget who want an older small sedan that is more likely to be reliable and have a longer lifespan, carefully shopping for a well-maintained Corolla could put the odds in their favor.

All cars have some reported mechanical issues, including some that may be more specific to a particular model, even those with strong reliability reputations. That's just a natural part of car ownership.

So here, ...

- We'll do an overview of some earlier Corolla generations, specifically those covering the 1998 - 2013 model years.

- Then we'll list possible mechanical issues that have been reported by some owners for each generation, because all vehicles have them, so they can be checked before buying one today. It's interesting that they are similar during these generations.

- And then we'll summarize the overall pros and cons of an older Corolla worth consideration for potential buyers today.


But first, and very importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Corolla

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

And My #1 Price Tip: It's important to get online price quotes at auto sites such as Edmunds.com and CarsDirect.com (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business is what gets you a lower price, and it's very easy.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.


Tenth Generation Toyota Corolla (2009- 2013)

2010 Toyota Corolla

This Corolla version comes standard with a 1.8-liter inline-four cylinder engine that outputs 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with either the standard 5-speed manual transmission or an optional 4-speed automatic (quite outdated at this time).

While the engine is fairly smooth, acceleration is adequate but laborious. And while its gas mileage performance is respectable, it had fallen behind some rivals.

This Corolla is available in three primary models: L, LE and S. The base L model comes with a decent list of standard features, including full power accessories, air-conditioning, 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry and a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack.

The LE then adds Bluetooth, cruise control, heated mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls, 16-inch alloy wheels and an upgraded stereo with iPod connectivity, while the S adds some sportier body revisions, upgraded cloth upholstery, interior metallic trim accents and foglights.

It should also be noted that some of the upper used trim models can be found with options such as navigation, a sunroof, Bluetooth streaming audio and satellite radio.

Also produced for the 2009 and 2010 model years were the Corolla XRS and XLE models. The XRS was a sportier model equipped with a 2.4-liter engine that produced 158 horsepower. The XLE was a more upscale version with an upgraded interior and optional leather seating. Also of note, stability control became standard on all models in 2010.

Overall, this production run of Corallas seemed to have somewhat more modest goals than its predecessor. The ride quality, while quiet and smooth, lost a bit of its liveliness and its handling is merely adequate.

The same can be said for the interior as well which is fairly average and adequately attractive. That said, it's a solid and dependable vehicle.


2009 - 2013 Toyota Corolla Possible Mechanical Problems

The 10th generation Corolla generally has a reputation for reliability and durability, but like any vehicle, there have been reported issues by some owners. Here are a few common mechanical problems or concerns associated with this model that therefore should be checked before buying one today:

Transmission Issues: Some owners reported problems with the automatic transmission, such as rough shifting, slipping gears, or transmission failure.

Engine Problems: A few owners experienced issues with the engine, such as oil consumption, which could lead to potential engine misfires or other performance problems. Some reported issues related to engine stalling or rough idling.

Corrosion and Rust: In regions with harsh weather conditions or areas exposed to road salt, some owners reported premature rusting or corrosion on certain underbody components, particularly around suspension parts.

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Electrical System: There have been occasional reports of electrical system malfunctions, including problems with the power windows, door locks, or dashboard lighting.

Suspension and Steering: Some drivers reported issues with the suspension, such as premature wear on components, leading to clunking noises or uneven tire wear. There have also been sporadic complaints about steering problems, including stiffness or excessive play.

It's important to note that these issues were not widespread and their severity could vary. Toyota typically addressed reported concerns through recalls and service bulletins. And regular maintenance and prompt attention to any emerging issues may have helped mitigate or prevent many of these problems.


Ninth Generation Toyota Corolla (2003- 2008)

2008 Toyota Corolla LE

This generation Corolla came in CE, S, LE and XRS (produced only for 2004 and 2005) trims, and in some ways is a more compelling used small sedan choice if a good candidate can be found.

In terms of features, the base CE model still comes with a CD player, air conditioning and a height-adjustable driver's seat.

The S model adds still more features and goes for the sporty look by including a lower body kit, a rear spoiler and smoked headlights.

The LE is the more upscale version of the Corolla. Gone are the cosmetic sporty features, replaced by nicer features such as interior wood trim and optional leather upholstery.

And this older XRS not only comes with the sporty features of the S, but also adds a more powerful engine, 4-wheel disc brakes, an upgraded suspension and alloy wheels. In addition, it's only available with a manual transmission.

Under the hood of the CE, S and LE models was a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 126 horsepower. While perhaps not sounding particularly robust, this engine provides capable power for a vehicle in this segment as well as confident highway acceleration. The XRS had a higher-revving 1.8-liter four-cylinder that delivers 164 horsepower.

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This generation's drive is smooth and comfortable, particularly for a compact car. In addition, it's solid structure provides a suspension that eases the bumps and body motions nicely.

The steering is accurate and nicely weighted with very good straightline stability. This isn't a great cornering vehicle, however, as the suspension is much more geared for comfort.

Fuel economy is another strong point for this Corolla. In test drives, the LE sedans with automatic transmissions have averaged 28.5 mpg in a mix of highway and city miles. The manual S model has been tested at 34.1 mpg while the XRS gets 30.3 mpg (and does require "premium" grade gasoline).

Changes during this production run were quite limited, but notable is the additional options of stability control, side curtain airbags and a JBL audio system added for the 2005 model year.

Overall, these Corollas offer a quiet and smooth driving experience with satisfactory acceleration, but not particularly inspiring handling. And while the interior's design did not necessarily stand out, the materials-quality was high for this segment and rear passenger room was surprising for a compact.


2003 - 2008 Toyota Corolla Possible Mechanical Problems

Toyota Corolla XRS (2005)

The ninth generation Corolla earned a generally solid reputation for reliability and durability. However, like any vehicle, there were reported issues and complaints from some owners that should therefore be included in a pre-purchase inspection:

Engine Oil Consumption: Some owners reported excessive oil consumption in certain engines, leading to potential engine misfires, reduced performance, or engine damage if not addressed promptly.

Transmission Issues: There were occasional reports of problems with the automatic transmission, such as rough shifting, slipping gears, or transmission failure.

Suspension and Steering Problems: Some drivers experienced issues with the suspension system, including premature wear on components, leading to clunking noises or uneven tire wear. Additionally, there were sporadic complaints about steering problems, such as stiffness or excessive play.

Corrosion and Rust: In regions with harsh weather conditions or areas exposed to road salt, some owners reported premature rusting or corrosion on certain underbody components, particularly around suspension parts.

Electrical System Issues: There were occasional reports of electrical system malfunctions, including problems with the power windows, door locks, or dashboard lighting.

Airbag Recalls: Some ninth-generation Corollas were subject to airbag recalls due to issues with the airbag control module, necessitating replacements or repairs.

Again, it's important to note that these issues did not affect every vehicle, and the severity could vary.


Eighth Generation Toyota Corolla (1998- 2002)

2000 Toyota Corolla

Lower mileage and good condition candidates from this run are getting truly hard to find, although a gem still pops up from time to time with patient shopping over a wider geographical search area.

This version has also earned a good reputation for dependability while also being consumer-friendly at the gas pump. It was also the first lower-priced small sedan with optional side airbags (beginning all the way back in 1998).

These Corollas all came with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and acceleration was comparatively solid. However, it's probably a good idea to pass on the base models of this period (either the VE or CE depending on which year) because they were still equipped with an antiquated 3-speed automatic transmission.

Again, during this run model strengths included very good ride comfort and high materials quality. On the downside, used Corolla shoppers should note that this generation's rear quarters were quite cramped.


1998 - 2002 Toyota Corolla Possible Mechanical Problems

The eighth generation Corolla again earned a generally a good reputation for reliability and durability. However, like any vehicle, there were reported issues and concerns among some owners which should be included in an inspection before buying one today:

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Engine Oil Consumption: Some owners reported issues with excessive oil consumption in certain engines, which could lead to potential engine problems if not addressed, such as reduced performance or engine damage.

Transmission Issues: There were occasional complaints about problems with the automatic transmission, including rough shifting, slipping gears, or transmission failure.

Suspension and Steering Problems: A few drivers experienced issues with the suspension system, including premature wear on components, leading to clunking noises or uneven tire wear. There were sporadic complaints about steering problems, such as stiffness or excessive play.

Corrosion and Rust: In areas with harsh weather conditions or where roads are treated with salt, some owners reported premature rusting or corrosion on certain underbody components.

Electrical System Issues: Occasionally, there were reports of electrical system malfunctions, including problems with the power windows, door locks, or dashboard lighting.

Airbag Recalls: Some eighth-generation Corollas were subject to airbag recalls due to issues with the airbag control module, necessitating replacements or repairs.


Overall Older Toyota Corolla Pros And Cons

Toyota Corolla Pros

Cost Savings: Older cars tend to be more affordable than their newer counterparts, allowing for saving a significant amount of money on the initial purchase price.

Depreciation: Older cars have already undergone the steepest depreciation, meaning they won't experience the rapid drop in value that newer cars face.

Insurance Costs: Generally, insurance premiums are lower for older cars, contributing to overall savings.

Reliability: Older Corollas earned a strong reputation for reliability and longevity, requiring regular maintenance but minimal repairs in most cases.

Fuel Efficiency: Known for its fuel economy, it offered good mileage, making it cost-effective for daily commuting.

Resale Value: Holds its value relatively well, offering respectable resale or trade-in value later.

Comfortable Ride: Provides a comfortable and smooth ride, particularly for city driving, with comfortable seating and good visibility.

Safety Features: Depending on the trim, many have advanced standard safety features for its time, like airbags, stability control, and traction control.


Toyota Corolla Cons

Maintenance and Repair Costs: Older cars may require more frequent maintenance or repairs, potentially offsetting initial cost savings.

Fuel Efficiency: While still efficient, older cars might not be as fuel-efficient as newer models due to advancements in engine technology.

Outdated Technology: Compared to more recent models, an older Corolla lacks some of the latest tech features found in newer cars, such as advanced infotainment systems or more sophisticated driver-assistance technology.

Interior Quality: While adequate, the interior materials might have felt somewhat basic or less refined compared to more modern competitors.

Performance: The Corolla was known for reliability and efficiency but might not have delivered the most engaging or dynamic driving experience compared to some rivals.

Design: The exterior and interior design might feel more conservative or less stylish compared to newer models available in the market.

Road Noise: Road noise might be more noticeable in the cabin depending on the road surface.

Other worthy competitors during this time include the Honda Civic, the Mazda3 and the Hyundai Elantra.


Also, Always Know The Value Of Your Trade-In

Whether you are trading or selling on your own, it's just a good idea ... even whether you are in the market or not at the moment. You can then use this important information for a number of purposes ... to negotiate with a dealer, or to know how to price your car in the retail market, or simply to know the value of one of your assets, which is always a good idea.

Getting trade-in values online tend to vary a lot from site to site. But I've found the one at Edmunds Trade-In Quotes is particularly comprehensive and accurate.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.


Lastly, Suggestions For Getting A Low Corolla Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" Toyota Corolla if the price was really good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Car. This works just phenomenally well.


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