1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: A Remarkable Find

May 14, 2012

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I "broke in" our recently acquired 1996 Lexus ES 300 this weekend and even though most wouldn't give it a second glance (here it is getting shined at the car wash), I have to say it's a pretty remarkable car. Not only is it in such great condition for a 138K car but it cost us under $3,500.

And I know by now you've probably read up on our Debt-Free Car Project, but this car's amazing story particularly hits home with me because I have a friend who was looking for such a deal for MONTHS. And honestly, I didn't think such a car existed for him -- one that still ran well, was in good condition, didn't have a salvage title and was so cheap -- especially after it seemed like every search he did turned up really questionable choices.

Since I work for Edmunds, I felt it my duty to warn him away from car salesmen who refused to price their vehicles at TMV, and especially those selling salvage-title cars with missing airbags.

But here was our 1996 Lexus ES 300, accident-free and in impressive running condition. It showed me to not lose hope for my friend. In the end, however, after a lengthy search and many dead ends he finally settled on a 1996 Camry that had a salvage title and a missing sunroof window. He paid $2,500 for it. His car still runs well but I kinda wished he lucked out like we did.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 138,716 miles


  • pepperanne pepperanne Posts:

    I have a `96 Lexus ES 300 that I bought 3 years ago and I still love it. I paid $2800 cash. It does have a salvage title and it was slightly damaged, but my husband is a body shop technician, so he was able to fix it very easily. It is fully loaded and everything works. It had new tires and had been well maintained, so we got a great deal. Right now, it does have an exhaust leak, so we'll have to look into getting it fixed, and it now has 206,000 miles on it. I've been thinking of selling it, but I just love the car so much, I haven't been able to bring myself to do it. We have way more than gotten our money's worth out of this car, I cannot complain at all.

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