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

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