1996 Toyota Tercel Review

Used Tercel for sale
List Price Estimate:$503 - $1,195
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Toyota Tercel model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Before we tell you to buy a different car, let it be known that we like the Tercel. This is a good car. It will run forever, won't cost much to insure or operate, and is put together with the precision of a Swiss watch. Unfortunately, fit, finish and reliability don't come for free, and the Tercel is pushing the boundaries of acceptable pricing.

Just try to find a Tercel below $10,000. They don't exist. Add tax, tags and destination charges, and the base Tercel, without a radio or air conditioning, will cost you more than $11,000. Opt for a DX with air, power steering and a cassette stereo, and plan to fork over more than $13,500 plus the associated purchasing costs. Yikes!

For that kind of money, you can buy more fun and more equipment in a somewhat less tightly constructed compact. Modern cars, regardless of make, are quite reliable as long as they are cared for properly. While it is arguable that Toyota engineering is the best the world has to offer, we don't think that average car owners would be so much better off in a stripped Tercel that they ought to pass up loaded Escorts, Cavaliers, and Mitsubishi Mirages. At least the base Tercel can be ordered with fabric seats this year, instead of vinyl. Other changes for 1996 are limited to new option packages.

Last year's restyle makes the Tercel look far more expensive than it is. Our white DX sedan tester came with tasteful bodyside molding and sharp seven-spoke wheelcovers. Pulling up to the in-laws house after dark, several relatives asked what it was in a tone that suggested "How did you afford that?" The angular bodywork is very attractive, making this the first Tercel that could described as such.

The interior of the Tercel has been improved enough so that it is no longer the torture chamber of the previous-generation car, but the tight dimensions, engine racket, wind noise and tire roar are there in spades to remind you that this ain't no Lexus. Our Tercel cruised easily on the expressway, soaking up the bumps and expansion joints that characterize Michigan roads without imparting too much discomfort to passengers. Steering was light and effortless, though truck ruts did pose a major problem for the tiny Michelin tires on our test car.

Acceleration with the automatic on our DX was abysmal; to the point where we considered the car dangerous when trying to enter suburban traffic. A new-for-1996 Sport Package is of no help in this regard, unless there are newly-discovered properties of energy associated with tape striping, a rear spoiler and floor mats that we whiz kids at Edmund's are unaware of. This car really needs some low-end grunt to get it moving in the city. We suspect that creative modulation of the clutch in manual transmission models would cure some of the Tercel's motivational blahs.

The Tercel DX we drove stickered for $14,500. It was tight, but not rattle-free. It had air, cassette and power steering, but no anti-lock brakes, which would have added $850 to the bottom line. At these prices, we'd take the fun-fun-fun Neon Sport, equipped with all this and more -- for less. If the Tercel were priced realistically, we could wholeheartedly recommend it. As it stands, it offers about as much value as that mountain property you bought in Florida last year.

1996 Highlights

Base cars can be equipped with fabric seats, and a "Sports" package is available.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1996 Toyota Tercel.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.38 out of 5 stars
Became a member of the family...
DX 2dr Coupe
My wife and I bought our Tercel new in '96, joking that our 7-year old would drive it someday. She's now 21. She's still driving it. Yes, being a young college student she sometimes complains that it's not 'pretty' like some of the newer cars her classmates drive, but the reliability has been nothing short of incredible. At 325,000 miles, the old girl finally gave one last blast of blue smoke and burped her last breath. Our daughter actually cried. while she shopped with her mother for another car, I installed a rebuilt engine and she couldn't be happier. Another 300,000 miles? I don't see why not!
4.63 out of 5 stars
Best Car Ever!
2dr Coupe
I bought my Tercel w/53,000 miles about 9 years ago and I just had my most expensive repair (coil at $250) at 143,000! I got a newer/used Corolla and I hope it lives up to my Tercel. Reliable is an understatement. I'm having separation anxiety from having to sell it, but can't afford to maintain 2 cars. If you take care of your Tercel, it will take care of you. I'll miss "Big Red" but I think my "Silver Bullet" will rise to the challenge. I don't care what they say-TOYOTA, I'm with you for life!
5 out of 5 stars
Amazing car!
Brian Pace,03/06/2002
DX 4dr Sedan
120k on vehicle. Oil changes, 2 tuneups, new set of tires. Replaced timing belt at 90k as precaution. *THAT'S IT.* You simply can't do better.
5 out of 5 stars
1996 Toyota Tercel
Hester Belisario,09/01/2015
2dr Coupe
We purchased the 1996 Toyota Tercel, stick shift, two-door, for our daughter in 1999 prior to graduating high school in 2000. The mileage on the vehicle upon purchase was approximately 56,000 miles. When she moved to New York, she no longer needed a vehicle; I needed a vehicle to drive to and from work every day. Since 2007 I have been using the vehicle on the highway driving from Hernando to Tampa, approximately 160 miles (roundtrip). I cannot ask for a more reliable vehicle than this little. The performance is still good. The odometer just turned over to 400,500 miles this past week. The amount of money we have spent so far on this vehicle has not been that much, the most we was replacing the air conditioning. As I stated, I am still driving the vehicle every day at 75 miles an hour on the highway and it is still running strong. It is getting approximately 21.5 miles a gallon. Not bad for a vehicle that has that many mileage on the odometer. As far as I am concerned Toyota vehicles are the best made vehicles by far.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1996 Toyota Tercel

Used 1996 Toyota Tercel Overview

The Used 1996 Toyota Tercel is offered in the following submodels: Tercel Sedan, Tercel Coupe. Available styles include 2dr Coupe, DX 2dr Coupe, and DX 4dr Sedan. Pre-owned Toyota Tercel models are available with a 1.5 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 93 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 1996 Toyota Tercel comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual.

What's a good price on a Used 1996 Toyota Tercel?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 1996 Toyota Tercels are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1996 Toyota Tercel for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1996 Toyota Tercel.

Can't find a used 1996 Toyota Tercels you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Toyota Tercel for sale - 2 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $20,644.

Find a used Toyota for sale - 10 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $25,646.

Find a used certified pre-owned Toyota Tercel for sale - 3 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $11,333.

Find a used certified pre-owned Toyota for sale - 9 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $20,384.

Should I lease or buy a 1996 Toyota Tercel?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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Check out Toyota Tercel lease specials