Used 1997 Toyota Tercel

1997 Toyota Tercel
List price range
1997 Toyota Tercel


  • Toyota dependability, BMW 3-Series knock-off sheetmetal


  • Feels about as substantial as a canoe in a hurricane, weak engine

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

Before we tell you to buy something else, let it be known that 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 has traditionally pushed the boundaries of acceptable pricing. Toyota is less than pleased with the Tercel's sales figures, and decided to simplify things for 1997, though we suspect it's more of a smoke-and-mirrors effect than a real improvement in value.

Standard and DX grade Tercels are gone, replaced by a new CE trim level that offers cloth upholstery, a trip odometer, body-color exterior trim, 14-inch wheels and tires, and new color choices. The effect is most apparent on the basic coupe, which ditches its vinyl seats and skinny tires. Dual airbags are standard on all models, and sedans come with child safe rear door locks.

Similarly, the options list has been revised to offer just a few popular options. We totalled up a sedan with five-speed, anti-lock brakes, rear window defroster, and an equipment package containing goodies like air conditioning, power steering cassette stereo, and floor mats. The CE Sedan we would order came to $14,620 sticker price. Hello! Not much value here, folks. A larger, more powerful, more refined Ford Escort LX sedan with the same option load runs $14,505. Pretty sad, Toyota.

The interior of the Tercel is nice enough that it is no torture chamber, 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 test Tercel cruised easily on the expressway, soaking up the bumps and expansion joints that characterize Michigan roads without imparting too much discomfort to passengers. The optional power steering was light and effortless, though truck ruts did pose a major problem for the Michelin tires on our test car.

Acceleration with the automatic is abysmal; to the point where we considered the car dangerous when trying to enter suburban traffic. A limited-edition Sport model due midyear will almost certainly be 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 we drove was tight, but not rattle-free. 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.

1997 Highlights

Standard and DX trim levels are shelved in favor of CE trim for all Tercels. All models have upgraded cloth trim, new rotary heater controls, a trip odometer and a storage console. New wheel covers adorn standard 14-inch wheels.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Toyota Tercel.

Overall Consumer Rating

Most helpful consumer reviews

My first car and a great car
I bought this car from my neighbor as my first car when I was 16 (3 years ago) for 1,200$. It had 179,000 miles on it or more when I bought it. It now has 210,000 miles on it. I would say I probably could have gotten more miles out of her, but she was my first car and I learned a lot of maintenance lessons with her (like always get your oil change and don't let you car run out of oil). I was rough on this poor thing and because I had to get a new car. However considering I put 30,000 miles on her and she lasted me as long as she did, I think this car is a great reliable car. I have never been stranded with her. Gas mileage was 34-38mpg until I drove her out of oil, the mpg just started dropping after that. Some of the stuff I had to have done on her: I had to replace the radiator (which is a common repair needed for this particular car), valve lifters and brakes, and I had to replace the idle air control valve. As long as you keep oil in her, she will be your best friend! UPDATE: She finally died on me as of this year with 211,000 on her odemeter. She probably could've of lasted a bit longer if I hadn't been so hard on her. Many lessons have been learned as a new car owner with this one.
Best Toyota Ever!!!
I am on my 5th Toyota mostly Corolla's and this was my first Tercel (1997). I bought it 10 years ago for a mere $4,000, 60,000 miles, in great shape! I have taken good care of it with regular maintenance and it runs circles around my new Camry!!! Runs like a top, drives like a Champion, purrs like a kitten & STILL gets a WHOPPING 36 CITY!!! I never even drive the new Camry since I like this one better!! AND, the A/C works much better than the new Camry!!!! I hope my baby car NEVER dies!!!!
I got Manson, my tercel, from my grandparents. I learned how to drive in it and it's great for driving and has awesome fuel economy, but it kinda kills my hotness scale. It's a great car for learners who don't really car about their image. Had to replace the cardboard speakers. Make sure you don't get in any accidents, because the car will be creamed and the car you hit will only have minor damage. So overall, great car and wonderful gas mileage if you don't get in accidents and don't care about being called a grandma on the road.
Toyota should've kept the Tercel
My Tercel was a great car. I bought it with about 30,000 miles on it. It was relaible, stylish (compared to the ECHO), and very fun to drive. I could go almost 2 weeks on a tank of gas (all auto cars should come with overdrive standard). I drove it up steep hills in deep snow/ice with no problem. I am certain I wouldve never had a problem with it ever, had it not been totalled in an accident where I was rear ended. The crumple zones worked TOO well, and it was a total loss.I replaced it with a 97 Honda Accord, but I will Sorely miss that Tercel.At only 62,000 miles it was gone too soon.
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Features & Specs

28 city / 35 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
93 hp @ 5400 rpm
See all Used 1997 Toyota Tercel features & specs


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 1997 Toyota Tercel
Used 1997 Toyota Tercel Overview

The Used 1997 Toyota Tercel is offered in the following submodels: Tercel Sedan, Tercel Coupe. Available styles include CE 4dr Sedan, Limited Edition 2dr Coupe, and CE 2dr Coupe.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Toyota Tercel?

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Which used 1997 Toyota Tercels are available in my area?

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Can't find a used 1997 Toyota Tercels you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Toyota Tercel for sale - 3 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $12,661.

Find a used Toyota for sale - 10 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $21,794.

Find a used certified pre-owned Toyota Tercel for sale - 10 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $18,793.

Find a used certified pre-owned Toyota for sale - 6 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $9,607.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 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.

Check out Toyota lease specials
Check out Toyota Tercel lease specials