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Should I buy this 1997 LS400

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Old 07-23-11, 06:54 PM   #1
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Default Should I buy this 1997 LS400

I've been looking for a used, but great condition LS400 (1997-2000) with less than 100K miles.

Found a 1997 with 94,000 miles for $4,000. The owner purchased it when it had 17,000 miles and had it until last year - when he gave it to his son - who used it until now.

The car is supposedly in very good condition with minor scratches and dents but has never been in an accident.

It does have the following things that need to be replaced:
1) Air Conditioner - do not know exactly what is needed or how much it will cost.
2) Oxygen Sensor.
3) New Fuse - the driver seat is not moving because of this.

Are the above problems typical for this car with the stated mileage or is it an indication that the mileage has been rolled back?

Are these problems an indication of other problems that could develop?

Could they be an indication of poor maintenance?

I've been told that the owner was changing the oil every 3,000 miles and that every time he saw his son over the last year he opened the truck just to check the oil. At first I thought this was a good thing but could it also be an indication of something wrong with the car and the father who owned the car for more than 8 years just checking it to make sure it doesn't progress?

I need to buy a car that would last me for at least 80,000 miles without any maintenance. I am hearing so many people driving these cars past 200,000 miles and still loving them.

I really need a dependable car for my family but have to make sure not to buy someone else's problems or a lemon.

Thanks
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Old 07-23-11, 08:06 PM   #2
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None of the items that need replacing are out of the ordinary range for a car of this age. Any scheduled maintenance it needs will add to the known repairs needed. These cars are cheap as chips to buy and maintain, but only compared to other luxury cars of similar age. Once this is all sorted out, there is a very good chance it would go another 80k miles with no major repairs. The basic engine, transmission and most of the driveline are very durable.

I have a '97 LS and love it. However, I think all of us who own or are considering one of these cars should, for a moment at least, take off our rose colored glasses and see these cars for what they are, old and complicated. On-going maintenance and repair as needed will reward you with a wonderful driving car. Just take some of that money saved from not buying a newer much more expensive car and put it in the repair kitty.

97 and older LS400's have one really nice thing.......no more depreciation!! Their value is determined pretty much by condition, mileage and maintenance.
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Old 07-23-11, 08:07 PM   #3
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hmm,, 97 with 94K @ a $4K price is not unreasonable,, however the A/C is gonna cost big time if the compressor has gone up (fairly comon issue but not cheap to fix). O2 sensors are fairly cheap to replace, can find them for a little over $100 each if you are mechanically inclined to do them yourself. Fuse for seat,, just too lazy to replace. One thing that concerns me,, the dad opened the TRUNK to check the oil??? Yeah that would be a BIG concern. I say, check the carfax to see what pops up. A well maintained Lex will last a LONG time,, however sometimes getting there, behind other owners, and not knowing the previous history of the car can be a big gamble.
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Old 07-23-11, 11:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatLS400 View Post
I need to buy a car that would last me for at least 80,000 miles without any maintenance.
If that is your requirement, an 97 LS400 with 94,000 miles is not for you. I speak from experience having driven LS400's about 285,000 miles since early 1990.

I drove my first LS400 (1990) from new to 183,500 miles and was spending an average of $1,000 per year on maintenance and repairs during the final few years. I probably had every normally replaceable front suspension part replaced between 130,000 and when I sold the car. It was on it's third A/C compressor when I sold it. Still, it was a great car and is still in daily use with its second owner at around 300,000 miles.

I bought my current 2000 LS400 at 38,000 miles in 2003 and now have a bit over 140,000 miles on it. It's in much better shape than my 1990 LS400 was at the same mileage but I'm still expecting to have to replace a number of front end components before I part with it in around 2015 at around 200,000 miles.

My suggestion for a low cost, low maintenance car would be something like a used Toyota Camry. We bought our 1998 Camry LE V6 new and it now has about 121,000 miles on it. It's repair, maintenance and running costs have been a small fraction of the costs of running our LS400's on a year to year basis. And our Camry V6 gets much better gas mileage on regular gas -- around 24 mpg overall in mixed highway and city driving. My 2000 LS400 is getting barely 17 mpg on premium fuel in this current summer heat. Little things like brake pads last over twice as long on our Camry than on our LS400's.

I suppose it is possible but I doubt if the problem with the power seat on the 97 LS you are looking at is just a blown fuse. It's more likely a burned out seat motor, ECU or some other electrical problem.

I've loved our LS400's but I have to admit their complexity makes them pretty expensive to run.
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Old 07-24-11, 01:42 AM   #5
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I need to buy a car that would last me for at least 80,000 miles without any maintenance. I am hearing so many people driving these cars past 200,000 miles and still loving them.
You will have the regular maintenance intervals and you can expect some issues to pop up along that 80K journey that will need fixing. Potentially: power steering pump, alternator, battery among the mainstream. More if there are other issues regarding prior maintenance or lack of.

With the seat, I suspect it is more than just a fuse like the seat motor/s. Make some calls just as a contingency if this is such a repair so it prepares you for a worse case scenario. May also be a switch but you don't know till you dig in.

A/C is $ so if it is a compressor, ~$600. If the system has been left empty for long, can be much more. I paid ~$1,200 to replace nearly the whole system in one Toyota, only the blower motor was left unchanged and a few lines. Ugh, that was a painful memory/wallet hurt.

That aside, if the car is in good condition with reasonable maintenance like having the fluids changed regularly, you are in reasonable shape. Any of these in used condition is a risk at some level.
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Old 07-24-11, 02:23 AM   #6
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97-00 spans 2 very distinct generations of the LS.....
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Old 07-24-11, 06:17 AM   #7
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97-00 spans 2 very distinct generations of the LS.....
Very true. The 95-97 LS400 is similar to the 90-94 LS400 in drive train but similar to the 98-00 LS400 in body and suspension.

An excellent explanation is at http://www.lexls.com/info/lsgenerations.html
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Old 07-24-11, 12:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatLS400 View Post
I've been looking for a used, but great condition LS400 (1997-2000) with less than 100K miles.

Found a 1997 with 94,000 miles for $4,000. The owner purchased it when it had 17,000 miles and had it until last year - when he gave it to his son - who used it until now.

The car is supposedly in very good condition with minor scratches and dents but has never been in an accident.

It does have the following things that need to be replaced:
1) Air Conditioner - do not know exactly what is needed or how much it will cost.
2) Oxygen Sensor.
3) New Fuse - the driver seat is not moving because of this.

Are the above problems typical for this car with the stated mileage or is it an indication that the mileage has been rolled back?

Are these problems an indication of other problems that could develop?

Could they be an indication of poor maintenance?

I've been told that the owner was changing the oil every 3,000 miles and that every time he saw his son over the last year he opened the truck just to check the oil. At first I thought this was a good thing but could it also be an indication of something wrong with the car and the father who owned the car for more than 8 years just checking it to make sure it doesn't progress?

I need to buy a car that would last me for at least 80,000 miles without any maintenance. I am hearing so many people driving these cars past 200,000 miles and still loving them.

I really need a dependable car for my family but have to make sure not to buy someone else's problems or a lemon.

Thanks
If the body, interior and rest of the drivetrain are immaculate or close to it, I'd consider the car. I could fix the A/C, O2 sensor and seat issues easily by myself and cheaply using used parts from the community or eBay - probably something like $200 total, including the A/C compressor - but I don't know if you've got the skills to do it yourself. If you can't, you're looking at a $1500-2000 bill at a garage to fix those issues, which would make the car a no-go.
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Old 07-24-11, 12:49 PM   #9
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No opinion on whether you should or shouldn't buy it but check to see if timing belt was done. Water pump and spark plugs with wires are also commonly changed at the that time. Common problems include starters, strut mounts and motor/trans mounts among other things. Pricing would indicate that those things hadn't been done.
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Old 07-24-11, 02:47 PM   #10
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i would say pass on it only because of ur expectations u stated during ur initial post...kansas u do know about the 3.0 having the sludge issues? if the oil is changed regularly it seems to help that situation but the 97-99 camry's have other issues like faulty window motors and little stuff, after 95 or 96 toyota started using parts of lesser quality because the company was handed over to a relative who wanted to go another direction
if i were to buy a camry it would have to have the 2.2 liter engine in it as they seem to run forever
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Old 07-24-11, 03:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
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i would say pass on it only because of ur expectations u stated during ur initial post...kansas u do know about the 3.0 having the sludge issues? if the oil is changed regularly it seems to help that situation but the 97-99 camry's have other issues like faulty window motors and little stuff, after 95 or 96 toyota started using parts of lesser quality because the company was handed over to a relative who wanted to go another direction
if i were to buy a camry it would have to have the 2.2 liter engine in it as they seem to run forever
Yes, I've certainly heard of the sludge issue on the late 90's Toyota/Lexus V6 but I've never known anyone who has had it. I've maybe wrongfully assumed that people with the problem didn't change their engine oil at reasonable intervals.

I switched our Camry V6 to Mobil 1 synthetic at the first oil change after we bought the car in 1998 and change the oil every 5,000 miles which has been about once per year for the last five years. The car has been reliable with only two repairs: The strut tower mounts were replaced due to the rattle that effected both the Camry and ES and the steering rack was leaking and replaced at 105K.

At 120,000 miles, the car is on its 2nd set of tires and the original factory installed brake pads. The original front pads will likely last past 150K miles and the rear ones "forever".

I once measured the interior of our 98 Camry and 90 LS400 back when I had the old LS and found that the interior dimensions were nearly identical - except the Camry's trunk is HUGE compared to both my old 90 LS and current 00 LS. Our Camry probably seems nicer than from most from that era due to it's fairly rare high specification for an LE - side airbags, TRAC and an audio system upgrade much nicer than the standard audio system in my 90 LS.

My CPA wife says she going to drive her Camry to 200,000 miles -- same as I plan to do with my 00 LS400. But at the rate she drives, it would take her 16 more years to get to 200,000 miles and she would be 79 years old. She's just cheap/frugal enough to try to make a car last 29 years.
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Old 07-24-11, 04:13 PM   #12
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strut mounts also was a problem with the avalon
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Old 07-24-11, 04:44 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kansas View Post
My CPA wife says she going to drive her Camry to 200,000 miles -- same as I plan to do with my 00 LS400. But at the rate she drives, it would take her 16 more years to get to 200,000 miles and she would be 79 years old. She's just cheap/frugal enough to try to make a car last 29 years.
That is a nice goal. Not unrealistic so long as EPA and the smog laws don't kill off petrol burners in that span of time. My concern would be with the ever increasing restrictions of smog emissions in CA. Otherwise, I like our gen LS and would like so see it go to 225K.
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Old 07-25-11, 01:58 AM   #14
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Default What about 1998-2002 Grand Marquis LS?

Thanks to everyone who responded. I appreciate everyone's advice and will take many things into consideration prior to making my decision.

The main reason for selecting an LS400 is because of its supposed quietness and reliability.

Camry is much noisier and doesn't absorb bumps as well.

I am used to a relatively quiet car as my last vehicle was 1993 Ford Crown Victoria that I purchased in 1999 and had until late last year.
I put on 35000 miles on it in the first year and a half and than averaged about a 1,500 miles for each of the next 9 years. It was really dependable and didn't require much maintenance.

Originally I was considering Grand Marquis because I really wanted a quiet car and one which will not leave you feeling that you drove your rear end on the ground (softness - ability to absorb bumps really really well) Also need room and safety.

How would you guys compare the LS to the Grand Marquis in terms of quietness and softness

When I say quietness I mean if the car is idling I do not want to hear the engine or know that it is running with windows open,
When I drive on the highway at 70MPH I do not want to hear the engine.
When I drive over some potholes - I do not want to feel that I did.

How would you guys think the LS would compare to Grand Marquis in these categories

Thanks
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Old 07-25-11, 04:44 AM   #15
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I owned a '99 Grand Marquis and currently own a '97 LS. I would say these two cars are fairly similar in your engine noise and pothole criteria. Since these factors plus dependability are important for you, I would suggest looking at a later model Crown Vic, Grand Marquis or Town Car. These cars are very dependable and generally cheap and easy to repair, especially compared to an old Lexus. The Lexus certainly has some advantages but low operating cost is not one of them.
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