Used Toyota Corolla Buyer's Guide
Since 1968, some version of Toyota's Corolla has roamed the streets of the United States. Perennially one of America's best selling cars too, the Corolla is highly regarded for its reliability, safety and reasonable pricing.
The name 'Corolla', Latin for 'little crown', is in keeping with Toyota's one time convention of naming its cars with some permutation of the word 'crown'. And while more enthusiastic drivers may consider the Toyota Corolla to be nothing more than an appliance, in the days when the auto market was really strong, well in excess of 300,000 people'”across what has to be the broadest demographic swath of the automotive market'”bought Corollas every year.
The absolute bulletproof nature of Toyota's compact car is a huge draw. Corollas don't just die, you have to kill them, this makes a well-maintained used Toyota Corolla an excellent buy.
2008 to 2011
The largest iteration of the car to date, the tenth-gen Corolla was introduced to the U.S. in 2008, as a 2009 model. For MY 2010, (introduced in 2009) a high output version of the Corolla (designated XRS) was offered with a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Mainstream gen-ten Corollas use a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Electric power steering is fitted to the car to save weight and reduce the load on the engine. Comfort and convenience features include an auxiliary audio jack for iPods and such, an upgraded JBL audio system, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and Bluetooth for mobile phones. Traction control and stability control are standard on the top-of-the-line models.
2002 to 2008
Launched in 2002, as a 2003 model, the ninth-generation Corolla's base engine made 130 horsepower from 1.8-liters. The performance-oriented XRS version used a 170-horsepower version of the 1.8 and shared its six-speed manual transmission with the Celica. A milder sporty version, called Corolla S, featured the more aggressive front and rear bumpers, side skirts, and fog lights of the XRS, but not the engine. For many people this makes the S option somewhat laughable, if no less expensive. In 2005, the gen-nine Corolla got a cosmetic refresh, so there is a difference in the look of the car going forward from that model year. The updates included a new grille, new rear taillights, wheel covers, and interior accents. Side curtain airbags, stability control, and a JBL audio system were also part of the '05 model year refresh.
1997 to 2002
First offered in 1997, as a 1998 model, the generation eight cars were the first Corolla models for the United States built in the Fremont, California plant Toyota shared with General Motors. Also marketed as the Chevrolet Prizm, this Corolla featured a 120-horsepower, 1.8-liter inline-four in MYs '98 and '99. From MY 2000 forward, the car came with a 125-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine. All of these engines require less maintenance as Toyota abandoned timing belts in favor of timing chains. Additionally, steps were taken to correct oil burning problems experienced by earlier models. Base model Corollas used either a three-speed automatic, or a five-speed manual transmission. The look of the car was mildly updated for 2001, with a new front bumper and new headlights. An inside trunk release to prevent accidental lockouts was adopted in '01 as well. Other than badging, the differences between Corolla and Prizm were minor. Prizm got a Delco radio, and more automatic transmission options across its trim range.
When it comes to used cars, the best version of the Corolla to buy is the newest one you can afford. Toyota has made it a point to continually update and improve the car, while keeping its best qualities intact. You'd have to look long and hard to find a more reliable and fuel-efficient used car than a Toyota Corolla. However, just because it has an outstanding reputation for reliability, do not let this preclude you subjecting any Corolla you're seriously considering purchasing to a rigorous inspection by a trusted professional mechanic, one thoroughly knowledgeable about these cars.