When a Lexus Turns into a Lemon
A 2004 Lexus RX 330 should run forever. Especially one that’s well taken care of, undergoes regular oil changes using synthetic oil, gets its scheduled maintenance done, has just 77,000 miles on the clock and was purchased in 2008 as a certified used car with just over 30,000 miles.
The car has performed well, gone on many road trips across most of the Western United States and carried many loads of Costco groceries, football gear and horseback riding equipment. It has never let its owner down. Even amidst all the positives, the car has had certain issues and, now, they’ve reached a point where the owner wonders if she should keep the car or sell it and move on to something newer.
The car still has about $12,000 owed on the bank loan. Based on similar vehicles posted on the CarGurus used listings, this RX 330 is still worth somewhere between $14,000 and $18,000.
Here are the issues facing this RX:
The transmission occasionally shifts hard between second and third gears, or seems to stick on some downshifts. There is often a clunk in the transmission, but the dealer says this is a normal issue for this era Lexus. The front brakes were recently replaced, but there is still a shimmer of vibration on some stops, even though the rotors are in great shape. The tires need to be replaced after just 2 years, because the Lexus chrome wheels are flaking and compromising the seal between them and the tires. As a result, the tires have run up to 20 pounds low and the tread has been obliterated.
After the battery died last week and a new one was installed, the power windows and sunroof work only intermittently.
Aside from the transmission, all these issues can be addressed by pouring some money into the car.
Some research into the Lexus transmission problem has shown that there is a free computer upgrade to the transmission that a dealer can quickly perform that’s supposed to solve the issue. I’ll certainly look into that.
But if the car needs $2,000 in wheels and tires, has an unresolved brake issue and possible electrical problems, is the car worth keeping, or should it be sold for anything over the amount still due? The owner has expressed interest in downsizing to something like a FIAT 500, which would surely save a considerable amount of money.
Would you invest in keeping this Lexus or sell it now and move on?