Camry vs. Corolla

It’s been a month since we sold our 2002 Corolla and “upgraded” to my MIL’s 2011 Camry.  The decision was made in the midst of a million billion other decisions because that was when the opportunity presented itself.  As such, it was not the most well-though-out purchase in the world.

Our general thought process:

  • The Corolla has been quite reliable, but it is getting up there in years. Also, a little crammed when the three of us are in there together (which wasn’t all that often).
  • The Camry is much newer (though already 100k+ miles — my MIL likes to drive), and scores well on reliability ratings.
  • The Camry is a limited time offer — we don’t need to replace the Corolla now, but if the need arises sooner than later, we’re stuck hunting for a good used car.
  • The Camry is not nearly as efficient as the Corolla, but our aging Corolla hasn’t been getting the best gas mileage, so maybe there won’t be much of a difference (spoiler alert: FALSE!).

We failed to do one thing that most people do when buying a car — test drive it!  Both Matthew and I have been passengers in the car on road trips, and we even drove it on a few very rare occasions when my MIL yielded the steering wheel.  But those were all highway miles, which are very different from urban streets.

Driving the Camry has been an interesting experience.  I felt like I was driving a boat on my first few outings, and I feared we had made a really bad decision.  Rationally, I know it isn’t THAT big of a car, but on narrow city streets, and compared to the Corolla, it feels pretty huge.  Parking, whether parallel parking on the street or fitting into the suddenly none-too-big spaces in parking lots, is also a new challenge.

Then there’s the engine size and acceleration difference.  Our little, old Corolla engine was perfect for a nice, steady 15-20 MPH on neighborhood streets (despite posted speed LIMITS of 25 MPH, 15-20 MPH is really much more appropriate for many of the dense streets we travel).

In contrast, it’s a struggle to keep the Camry much below 30 MPH.  It’s not impossible, but I have to constantly, intentionally, WORK to maintain appropriate speeds in this car.  This leads me to wonder if our addiction to speed is as much about how we’re building our automobiles as it is about personal choices.  (Still, it IS the motorists’ responsibility to be aware and maintain safe speeds, even when it requires extra effort.)

On the gas mileage front, we’ve only filled up once, so we don’t have official numbers, but the Camry isn’t looking good (that big engine), even compared to the aging Corolla.  We’ll likely be able to go about the same number of miles on a tank of gas, but that’s only because the Camry’s gas tank is bigger than the Corolla’s.

On the upside, the decreased fuel efficiency has already motivated me to choose bike over car on a few extra occasions, so that’s something!

The newer, bigger Camry is, not surprisingly, a much nicer ride than the Corolla — smoother, quieter, etc.  Also, all of the power windows work and the radio power/volume button functions normally — not true of our 14-year-old Corolla.  Generally, I’m not in the car enough to care too much about these things, which is how I prefer it, but there you have it.

The Camry is not the ideal car for us, but we knew that (at least to some extent) going into this.  At this point, the decision is made, and we hope to get the most of the Camry (while using it as little as possible).  Compared to my MIL’s use, the Camry is now in semi-retirement, both in terms of mileage/frequency of use and driving style, as I am determined to maintain my laid-back, granny-driver ways, in spite of the big engine!


1 Comment

  1. It’s amazing how some cars just want to go fast, isn’t it? I know exactly what you mean.

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