Not exactly an ideal rental car, but you might say it is a reflection of what has been happening through the COVID-19 pandemic for the travel industry.
While I have touted the Toyota Camry as one of the top vehicles I have worked with over the years, there is always the question of reliability and endurance.
Toyota always had a sterling reputation of both. Corollas with hundreds of thousands of miles are pretty normal. So are six- or seven-digit odometers on everything from a Yaris up to the Tundra. Land Cruisers can go for eons and still handle the rough stuff.
For a recent rental, I was presented with a 2020 Camry SE with over 41,000 miles on the clock. Not exactly an ideal rental car, but you might say it is a reflection of what has been happening through the COVID-19 pandemic for the travel industry.
Before the pandemic, rarely did you find a rental vehicle with that high of an odometer reading. You would turn vehicles around at about 25,000-30,000 miles maximum. Having worked in the rental car business, I have seen some vehicles in the fleet with over 30,000 miles on the clock.
It was astonishing to drive a vehicle with over 41,000 miles on it.
The question comes up whether the Camry has held up at that odometer reading. Especially, when the car may have been in the fleet for a year-and-a-half while experiencing hard use by the rental agency’s customers.
Let’s consider how the Camry holds up under “normal” use. When you search for reliability ratings, the Camry does just fine. When calculated, you will find ratings on the Camry are around 75-80 percent. That depends on which rating system is being used. Therefore, you could conclude the Camry is as good as it comes.
This particular gray SE sedan had been through a lot. A few chips on the paint here and there. The paint was fine overall. Interior was in good shape. Nothing scratched or broken. The audio system worked to specification, as did the climate control.
The ride quality and handling were also to specification. No signs of major wear on the steering and brakes, either. So far, so good!
However, I noticed a couple of things coming from the engine compartment. The engine felt as it was working harder. It was bit noisier than usual. However, it kept up with traffic quite well. The transmission was shifting fine, as well.
I also noticed that there was a little wear from either the front suspension or the motor mounts. Sometimes you can’t tell where it would come from and why it felt a bit worn to feel a muted vibration or some looseness.
I’m not a mechanic. However, I can feel when a vehicle had been either getting worn down at such a high mileage for the time it was in service. It could also be that a few maintenance steps were missed for the engine to get louder or for that feeling that some component or another may be experiencing more than usual wear underneath the hood.
At least there's some good news that came out of this rental. I averaged 31.4 MPG in my time behind the wheel. I'll take that as a victory.
This Camry did the job I asked it to do. It got me to a dinner meeting with the head of the consulting firm I work with. It also took me to do some errands that needed to be done before I headed off to Los Angeles to work AutoMobilityLA.
Travelers often joke about playing “rental car roulette” sometimes. Was the 41,000-mile Camry a loss or a win? Considering it was a second “spin,” since my original vehicle lacked a few things I needed to utilize. Without mentioning what that vehicle was, it failed to connect with my phone. I also could not find a USB port for it, as well.
Let’s just say that the Toyota Camry won on the second ”spin.” In fact, the Camry has been the most frequent vehicle I rented. Until this last rental, each one of them had been simply good.
After all, the Camry became a #VOTY finalist again this year.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle used in this article was rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by Randy Stern