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Low Mileage Fuel Miser: 1989 Toyota Tercel Coupe

Take a look around today and try to spot an economy car from the 1980s. You will struggle to do so, as the majority were driven into the ground and then driven to the scrapyard. That is what makes this 1989 Toyota Tercel Coupe a breath of fresh air. Not only has it survived for more than 30-years, but it has done so in remarkable condition. It needs to find a new home, so the owner has listed it for sale here on craigslist. It is located in Alameda, California, and the sale price has been set at $5,900. If you are an interested student, the owner is offering to knock $200 off that price. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Rocco B for spotting the little Toyota for us.

The Tercel is a great little survivor. It appears that it has spent its life in California, which has helped it to remain rust-free. I’m pleasantly surprised that the Silver paint hasn’t developed a baked and matte appearance. This would tend to indicate that it has always been garage-kept, or at least parked under some form of cover. The body is straight, although there is a ding on the front left fender, just above the bumper. I don’t think that the paint has cracked, so a paintless dent removal company might be able to fix this. The bumpers are just beginning to show some early signs of deterioration, and I would be inclined to attend to this before it can deteriorate further. Otherwise, the remaining trim and the glass appear to be in excellent order.

Maybe I’m showing my age a bit, but I admit that I love the simplicity of this Toyota’s interior. There are no complicated gizmos to deal with, and a very simple AM/FM radio/cassette player to provide entertainment on the move. The overall condition of the interior trim is consistent with the exterior. That means that it is hard to fault. The dash hasn’t cracked, the plastic hasn’t crumbled, and the upholstery is in excellent condition. It is a rarity to find “econo-boxes” of this age that look so good inside, and I hope that the next owner treats it with the care and respect that it appears to have received up to this point. There are no engine photos, but we know that a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 78hp resides under the hood. These willing ponies find their way to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. Although this isn’t a car loaded with luxury features, power steering, and power brakes should make life easier if the owner decides to tackle city traffic’s cut-and-thrust. The low power figure means that these aren’t the fastest car on the planet. However, they will cruise happily at freeway speeds, and with the ability to return fuel consumption figures of better than 40mpg, it does make them a great commuter option. This one is said to run and drive well, and it has no apparent mechanical needs. The owner does claim that the Tercel has a genuine 32,000 miles on the clock. He doesn’t indicate whether he has evidence to back this claim, but the car’s overall condition makes this claim seem quite plausible.

The definition of what is a true classic car will vary, depending on who you talk to. This 1989 Tercel Coupe doesn’t fit with most people’s perception as to what defines a classic. Its asking price is above what you might expect to pay for a 1989 Tercel Coupe if you can find one. However, its condition could justify it. Sometimes a classic car is not defined by its desirability or its potential value, but how the general public reacts to it. I’m pretty sure that if you were to roll up at a Cars & Coffee in this vehicle, there would be plenty of people who would say, “Gee, I haven’t seen a Tercel as nice as this for a long time.” That makes it a car that deserves to be preserved.


  1. Avatar photo Steve R

    The price probably isn’t that far off. Japanese cars of this era have become popular, this one looks to be in great shape and has a manual transmission too. I doubt it will take long to find a buyer if the seller is a little flexible on price.

    Steve R

    Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Nick

    No low ball me i no what got.

    Like 5
  3. Avatar photo Steve R

    The price probably isn’t far off. It looks really nice and Japanese cars of this era have become popular in parts of the country. The 5spd doesn’t hurt either.

    Steve R

    Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Too late

    Funny ad, i already wright what i know. Do you know English ?

    Like 5
  5. Avatar photo Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I remember when the Toyota Tercel looked like this. I find it more attractive than anything offered by Toyota today.

    Like 2
  6. Avatar photo Connecticut Mark

    No bathroom , deal breaker!

    Like 6
  7. Avatar photo David Miraglia

    Cheap ,cheap junk.

    Like 1
  8. Avatar photo bone

    People talk about the 70s as being the Malaise era , but this car and its 80s brethren have them beat by a mile !

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Matt G

      Yes, except for unlike the American malaise cars these a) were reliable and b) got great gas mileage. If you just want a car for looking at, I would absolutely rather look at a 77 Mark V than this.

      Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Bob C.

    I’ve driven some of these and knew a couple of people who had them. They really weren’t bad cars for the time. Pretty much a cheap Corolla.

    Like 1
  10. Avatar photo Maestro1

    Wonderful car for someone commuting. I have no need, but this is a rare opportunity. Somebody jump on this and enjoy.

    Like 1
  11. Avatar photo PRA4SNW

    That was a very enjoyable ad to read – LOL.

    My GF back in the day had the next gen Tercel – cheapest model with a 4 speed manual – fun to drive and not a single problem.

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo Elanguy

    A bit of irony, getting a fuel efficient car and not driving it even 1,000 miles per year. Didn’t save much fuel, maybe a 427 Corvette would have made as much sense?

    Nice car now though.

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo BarnfindyCollins

    Like the car but the rambling ad is something else, looks like they didn’t spill any of that bong water in it.

    Like 2
  14. Avatar photo JCA Member

    Wow, he’s a frugal one. Won’t even give away a toilet flush for free. I guess it pays off in terms of that new car depreciation sting though. He probably paid around $7k for it new and now he wants $6k all these years later. $1k over 30 years, literally costing pennies per day to own it. Not bad…

    Like 6
  15. Avatar photo bikefixr

    i already wright what i know
    nothing else i have to say and do not ask any more
    no bathroom here to use

    His piss-poor attitude is enough for me to say ‘no’. Hey, Rocco, you have a dented, 31 yr old stripped econo-box with zero collect ability, so I’m thinking you really don’t “no what you got”

    Like 5
  16. Avatar photo angliagt Member

    Maybe he’s going to use the money for English Language lessons,
    or maybe a writing tutor.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo PRA4SNW

      Or maybe a positive attitude adjustment.

      Like 1
  17. Avatar photo Jim Muise

    I bought a new Tercel in 1996 and I traded it with under 40000miles on it 2 years later. Power train was excellent however radio replaced,seat belt replaced,4 wheel bearings replaced,heater replaced. Avoid the Tercel folks,buy a Yugo !

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo alfradio

    My very favorite year for TERCEL… Have owned 5, (2 of which were 3rd Generation (1987-90))

    See below:


    Like 0
  19. Avatar photo djkenny

    The seller sounds like an A H*%!, and who pays 6 grand for a 31 year old bottom of the barrel Tercel?? Its a carburetor equipped cheap 80’s car.
    To note; I sold my grandfather’s 87 Civic DX in gold, automatic model drug behind an RV since new with 40k miles for $3300. That was it’s realistic value.

    Like 1
  20. Avatar photo Rod Plapp

    I sold Toyota’s until mid 1987.I remember when the coupe version came out and I couldn’t sit in it due to my long torso.I had a 1987 Tercel hatchback and the motor pinged with whatever whatever grade of gasoline I used.I seem to remember that the 93 HP was a bit weak.Was glad to get rid of it.

    Like 0

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