We got a “new to us” car! Read about our Toyota Highlander:

Well friends, I did something I didn’t want to do this week and that is to go into debt (if you’ve been keeping up with my financial Friday series you would understand) and buy a car. While I’m not happy I went further into debt, I’m excited to talk about my new Toyota Highlander.

My equinox has become increasingly unreliable. It is a 2013 and that particular year of Chevy equinox has been particularly problematic. After welding a flex pipe and new tires( $1,400), replacing the entire engine (for $3,700) in 2018, changing the oil constantly, I started having problems that it randomly wouldn’t start and needed a jump. I had taken it in and the mechanics couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The timing chain busted 5,000 miles after warranty. This is a lemon of a car and I am NOT the only one who thinks so.

Let me start off by saying that Winter has come WAY too early in Northeast Iowa. We’ve had about 2 weeks of snow on the ground, I have NOT been home to do a “winter transition.” I need to haul out the snow pants and boots and see what fits and what is in storage and find that matching glove etc. I still have to find Gannon’s car seat cover or transition him to a new rear facing car seat in general.

On Monday night, I had driven across town to my mom’s for supper and of course when we went to leave my car wouldn’t start with a 6 degree temperature. The boys were already in their car seats, not dressed that warmly, and my car wouldn’t start. It had just been a day. I was crying and brought the boys back into the house. Mom broke it to me and said, “Kalissa, you need to trade your car in. What if your car would have stalled and the boys were left wearing their fall jackets in the cold?”

I already knew that. I just didn’t want to admit it. (and gosh darnit I need to update to the winter clothes!) While I hated my equinox, we were SO CLOSE to paying it off. It was only a 2013 – why does it have SO MANY PROBLEMS! Karl and I spent about 45 minutes outside FREEZING trying to get it jumped.

What hurt the most is that Dad should have been there. He would have been able to start it. He would know what to do. In hindsight, I don’t think Dad knew much about cars but he was always there for me to offer advice and answer questions and he would ALWAYS test drive the car with me before I committed to buying it.

He has pulled me out of the ditch more than once. He has brought me gas before (whoops) and even though he wasn’t an expert, in my eyes he was the only opinion I’ve ever trusted when it comes to cars. And he’s gone now.

I started asking around. I googled “most reliable vehicle brands” and Toyota was #1. Dave Ramsey has always recommended Toyotas. I asked my nursing students what they had or what their parents have liked and one suggested a Toyota Highlander.

In Northeast Iowa there are a LOT of Chevy, GMC, and Ford vehicles. There aren’t a lot of foreign car dealerships. There aren’t a lot of foreign car mechanics either. Toyota isn’t a very popular brand but I knew it was a brand I could trust.

I had stopped in the ER to chat with the staff after clinicals one day. I knew at that point I was looking for a Toyota Highlander. Someone suggested to check out the dealership that my friend arianna_unsure (I’ve talked about her before – go follow her on Instagram and Spotify for podcasts) Anyway her boyfriend works at a dealership about an hour away.

I looked up the website and the first car that was on the website – 2013 Toyota Highlander with 103,000 miles – right in our price range!

I called and scheduled a test drive, called the bank and arranged the loan, Craig was able to come with because it snowed ALL DAY LONG and we bought the car the next day!

So I traded in the equinox. It didn’t bring much because they have such a bad reputation now.

Dad always said – NEVER buy a car without a full tank of gas – thank goodness they offered one before I had to ask or I may have teared up a bit. They threw in a free oil change, they gave us a gift certificate to go out and talk it over before we made the purchase, they offered us hot chocolate, all in all it was a wonderful experience and over with in ONE afternoon! Everyone was SO friendly and really seemed as they enjoyed their jobs! Who could ask for more?

The third row seats are hidden under the floor mats.
We won’t use them often so we get ALL the trunk space!!

So far I love it. The engine is a V6 compared to my 3.6L in my equinox – I can FEEL the difference. AND it has 4 wheel drive for the winter weather and my 32 minute commute! It had seat warmers, third row seating, and most importantly it is reliable and gets great gas mileage!

Here’s a trip down memory lane for you:

My ’87 Buick LeSabre. I loved this car. I loved it so incredibly much. I drove it back and forth to the nursing home and CNA class and all over NEIA with my friends (mostly to WalMart because we had nothing better to do) the entire summer after I turned 16 until the summer before senior year. I bought “Betty” from my brother Karl for $200. These pictures were on the last day of my sophomore year I think? I hit my first deer in this car. I put it in the ditch on the first icy day I had ever driven. I was about 400 feet out of the driveway. I called dad to come help me. He walked down to where I put it in the ditch, got in it, and drove it through the ditches to the farm. I am dying laughing thinking of that story while I’m writing it. I was so mad he made me walk.

Here’s a picture of me and my brother Karl. We wanted a last day of school picture with Dad! HAHA! See him driving the tractor and doing chores in the background? Perfectly timed photo mom!

Here is my 2000 Lincoln town car – I also loved this car! It had key less entry, leather seats, it was a beast! I bought it the summer before senior year. It was rear wheel drive which was SO inconvenient in the winter. It had a pink fuzzy steering wheel cover that Craig HATED! I bought it with only 60,000 miles on it and I finally let it go at 138,000 miles after the rear axel broke AGAIN about a month before I got pregnant with Carver! (2012 – 2016) I ditched this car on the way to clinicals (it was so snowy, they should have been cancelled) and mom and dad came to save me. This picture was taken the first day of my senior year – same scene in the background! and yes those are GIANT feather earrings in my hair!

And then the dreaded equinox *eye roll*

And now – the highlander:

I’m optimistic. I think it was a good choice for our family. I’ve heard Toyotas last a very long time and can have crazy high mileage and still run like a champ! And we can have that third baby without having to move up in vehicle (not that it is anywhere on our radar at the moment) BUT we can grow into it!

My first car buying experience without my Dad brought back so many memories and things he has taught me. Now it is Craig and I. It’s different now. We will get used to it. Another “first” that I didn’t think would effect me this much.

Do you guys have a Toyota? Have you had trouble with your eqinox? What was the first car you bought?

See you tomorrow at 5:30 am! Thanks for reading friends!

23 thoughts on “We got a “new to us” car! Read about our Toyota Highlander:

  1. Lisa says:

    I love my Toyota RAV4. I bought it new in 2005 and am almost to 200,000 miles. I’ve never had a major repair – just maintenance- and it’s still going strong! Good luck – I think you’ll have your Toyota for years to come. 😀

  2. Dianne Hageman says:

    My oldest daughter’s first car was a 1992 Buick Skylark. She got it her Jr year after her 16th birthday and had till she graduated AIB in 2001. She too put that little car in the ditch a few times and hit occasional road critters. Buicks are great cars too.

  3. Karen says:

    I have a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid but drove a Hylander for years. I love Toyota’s! Great choice! Yes, they can be driven for miles and miles. My son has a Prius with almost 300,000 miles on it and it still works. Just get regular servicing done on it & it will give you a great life. Enjoy the heated seats in the wintertime!

  4. Cindy F says:

    Toyotas are awesome vehicles! Our first one was a 2000 4Runner that my husband bought used because of needing 4-wheel drive. We bought it in 2003 and sold it in 2016 and it never had any problems. We replaced it with a Subaru Forester as that was going to be our son’s car. Around here Subaru is very popular, costs less than Toyotas, had great safety features for the price and it’s been a great car. I drive a 2010 Toyota RAV4 and it’s been fantastic too. I traded in our Honda Odyssey van and wanted something smaller. I loved the Highlander but it was larger than I wanted. I think you’ll love your new to you car!

  5. Pat says:

    I love my Prius! This is the 1st Toyota I have owned, it won’t be the last either. This is one of the areas I really disagree with Dave Ramsey. I think having a safe, reliable vehicle is very important. No that doesn’t mean new, there are many great used vehicles that will be more cost effective in the long term.

  6. Sue Huber says:

    My husband is 6’4″ and can’t fit in a RAV4, so we bought an Equinox in 2016. We’ve had no issues with it, so they’ve probably worked out the bugs since the 2013 model. My first car was a 1969 Chevy Impala that drank oil like there was no tomorrow. I paid $500 for it, buying it from a former boyfriend.

  7. Sheri says:

    I’m old – my first car was a Chevrolet Corvair. Loved it. I now have a Honda CRV.
    Off subject – you mentioned that you get some reimbursement if we go through your link at Amazon. Do you get anything if we just go through your link and make a purchase, but don’t buy the item on the link?

  8. Janet R says:

    My dad was a mechanic with his own shop in our small town. He swore by Dodge so that’s mostly what I’ve owned but I know many people love their Toyotas. He has pulled me out if the ditch or rescued me in snowy weather, but one thing he wouldn’t do was bring me gas. He said there is no excuse for running out of gas. He taught us to always have 1/2 tank and I still do that. (I commuted 30+ miles to work back in those days and there was no place to stop in between).

    So happy for your new purchase! Enjoy it.

  9. Tammy says:

    We have a 2009 Equinox that we bought after our entire town was flooded in 2013. We saved my truck but left the car behind when we were told to leave town. In comparison to your trials with your Equinox, we have had no major problems with ours (knock on wood!). We love our Equinox but I also love my 2000 Chevy truck. Not much money to spend on vehicles at our house either, but reliability is so important especially with kids! Enjoy your new vehicle. Safe travels!

  10. Linda in NE says:

    I drive a 2005 Equinox and haven’t had any real problems with it. It has unexplainably quit on me a couple times so maybe it’s coming. Luckily it has started back up both times. My granddaughter has a 2013 Equinox and I haven’t heard any complaints from her yet. Hope your Highlander gives you a good many years of service. I do have a question. You said the 3rd rows seat is under floor. Where is the spare tire? Underneath the car? You know when you need it it will be covered in mud, crusted dirt or highway ice or so rusted you can’t get it out anyway.

  11. Susan the Farm Quilter says:

    My first car was a 1964 VW Bug. You should have good luck with the Toyota, they are good vehicles. My oldest two daughters have Tundras and they expect to put at least 300,000 miles on them. I’m thinking about trading my 2017 Honda C-RV in on a Toyota SUV. I want something with 4WD that I can turn on and off, just for snow. I’d be interested to know what kind of gas mileage you get in your Highlander!!

  12. Judy says:

    Our largest Toyota dealership in our area says its #1 seller is the RAV 4. I’m on my 3rd Toyota Camry and my second hybrid. Toyota’s are great cars! I will never by an American car again. I’m sure your gas mileage won’t be the best but the performance and safety with make up for that!

  13. Sherri C says:

    A 6 year old car with that many problems is definitely a lemon! Glad you traded it in before you got stranded somewhere in your cold Iowa winters.
    We are on our 5th Honda and love them. Our best friends are Toyota owners and love them too!

  14. Paulette says:

    We’ve driven Toyotas since 2003 when we bought our first Avalon…drove that until 2016 and traded it for another used Avalon, which we’re driving now. Love Toyotas! So much when hubby’s (inherited) Buick died, we bought another used Avalon. When our daughter had an accident and totaled her car, we gave her that Avalon, which was a 2003 she’s still driving to this day with no issues except the usual maintenance due to wear & tear. Replaced hubby’s car with a used Camry. Given our prior negative, nickel-and-diming experiences with Chevys, Buicks, and Pontiacs up until 2003, we can most definitely say we’re all Toyotas from here on out. When we bought our first one, our usual mechanic said, “Well, I guess I’ll never see you guys again.” Except for tires, he was right.

  15. Mary says:

    Been driving Toyotas for over 30 years. First I had a Camary, next another Camary and now I have a Avalon that is 11 years old and going strong. Regular maintenance is a necessity for any car, but my Toyotas had very few problems other than just standard maintenance.

  16. Colleen Pflieger says:

    My highlander was bought new in 2013 and is still like new. It is a bit bigger than the newer models and we like that. So much leg room for the back seat !

  17. Becky says:

    I am still driving a 99 4 Runner with over 250,000 miles and it’s still going strong! Hubby and I bought a 2017 Highlander for traveling after retirement, but he got sick and passed away in January, so it didn’t happen. I hope y’all love your Toyota as much as we have loved ours! Will the 3rd baby be a girl? Just saying!,

  18. Heidi Story says:

    My first car was a 1977 Toyota Corolla. I drove it for years! Finally one day someone crashed into it and the insurance company totalled it. I hated having to find another vehicle. I have had several more Toyotas over the years and got my oldest son hooked on them. He had my Dads ’85 Toyota truck, then a Toyota 4Runner then a couple of Corollas. Toyotas are great vehicles.

  19. Donna says:

    Congrats on your new purchase!
    We had a 1988 silver Toyota Van that lasted forever. It was in 2 car accidents and the worst that happened was that a light was broken. We called it our “shuttlecraft”. Yeah, we’re Trekkies. 😉 It lasted for 10 years I think.
    My first car was a green (ugh) 2 door sedan – Plymouth – though I forget the make. It died 2 years later when the engine blew.

  20. Kim LeMere says:

    You will love your Highlander! I have owned 5 toyotas and all of them went over 2000,000 miles with no issues. I recently traded my 2008 Rav 4 with 238,000 miles for a 2019 Nissan Rogue, will see how it goes. Made me nervous to leave the Toyota family. You need something great in snow, reliable with a family and at the right price, you did great

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