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I Bought the Cheapest Toyota Land Cruiser in the USA

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author photo by Tyler Hoover October 2017

When I alerted our editor here at Oversteer, Doug DeMuro, about buying a 1999 Lexus LX470, he summed up my latest purchase by saying "At least you now have a reliable automobile." I had my doubts, since I bought this car totally sight-unseen from an online dealer wholesale auction -- and since it had over 350,000 miles. Because I got this rebadged luxury Land Cruiser for only $2,100, making it the cheapest running Land Cruiser in the United States, my expectations were much lower.

Not wanting to look like a crazy person who buys a new car every week, I actually sat on this purchase for over two months. I wanted to sell a few of my cars first, and allow the storylines with other purchases to play out before announcing another project -- though, when I say "project," it turns out this LX470 wasn't that bad. Upon arrival, I was shocked to discover that this worn-looking SUV with astronomical miles was actually in excellent mechanical condition.

My intent with the Lexus was to replace my 1991 Dodge Caravan with rare all-wheel drive, which proved ill-equipped to handle a dirt road -- or even the easiest of trails. I sold my "Mighty-van," as well as my 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 and 2007 Mercedes S600. I still have my 1999 Jeep Cherokee, which has been sitting in my mechanic's parking lot for several months waiting for a head gasket. Obviously, the Jeep is a capable off-roader, along with my 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo -- but I guess I needed one more?

The 100-series Toyota platform has gone down in history as one of the most unbreakable SUVs ever made. Its comfortable ride and practicality, mixed with its excellent off-road capability and durability, have made the 100-series a very hot commodity in developing countries. Because of this, I was never able to purchase one of these during my previous life as a full-time used-car dealer. Many higher-mileage Land Cruisers brought to auction are sold for big money to overseas brokers -- and these former soccer-mom mobiles start a new life as hard-working, dune-jumping rigs.

Buying an LX470 this cheap was total dumb luck on my part. It actually went through the auction three previous times, and I was always the high bidder at around $2,400 to $2,600. The seller (representing the franchise Lexus dealer which took this LX470 on trade) declined the high bid each time, and he refused to take less than $3000. On its fourth round at auction, I had finally resigned myself to pay $3,000. I opened the bidding at $2,100, and nobody countered to run-up the price. Perhaps tired of seeing it every week, the seller dumped it for my opening bid.

It's a good deal, as $2,100 is half the average wholesale price for a 1999 LX470. Of course, this Lexus has much higher mileage than the average Lexus trade-in, but what most likely scared off buyers was the massive hole in the rear hatch. It appears someone chose not to repair the broken plastic latch and instead drilled a hole to access the latch manually. This hole began to rust, and grew into a fist-sized eyesore. Also, the interior looked like it was attacked by a pride of lions.

After seeing the giant rust hole and horribly neglected interior, it was natural to assume this LX470 was treated very poorly -- and that it had to be on its last legs. I can't speak with authority on the former -- but, shockingly, this Lexus still runs and drives perfectly. The motor still feels tight, along with the driveline and suspension bushings, and the body doesn't have any annoying creaks or rattles.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this LX470 is the fully functional hydraulic suspension, which is height-adjustable. It makes this Lexus ride smoother than any full-size SUV I've ever piloted. Even all the accessories and electronics work as they should, with the exception of the air conditioning and (because of the lion attack) the heated seats.

Once I replace the rear hatch with a $300 salvage-yard part, this Lexus will look nearly new on the outside. The body appears to retain its original paintwork, and the undercarriage is shockingly spotless. The motor doesn't appear to have any leaks, and there's even a decal on the engine cover indicating a recent timing-belt change. Neatly placed in the glove box is the original leather-wrapped owner's pamphlet, with the operator manual stuffed inside -- along with the original window sticker, touting an original MSRP of $59,000.

So, despite my reckless purchase strategy, major red flags and stupid-low price, I actually came out really well on this one. Once the hatch is replaced and the interior cleaned up, I could probably double my money. Of course, I never take the financially wise route -- and instead, I want to do a proper overland/expedition build with this rig.

I'm trying this even though I've never been the outdoorsy type. I haven't been camping since I was a kid, when I shared a tent with three other boy scouts who weren't aware of their horrific body odor. During that week, a raccoon tried to burrow into our tent, and I had to remove a tick from my armpit. I hope camping will be more fun after blazing my own 4x4 trail to a secluded campsite, setting up one of those cool roof-mounted tents and going to sleep without spooning a smelly friend.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
I Bought the Cheapest Toyota Land Cruiser in the USA - Autotrader