The Toyota Camry, an icon in the midsize sedan market, boasts decades of reliability, efficiency, and value. Lauded for its solid build, impressive fuel economy, and advanced safety features, the Camry has won over families and individuals alike. But beyond its notable features and historical reputation, there’s a lot more to learn from a Camry’s VIN, especially when considering purchasing a used model.
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Decoding a Toyota Camry VIN
Every vehicle has a 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that provides details about its specifics. Let’s break down what each character in the VIN represents for the Toyota Camry:
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- 1st-3rd Characters: World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI)
- Character 1: Country of Origin (J for Japan, 4 for the USA, etc.)
- Character 2: Manufacturer (T for Toyota)
- Character 3: Vehicle Type (Usually denotes car or truck model)
- 4th-8th Characters: Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS)
- Character 4: Series/Trim Options
- A: Base
- B: LE
- C: SE
- D: XLE
- E: XSE
- F: TRD
- 5th Character: Engine Options
- A: 2.5L 4-Cylinder
- B: 3.5L V6
- C: 2.5L 4-Cylinder Hybrid
- 6th Character: Transmission
- A: 8-speed Automatic
- B: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
- C: 6-speed Manual (on older models)
- 7th Character: Restraint System
- Types of airbags and seat belts
- 8th Character: Model (Specific model variant)
- Character 4: Series/Trim Options
- 9th Character: Check Digit
- Provides a method to verify the accuracy of any VIN transcription.
- 10th Character: Model Year
- A letter or number denoting the manufacturing year.
- 11th Character: Assembly Plant
- A: Tsutsumi, Japan
- B: Georgetown, Kentucky, USA
- C: Aichi, Japan
- D: San Antonio, Texas, USA (Though primarily for trucks, there may be rare instances)
- 12-17th Characters: Production Sequence
- Unique to each vehicle, indicating the order it came off the assembly line.
History of the Toyota Camry
In 1982, the Camry replaced the Corona as Toyota brand’s offering in the competitive, and massive-selling, mid-size sedan wars.
Like its competitor, the Honda Accord, the Camry was available in sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible body styles (those last two were called Camry Solara). The formula was generally the same as today, with efficient four- and six-cylinder engines driving the front wheels.
Performance was aimed at fuel economy, but some fairly powerful V6 engines have turned heads. Huge safety scores and reliability earned the Camry a reputation as a solid pick for a family car and as a safe investment in a low-maintenance vehicle that would last. The proof can be seen on the roads today, with plenty of turn-of-the-millenium Camrys still doing service on roads across the country.
While the Toyota Camry has a sterling reputation as a reliable vehicle, any vehicle can potentially have issues. Like any model year spanning four decades, the Camry has been recalled in a few different years, mostly in the 2000s. Help make sure you’re buying a reliable vehicle, and start your research by running a vehicle history report from a service like Bumper.
Fourth-Generation Toyota Camry (1997-2001)
This version of the Camry is sometimes derided as the peak of the vanilla years. Often a beige exterior and interior, the fourth-generation Camry is the perfect machine to get you from point A to point B without much trouble. If that sounds slightly insulting, it’s not, as many people just want a car that will get them around. This generation Camry will do that, reliably, efficiently, with minimum noise, fuss, or cost. It’s a massively strong seller, usually singled out as a top pick on Best Lists, and JD Power quality surveys. Recalls were few and minor. This Camry is an excellent car, as long as you keep in mind its limitations.
The 1997 Toyota Camry offered a 2.2L four-cylinder or 3.0L V6 engine, making 133 and 194 horsepower, respectively, which was average for the time. The four-cylinder is underpowered today, so look for the smooth and quiet V6. This was the last time you could get the V6 with a manual transmission. The EPA revised gas mileage figures 20 years ago, but you can expect roughly 25 MPG from the six-cylinder, and 30 MPG highway from the four-cylinder. There’s no infotainment, but a power sunroof is a nice touch.
Fifth-Generation Toyota Camry (2002-2006)
Every new style of Camry follows the same recipe, making the interior bigger, offering more features, more power, and more comfort. That was true in 2002 as the new Camry debuted with the first all-new chassis in a decade, tuned for quietness and road isolation. It’s a similar recipe for success here, with four doors for five passengers, four- and six-cylinder power, four-speed auto and five-speed manual transmissions, all driving the front wheels. New features included optional heated seats, and an outside temp display. The SE trim was the real news, a sporty trim offered with the V6, adding a mild sport-tuned suspension, with wider tires and a spoiler.
This Camry is notable for being the first to offer a navigation system. Options include a six-CD in-dash stereo system for all your Creed and Ludacris tracks. The extra luxury edition, or XLE trim, was the one to get, with standard V6, leather seats and more attractive wheels. A refresh for 2005 updated the engines, bumping the V6 to 210 horsepower, and increased gas mileage for the new 2.4L four-cylinder, up to 31 MPG highway. That’s thanks in part to the automatic gaining an extra gear, now a five-speed. Note that side-impact airbags are optional here through 2006, but luxury features were standard.
Sixth-Generation Toyota Camry (2007-2011)
Handsome, in a safe kind of way. No, it’s not a match on your dating app, but the way critics described the heavily redesigned 2007 Camry. Looking like a Mazda 6 designed by Toyota, this Camry excels at what it does best: value, features, efficiency and safety. Sales were huge, and Toyota sold over 420,000 in 2007, even after car magazine critics whined about the base model’s design. There’s a lot of them out there if you’re looking, and you can find one with the options you want. The sporty features add some visual punch, with a revised grille, small body kit, fog lights, and larger wheels, backed up with stiffer struts and bigger sway bars for more fun on the road.
This generation Camry was the last for a manual transmission, an excellent six-speed that earned high praise. The V6 hit the gym and muscled up to a 3.5L with 268 horsepower, making it seriously quick for the time, rivaling the turbocharged Subaru WRX. If two-door is your style, know that the Solara coupe and convertible ended with the 2009 model year. If increasing fuel prices raise your blood pressure, the first Camry hybrid debuted in 2007 with 34 MPG combined. This generation had engine oil consumption problems, so be sure to check the vehicle history report.
Seventh-Generation Toyota Camry (2012-2017)
Riding on the same chassis as the previous year, the 2012 Toyota Camry exterior and interior were heavily updated to meet buyers’ needs. Toyota pulled a cool trick here, by keeping exterior dimensions nearly the same as the previous model, but increased the interior volume. This was accomplished by means of a longer wheelbase and thinner interior panels, and it paid off by beating competitors with its larger rear headroom and legroom. Since the engines received big power bumps last time, they were carried over to this generation mostly unchanged. The hybrid is an exception, receiving a new efficient drivetrain. Hybrid and CVT returned with improved fuel economy. The EPA says it should be good for 42/38 in city/highway.
There’s no manual for any trim or engine, but the six-speed auto paired with four or six cylinders provides plenty of motivation. Entune infotainment showed up with the 2012 model, providing smartphone connectivity and satellite-based information on traffic, weather, sports scores, stocks, and fuel prices. A heavy refresh in 2015 updated nearly everything, including the styling. A chrome bar grille and tall vertical fog lights are visual differences, while inside the seven-inch screen can be controlled by touch or the steering wheel buttons. XLE is the one to get for a soft and insulating drive to work, while the updated XSE trim model built on the features of its predecessor to provide additional luxury and convenience features on the sportiest version of the Camry.
Eighth-Generation Toyota Camry (2018-Present)
All-new for 2018, including an entirely new chassis underneath, the new 2018 Toyota Camry looks upscale inside and out. While the current Camry continues the legacy of quality and value, it shocked reviewers with its refined steering and nimble handling. In a generally terrible year, Toyota was a bright spot by trying to bring back the affordable sport sedan with the 2020 Camry TRD. This edition builds off the successful SE V6 trim, with suspension upgrades from Toyota Racing Development and a nice-looking body kit paired with an obnoxious rear spoiler. It has no extra power under the hood, but that’s okay when the standard 3.5L V6 now has 302 horsepower. The base 2.5L four-cylinder model isn’t slacking either, with 203 horsepower.
The Camry hybrid received aerodynamic and tuning upgrades, and now gets an EPA-estimated 52 MPG combined, rivaling the smaller Toyota Prius. Apple CarPlay is standard in 2019 (and available with a software update on 2018’s). Android Auto became standard in 2020. Also standard is a power driver’s seat and heated front seats. Options run to near Lexus ES levels, with available leather seats and steering wheel, an eight-inch touchscreen, three USB ports, and wireless charging. If the latest tech is on your wishlist, this is your Camry.
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The Toyota Camry remains a stalwart in the automotive landscape, marrying reliability with modern features and engineering advancements. There’s even a second row of solid characteristics, adding safety, efficiency, and high resale value. That’s why the Camry is a hugely popular car year after year. The Camry deserves serious consideration if you’re in the market for a sedan that has stood the test of time. And, armed with knowledge about its VIN and a detailed vehicle history report, you could ensure your selection is an informed one. Try our VIN lookup or license plate search on a Toyota Camry you’re interested in to fully verify specifications and to inquire about any recalls or known issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Toyota Camry reliable?
The Toyota Camry has long been heralded as one of the most reliable vehicles on the market. Its reputation is backed by numerous awards and consistently high rankings in reliability studies.
How often should I service my Camry?
While it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations found in your owner’s manual, a general rule is to have regular oil changes every 5,000 miles and comprehensive service every 10,000 miles.
What should I look for in a used Camry's vehicle history report?
Important details include accident history, title status, odometer readings, service records, recall information, ownership history, location history, and any signs of flood damage.
Are there any common issues with the Camry?
While the Camry is known for its reliability, no car is without potential issues. Some older Camry models may experience excessive oil consumption, and there have been reports of issues with the infotainment system in certain newer models.
How does the Camry compare to other midsize sedans?
The Camry consistently ranks at the top of its class in terms of reliability, safety, and value. While competitors like the Honda Accord also have strong reputations, the Camry often edges out in terms of long-term durability.
Has the Camry been recalled?
Yes, various years of the Camry have been recalled. Here are a few of them:
- The 2000 Camry accelerator cable could wear thin and break due to a deformed cable housing. This would cause the engine to suddenly go to idle.
- The 2005 Camry faced a recall for not having a tire load weight sticker. Another recall for the 2005 model was from a seatbelt latch that could detach when certain infant car seats are used.
- The 2010 Camry was recalled due to a seat cushion that could deform from use, causing damage to the seat heater wiring.
- The 2015 Camry could have an improperly assembled power steering control unit, which could fail from normal use. This Camry was recalled because a sudden lack of power steering could surprise a driver while turning and lead to a wreck.
- Certain 2018-2020 Camrys were recalled for a low pressure fuel pump that could fail. If this happens, the engine would shut off with no warning.