How reliable is a high-mileage Lexus LS400?


No, seriously, I’m asking. This 1990 Lexus LS400 with the only vanity plates that make sense on one, has 560,000 km on the clock – 348,000 miles in another words. It’s the cheapest LS currently for sale here, and it’s not even too far from me. And the price of vanity plates (~1k) is almost half of the car’s value, since 2500 eur is a bit on the high side for a high-miler. Of course, the plate has probably been acquired 23 years ago, and updated to the EU version once.

I really like the first-generation LS400, and really wouldn’t mind owning one. But is getting an interstellar one for cheap a good shortcut to Lexus wafting?


The seller hasn’t provided too many shots, and you need to guess your way out of this. The alloy wheels point the opposite directions, which is always a sign of cluelessness, and I don’t know if that’s cack or rust on the wheelarch.


It would be a miracle if the seat leather hadn’t ripped through by now, and the rest of the interior could use a thorough detailing. I also don’t know if the electronic displays work right now.

But for 2500 eur, how bad could it be? See the listing here

[Source: Nettiauto]

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37 responses to “How reliable is a high-mileage Lexus LS400?”

  1. MikeBedlam Avatar

    I sold one about 9 months ago and lost about $1000 on it. Parts availability is horrible (especially for all of the barely-working or soon-to-be-not-working electronic displays. When you CAN find the parts, they're overpriced. It's difficult to work on. Mine had 165,000 miles on it and despite being very clean, needed a ton of work to make it road-worthy.
    They are sharp cars, though.

    1. mike Avatar

      Parts are expensive and indeed this is hard car to work on. Quality is good but stuff breaks and repair bills are high. I would be cautious

  2. SawdustTX Avatar

    I have a 170,000 mile '98 LS400. Great cruiser, still drive it regularly Houston to Dallas at speed. But, when something breaks it's going to cost you big time. Some parts are only available from Lexus, and the prices are crazy high. My AC is marginal (especially here in Houston weather), but I won't fix it because it's going to hit me for over $2K. Front rotors vibrate when I brake and are too thin to resurface, so I live with it to keep from the cost of replacements, Speedo only works half the time – so I use a GPS speedometer app on my Android. All that said, I love driving this thing! Buy it if you can afford the parts and wrench it yourself!

    1. CABEZAGRANDE Avatar

      You can pick up a decent new pair of front rotors for about $70 from any of the parts sites (Rock Auto, Parts Geek). Not bad at all for brakes of this size. An AC compressor is only about $300. Not seeing the expense?

  3. A strolling player Avatar
    A strolling player

    The 24 Hours of LeMons once used an LS400 as a penalty, because changing the starter took about 12 hours—it's at the bottom of the engine, I think.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        Isn't it in the same place on the Northstar/Shortstar engines? I remember reading an article when the Northstar came out, about how quiet the thing was, and how testers would try to start them even after they were running. They then modified it so that you couldn't crank the starter one the engine was running.

  4. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Cool plates…or is that a nice photoshopping?

    1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

      Cool!! because Finland!!

    2. julkinen Avatar

      They are the actual plates.

  5. Serin Avatar

    With something like this its all about following bangeromics. As its so complex its about running it with basic servicing until it dies and then scrapping it and finding a new one.
    If 2500eur is cheap to you have at it. Run it til the inspection runs out and until then enjoy the waftyness

    1. P161911 Avatar

      As part of bangernomics, check weight of vehicle vs. current scrap steel prices. It will never we worth less than that. As a bonus, you might be able to sell any high value items like wheels, etc. A 5,000lb Lexus is worth at least $500 at current scrap steel prices. At least in the USA.

      1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
        Dean Bigglesworth

        AFAIK you can't just sell a car for scrap in Finland… It has to be recycled to an authorized recycler, and you won't get anything for it. You can order a free towing to the scrapper online, but you still won't get any money for it. Recycling/scrap metal is a pretty profitable business over here…..

  6. Paul E Avatar
    Paul E

    With reasonable care/service history and timing belt changes, that LS should be just fine, even at that mileage. The cars are more DIY-friendly than you'd think.
    If the display lighting's dead, fixing it is usually a matter of replacing a few capacitors–less than 5 Euros for the parts.
    The seat bottoms are holding up very well in this car, although it looks like the side bolster on the driver's seat's shot.. Typical. The leather's good grade, so it should clean up/condition nicely.
    It looks like dirt on the fenders, not rust. These cars don't rust easily. Directional wheels on wrong wheels do equal clueless owner. This car looks to have the air suspension (great while it works; look for used struts if one goes, switch to coilovers or conventional struts/springs if it dies). Snow tires: Mandatory. Bolt patterns/sizes are compatible with nearly all Lexus cars and most Toyotas.
    My daily driver's a '93 LS400 with 385k km/234k miles… My real estate clients have no idea it's that old or has that kind of miles on it. Then again, I just retired my '01 Saab 9-5 Aero last fall with 518k km/324k miles.
    If you bought and eventually scrapped it, I'd call dibs on the headlights, fogs and driving lights. Those are pretty much unobtainium here in North America.

    1. Mike D Avatar
      Mike D

      You're definitely right that a high mileage LS can still be reliable. And that was pretty funny and clueless that the wheels were pointed the wrong way.

  7. craymor Avatar

    I owned one with 400,000 miles on it when I bought it, it lasted me quite rebuably for another 30K, the important thing on these is that they are very expeisive cars if you haven't got the money to repair a new one, then you can't afford to own a old one. find one that's been kept up, and be preparied for large repair bills if you don't diy, I didn't miss it when i sold it, it was so boring to drive at 55, or 155mph, but i do miss the seats, all day comfort. and I've been sort of looking for another…

  8. mallthus Avatar

    After my step-daughter totaled her 2 year old small car, we got her a 1990 LS 400 with 298,000 miles on the clock. We paid $900.
    The good news is that it never broke down.
    The bad news is that it had the following issues:
    – Interior wood pieces were delaminating and coming loose all over the place.
    – Power tilt steering wheel didn't work.
    – Display didn't work. Then it did. Then it didn't. I fixed it eventually following these instructions.
    The thing that finally killed it wasn't mechanical or, even, economic. Somebody put a brick through the rear glass and despite looking for a replacement in KS, OK and TX, we couldn't find another. We had one lead on a junkyard glass, but they broke it removing it from the vehicle.
    Finally, we took it to a local dealer who gave us $1500 for it on trade. Yes, we made money on it (as long as you don't count 8-10 MPG she got driving it and the requisite outflow of our money to feed the thing).

    1. Dave Avatar

      8-10mpg?? Did she drive everywhere at 100mph?

  9. Rover1 Avatar

    Buy it! The first Japanese car to scare the European nobility of Benz , BMW and Jaguar. Jaguar is as relevent as Maserati nowadays, Audi has come from nowhere by clever marketing, but Toyota did it the old fashioned way, by making a better car. Certainly better than the equivalent 7 series and comparable with the then much more expensive Mercedes.MB changed the whole way they make and sell cars because of these. Just on that basis they're worth owning.

    1. duurtlang_ Avatar

      Not in Europe though. Where I live, in the Netherlands, Lexus has only been able to sell the current CT200h in significant amounts. About half the Lexi that have been sold here in over 2 decades were CT200hs, so others (other than the IS) are rare as hens teeth.

      1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
        Dean Bigglesworth

        Same thing here in Finland. I see CT200h pretty regularly, and some IS. Mostly IS200, but some IS250 and IS200/220d. A few GS450h. I don't hink i've ever seen an LS in traffic.

  10. the.mora.knoa Avatar

    Older LS400's share a great amny parts with the same year's Toyota Supra. If you know this, then most of your parts become more available and MUCH cheaper.
    Brakes, oil filters, exhaust, belts etc share parts with other Toyota models

    1. Mike D Avatar
      Mike D

      Ha! That's what I figured out, too!!


    These cars are legendary for their reliability, and are generally bombproof until about 250k-300k miles. But holy crap, that's too many. I'd stay far, far away. It won't be too much more to get one with half the miles, and that'd be by far the better way to go. I mean, the UZ is a monster of reliability, but there ARE limits. The only way I'd buy this car was if you had plans to use it as a project where you were planning on changing the engine soon anyway so you wouldn't really car if it blew up, and $2500 euros is even too much for that. I'd pass.

  12. Shant Jaltorossian Avatar
    Shant Jaltorossian

    I'd much prefer an Infiniti Q45, but I've heard good things about these.

    1. Dave Avatar

      I would like the power of the Infiniti plus I think the '93-'96 are an absolute 90's styling classic but the motors use gallons of oil, the interiors are drab and the build quality is totally ordinary when compared to Lexus. Just shut the trunk lid or doors or operate the switches of the Infiniti then the Lexus… the sound and feel says it all.

  13. Spring-heeled Jack Avatar
    Spring-heeled Jack

    I have a GS, but read the LS section of the Club Lexus forums. There's a lot of 1st-2nd gen LS with big mileage still running. And, if they have been given some TLC over the years they look remarkably good. My own experience is that these cars look and drive as new far longer than other cars that will match them for mileage.

  14. Sjalabais Avatar

    Gorgeous cars, but how many painful stories have started with a cheap S-class, Roller, BMW V12, monstrous Jag or other huge, expensive cars? +1 for bangernomics, if you have the stomach for it.
    Also look at youtube, Wheeler Dealers has an entertaining episode on the LS400

  15. Smhart Avatar

    Have a 1990 ls400. 300k miles. Replaced the transmission for 2000$. And fixed a pulley that froze up and snapped the serpentine belt myself. Very DIY vehicle. Same timing belt since 75k miles. Hasn't broken yet! Great cars and bulletproof reliable. More comfortable than my 13' Hyundai tuscon

  16. Lexus Lover Avatar
    Lexus Lover

    I see a lot of you are not do it yourself people. I own three, all have high miles. Cheaper to maintain than anything from Germany, plus the reliability of a Toyota. How long does it take you to get to 200k – 400k miles remember it is man made and after so many year's of outstanding service why complain. Will outlast most marriages and better than the dog. Remember you pay for that Lexus logo, and for something you don't know how to fix yourself

  17. Stuart Avatar

    I have just bought an LS400. I'm taking the engine and dropping it into my RX8. I'm open to offers for body parts if people need them?

    1. Richard Avatar

      dropping engine to rx7 from lexus??? You are a moron haha

      1. Enzo Avatar

        Moron Richard? Why? Are you capable of building a custom engine conversion like that? I believe they said RX8 not RX7, two completely different cars.
        The Lexus 1UZ is a gem of a motor. It's a compact, lightweight, powerful, high reving V8 not to mention bulletproof. I did a SBC V8 conversion on my Porsche 914 and it was a wicked fast car but I would rather have the Lexus V8 in it. Ive owned two LS400's And am buying a SC400 tomorrow. I've owned dozens of German cars and love them but overall I think Lexus simply built a better car. They just don't give many problems. I wouldn't pay over $1000 for that kind of mileage though. Good luck. ~ Cheers

  18. Stuart Avatar

    Thanks Enzo, i wasn't even gonna grace his ignorance with a reply

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