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RX 300 SE vs SE-L in 2021


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Hello, it’s my first time posting, but I’ve been reading the forum a lot recently and I'm chuffed.

I am going to buy my first car, which must be reliable (hence Lexus), fairly cheap so second hand, quiet, low maintenance, and preferably an SUV to spare my wife from having nauseas.

My eyes are focused on the RX 300 from 2003 and 2005. From 90K to 105K miles. 4K GBP max.

 

I’m currently wondering if I should get an SE or an SE-L.

  • We are music heads. So the Mark Levinson system sounds attractive. But does it do that much of a difference? The fact the car is quiet is already a huge asset.
  • How easy and costly is it to upgrade the default pioneer sound system, by adding a sub woofer or replacing it fully?
  • The air suspensions of the SE-L: is there a substantial risk of failure and are they more expensive to repair than the spring ones?

 

Any other differences I should be aware of between both versions?

Also, I'd be keen to know whether the SE comes with the wooden steering wheel or if it's exclusive to the SE-L?

 

Best
Forey

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I am sure others will be able to advise from experience. and other pitfalls. It seems to me that you are taking a bold step in considering an RX as your first car, particularly an old one.  Whilst Lexus deserve their widely recognised reputation for reliability, when something does need replacing, the cost of replacement won't be cheap.  So without an official Lexus dealer warranty,  ideally you need to be in a position to fork out as the need arises.  You mention air suspension and this is indeed one area of potentially considerable expense.   In fact, some members who have had a problem with air suspension have converted to steel springs due to high cost of making good the air suspension.  Furthermore, whilst some members have not had a problem in many miles, my 2015 RX450h needed two new air struts with circa 40K miles which cost about £2,000.  So you need to be lucky.  I would also check for underbody rust on any possible acquisition.  

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7 hours ago, Barry14UK said:

I am sure others will be able to advise from experience. and other pitfalls. It seems to me that you are taking a bold step in considering an RX as your first car, particularly an old one.  Whilst Lexus deserve their widely recognised reputation for reliability, when something does need replacing, the cost of replacement won't be cheap.  So without an official Lexus dealer warranty,  ideally you need to be in a position to fork out as the need arises.  You mention air suspension and this is indeed one area of potentially considerable expense.   In fact, some members who have had a problem with air suspension have converted to steel springs due to high cost of making good the air suspension.  Furthermore, whilst some members have not had a problem in many miles, my 2015 RX450h needed two new air struts with circa 40K miles which cost about £2,000.  So you need to be lucky.  I would also check for underbody rust on any possible acquisition.  

+1

I think the bigger issues will be corrosion, corrosion and corrosion.

Check underneath! ( as said above. )

My car has air suspension - all 4 struts have been replaced. If they have, then fine. If not it can be expensive.

I like my ML system. Speakers are more the issue I think.

Best thing I did was search and read this forum - it really helped.

Choose wisely - there are lots (less so now) of old nice ones and lots of old bad ones.

Great levels of equipment does mean many things can go wrong.

However, love my (air suspension) old RX.

 

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 I say don't buy with air unless you are prepared to convert to springs down the line or pay to replace each corner strut at around £700 each  (new)when they go wrong and that's without the compressor which can pack in (£2k ish). I am only speaking from personal experience as my previous SEL air went belly up at 61k miles. If I had done my research beforehand I wouldn't have gone down the air route. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.No doubt others will follow with examples of their air suspension still going strong at whatever mileage.

You pays your money............................

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I agree with others that it is a 'brave move'. My last Lexus was a 2004 RX 300 and although I kept it for 10 years and it was faultless except for a complete wheel change due to corrosion after 2 years (a known fault with that years alloy's) I felt it was time to get rid before expensive faults started to show. When mine was new I only achieved 21mpg around town and 28mpg on a long run so quite expensive to run. I sincerely hope you get lucky with the one you choose.

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On 9/7/2021 at 9:53 PM, Forey said:

Hello, it’s my first time posting, but I’ve been reading the forum a lot recently and I'm chuffed.

I am going to buy my first car, which must be reliable (hence Lexus), fairly cheap so second hand, quiet, low maintenance, and preferably an SUV to spare my wife from having nauseas.

My eyes are focused on the RX 300 from 2003 and 2005. From 90K to 105K miles. 4K GBP max.

 

I’m currently wondering if I should get an SE or an SE-L.

  • We are music heads. So the Mark Levinson system sounds attractive. But does it do that much of a difference? The fact the car is quiet is already a huge asset.
  • How easy and costly is it to upgrade the default pioneer sound system, by adding a sub woofer or replacing it fully?
  • The air suspensions of the SE-L: is there a substantial risk of failure and are they more expensive to repair than the spring ones?

 

Any other differences I should be aware of between both versions?

Also, I'd be keen to know whether the SE comes with the wooden steering wheel or if it's exclusive to the SE-L?

 

Best
Forey

The RX300  is a lovely motor, however any car that is 17+ years old has potential for issues no matter what the brand. 

I owned an RX300 and whilst reliable, the car is very thirsty, expect no more than 280 miles from a 72 litre fuel tank. The car is heavy and doesn't have huge torque, so you really need to put your foot down to get a move on.

The cambelt is due every 90k or 10 years which ever comes first. Tyres are 18 inch from memory,good brands aren't cheap, it's a heavy car so watch out for worn suspension bushes and worn pads/discs. For a first car I just don't think it's worth the potential hassle and may sour your experience of the Lexus brand.

I purchased an SE as I didn't want/need the complication of air suspension. Standard audio was fine but I'm not an a stereo guy. The car isn't that quiet by modern standards....

If the wife insists on an suv for a first and you want reliability I would suggest a Toyota RAV4. Your budget would get you into a 2008/2009 or an older model with much lower mileage. You still get the dependability and reliability and you can always upgrade at a later date.

 

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On 9/7/2021 at 9:53 PM, Forey said:

I’m currently wondering if I should get an SE or an SE-L.

  • Best
    Forey

Did you have any more thoughts on what you might do...?

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Thank you all for your sound answers.

Well, I guess the spirit of wisdom came over me and I'm now the happy owner of a good ol' Honda Jazz from 2003.
Better start with something small of little value that I can use for practicing my driving skills, and, worst case scenario, get scratched without worrying too much.

My wife is rather happy in fact - there is some charm in having a humble first car, we're young and it'll create good memories. The stain of pain on the bonnet make us laugh.

I still got the eyes on Lexus however, probably will make the move in 6 months or so.

 

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The RX300  is a lovely motor, however any car that is 17+ years old has potential for issues no matter what the brand.

I think you are right - I might save a bit more to get a more recent model or one of a lesser mileage in good condition.

 

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I would suggest a Toyota RAV4

Logical alternative indeed - however I've heard this model is significantly noisy.

 

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Did you have any more thoughts on what you might do...?

It'll have to be the SE, for all the reasons stated on this forum

 

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 I only achieved 21mpg around town and 28mpg on a long run so quite expensive to run

Indeed it's thirsty. When budgeting at purchase, I add the yearly cost of excess of consumption compared to the average car to the price of the vehicle. Therefore, once factored in my budget, I can drive with peace of mind for at least a year.

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My advice to anyone looking to purchase an RX300 on a tight budget is to avoid the SE-L. It's not a case of if, but when you replace the air struts. 

I sought out the SE-Nav option instead: proper springs but you still get the reversing camera and the (16-year old so well out of date) sat-nav. 

The only things I've replaced are suspension bushes, drop links, disks and pads. I do need to get a handle on the subframe corrosion soon. But all relatively cheap things to DIY if you are able.

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On 9/13/2021 at 11:33 AM, Forey said:

Well, I guess the spirit of wisdom came over me and I'm now the happy owner of a good ol' Honda Jazz from 2003.
Better start with something small of little value that I can use for practicing my driving skills, and, worst case scenario, get scratched without worrying too much.

Welcome to the club.

I've had 7 Honda's in my lifetime and they've all been very degrees of very good to excellent. I hope it is a manual at least though? Touch wood, it should be reliable if maintained properly.

In my opinion, it's important to start more humbly with early cars, so that when you get to the nicer cars you appreciate it more.

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