Despite the rising number of SUVs, trucks and crossovers on the road these days, drivers in the U.S. still overwhelmingly favor inexpensive, high-mileage sedans. And in 2013, it looks like the most favored of that breed is going to be the Toyota Camry.
According to 24/7 Wall St., a financial news website, Toyota sold more than 340,000 Camrys in 2012 and is set to dominate this year’s market, with vehicle sales projected to top 483,000.
Ironically, this extreme popularity also makes the Camry (particularly older models) a frequent target for theft, since the parts are highly valued on the black market. In fact, the 1991 Toyota Camry was the fourth-most-stolen car in the U.S. in 2011, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
“The Camry has been around since 1982, and it’s proven itself to be reliable and dependable, and it gets driven for a very long time,” says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at automotive website Edmunds.com, which contributed car-buying data to the 24/7 Wall St. report. “All told, you see a great deal of satisfaction from its owners, and I don’t think it will surprise anyone to see it top the list in 2013.”
With a relatively affordable base price of $22,055, there’s a lot about the four-door Camry that makes it appealing. It comes in two hybrid versions as well as the more powerful XLE model, which is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine.
Toyota redesigned the Camry in August 2011, the first time its look had been revamped in five years.
“For most people, a car is the second largest purchase they will ever make,” Caldwell says. “There are certainly some enthusiasts out there who like the latest and greatest, but most people like a safe bet. They want to be wise with their money and they want something reliable. The Camry checks the box on all of those accounts.”
It checks a few more boxes as well. Here are some other reasons auto analysts say the Camry is such a popular purchase.
Comfort and familiarity
In October, Caldwell’s mother bought a 2012 Camry. One of the primary reasons was because of how easily she could get in and out of the car.
“It sounds like a small thing, but the baby boom generation tends to notice and care about things like that,” Caldwell says. “My mother’s older, she has some mobility issues, and the Camry is a comfortable ride that has very wide doors. And she liked that.”
Caldwell’s mother isn’t the only one taking notice. Angie Fisher, associate editor at Autoweek magazine, says cars that cover the basics this well tend to become — and stay — popular.
“It’s all about comfort and familiarity,” Fisher says. “Young drivers learn to drive with their dad’s Camry, and their best friend may have as well. And it’s just an all-around good car — safe, affordable, reliable and, thanks to the 2011 redesign, stylish.”
Fisher also points out that the Camry has plenty of space inside for a family of four, the latch attachments for child seats are easy to use and the cargo area is generous.
“The Camry’s a car for someone who uses it as a family tool, to maybe drop off kids and haul soccer equipment, and it does its job well,” Fisher says.
Safety and reliability
The Camry’s claimed track record has as much to do with safety as it does comfort, and it consistently ranks high in tests measuring reliability and security.
For instance, the Camry once again has earned a “Top Safety Pick” honor from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), performing above average in in several collision tests as well as earning top marks for its roof strength and rear crash protection.
U.S. News & World Report puts the 2013 Camry in eighth place on its annual list of reliability rankings. The car also received a top five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.
CarMD.com, a website that grades overall vehicle reliability, has given the Camry an A since 2006. This means it ranks in the top 20th percentile of all vehicles on the road, with infrequent mechanical problems and low average repair costs, as well as consistently high performance over the years.
“Our rankings aren’t about how well a car drives or how pretty it is, but instead about how often it needs repairs and how much those repairs cost,” says Kristin Brocoff, a spokeswoman for CarMD. “It’s a great way to consider whether or not you should buy a car, and the Camry consistently wins in these categories.”
Insuring a Camry
Safety and reliability often translate into more affordable insurance premiums, and the Camry is no exception. California insurance agent Jeremy Schaedler says the Camry is one of the most reasonably priced sedans to insure.
According to his estimates, a 35-year-old man with no accidents or traffic violations living in California will pay about $100 a month for car insurance on a 2013 Camry. A 35-year-old woman with the same driving record will be looking at a monthly premium of about $110.
Fisher says Toyota loads the Camry with safety options – such as 10 air bags and an anti-lock braking system – and “insurers tend to notice these things.”