Toyota SUVs tend to be long-lasting and reliable. For that reason, they tend to hold their value well, even with 100,000 miles or more. If you’re looking for a clean low-mileage 1990s 4×4, it’s worth considering one that has been imported from the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM). Once a foreign vehicle is 25 years past its production date, it becomes eligible for import to the US.
Many Japanese drivers put on fewer miles per year than we generally do in the US. With relatively low-mileage examples still available, a JDM Toyota SUV can be a fantastic option. Here are some models that you can now buy and potentially drive in the US, depending on your local regulations.
1990-1995 Land Cruiser Prado
The Land Cruiser is legendary worldwide for being one of the most rugged and reliable SUVs around. The Prado models are no exception and they were new additions to the Toyota lineup for 1990. Though related to the Land Cruiser 70-series, they had unique sheet metal and integrated more conveniences and modern features. Vented disc brakes were standard on both two-door and four-door models of the Prado.
Original JDM Prados had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel called the 2L-TE. While not exactly bristling with power at 95 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque, it is known for being robust and durable. From 1993, the Prado range was updated with the more gutsy 3.0-liter 1KZ-TE, producing 130 hp and 212 lb-ft of torque. An intercooled version of the 1KZ was also available with 145 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque.
1996-1997 Land Cruiser Prado
The next generation of the Land Cruiser Prado came in 1996, with longer, wider, and more rounded bodywork. Toyota also improved the suspension with a double-wishbone independent configuration up front, and a new multi-link setup out back. Head and legroom inside were increased as well.
For ’96 Toyota offered a choice between the 1KZ-TE turbo diesel or the 3.4-liter DOHC V6, known as the 5VZ-FE. The V6 was available in the US-spec 4Runner from 1995 through 2004, so parts will generally be more common than those for JDM Toyota diesels. The Prado was also available in a short wheelbase three-door variant called the RX.
1984+ Toyota Hilux Surf: a.k.a. JDM 4Runner
We’ve had the 4Runner in the US since the mid-1980s, but clean low-mileage examples of the early ones are getting pretty rare. Known in Japan as the Hilux Surf, it was available with a wider range of engines than the US-spec 4Runner. JDM models were powered by gasoline inline-fours and V6s, as well as turbo diesels.
With the 2.7-liter and 3.4-liter gasoline models, parts availability should be very similar to the US versions, aside from anything specific to right-hand drive. While that’s a plus, the diesel variants have their own unique advantages in torque and general longevity as well. Plue, there’s the exclusivity factor.
Thankfully, buying a JDM import isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as it used to be. Toyota SUVs like these are frequently available at auction sites like Bring A Trailer, as well as import-focused dealerships like Japanese Classics. If you like driving something different and can handle the right-hand drive aspect, it’s a neat way to go.