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The Tacoma is one of the most popular, reliable midsize trucks. It stood tall and carried the class (along with the Nissan Frontier) while rivals packed up and left. Even though this Toyota truck has been the torch-bearer for many years, it isn’t perfect. Here are the most common Toyota Tacoma problems owners complain about.

The 3 most common Toyota Tacoma problems

Gray 2018 Toyota Tacoma tossing dirt around
2018 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

To learn about the most common Toyota Tacoma problems, we turn to the experts at RepairPal. Its list of the top three owner-reported issues for this midsize Toyota truck is as follows:

  • Recall for lower ball joint issue
  • Automatic transmission might not shift correctly at high mileage
  • Amber running/parking lights melted, cracked, or burned their lenses

Of those three issues, the lower ball joint problem is the only one that forced Toyota to issue a recall. That said, experiencing any of these problems could be worrisome.

How serious is the lower ball joint issue?

The most common Toyota Tacoma problem involves the lower ball joints in 1995 to 2007 models. A broken ball joint can cause a clunking sound and affect the truck’s steering and suspension. This issue is severe because the wheels could fall off the truck if the ball joints fail.

Toyota recalled specific Tacoma models that could experience premature ball joint wear from improper finishing during production. Under this recall, owners of affected 2001 to 2004 models can have their ball joints replaced free of charge at an authorized service provider.

However, the recall doesn’t cover other model years, so those Tacoma owners must pay out of pocket. The average cost for a ball joint replacement ranges from $230 to $450.

What’s the fix for the automatic transmission not shifting correctly?

Car parts get worn. As Toyota Tacoma trucks reach higher mileage, one of the most common problems is the automatic transmission not shifting correctly. When this issue appears, the throttle position sensor is out of adjustment or a shift solenoid needs replacing. Fortunately, the transmission does not need to be completely replaced.

Over 250 Tacoma owners have reported this problem. It happens anywhere from 12,000 to 300,000 miles on 1995 to 2015 models.

How can Toyota Tacoma owners fix cracked or melted amber lights?

The third most common Toyota Tacoma problem is the amber front running lights in the headlight assembly could melt or crack the lens. Over 200 owners have reported the issue in 2006 to 2013 models. The trouble starts anywhere from 6,120 to 142,520 miles on the odometer.

To fix this issue, owners must replace the headlight assembly. The cost to diagnose the problem typically costs around $100.

Is the Toyota Tacoma a reliable pickup truck?

2023 Toyota Trail Edition
2023 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition | Toyota

RepairPal gave the Toyota Tacoma a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0. That score puts the Tacoma at the bottom of the list of seven midsize trucks. Because Toyota cars are famously reliable, it’s surprising the company’s midsize truck performs poorly in this category.

Here’s how the Tacoma stacks up against other midsize trucks in RepairPal’s rankings:

  • Cost: The average annual cost to repair and maintain a Tacoma is $478. That’s lower than the $548 average for all midsize trucks — a plus for Toyota’s truck.
  • Frequency: Tacoma owners bring their vehicles to the repair shop for unscheduled repairs an average of 0.3 times annually. The average for all midsize trucks is 0.2 times per year. Could those visits involve some of the most common Toyota Tacoma problems? Possibly.
  • Severity: This is where the Tacoma’s reliability rating takes its most significant hit. The probability of unscheduled repairs being severe for this Toyota truck is 17%, compared to 13% for all midsize trucks. That’s a significant difference.

Are new Tacoma models still reliable?

Late-model Tacomas show a drop in reliability ratings. The auto giant may have rested on its laurels, and newer models of this midsize Toyota truck aren’t as dependable as older ones. Stiffer competition from rivals with more modern features has pushed the Tacoma’s reliability ratings down.

Best versus most reliable: Which do you prefer?

A green 2023 Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup truck is driving off-road, but where are toyotas made?
The 2023 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

Kelley Blue Book ranks the 2023 Toyota Tacoma as the best in its class. That’s not shocking — this Toyota midsize truck has been a stalwart and continues to offer trims, equipment, and capabilities many consumers desire.

“The Toyota Tacoma is our Midsize Truck Best Buy of 2023. It’s tough, well-built, retains its value better than any rival, and it’s a rock star off-road.”

Kelley Blue Book

If you’re more concerned about reliability, you might want to consult iSeeCars. The automotive site lists the top 2023 midsize trucks for reliability as follows:

  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Nissan Frontier
  • GMC Canyon
  • Chevy Colorado

Can you live with your truck landing second on that list? If so, the Tacoma could deliver the reliability and quality you want on and off the road.