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The Toyota 4Runner SUV is a legend among off-roaders. This midsize Toyota SUV is known for its solid performance and long history of reliability. It is an excellent buy if you’re also in the market for a used SUV. But, before buying a used 4Runner, there are a few things that you should know. 

Which generation of Toyota 4Runner should you buy?

The Toyota 4Runner pros and cons
A 2023 Toyota 4Runner | Amanda Cline, MotorBiscuit

The first generation of 4Runner arrived in 1984. The two-door 4Runner featured a removable hardtop, second-row seats, and a retractable rear window. A 4-cylinder engine powered it; later, a turbocharger was added. You might have difficulty finding a used 4Runner from this generation, as they are now considered collector cars.

The second generation of 4Runner models ran from 1990 to 1995. A four-door version of the 4Runner was added during this generation. It also added features like available power windows, leather seating, and cruise control, all considered luxury features at the time.

The 4Runner’s third generation ran from 1996-2002, and according to Autotrader, “is about the oldest 4Runner we’d recommend as a used vehicle.” These models received a long list of safety features, and third-generation 4Runners also saw more power under the hood than previous models.

The next generation of 4Runner models came in 2003, and according to Autotrader, it “is probably the best model range to shop for if you’re looking for a low-priced SUV with reasonable mileage and more modern conveniences.” The current iteration of the 4Runner debuted in 2009 and underwent a significant overhaul in 2014. 

Which Toyota 4Runner years are the best for off-roading?

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner is a good midsize SUV
A 2021 Toyota 4Runner | Toyota

The Toyota 4Runner is well-known for its off-road prowess. We recommend opting for a third or fourth-generation 4Runner for the ultimate in off-roading features. While older 4Runners can undoubtedly handle a day at the trails, first and second-generation models are also considered collector cars. The first two generations of 4Runner models had little to no safety features. If it’s a safe SUV you’re after, you’re better off choosing a newer 4Runner. 

According to the IIHS, 2014-20 models earned a ‘Good’ rating in its moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, head restraints, and seat tests. However, it did make a ‘Marginal’ rating in the IIHS’ small overlap front: driver-side crashworthiness tests.

Common owner complaints about the 4Runner

When it comes to buying a used Toyota 4Runner, there are some common owner complaints that you should be aware of. According to, the worst model year to buy is a 2003 Toyota 4Runner, which has experienced significant paint issues. Per, problems with the car’s paint tend to arise at the 154,000-mile mark and will cost an estimated $1,800 to fix.

There’s no denying that the Toyota 4Runner is a great SUV, especially if you plan to do some off-roading. Choose a third or fourth-generation Toyota 4Runner, and you’ll surely enjoy every moment behind this rugged off-roader’s wheel. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find the perfect SUV immediately. Sometimes it can take some time to find the 4Runner of your dreams. Facebook is a good source of finding vehicles these days.