Buying a Used Toyota 4Runner? Read This First

The Toyota 4Runner is a legend among off-roaders. It’s known for both its solid performance and, as Autotrader put it, its “impressively long life.” It makes for a pretty great buy if you’re in the market for a used SUV too. But, before buying a used 4Runner, there are a few things that you should know. 

2019 Toyota 4Runner off-roading
2019 Toyota 4Runner | Toyota

Which generation of 4Runner should you buy?

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 a tough time 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, which were all considered luxury features at the time.

The third generation ran from 1996-2002, and according to Autotrader, “is about the oldest 4Runner we’d recommend as a used vehicle.” Not only did these models receive a long list of safety features, but 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, “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 year 4Runners are the best for off-roading?

The Toyota 4Runner is well-known for its off-road prowess. For the ultimate in off-roading features, we recommend opting for a third or fourth generation 4Runner. While older 4Runners can certainly handle a day at the trails, first and second-generation models are also considered collector cars. 

Is a used Toyota 4Runner a safe SUV to drive?

The first two generations of 4Runner models came with little to no safety features. Meaning, if it’s a safe SUV that you’re after, you’re better off choosing a newer 4Runner. 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 2014-20 models earned a ‘Good’ rating in its moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seat tests. However, it did earn 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.


The 2015 Toyota 4Runner Proved to Be Reliable According to Consumer Reports

Is a used 4Runner the right pick for you?

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 be sure to enjoy every moment that you spend behind the wheel of this rugged off-roader.