Trucks & SUVs

Buying a Used Toyota Tacoma: What You Need to Know

In the market for a used truck? Have the Toyota Tacoma on your mind? We get it. It’s a legend among its segment, making it a pretty popular pick among used truck shoppers. Before buying a used Toyota Tacoma, though, there are some things to keep in mind.

2016 Toyota Tacoma in the wilderness
2016 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

Which generation of the Toyota Tacoma is the best one to buy?

Though the Toyota Tacoma has undergone numerous changes over the years, there are only three generations of it. The first generation was introduced in 1995. It replaced the Toyota Truck and reportedly helped Toyota develop its truck design language. While you might have trouble finding one, Autotrader reports the first generation models have a reputation for lasting 300,000 and even 400,000 miles.

The second-generation of Toyota Tacoma models arrived in 2005. Toyota renamed its configurations to the Regular Cab, the Access Cab, and the Crew Cab. The second-generation Tacoma was also offered with 5- and 6-foot beds and was available with a 236-hp 4.0-liter V6 engine, which gave it a max tow rating of 6,500 pounds.

The most recent iteration of this pickup arrived in 2016. It’s standard with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine but is also available with a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Third-generation Tacomas are available with either a manual or automatic transmission too. According to Autotrader, if you’re after the latest tech and driver-assist features, choose a third-generation Tacoma from 2018 or later. 

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Here’s how much you can haul with a used Tacoma

Opt for a first- or second-generation used Toyota Tacoma with a 4-cylinder engine under the hood, and you can expect it tow about 3,500 pounds and carry payloads up to 1,600 pounds. Opt for a model driven by a V6 engine, and that tow rating increases to 5,000 pounds while the payload rating increases to up to 2,000 pounds. As for the current Tacoma? With a V6 under the hood, it’s tow-rated up to 6,800 pounds. It boasts a max payload of 1,540 pounds too.

What to watch out for when shopping for a used Toyota Tacoma

The first generation Tacoma held up reasonably well mechanically. Rust issues were a problem, however. According to Autotrader, it got so bad that Toyota extended the rust and corrosion warranty to 15 years and unlimited miles for 1995-2004 models. Autotrader reports that there were plenty of Tacoma recalls during this time too, most of which stemmed from the truck’s build quality. For many owners, Toyota either replaced the truck’s frame or simply repurchased it.

Third-generation Tacoma models faced a ton of issues too, which Autotrader reports lowered the truck’s Consumer Reports and J.D. Power ratings. While Consumer Reports’ data shows that many model years suffered from reliability issues, J.D. Power’s data shows that not all third-generation Tacoma models offered a great driving experience.

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Competitors that you should be considering

While it may be popular, the Toyota Tacoma isn’t the only used truck out there. If you’re shopping for a 2009-2011 Toyota Tacoma, U.S. News & World Report suggests checking out the Nissan Frontier and the Honda Ridgeline too. If you’re on the hunt for a newer Tacoma but find yourself suffering from sticker shock, Autotrader recommends considering a used Ford Ranger or a Chevy Colorado. Of course, the Ford F-150 is a decent alternative too.

Expect to spend a pretty penny on a used Tacoma

A used Tacoma isn’t going to be cheap. These pickups hold their value pretty well, making even an older model somewhat expensive. According to Autotrader, even a 2005 Toyota Tacoma 2WD Access Cab PreRunner with 200,000 miles on it was listed for $9,000. A newer used Toyota Tacoma will also cost you a pretty penny, but you can expect it to come with more features than a Tacoma that’s more than 10 years old.

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Is a used Toyota Tacoma the right fit for you?

There’s a reason you see so many Toyota Tacomas on the road. It’s a solid pickup with a good enough reputation, and it’s known to last for a pretty long time. While that does mean paying more than you would for something like a used Nissan Frontier, the higher price is well worth it for many used truck shoppers.