Is a 100,000 Mile Toyota Tacoma Really Reliable?

My wife decided she wanted a Toyota Tacoma. I have no clue what inspired her Taco craving, but within a week we were looking at a second-generation truck with 100,000 miles. I gave it a thorough inspection and decided it would make a good project. Then I found out that the owner wanted so much money for it, my wife was considering trading in her new Subaru. She asked me, “Is this 100,000-mile Tacoma really reliable?”

How long will a Toyota Tacoma last?

One 2008 Tacoma owner has clocked 1.5 million miles on his Toyota pickup truck. Since he bought the truck new, he kept up with maintenance religiously, including monthly oil changes. Most Tacomas do not last nearly as long: Forbes calculated that just 2.6% of used Tacomas sold have 200,000+ miles on the odometer.

Gray Toyota Tacoma parked in a snowy field.
Toyota Tacoma TRD | Cortney Chummoungpak via Unsplash

RELATED: The Oldest Cars With Apple Carplay: Find A Used Vehicle That Can Connect To Your iPhone

Mike Neal delivers medicine for a living. Yes, he’s basically the North Carolina Balto. His job requires roughly 500 miles of driving–daily. In November 2007, he bought a Tacoma. The Toyota truck is still going strong today, with 1.52 million miles.

Did Mike buy a very special truck? The opposite of a lemon? Or is every Tacoma capable of 1 million miles? The answer may be more about the owner than the truck.

Toyota Tacoma reliability is all about the maintenance

A convoy of third, second, and first generation Toyota Tacoma trucks off-roading on a snowy, mountain trail.
Toyota Tacomas | Katie Musial via Unsplash

RELATED: Only 1 Used Toyota Tundra Ever Received an ‘Average’ for Reliability

Mike chose to replace his Tacoma’s engine at around 800,000 miles when it only needed a head gasket. He also chose to replace the transmission at 1.3 million miles when it only needed a torque converter. This “ahead of schedule” philosophy defines the way Mike maintains his Tacoma and is probably why it has lasted so long.

If you could find a used Tacoma with service records as meticulous as Mike’s, it might be a smart buy. But few owners keep such precise track of maintenance.

Mike’s second-generation Tacoma also has the smaller, inline engine with four cylinders. It also has no four-wheel drive and all its miles are on the highway. Again, you would be hard-pressed to find an old Toyota Tacoma that has not been flogged off-road or otherwise abused at some point.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that while all Tacomas could be reliable at 100,000 miles or even 200,000, most are not. Forbes points out that out of every used Toyota Tacoma sold, only 2.6% have clocked 200,000 miles. On the other hand, 18.2% of used Toyota Land Cruisers sold and 14.2% of Toyota Sequoias sold have over 200,000 miles.

Do Toyota Tacomas have a lot of problems?

Live in a salty state? Think twice about a Tacoma: Toyota recalled 2005-2010 Tacomas for quickly-rusting frames. In addition, the 2016 and later (third-generation) Tacomas do not score as high in Consumer Reports’ reliability as earlier years.

Black first generation Toyota Tacoma truck parked on a road in front of snow-covered trees.
Toyota Tacoma | Ryan Stone via Unsplash

RELATED: Is Buying a Used Ram 1500 Pickup Truck a Good Idea?

According to Consumer Reports, old Toyota Tacomas boast legendary reliability. A CR editor had the following to say:

“The Tacoma has a tremendous reputation for reliability…In the car world, the joke is that after the zombie apocalypse the only things to survive will be cockroaches and Tacomas.”

Nick Kurczewski, senior multimedia content editor for CR

Does this mean a 100,000 mile Tacoma will still be reliable? It is one of the more reliable vehicles around. And an older Tacoma may be more reliable than a post-2016.

But a Tacoma is still a machine with parts that wear out: a 100,000 mile Tacoma will require maintenance and that means time in the shop or elbow grease.

And we can’t all live in North Carolina, like Mike Neal. Because my wife and I live in a salty northern state, the 100,000-mile Tacomas we looked at locally were too rusty to invest in. Maybe we’ll call Mike and see if he’s ready to sell.

RELATED: Used Jeep Wrangler Prices: The Cheapest and Most Expensive Model Years