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Used SUV prices are through the roof. If you are shopping for a used truck or SUV, the situation is even worse. So what are we supposed to do about it? We can’t force lower prices from the market, but we can arm ourselves with the best knowledge so that when we do spend our money on a used vehicle, we know we are spending wisely. That said, the Toyota 4Runner needs no introduction. It is one of the most reliable SUVs ever made. So if you are going to go with a used Toyota 4Runner, there is only one worth the crazy markups right now. 

What is the best year for a used Toyota 4Runner? 

The third-generation 4Runner (1996-2002) was built on over a decade of reliability, ruggedness, and utility. I personally owned two different 4Runners from this period, and both were phenomenal trucks. This isn’t just my opinion. Many 4×4 enthusiasts view the third-gen 4Runner as one of the best 4×4 SUVs ever made. While the earlier generations looked cooler, the third-gen Toyota 4Runner got a whole new look when it debuted in 1996. 

Earlier 4Runners shared a chassis and some body panels with the Hilux. In ‘96, the 4Runner jumped ship and got the Land Cruiser Prado chassis and borrowed some bits from the Toyota Tacoma powertrain. 

For the majority of the third-generation 4Runner’s run, there were only three trim levels; Base, SR5, and Limited. Later, closer to the end of the generation, Toyota introduced the Higlander trim. 

The base Toyota 4Runner only got the 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine and either the five-speed manual transmission or the four-speed automatic. Yep, this was back when regular shmegular SUVs still came in manual.  

Base trim levels got chrome on the bumpers and grille, dual airbags, ABS, and 15-inch wheels. 4Runner SR5 models added options, including cruise control, a tilting steering wheel, and power door locks while limiting the engine to the 3.4-liter V6. Only four-wheel-drive models could be ordered with the five-speed manual transmission, while the four-speed auto was standard on 2WD models. The Limited models only came in automatic, color-matched bumpers, running boards, fender flares, and bigger wheels. The Limited trim also got Toyota’s Multi-Mode transfer case. 

How much horsepower does a Toyota 4Runner have?

From 1996-2002, the 4Runner had the option of either the 2.7-liter or 3.4-liter engine. Nobody ever accused the 4Runner of being fast. Case in point; the 2.7-liter four-pot made 150 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. The up-market 3.4-liter V6 made a slightly beefier 183 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque. However slow these powerplants might be, they were rock solid and provided plenty enough power to pull the SUV up and over whatever you pointed it at. 

How much does a used 4Runner (1996-2002) cost? 

According to the folks at, the average price of a used third-generation Toyota 4Runner as of 2022 is $15,931. With any used car, the price is heavily dependent on mileage and condition. You can surely find a used Toyota 4Runner with Swiss cheese under the pedal box and 230,000 miles for less than $15k. However, that doesn’t make it a good deal. It’s true that with brands like Toyota, 150,000 + miles isn’t that high. A well-maintained 4Runner can easily clear another 100,000 miles. However, you always always always have to look at the overall condition of a vehicle first. Don’t be fooled by lower miles if the car is rusty and was clearly not well maintained. This is where experience and common sense must be employed. 

Take this as a sign to search for a third-gen Toyota 4Runner

Third-Generation Toyota 4Runner
Third-Generation Toyota 4Runner | Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to go wrong when buying a 4Runner. If you have the bread for a new one, it’s a strong choice. If you are trying to maximize your budget, searching for a solid, used 4Runner might be a better way to go. The trouble is even the used models are pricey these days. 

If you want a good used 4Runner today, you’re going to have to spend a little money. Instead of hemming on hawing on that point, just focus on finding the best used 4Runner and trust that good money was spent on a good SUV. Happy hunting.