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The MSRP of a car doesn’t always tell the whole story. Especially on a new pickup, cheap base models usually don’t have four-wheel drive, off-road suspension, or a high-tech interior. For some, that’s too basic. But drivers can still minimize costs by carefully choosing options.

The 2023 Toyota Tacoma is the final edition of the third-generation midsize pickup. Known for its athletic appearance and strong capability, the Tacoma’s the best-selling midsize truck in the U.S. While the base trim starts at $28,250, its limited features could leave enthusiasts wanting more.

So what’s the most affordable 2023 Tacoma with plenty of comfort and capability? Using the Build Your Own Toyota tool on the Toyota website, I optioned a 2023 Tacoma with solid equipment and little fluff.

Here’s what I came up with.

2023 Toyota Tacoma: choosing a trim

Toyota offers the 2023 Tacoma in seven trims: SR ($28,250), SR5 ($30,930), TRD Sport ($35,160), TRD Off-Road ($36,440), Limited ($41,005), Trail Special Edition ($41,470), and TRD Pro ($47,685).

In picking a trim, I looked for a balanced package.

Living in Vermont, I encounter a little bit of everything. From subzero snowstorms to long interstates, the Green Mountain State is a demanding environment. That’s why I need a truck with burly components and long-distance comfort.

And for me, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road makes sense. Here’s why.

The TRD Off-Road strikes a nice middle ground between the top-of-the-line TRD Pro and the basic SR. While it has more than enough off-highway ability, the TRD Off-Road is far from a stripped-down base model. Features like an electronic locking rear differential, Crawl Control, and machined alloy wheels offer performance and style.

This is how I spec’ed mine.

Power and traction are essential to all-weather performance and off-road adventures. With that in mind, I optioned a TRD Off-Road with four-wheel drive and a V-6 engine. Producing 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, the six-cylinder is a dated design, yet a reliable workhorse. I also added an automatic transmission for convenient trips around town.

And while crew cabs are nice, they’re not a necessity for me. And on the Tacoma, the four-door option costs nearly $1,000. So I opted for the access cab with a six-foot bed.

A freshly washed and waxed pickup looks sweet cruising the highway. Especially a black one with a deep shine. Aside from that, black has an understated, cool look. And it’s my pick for a Tacoma TRD Sport.

Interior-wise, there wasn’t much to add. The fabric seats were just fine for everyday use. And the infotainment system—with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto—has plenty of tech for my function-first build.

2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road build: options and costs

When I built a 2023 Toyota Tacoma, I sought to balance performance and cost. In stock form, the TRD Off-Road trim—with a locking diff, Multi-Terrain Select (MTS), and machined alloy wheels—offered ample hardware. From there, it was a matter of small add-ons.

The Access Cab version has one powertrain option—a V6 with four-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. While that costs $2,030, it’s $970 less than a Crew Cab with an identical powerplant/transmission.

Beyond that, I didn’t have much to add. While the $1,945 TRD Premium Off-Road Package contains upgraded equipment like heated front seats, premium audio, and dynamic navigation, they weren’t necessities.

That resulted in a price of $39,805 (with destination).

In the end, I had a Tacoma TRD Off-Road with an old-school pickup personality. With a hardy powertrain and spartan interior, it hearkened back to Toyota trucks of yesteryear. And with Toyota’s reputation for reliability, I had a vehicle I could trust no matter the conditions.

Though picking the base model SR5 would have substantially lowered the price, I’d have a truck with rear-wheel drive, a four-cylinder engine, and minimal equipment. That isn’t enough for me.

If you’re in the market for the most affordable Tacoma, what’s your ideal build? Are you after off-road chops or interior amenities? The Build Your Own Toyota tool offers many possibilities.

The 2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road has everything you need and nothing you don’t. While you can opt for fancy packages or exterior accessories, in the end, they aren’t essential to rugged performance. And even if you choose an option here and there, the TRD Off-Road’s reasonable MSRP ensures you don’t break the bank. That’s a plus for budget-minded buyers.


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