What’s the Best Model Year for the Toyota Land Cruiser?

For off-roading or family-hauling, the Toyota Land Cruiser has a long history of reliably doing both. Although it has since been discontinued in the U.S., the SUV enjoys an excellent reputation around the world for being able to conquer and survive practically anything. New ones aren’t exactly cheap, especially if you need to import one from overseas, but they’ll keep working after Range Rover models malfunction. As with the Toyota 4Runner, a used Land Cruiser can do pretty much anything a new one can, at a fraction of the price. So, which is the best year for the Toyota Land Cruiser?

Many would immediately answer with some version of “FJ40.” However, while the first U.S. Toyota Land Cruiser is an overlanding and off-roading icon, it won’t be considered here. It’s now considered a classic SUV worthy of expensive restomodding, and prices have gone up significantly as a result. The Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 also doesn’t offer many of the amenities needed for daily driving, like airbags. It might be a dirt-simple, rugged machine, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Toyota Land Cruiser model years that should be avoided

CarComplaints has Toyota Land Cruiser records dating back to 1984. Throughout the SUV’s production history, relatively few problems were reported. However, two model years stand out: 2005 and 2016. The 2005 model year is part of the 100-Series Toyota Land Cruisers, according to Autotrader, while the 2016 MY is part of the latest 200-Series.

CarComplaints has fewer issues recorded for the 2005 model year than the 2016 Land Cruiser. However, the 2005 MY’s issues are more expensive to repair. One owner, after purchasing a used 2005 Land Cruiser, reported their SUV started burning oil and belching blue smoke. The owner reportedly had a friend with another 2005 Land Cruiser, who also experienced the same issue. These are most likely due to engine gaskets failing, causing oil to leak into the combustion chambers.

The 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser is the most problematic one. The most prominent issue is a rough-shifting transmission, particularly at low speeds. One owner also experienced grabby brakes: they would be soft, with lots of brake pedal travel, then bite all at once. Said owner also claims to have owned a 2005 Land Cruiser that never experienced this issue. Additionally, one owner had the bizarre case of an A/C system that refused to turn off once activated.

Other model years have had scattered issues. However, many appear to be from outside the U.S., where the Land Cruiser was equipped with different engines. However, that’s not to say that every used Toyota Land Cruiser is free of faults.

Other Land Cruiser problems that can occur

As with any used vehicle, some parts on Toyota Land Cruisers do eventually break. Depending on the model year and rust protection, corrosion can occur. That’s why it’s best to always do a pre-purchase inspection.

According to Autocar, some versions of the 100-Series Land Cruisers (1998-2007) offered air suspensions. However, over time, the components can crack, and replacement is expensive. Autocar also noted some particularly high-mileage Land Cruisers can develop seized brakes, and the touchscreen controls on some used models can fail.

The 100-Series is the first time Toyota Land Cruisers received an independent front suspension and a V8 engine, according to Gear Patrol. Although this makes for better handling and a comfier ride, some of these SUVs did develop cracked suspension arms if they were off-roaded improperly, according to 4WD Overlander.

Furthermore, 1998 and 1999 Land Cruisers allegedly suffered from front differential failure if driven in harsh climates. Autocar notes differential and radiator fluid should be changed regularly, especially in these kinds of conditions. However, 2000 MY and newer Land Cruisers used a different, more robust differential, according to Slee Off-Road.

What are the best Toyota Land Cruiser years?

Is the Toyota Land Cruiser Colorado model pictured crossing a river in the Landmannalaugar Valley one of the best Land Cruiser years?
Toyota Land Cruiser Colorado | Sven-Erik Arndt /Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

So, what’s the best year for a Toyota Land Cruiser? If you’re after a more luxurious off-roading experience, the Toyota Land Cruiser 100-Series and modern 200-Series have a lot to offer. Apart from the 2016 model year, the 200-Series Land Cruiser has had practically no issues on CarComplaints. However, these newer ones are also the most expensive.

Of the 100-Series Land Cruisers, 2000 and newer model years offer standard traction and stability control, according to Consumer Reports and Autoweek. Additionally, IH8Mud forum users recommend 2004 and 2005 Toyota Land Cruisers. These were the first to get the improved five-speed automatic transmission, which reduced the 4.7-liter V8’s highway fuel consumption.

However, many hold the earlier 80-Series as superior to the 100-Series. First introduced in 1990, Four Wheeler recommends the 1993 Toyota Land Cruiser and later models, which The FJ Company explains is due to the improvements made to the inline-six engine. Although not as powerful as the later V8, its cast-iron block made it nearly indestructible.

So, while the 80-Series wasn’t quite as refined as the later 100-Series, due to its solid front axle and fewer gadgets, it’s arguably more durable. Gear Patrol notes this was the first Toyota Land Cruiser to come with full-time 4WD and coil springs all-around, as well as airbags from 1995 Land Cruisers onwards.

Additionally, the 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser is one of only two models that offered a locking rear differential.

In short, if you want your Toyota Land Cruiser to be more of a rugged off-roader, you should look for a 1995-1997 one. However, if you want more amenities, a more powerful engine, and a bit more day-to-day luxury, Land Cruisers model years between 2000-2004 and after 2006 are the better choice.

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