Should I Buy a Used Tacoma? Why I would


The used pickup truck segment has a wide and varied selection from many brands. While many focus on American truck companies, Toyota also offers competitive truck options. The brand is known for its reliability and quality, but should you buy a used Tacoma?

The Tacoma is a solid used car choice, aside from some rust issues in earlier models, the Tacoma has been a reliable and capable pickup truck.

It is important to note that the Tacoma is not Toyota’s largest offering. If you need towing and payload capacity above all else, you should be looking at the Toyota Tundra. However, if you don’t need the absolute maximum in power, it’s hard to go wrong with Tacoma.

Toyota Tacoma on mountain trail

Toyota Tacoma

The Tacoma is Toyota’s entry into the mid-sized pickup truck segment. The Tacoma is relatively new to the brand, first introduced in 1995. This pickup truck served as a replacement for the Toyota Hilux, or as it was known in the US, the Toyota Pickup. Its main intention and differentiator was its focus on overall comfort and ride quality. The Toyota Tacoma represented a shift away from commercial vehicles and instead aimed to appease regular people.

The Tacoma has seen great success spannings its three generations. While it started off as a compact pickup truck, it quickly grew to a mid-sized truck with its second generation. Currently, the Tacoma is in its third generation, first introduced in 1995.

What to Do Before Buying a Used Car?

Before getting into the specifics of a used Toyota Tacoma, there are some universal car buying practices to get familiar with.

Research: This will be the most time-consuming step when considering a used car. Finding reviews from when the car was new is a good way to get a general overview of that model year. However, in the case of a used car, knowing how well the car aged is even more important. Finding forums or other sources where owners talk about their experience with the car years down the line is an invaluable resource.

Car Report: While this still constitutes research, it is important enough that it needs to be highlighted on its own. Having a thorough vehicle history can help prepare you for any potential issues down the line.

Before buying a used Tacoma or any used vehicle, it’s always worth investing just a few dollars to check the VIN number against the vehicle database. An audit with a company like VinAudit (links to VinAudit) will guard against Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuilds, Title washing, Vin cloning, and a ton of other uglies.

Set a Price: After all the vehicle and market research, come up with a fair price that you would be willing to pay. Come prepared with the knowledge to avoid overpaying.

Test Drive: There will always be peculiarities that will not become apparent unless you get in the driver’s seat yourself. For those wanting to be extra sure, consider bringing a mechanic to help verify the condition of the used Tacoma.

Used Tacoma Towing

It would be pretty difficult to talk about a pickup truck without exploring its ability to tow. While more serious towing should be handled by the Tacoma’s bigger brother, the Tundra, it still provides a useful amount of power. Since the Tacoma was never meant to push the boundaries of towing capacity, it has stayed in a single destined towing range for basically its entire lifespan. To demonstrate this, here are the towing capacities of today’s Tacoma, a 2010 Tacoma, and a 2000 Tacoma:

  • 2022 Tacoma: 3,500-6,500 lbs.
  • 2010 Tacoma: 3,500-6,500 lbs.
  • 2000 Tacoma: 3,500-5,000 lbs.

The lower bound is for Tacomas equipped with a 4-cylinder engine, while the upper bound is set by V6 equipped Tacomas. As you can see, Tacomas have provided essentially the same towing capacity for over 20 years. However, payload capacities have slightly increased with the max today being 1,685 pounds versus 1,444 pounds in 2010.

Do keep in mind however that engines will no doubt lose their effectiveness as they age. A used Tacoma with tens or hundreds of thousands of miles will not produce the same amount of power as it did when new.

Are Used Tacomas Reliable?

If there is one thing that the Toyota brand is known for it is its reliability. The Japanese brand has been the go-to choice for anyone who prioritizes a simple reliable form of transportation. Thankfully, the Tacoma has been able to display those same brand virtues.

While there have been many used Tacomas driving well past 200,000 or even 300,000 miles, they aren’t completely bulletproof. For instance, while the first-generation Tacoma was mechanically sound, it had a big problem with rust. The issue was so bad that Toyota had to extend their corrosion warranty to 15-years and unlimited miles for the 1995-2004 model years.

Unfortunately, second-generation followed with additional rust concerns. Used Tacomas made from 2005 to 2010 also had issues with frame rusting, a costly repair. Thankfully, since then, rust hasn’t seemed to be an issue for the Tacoma.

Best Used Tacoma Years

Thanks to its dependability, it’s hard to go wrong with a used Tacoma. The current generation has been in production since 2015 so even a three or four-year-old Tacoma will largely be the same as one that you can buy today. Aside from the 2016 and 2017 model year, any other third-generation Tacoma will be a good choice. Additionally, there is a lot of praise for the 2015 model year as well.

Year20192018
Tacoma Average Price Range$29,675 – $49,798$28,110 – $46,039
Source USNews.com

For those wanting to get something unique, you can look at the X-Runner, produced from 2005 to 2013. The X-Runner was a sporty version of the Tacoma, much like the old F-150 Lighting. It was an extensive upgrade that included new exterior pieces, stiffened suspension, and an optional TRD dealer-installed supercharger resulting in an increase in horsepower. It’s believed that only 3,000 were made every model year, so it’s decently rare.

Worst Used Tacoma Years

Any pre-2010 Tacoma will have potential issues with rust. After all, the corrosion issue was so bad that Toyota had to increase the corrosion warranty to 15-years and unlimited miles. People affected by the corrosion either had the parts replaced or if the rust was really bad, Toyota just outright bought the car back from them. If the rusted frame was able to be replaced, then there is less of a concern.

Even still, it will be imperative to give a thorough inspection of any used Tacoma from these model years to check for any possible corrosion. Extensive rust on the frame or suspension could result in the car becoming undrivable if they break. Other than that, most used Tacomas will be fine mechanically.

The two recent exceptions will be the 2016 and 2017 model years. The early entries into the third-generation Tacoma had issues with their transmission not shifting properly. Looking at CarComplaints, we can see that those two model years gave significantly more problems than the rest. Thankfully, a lot of these issues were resolved by the 2018 model year and since then the Tacoma has been rock solid.

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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