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Guide to Buying a Used Toyota Tacoma

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Guide to Buying a Used Toyota TacomaThe Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup truck, has been around for more than 25 years and is one of the most popular models on the road today. Finding the truck that’s the right fit for you requires identifying the features are important to you. The Toyota Tacoma offers two-door and four-door models, two- or four-wheel drive options, and the option of manual or automatic transmission. The Tacoma is known for its solid construction and durability, owner satisfaction, and strong residual value.

What Do Older Tacomas Have (or Not)?

Many first-generation Tacoma models (1995-2004) are still on the road today. Second generation vehicles (2005-2015) added more tech and convenience features, along with airbags, traction and stability control in 2009. Starting in 2012, Bluetooth capability was added in Tacoma models. The third generation of Toyota Tacomas hit the market in 2016, equipped with robust sports options including navigation, apps, anti-lock brakes, blind-spot monitors, and better fuel economy.

Before You Buy ANY Used Car

Buying a used vehicle requires an inspector’s eye. Start with a walk-around and check for any visible signs of damage. Pay particular attention to the underside of the vehicle for signs of rust or excessive wear.

Tacoma owners love taking their vehicles off-roading and many will modify them for this purpose with additions like lift kits, oversized tires, and upgraded suspension. Be wary: modifications are often done with non-factory parts and lift kits in particular have been known to cause increased wear on axles and differentials in Toyota trucks.

Sit in each of the seats and make sure you are comfortable with the condition of the driver’s area. Check out all the electronics inside the Tacoma. You will want to play with the radio and navigation system, if applicable. Check the power windows and door locks, climate control, and volume controls. If it has Bluetooth, make sure it works.

Take a Test Drive

During the test drive, you will want to listen for noise from underneath, especially rubbing or “whining” sounds that might indicate rear differential issues. Popping sounds could signal suspension problems. Put the vehicle through its paces, checking out how it performs at different speeds and types of roadways. If it has an automatic transmission, look for signs of slipping, sluggishness, or hard shifting when changing speeds. Transmission repairs are costly so you will want to make sure you aren’t inheriting someone else’s problem.

If you are buying a used toyota be sure to take a test drive

Get a Pro To Take a Look

No matter what you think during the test drive, you should have your vehicle checked over by a qualified technician before making a commitment to buy. Make sure they put it on a lift to check out any potential undercarriage damage. Lots of things can cause problems when it’s a vehicle commonly used for off-roading. You want to make sure the vehicle is structurally sound.

Check Online For Recalls

You will also want to check for any recalls that are active on the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. If there’s a recall, you will want proof that it’s been handled before buying.

The Toyota Tacoma Quick Specs

Mid-sized Pickup Truck

Payload: Up to 1,620 pounds

Towing: Up to 3,500-6,800 pounds

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): 5,600 pounds

The Tacoma Tundra engines (depending on model year):

  • 2.7 Liter DOHC 16-Valve / 4 cylinder - 159 hp, 180 lb-ft of torque
  • 3.5 Liter DOHC 24-Valve V6 - 278 hp, 265 lb-ft of torque
  • 4.0 Liter V6 – 236 hp

Towing Strength

The Toyota Tacoma is a midsize truck with a towing capacity of 3,500-6,800 pounds. This towing capacity is great for pulling lightweight trailers or a utility trailer loaded up with a few snowmobiles or jet skis.

Payload Capacity

Payloads will vary depending on which engine your vehicle has, the transmission, and axle ratios. In making your buying decision, you will want to determine how you are going to use your truck and what you want to do with it. You may want to load up your truck with maximum payload and towing capacity, but you don’t want to pay for capacity that won’t use. The Toyota Tundra has various bed sizes, including 5.5’ lengths, 6.5’ lengths, and 8’ lengths.

The Newer the Tacoma, the Better the Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency numbers for midsize and fullsize trucks have improved dramatically in recent history. The newer generation Toyota Tacoma gets a reasonable EPA mileage of 18 in the city and 22 highways. Different models and configurations can impact mileage, but the lowest rated performer still gets decent mileage. Earlier generation models will likely struggle in this regard.

Is a Warranty Possible with a Used Car?

Yes! If you are looking at a Tacoma that is less than two years old, Toyota offers a two-year/25,000-mile, no-cost maintenance plan with the purchase or lease of every Toyota. This warranty covers normal factory scheduled maintenance during that period. Roadside assistance is also included. Toyota also has a standard 60-month warranty on corrosion, five years/60,000 miles on powertrain, and 36,000 for basic warranty items.

The Quick Pros and Cons of a Used Tacoma


The Toyota Tacoma is a solid, sturdy choice that has gained fans over the years for its off-roading capabilities and its higher payloads than other midsize trucks. It enjoys the win-win of being an affordable used option, while also having high resale value.


It has lower fuel efficiency and lower towing capacity than some competitors, something that increases with the age of the model. It also may feel less upscale than competitors.

Consider Adding A Backup Camera

If you are looking at a used Toyota Tacoma, consider putting in a backup camera to increase safety and security. Toyota cameras can be integrated with some factory-installed display radios. Customization can include universal cameras and displays which can fit nearly any model on the market today. This is not meant to be an exhaustive shopping guide. As always, customization and options will affect pricing.