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You Decide: Toyota Tundra vs. Tacoma

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When it comes to choosing a truck, the Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra are two popular options worth considering. The Tacoma is the top-selling midsize truck in the United States, selling nearly 200,000 units in 2017. The Tundra is a full-sized truck, with more than 116,000 units sold in 2017. Which you pick will likely be determined by how you want to use it.


The Toyota Tundra

Tale of the Tape:

Full-Sized Pickup Truck

Payload: up to 1,620 lbs

Towing: up to 10,100 lbs

The Toyota Tundra has two engine choices:

  • i-Force 4.6 Liter V8 – 310 hp, 327 ft-lbs of torque
  • i-Force 5.7 Liter V8 – 381 hp, 401 ft-lbs of torque

The Tundra’s base 4.6 liter engine is powerful and can handle everyday driving and use. If you plan on towing and hauling regularly, you may want to consider the larger 5.7 liter engine with more hp and torque.

The Toyota Tacoma

Tale of the Tape:

Mid-Sized Pickup Truck

Payload: up to 1,620 lbs

Towing: up to 3,500-6,800 lbs

The Tacoma Tundra has two engine choices:

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

Towing Strength

Naturally, the mid-sized Tacoma has less towing strength than the full-sized Tundra. The Tacoma has a towing capacity of 3,500-6,800 lbs. That’s enough to pull lightweight trailers, or a utility trailer with a couple of snowmobiles or personal watercraft. The full-sized Tundra has a maximum towing capacity of 10,100 lbs, enough for almost anything you would want to tow.

Keep in mind that the more you want to tow, the more engine you’ll need and the lower your fuel mileage will be.

Payload Capacity

Payloads are influenced by engine, axle ratio, and transmission. In making your choice, think carefully about what you need. You may have the urge to load up your truck with maximum payload and towing capacity, but you don’t want to pay for something you won’t use.

In terms of payload capacity, the two vehicles match up, although the Tundra has a longer bed available. The Toyota Tundra comes in 5’5”, 6’5”, and 8’ beds, with a 1,620 lb payload. The Toyota Tacoma has 5’ and 6’ bed options and an identical payload at 1,620 lbs.

Better Fuel Efficiency

While fuel efficiency for midsized and full-sized trucks still doesn’t rival that of most cars, it has improved dramatically over the past year.

The Toyota Tacoma rates an EPA estimated mileage of 18 city/22 highway miles per gallon. Different models and configurations can impact mileage, but the lowest rated performer still rates 17 city/20 highway miles per gallon.The 4.6 Liter V8 standard on the Toyota Tundra gets 15 city/19 highway miles per gallon, and the 5.7 Liter V8 gets an EPA estimated MPG of 13 city/18 highway.

Tech & Safety

Starting with its 2017 models, and continuing with the 2018 models, Toyota has significantly upped both its interior tech and safety game. Both trucks have nearly identical tech and safety features.

Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra Standard Safety Features:

  • Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection
  • Lane departure alert
  • Automatic high beams
  • Dynamic radar cruise control
  • Vehicle stability control
  • Traction control
  • Anti-lock brake system
  • Brake assist
  • Smart stop technology
  • Trailer sway control
  • Tire pressure monitoring system

Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra Optional Safety Features:

  • Blind spot monitor
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Front and rear parking sonar
  • Anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer

The Tacoma also offers a hill start assist control on some models.

Comparison Pricing

As you’d expect, you’ll pay more for a full-size truck than a mid-sized one. The 2018 Toyota Tacoma starts at $25,200 MSRP, while the 2018 Toyota Tundra carries an MSRP of $31,120, not including destination freight, tax, title, license, and dealer fees.

When you start adding in some of the more popular trim levels and packages, the price can shoot up into the $40,000 to $50,000 range. The top trim level for the Tacoma TRD Pro can cost you more than $41,000. The Platinum Tundra is Toyota’s priciest truck with a price tag of $47,000.

Changes for 2018 and 2019

In its 2018 models, Toyota upgraded the standard active safety features, including automatic emergency braking, auto high beams, and adaptive cruise control. The optional 5-speed manual transmission was phased out.

There aren’t many changes for the 2019 Tacoma, with the exception of the TRD Pro model, which will have some design upgrades, better shocks, improved front suspension, and a relocated air intake for dust reduction when going off-road.

The 2019 Tundra will have few substantive changes to its base models and only some minor updates to its TRD Pro model, adding Fox off-road shocks and Rigid Industries LED fog lights, LED headlights, a hood scoop, and all-terrain options.

Warranties

Toyota offers a two-year or 25,000 miles (whichever comes first) no-cost maintenance plan with the purchase or lease of every new Toyota. That covers normal factory scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance. Toyota also has a standard 60-month warranty on corrosion, five years or 60,000 miles on power train, and 36,000 miles for basic warranty items.

Pros and Cons

Toyota Tacoma:

PROS: Great for off-roading, with higher payload than most competitors in its class.

CONS: Lower fuel economy, lower towing capacity, and less upscale feel than some competitors.

Toyota Tundra:

PROS: Lots of legroom in the rear seats and an outstanding rating for reliability.

CONS: Lower towing and hauling capacity and higher base price than some competitors in its class.

Decide What You Need First

It’s hard to go wrong when choosing between the full-sized Toyota Tundra and the mid-sized Toyota Tacoma, but before you decide which truck is right for you, you need to determine exactly what you’ll need it for. A full-size truck is great, but is it worth paying the extra money? That’s a personal decision only you can make.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive shopping guide; it’s simply an overview to help shoppers make a comparison. Vehicle customization will affect pricing. Whichever No matter which vehicle you choose, consider adding truck backup cameras for safety and security.