In this guide, I’ll analyze all Toyota Tacoma generations, revealing Toyota Tacoma’s best years to buy and the worst Tacoma years to avoid.
I compiled a comprehensive breakdown of Toyota Tacoma’s yearly reliability scores, owner-reported issues, and recall history by leveraging trusted sources like NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and VehicleHistory.
Beyond just year categorizations, you’ll discover the details behind each Toyota Tacoma model’s highs and lows, power train options, and technological and safety features.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of ContentsShow
Toyota Tacoma Generations
The Toyota Tacoma debuted in 1995, forging its path in the competitive mid-sized truck market. The first generation was lauded for its compact size, affordability, and ruggedness – attributes that appealed to casual drivers and enthusiasts alike.
For a more precise understanding, let’s tabulate all Toyota Tacoma generations from 1995:
|1st generation (N140/N150/N160/N170/N190)||1995-2004|
|2nd generation (N220/N240/N250/N260/N270)||2005-2015|
|3rd generation (N300)||2016-2023|
|4th generation (N400)||2024-Present|
Technological enhancements, design shifts, or performance tweaks between generations can be significant, often as a pivotal deciding factor for potential buyers.
Toyota Tacoma Best, Neutral, and Worst Years
When ranking and categorizing the best and worst years for the Toyota Tacoma, we take a holistic approach, considering many factors, including but not limited to:
- Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
- Annual maintenance costs
- Safety ratings
- Consumer Reports reliability scores
- Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
- NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
- Edmunds owner ratings
- JD Power owner ratings
- Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
- VehicleHistory owner ratings
- Cars.com owner ratings
For a more precise grasp, I’ll present a comprehensive graph combining ratings from the sources above.
Here is a table where we’ve collated all Toyota Tacoma model years and ranked them into best, neutral, and worst Tacoma years.
|Generation||Best Years||Neutral Years||Worst Years|
|1st generation (N140/N150/N160/N170/N190)||2000|
|2nd generation (N220/N240/N250/N260/N270)||2013|
|3rd generation (N300)||2020|
|4th generation (N400)||2024||N/A||N/A|
Neutral Years are those that didn’t particularly stand out as either spectacularly reliable or notably problematic. They sit comfortably in between the Toyota Tacoma’s best and worst years.
Certain factors, such as NHTSA recalls, negatively affect a vehicle’s reliability. Essentially, the more complaints and recalls a car accumulates, the less reliable it becomes for consumers and experts.
Let’s dive deeper into the Toyota Tacoma’s best, neutral, and worst years.
Best & Worst Years for Toyota Tacoma 1st Generation (1995-2004)
As the successor to the Toyota Hilux, the Toyota Tacoma, which debuted in 1995, was poised to establish a significant foothold, combining Toyota’s reputation for durability with modern design aesthetics and utility.
Toyota Tacoma model years from 2000 to 2004 are the best years of the generation, while it is wise to avoid 1995 and 1996 altogether due to their age and reliability concerns.
The Best Years: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
Considering the owner complaints, recall history, age, and affordability, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 are undoubtedly the best first-generation Toyota Tacoma years.
These engines could be paired with a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy averaged 17 city / 22 highway mpg for the 3.5L V6 variation.
Trim levels like the PreRunner offered off-road capabilities, while the Xtracab provided extended space.
Technological and safety enhancements included optional anti-lock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution.
However, even with these advancements, frame corrosion was an issue noted by several owners, particularly in regions with heavy salt usage.
The Neutral Years: 1997, 1998, 1999
The middle years of the first-generation Tacoma – 1997, 1998, and 1999 offered a balanced performance.
These models retained engine choices from the 2.4L I4 to the more potent 3.4L V6. Regarding fuel consumption, the V6 model goes 17 city / 21 highway mpg.
Trim levels like SR5 catered to those wanting more interior amenities, and Toyota Tacoma 4×4 variants were available for off-road enthusiasts.
Introducing passenger-side airbags and improved side-impact protection is noteworthy, showcasing Toyota’s commitment to safety.
Yet, issues persisted. Owners reported subframe corrosion, problematic vibrations, and inconsistent brake performance.
The Worst Years: 1995, 1996
Our research shows that regarding owner complaints and recall history, 1995 and 1996 were the worst years for the first-generation Toyota Tacoma that you should avoid.
Regrettably, they grappled with teething problems. The primary issue was the suspension – cracked lower ball joints and widespread corrosion led to significant reliability concerns.
The 1996 Toyota Tacoma faced additional problems, with numerous complaints about head gasket failures.
While these models laid the foundation for what Tacoma would become, they also served as lessons on the areas needing improvement.
Best & Worst Years for Toyota Tacoma 2nd Generation (2005-2015)
The second generation of the Toyota Tacoma, introduced in 2005, aimed to build on the strengths of its predecessor while rectifying previous shortcomings.
2005-2010 are the least reliable Toyota Tacoma years you should avoid altogether in the second generation. 2013-2015 are Toyota Tacoma’s some of the best and most reliable years ever.
The Best Years: 2013, 2014, 2015
What years are the best for Toyota Tacoma? Referring to the recalls, owner complaints, and average resale values, I can confirm that 2013, 2014, and 2015 are undeniably the best Tacoma years of the second generation.
These models also boasted a 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic, and a 5-speed automatic transmission, catering to various preferences.
Trim levels ranged from the base model to the TRD Pro, each with advanced safety features, infotainment, and creature comforts.
Minimal recalls and enhanced build quality set these years apart as some of the best years in Tacoma’s lineage.
The Neutral Years: 2011, 2012
The 2011 and 2012 Tacomas presented a mix of commendations and criticisms.
Retaining the robust engine lineup from earlier years, they continued to offer reliable performance and versatility.
Updated audio systems and minor interior tweaks elevated the user experience. Safety was enhanced with Toyota’s Star Safety System, including Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control.
However, these years were not without their problems. Frame rusting persisted, and the 2012 Toyota Tacoma introduced engine issues, specifically with the secondary air injection system, indicated mainly by the “Check Engine” light illumination.
Necessary recalls for the 2012 and 2013 models covered brake actuator failures that may disable ESC and ABS.
Drivetrain vibrations were also a concern. These mixed reviews place these years in a neutral position, offering reliability and challenges.
The Worst Years: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
What were the bad years for the Toyota Tacoma? Launching the second generation, the 2005 to 2010 Toyota Tacoma experienced many issues, so it’s wise to avoid these years.
Frame corrosion was rampant, notably in 2005, 2006, and 2007 Toyota Tacoma models, leading to recalls and impacting steering and suspension. Necessary recalls covered cracking leaf springs due to corrosion and the accelerator pedal stuck.
The 2007, 2008, and 2009 editions faced transmission troubles, including driveshaft fractures due to corrosion.
The 2010 Toyota Tacoma saw similar corrosion problems; recalls were issued concerning heated seats and the tire pressure monitoring system.
Collectively, these challenges make these years the most problematic of the second-generation Tacoma.
Best & Worst Years for Toyota Tacoma 3rd Generation (2016-2023)
The third generation of the Toyota Tacoma, which began in 2016, presented a significant departure from its predecessors, with technological advancements, improved interior quality, and enhanced safety measures.
The only Toyota Tacoma year you should avoid – 2016 is the most problematic Tacoma of the generation, while 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 are the best years for the third-generation Toyota Tacoma.
The Best Years: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
What years are the most reliable Tacoma? Our research concludes that with the latest power train options, technological enhancements, and safety measures, 2020 to 2023 are marked as Toyota Tacoma’s best years in the generation.
Coupled with a 6-speed automatic or RC62F manual transmission, these models delivered performance and fuel efficiency.
The advanced infotainment system, now standard, featured Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Always paramount safety was accentuated by Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite, which included automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
These years exemplify what Tacoma was capable of when engineering, safety, and consumer feedback aligned.
The Neutral Years: 2017, 2018, 2019
The years 2017 through 2019 offered a balanced performance for the Toyota Tacoma.
These models retained the commendable engine options and boasted technological features like a touchscreen infotainment system.
They also incorporated safety advancements, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
However, challenges persisted. Issues with fuel pump failures were documented, and recalls were instituted for the 2018 and 2019 models due to a damaged brake master cylinder seal, potentially reducing braking performance.
While these Toyota Tacoma model years offered significant improvements and were far from problematic, the mentioned issues prevent them from being classified as the “best.”
The Worst Years: 2016
Unfortunately, the 2016 Tacoma, the debut year for the third generation, was plagued by various engine, electrical, and transmission issues.
What are the 2016 Toyota Tacoma’s problems and recalls? Many owners reported oil leaks from the timing chain cover, engine stalling, gear slipping, and excessive jerking.
The truck was not immune to recalls either, addressing issues from crankshaft position sensor malfunctions to oil leaks from the rear differential.
Despite its advanced features and redesigned aesthetics, the recurring technical problems of the 2016 Toyota Tacoma are the main reasons I would advise you to avoid this model year.
Best & Worst Years for Toyota Tacoma 4th Generation (2024-Present)
Revealed on May 19, 2023, the fourth-generation Toyota Tacoma exemplifies a combination of rugged aesthetics and cutting-edge tech.
Built on the TNGA-F global body-on-frame platform, a shared foundation with the Toyota Tundra (XK70), this Tacoma echoes its commitment to durability and performance.
The Best Years: 2024
The 2024 Toyota Tacoma houses a 2.4L T24A-FTS turbocharged I4 engine, outputting 228–278 hp and 243–317 pound-feet of torque, varying by trim and transmission.
Alternatively, an i-Force Max hybrid version offers an impressive 326 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Most engines pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual option exists for select trims.
It offers a vast range of trims. Six are carried over SR, SR5, Limited, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and TRD Pro. Two additions stand out — the Trailhunter, equipped for overlanding, and the return of the TRD PreRunner, an off-road-oriented two-wheel drive trim.
Notably, the TRD Pro is wider and taller than the SR5 and features IsoDynamic seats and Fox Factory racing shocks. The Trailhunter boasts a suspension crafted by ARB with Old Man Emu components, distinguishable by its snorkel engine air intake and bronze accents. The TRD PreRunner is restricted to the XtraCab body and rear-wheel-drive configuration.
Chassis advancements include using laser-welded high-strength steel for increased rigidity and aluminum body components to reduce weight.
Toyota Tacoma Average Resale Values
The graph below shows a comprehensive overview of the Toyota Tacoma’s average resale values across different model years.
After delving into the extensive history of the Toyota Tacoma, it’s evident that the 2013-2015 and 2020-2023 models stand out as the best Tacoma model years for their reliability and features, making them top choices for potential buyers.
Considering our deep analysis, which of the best Toyota Tacoma years appeals most to you and why?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!