Since its introduction more than a decade ago, the Toyota Tacoma has been a mainstay of the compact-pickup segment. Typical advantages to a new or used Tacoma include a variety of body styles to choose from, useful off-road abilities, solid build quality and a better-than-average reputation for reliability and durability.
Downsides are few. Even when modestly appointed, Toyota's compact pickup usually costs more than competing trucks from domestic manufacturers, and taller drivers might find the cabin of the first-generation Tacoma to be somewhat uncomfortable. But overall, the Toyota Tacoma is a very capable pickup and comes recommended for nearly all truck shoppers.
Current Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup truck available in a variety of body styles and trim levels. There is almost certainly a version that suits your needs. Three cab styles -- regular, extended cab (Toyota calls it an Access Cab) and crew cab (Double Cab) -- are offered on the Tacoma, as well as short or long cargo beds.
Available trim levels include the base, PreRunner and X-Runner versions. The base Tacoma is your basic work truck, with air-conditioning, a composite bedliner, a bed utility rail system, a CD player and not much else. The PreRunner provides the look and suspension of the four-wheel-drive trucks without the actual four-wheel-drive mechanicals, while the X-Runner features modifications that enhance on-street performance without giving up much utility. Of course there's also a true off-road package for 4WD trucks.
Engine choices include a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque and a 4.0-liter V6 that puts out 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Owners planning on frequent hauling or towing will certainly want to choose the V6. Available transmissions for the four-cylinder are either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. V6 buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic.
In Toyota Tacoma reviews, our editors have found the truck's roomy interior, powerful V6 option and excellent off-road capability to be its best attributes. Additionally, the Double Cab version is only the compact/midsize crew cab on the market available in both short- and long-bed configurations. Frequently noted dislikes in our consumer reviews include an occasionally rough ride quality, poor seat comfort and the inability to order leather seating as an option.
Used Toyota Tacoma Models
There have been very few changes to the second-generation Tacoma since its 2005 debut. It's important to note that in this first year, the Tacoma featured higher output numbers from its engine -- however, this was due to a change in testing procedure, not actual horsepower. Among notable changes, stability/traction control, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags were optional items prior to 2009 and may not be present on a used model.
The Tacoma nameplate dates back to 1995. It debuted in that year as a replacement for Toyota's long-running, and more simply named, "Pickup." This first-generation Tacoma is smaller than the one currently on sale but is still very capable and a fine choice for a used truck.
All first-generation Toyota Tacoma trucks came with one of two available four-cylinder engines or a 190-horsepower V6. Just like today, buyers could choose two- or four-wheel drive, along with either a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic transmission. Tacomas from the 1990s came in either regular-cab or extended-cab (Xtracab) body styles. Unlike some competing trucks of this period, Tacoma Xtracabs lacked a third door to aid in rear-seat access.
This issue was solved for the 2001 model year when Toyota came out with the crew-cab (Double Cab) body style for the Tacoma. The Double Cab had the most interior room in the Tacoma range and four standard-opening doors. In order to keep overall length reasonable for on- and off-road maneuverability, however, Toyota reduced the Double Cab's bed length. This setup proved problematic for certain Tacoma buyers, which is why Toyota added a long-bed option for the second-generation Double Cab.
The Toyota Tacoma's reputation for better-than-average reliability is certainly a big bonus in the used compact truck segment. From a buying perspective, no one year of the first-generation Tacoma stands out. Continual improvements were made throughout its run but none of them were drastic enough to limit the appeal of earlier years. From a safety standpoint, trucks built after 1997 would be preferable, as these will have a passenger-side airbag. In the first-generation truck's last model year, 2004, stability control became available as an option.
Read the most recent 2013 Toyota Tacoma review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota Tacoma page.
For more on past Toyota Tacoma models, view our Toyota Tacoma history page.