What Are the Best and Worst Years for the Toyota Tacoma?


If you’re considering buying a Toyota Tacoma, you have a lot of options available. 

You may have heard good things about the truck, but maybe you’re not sure whether you should buy a vehicle that’s new or used. 

Tacoma has been around since 1995, so you’ve got lots of options (some better than others).

Generally, the 2015 Toyota Tacoma model has gotten good reviews, while the 2016 and 2017 models are worse. The Tacoma is a great truck for offroading and commuting, and has its good and bad years. The newer the Tacoma, the fewer complaints there generally are, but reliability is still being tested.

What makes a model year good or bad? 

And what specifically makes these model years better or worse than others? 

We’d be happy to help you explore these questions before you decide the year of Tacoma you want to buy.

Tacoma Overview

A Brief History

As stated above, Tacoma was first introduced in 1995. 

For decades, Toyota had been making a small truck model that was simply called the Toyota Truck. 

This truck was the forerunner of the Tacoma. 

With the new name came better comfort and handling.

In the beginning, that was pretty much the only difference between the Tacoma and its predecessor.

In the early 2000s, the style received some major upgrades including a sleeker rounded look. 

By 2005, Toyota got in the groove and designed the aesthetic with which Tacoma lovers are so familiar. 

New trims were invented to make personalizing your Tacoma even easier.

There have been three total Tacoma generations so far. 

The third generation started in 2016 and continues today.

The third generation improved upon the exterior and increased the strength of the newer models. 

There are now six trims available, as well as two cab options.

What Are Tacomas Known For?

Buying a truck isn’t a cheap endeavor. 

In most cases, you should be prepared to pay at least $30,000 even for a used truck.

Luckily, Tacomas generally run on the cheaper end of the benchmark. 

While other trucks like a used Ford F-150 cost upwards of $42,000, Tacoma only sits around $37,000.

While definitely not the cheapest truck on the market, the Tacoma is one of the best trucks you can get on a budget.

For the money, the Toyota Tacoma is a great truck that will likely last you a long time.

Even in what was quite possibly its worst year, (2017) the Tacoma sold twice as many units as the Chevrolet Colorado (a long-time competitor). 

The Colorado may have a better price with a more luxurious interior, but it probably won’t last as long as the Tacoma and may require more repairs.

Customer Satisfaction

Trucks are a popular car. 

They’re handy for hauling trailers and campers and they have lots of room for cargo in the bed

Trucks also make great off-roading vehicles. 

They have high clearance so driving over large bumps and rocks won’t harm the undercarriage. 

Some truck owners have even draped a tarp in the bed and filled the area with water. 

Their kids love the makeshift swimming pool!

These perks are no surprise if you’re interested in trucks.

The question is, which trucks do people like the most? Maybe you’ve heard a lot of good things about the Toyota Tacoma. 

Overall, consumers are quite pleased with their Tacomas, but there are some years that have more complaints than others.

“The 2015 Tacoma tops the list of best used Tacomas,” says Motor Biscuit.

This is not accounting for the oldest and newest years, which can skew the data because they haven’t been tested as long or in the same ways. 

Overall, it seems that the 2015 Tacoma and the 2014 Tacoma have had the fewest consumer complaints.

The biggest area of complaint about the 2015 is that the brakes may have trouble engaging. This is closely followed by engine, suspension, and windows/windshield problems. 

The biggest engine problem the 2015 has seen is that there is a strange grinding noise when the engine is turned off.

If these few complaints are an issue for you, you might be more interested in the 2014, but it has had far more complaints about how well the interior accessories work. 

Pick your battles. The 2015 Tacoma will also only cost you between about $16,000-$25,000. 

That’s a pretty good price for the reliability you’re getting! 

Even with the brakes being a major complaint, with routine checks and maintenance, your 2015 Toyota Tacoma is likely to run smoothly with little to no problems.

One of the most criticized Tacoma years was 2016.

This year had an overwhelming number of transmission and engine issues.

The next closest complaint area was the body and paint. 

The 2016 transmission tends to have a difficult time switching to drive when it’s cold out and it also has some hesitation when shifting.

For the engine, the most common complaints about the 2016 are that the engine is obnoxiously loud and shakes the entire cab. 

There are some instances of the engine stalling or the engine light being turned on. 

Altogether, the 2016 is not quite as reliable as the previous year.

Another poor year for Tacoma was 2009.

There has been an astonishing number of consumer complaints about the interior accessories. 

For some reason, the radio seems to turn off without warning. 

If you don’t listen to the radio, this might still be a great truck for you, though you may still experience some trouble with the lights, body, and engine.

Multiple sources list the 2015 as the most popular used Tacoma. 

It has the fewest customer complaints, according to Car Complaints, does better in sales than leading competing brands, and is set at a reasonable price.

Affordability

If you’re the sort of person who badly wants a truck, but doesn’t really have the budget for one, you’re probably looking for the Tacoma that is the cheapest. 

Since it’s been around so long, the 1996 Tacoma is easily the cheapest year.

This year can be purchased for $7,000-$9,000.

Because the cheapest price often comes with the most expensive repairs, the 1996 is probably not the best Tacoma to get.

You’d probably be better off getting something second-generation, such as the 2001 ($11-12,000), or the third generation, like the 2015 (about $27,000). 

The later models tend to last longer.

Though the early Tacoma years have brought in very few complaints overall, their age makes them more liable to need frequent and expensive repairs.

New Tacomas will be on the higher end of the price range but have less data regarding reliability and customer satisfaction. 

It just hasn’t been long enough to judge their quality yet.

If you stick to a good year in the middle of the Tacoma’s lifetime, you’ll probably be happy with the price you paid for your truck. 

That said, years to avoid in the 2nd and 3rd generation include:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2009
  • 2012
  • 2016
  • 2017

These years have received the highest number of complaints on Car Complaints.

Listen to your fellow consumers and avoid the problems they have run into with their Tacomas.

Because the cost of repairs can be high with some of these years, it’s probably best to just stick with a more expensive and more reliable Tacoma.

Reliability

The first question you’ll want answered when buying a car is, “Will this car be reliable?” The last thing you want to happen is to spend thousands of dollars on a new truck, only to have to spend thousands more on repairs. 

The most money you want to spend on your vehicle is the price of routine oil changes and inspections.

To avoid expensive repairs, you will want to find the most reliable Tacoma on the market. 

Whenever there is a widespread safety problem found in a vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will issue a recall.

This means if you own that specific vehicle, you get free repairs on the part that caused the problem.

What is concerning about recalls is that an unknown problem existed and the vehicle was allowed to be sold. 

When you buy one of these vehicles, even if the recalled part has been repaired or replaced, you are putting your safety at the hands of a machine that has been known to malfunction.

According to ToyotaProblems.com, the Tacoma has had 51 recalls since its conception in 1995. The years with the most recalls have been 2009 and 2010.

It would probably be a good idea to stay away from these years, just to be safe. 

The years with the fewest recalls are:

  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018

There is no data provided by ToyotaProblems.com for years after 2019, but it’s clear that from 2005 to 2013, Toyota had a lot of problems in their Tacomas.

As such, we recommend you purchase a Tacoma older than 2013.

Efficiency

Now you have a good idea of prices and reliability. 

But what about efficiency? You want your truck to be fast, environmentally friendly, roomy, and powerful. 

You want a vehicle with good gas mileage that can pull heavy loads.

Maybe the whole reason you’re looking into trucks is that you want a good vehicle to take off-road.

Which Tacoma years are the best at all of those things? With 26 different years of Tacoma, finding the one that drives the way you want can be tricky. 

Hopefully, we’ll be able to give you the information you need to make a good choice.

Since the 2015 Tacoma appears to be the best overall, let’s talk about that year first. 

If you’re hoping for good mileage, this might not be the best option. 

It has a fuel economy of 19mpg on the highway and 24mpg in the city.

Regardless, it is comfortable for long drives and offers lots of cabin space.

It has a 4-speed automatic transmission and a 4 cylinder 2.7 engine with a horsepower of 159. 

You can choose a variety of packages that include all sorts of gadgets and accessories like:

  • Cruise control
  • Navigation system
  • Rear camera
  • Text-to-speech
  • Power locks
  • And more!

Let’s compare those specs to the 2016, which has been the year to receive the most user complaints. 

The fuel economy of the 2016 is slightly worse than the 2015 at 19/23mpg. 

It has the same towing capacity but can hold more in the truck bed than the 2015 can.

It has an ECT-i 6-speed transmission that can switch between automatic and manual at your leisure. It has the same engine as the 2015, with the same horsepower. 

The 2016 includes way more accessories than the 2015 does, and has more package options as well.

However, the 2016 had recalls on parts as small as the bolts in the 6-cylinder engine. 

The 2015 recalls included an incorrect label and a weakened hood scoop adhesive.

The 2017 year is one of Tacoma’s bestselling models. It has a lot of the same features as the 2016 but includes a lot of features that are only optional in the 2016 model.

Both the 2016 and 2017 are roomier in the front seat than the 2015, at the expense of the backseat.

If you plan on doing a lot of solo driving, this could be great for you!

The Tacoma is a good truck all around.

It has lots of cool toys, great horsepower, and a large towing capacity

If you care more about the features and accessories, you’ll want to go for newer years, but that might give you more problems than the trusty 2015 model.

The Best And Worst Tacoma

While the 2015 Tacoma may not have all the bells and whistles that 2016 and onward boast, it is a sturdy truck that will get the job done.

It will likely last you longer than most other years while giving you minimal problems. 

We’d consider this year to be the best Tacoma that Toyota has made.

The worst model would probably be the 2016 if we’re talking strictly reliability. 

For how much you’re paying for this car, you shouldn’t have to deal with the repairs that would surely come with a 2016 or 2017 Toyota Tacoma. 

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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