The Toyota Tacoma was introduced to the American market in 1995, replacing a truck simply called the Toyota Pickup. The third-generation Tacoma, which debuted for the 2016 model year, is designed to be as much a commuter vehicle as a work vehicle, though it’s quite capable of light-duty hauling and also makes an impressive off-roader. However, it will be another year or so before the 2016 Toyota Tacoma makes it into the U.S. News & World Report Used Vehicle Rankings, so we’re just going look at the 2009 through 2014 model years in this story.
Used Tacomas typically do very well in our rankings compared with the same model years of other small trucks. Generally, used Tacomas’ high scores are due to strong safety ratings and favorable reviews from critics. The Tacoma's reliability scores have also been above average for many model years, although the second-generation model had some problems, especially the 2010 model.
2009, 2010, and 2011
The 2009, 2010, and 2011 models of the Toyota Tacoma are ranked within our category of Used Compact Trucks under $20K, based on average sales prices. Of these Tacomas, the 2009 earns the highest overall score. Among other 2009 compact trucks, it comes in second to the Nissan Frontier and ties with the Honda Ridgeline. When new, the 2009 Tacoma earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a mix of 4-star and 5-star crash test scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2011, NHTSA changed its testing criteria, so scores from 2010 vehicles are not directly comparable to scores from vehicles from 2011 and later.
The 2010 Tacoma was not rated for several crash tests, though it fared well in the tests it did complete. Though there were no significant structural changes from year to year with this group of trucks, the 2011 Tacoma fared poorly in both IIHS’s and NHTSA’s updated battery of tests. The IIHS added a roof strength test that year, in which the Tacoma earned a Marginal rating. Scores from NHTSA were a mix of 3- and 5-star results.
Reliability for the 2009 Tacoma is about average; the 2011 Tacoma is rated a little higher and the 2010, a little lower. The closely ranked competitors from Nissan and Honda both have much better reliability scores over this same timeframe, which is a factor that should be considered if you're considering purchasing a used Tacoma.
According to critics, performance is where the 2009-2011 Tacoma really shines. This is based on reviews from when the trucks were new, of course; any used truck’s performance depends as much on how well it was cared for. The Tacoma’s base engine, a 159-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder, earned strong reviews at the time, though the compliments were more for its thrifty fuel economy than for its acceleration. Critics also liked the optional 236-horsepower 4.0-liter V6, which they said provided plenty of power. Though many reviewers said the Tacoma handled well off-road, they said its handling flaws were noticeable on pavement. Potential buyers should also note that many critics didn’t like the ride quality as a result of the Tacoma’s off-road-tuned suspension.
2012, 2013, and 2014
While the 2012, 2013, and 2014 versions of the Toyota Tacoma are part of the same generation as the trucks we’ve already discussed, they’re ranked among compact trucks that typically sell for more than $20,000. The other players in this category are the same for this timeframe – the Honda Ridgeline and the Nissan Frontier – with Honda consistently taking first place and Toyota taking second (though the two rivals did tie for first place in 2013). The 2014 Tacoma (the most recent model to appear in our used vehicle rankings) earned our award for the Best Compact Pickup Truck for the Money. The 2012 Toyota Tacoma was a midcycle refresh with updated interior and exterior styling. Reviews from this period indicate that the styling updates made a big difference in terms of cabin quality. Despite these changes, the structure of the truck is largely the same as the 2009 through 2011 pickups. Safety ratings are about the same across those years. Overall safety scores are good for the class.
Reliability for the 2012 and 2013 Tacoma are above average, about on par with the Nissan Frontier but not as good as the Honda Ridgeline. Reliability for the 2014 Toyota Tacoma has not yet been calculated because, based on J.D. Power’s methodology, the vehicle must be at least three years old. However, J.D. Power predicts it will be above average, like the two previous model years.
Like the earlier models of used Toyota Tacomas we’ve discussed, critics liked the 2012, 2013, and 2014 trucks’ performance. Engine options were the same through 2014 and kept pace with competitors. Some critics noted that the optional TRD off-road suspension packages made the Tacoma an even stronger trail-ready vehicle, adding to the off-road credentials that the truck has had since its inception.