Here at Gear Patrol motoring desk, we love Toyota off-roaders. The 4Runner SUV and Tacoma pickup are cool. They’re capable. Their build quality leaves little to quibble about. If you’re not doing performative feats of rock climbing on the regular — most SUV owners aren’t — a Tacoma or 4Runner may be the best tool for the job. But here’s that being said, here is some crucial advice.
Now is is a terrible time to buy a Toyota off-roader.
New 4Runner and Tacoma generations are coming soon
Toyota updated the Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV to its new TNGA-F platform. The 4Runner and Tacoma are next to make that move, potentially for the 2024 model year. Judging from the improvements to the Tundra and Sequoia, the new 4Runner and Tacoma should be worth waiting for. Better performance? Better fuel economy? Better handling? Better ride quality? Nicer interior? Enhanced safety tech? The new 4Runner and Tacoma will get all of it. Hybrid and electric versions are coming too.
The current 4Runner and Tacoma generations are outdated
The case for buying a 4Runner and Tacoma right would come from the heart, not the head. Toyota off-roaders, especially the 4Runner, are overwhelmed by updated competitors. Both have big, inefficient naturally-aspirated engines. The 4Runner and Tacoma feature wonky five-speed and six-speed gearboxes, respectfully, at a time when the competition packs smooth, seamless 8, 9 or 10-speed units. Rival interiors are more comfortable, more tech-forward and more spacious. Going from a Tacoma or 4Runner to a new Wrangler or Bronco can feel like traveling into the future.
Prices are high right now for Toyota off-roaders
Almost every factor is driving up prices for the Tacoma and 4Runner. Dealers have low inventory due to the chip shortage and supply chain issues, which creates incredible demand for popular models like the 4Runner and Tacoma — some of the best-selling vehicles in their segments. New prices are increasing, especially when you factor in dealer markups. Gently used Toyota off-roaders can be even more expensive than new ones. Get inspired by the pandemic to build out a sweet overlanding rig? So did everyone else. The days of getting a sweet deal — like a cheap $300/month lease on a Tacoma Off-Road — are long gone.
And that vaunted Toyota resale value may not last
The justification for paying a lot on the front end for a 4Runner or Tacoma is their durability and glacial depreciation. You could drive these cars for a decade, run the mileage count into six figures, and still get $20,000 or more for it on the back end — before the recent price spike.
That may be about to change.
The shift to battery-electric vehicles is coming quickly. It will be the most remarkable transportation shift since moving to internal combustion. EV skeptics are looking more and more like the people who said they'd never buy a smartphone.
We don’t know what that will do to the resale value of gasoline-powered cars. But how much is a 4Runner that earns fewer than 20 mpg on the highway going to be worth in 10-15 years when states like California have outlawed gasoline cars, companies like GM have ceased selling them and gas stations are beginning to convert to charging stations? Gas-guzzling vintage SUV prices may already be falling.
A 4Runner or Tacoma may be a high-quality item built to last. But so was a custom-built carriage in 1910.