Tacoma 3rd Gen Reliability (BUYERS GUIDE)

If you are in the market for a used 3rd Generation Toyota Tacoma then this article could shed some light. I’ll share some real-world feedback from 3rd Gen Tacoma owners discussing their trucks and what sort of reliability they’ve experienced over the years. 

The 3rd generation 4.0 V6 and 2.7 4-cylinder Tacoma’s are well engineered trucks with a decent track record for reliability and high mileage.

This article discusses how the Toyota Tacoma fairs as a used truck and what common issues you should be aware of.

It’s always a gamble when purchasing any used car no matter what the internet forums and service books tells you. Sometimes you just never can tell, since even Tacoma owners reported buying so-called “lemons”, so you’ll never know until you really know.

Tacoma 3rd Gen Reliability – The Honest truth

With that being said, history has proven that certain brands tend to hold their value better over time and make for a safer used option than others. A quick look online at 3rd Gen Tacoma reviews and ratings will have you believe that the Tacoma’s reliability is average and actually perceived to be lower than the previous gen 2. This is not entirely accurate since many of these reviews were carried out on the latest models.

Many early models of any new release have their teething issues. Also the Tacoma’s are a far cry from the bare bones basic 1st generations, and sport many new creature comforts, technology, and safety features. The more technology you build into any vehicle, the higher the chances are of something breaking.

This doesn’t necessarily make them unreliable and over time many of the initial teething issues were resolved through TSB (Technical Service Bulletins) which then got rolled out one the production line.

The stats and data proves that the Gen 3 Tacoma is still the most reliable mid-size truck in production, and that Toyota is still the most reliable brand.

So sure, there might be certain early model “Tacos” to be wary of, however, they are more the exception than the rule.

Don’t take my word for it, let’s look at what actual Tacoma Owners have to say…

Owners Feedback – 3rd Gen Tacoma Reliability

I have both a 2nd and 3rd gen and one is in no way more reliable than the other. Don’t buy a 2019 wait for the 2020s to start hitting the lots cool new features such as a larger in dash screen, led headlights and taillights, and power adjustable front seats to name a few. Don’t be intimidated to buy a 3rd gen, i prefer it to my 2nd gen, but still do love my sport. Good luck.

https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/are-2016-2019-tacoma-really-less-reliable-than-previous-gen-2015.621924/

Reliability can only be gauged over time. How can something that hasn’t been around long be rated on something that can only be manifested over a period of time?

Having said that, the ‘16’s did have issues that were addressed through TSB’s as was already pointed out. I have a ‘19 and have had no problems with it whatsoever.

I suggest taking a good long test drive of the particular truck you’re interested in and going from there in order to ensure you like it. But I wouldn’t worry about reliability. It’s single most reason I bought my truck. It’s still going to be head and shoulders above any other make available in that category…

https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/are-2016-2019-tacoma-really-less-reliable-than-previous-gen-2015.621924/

Good point!

Ultimately since Toyota added a lot more complexity, it will just by default probably be less reliable. If you are comparing say an old school 4 cylinder with a 4 speed transmission and a low compression ratio vs our new Otto/Attkinson, double injector, variable valve timing, high compression ratio 6 speed transmission, just by default it will be less reliable because there is more to break/wear out.

Having said that, the data clearly shows Tacoma is the most reliable mid size truck on the market and Toyota is the most reliable brand.

https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/are-2016-2019-tacoma-really-less-reliable-than-previous-gen-2015.621924/

The only problem I had with my ’17 was the instrument cluster. I had to have it replaced at 1500 miles. The tach was sticking in hot weather. The only complaint I have is Toyota’s lack of added features that most vehicles have these days. Like intermittent wipers for one.

https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/3rd-gen-reliability-experience-from-owners-so-far.647026/

I’ve had zero issues with my ’16 other than the rear diff leak that was fixed in the recall. Other than that, it’s been solid as a rock.

https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/3rd-gen-reliability-experience-from-owners-so-far.647026/

Seems to me the Tacoma owners are a pretty happy bunch. Sure all vehicles have their minor niggles here and there, non are perfect, but nothing too serious.

Below is a list of some of the problematic items reported by owners. These are by no means common issues or known issues, but just a short list of what owners have reported.

Reported Issues

  • Rear differential howling
  • Malfunctioning Instrument cluster.
  • Cracked OEM windshields
  • Groaning clutch pedal
  • Rear Diff Seal
  • Factory radio faulty
  • Dash rattle near the passenger tweeter
  • Blower fan for the AC/heat broke

There have been many reports of Automatic transmissions misbehaving. The shifting on the auto is far from perfect, always seeming to be searching for the correct gear and hampering acceleration at times. Many have managed to have it sorted with a software update at the dealerships while others reported it made very little to no difference at all. Others report the throw of the manual to be too long – although the manual appears to be less problematic.

When purchasing a second hand vehicle there’s always two trains of thought.

  1. Lower price in decent overall condition, irrespective of mileage.
  2. Paying a premium price for a low mileage vehicle.

However, if you’re on a tight budget, the Tacoma might not be in your price range because they really hold their value well. If you are prepared to pay premium price for a used truck with a good reputation for reliability, Gen 3 Tacoma should be high up on your list!

Buying a Tacoma with 100K miles

Many people tend to think that buying a used truck with 90K miles on the clock and all its original components  is way more risky than purchasing the same vehicle with 150K on the clock but had all its hanging parts replaced. Wear and tear components include but not limited to:

  1. Starters
  2. Alternators
  3. Clutch kits
  4. Battery
  5. AC Compressor

One common issue amongst Tacoma owners is RUST!

The issue of frame rot and body rust is probably of more concern than the mileage on these trucks. Obviously, depending on where you live, some will be more prone to rust than others living closer to the coastline. There the salt air attacks and corrodes the metal a lot quicker compared to vehicles living In-land.  

There are many real-life examples of people who, after searching long and hard found exactly what they were looking for and purchased a Tacoma with close to 100K miles, and went on driving them well into 250K miles with little to no hassle at all. Generally speaking, most people consider 90K miles on a vehicle to be high, however the Tacoma can run well into 200K miles without major issues.

When purchasing a used Tacoma with close to 100K miles look out for:

  1. Frame Rot
  2. Body Rust
  3. Plugs after 30-40K miles
  4. Paint chips
  5. Driveline vibration
  6. Clutch pedal issues on manual transmissions
  7. Off-road abuse

The Body rust and Frame Rot will cost you allot more to repair and can be easily identified with a thorough inspection.

Resources

Tacoma Repair Manual (06-18)

Tacoma 4WD Repair Manual (05-15)

Tacoma Transfer Case and Diff Service Gaskets

Tacoma Blower Assembly

Tacoma Clutch Kit

Synthetic Oil

Conclusion

The Gen3 Tacoma is truly built “Toyota tough” and proved to be a much lower risk as used truck option when compared to the competition. What could also help is registering for a CARFAX account to assist with repairs etc.  Make a note of the VIN and do a thorough investigation about the Tacoma’s life up until now. Mileage on a Tacoma shouldn’t be your first point of call, since if looked after and maintained properly will rack up plenty miles with little to no major drama.

It’s Rust, lack of maintenance, abuse, heavily modified, cheap suspension upgrades, and accident damage that should be your main concern when buying a high mileage Tacoma. Also remember, it’s a mid-sized truck that’s not the best towing vehicle, especially when fully loaded.

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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