One of the biggest considerations when getting into overlanding is what vehicle to choose, and it doesn’t take long to realize the Toyota Tacoma is possibly the number one overlanding rig. Just what makes them so popular?
Toyota Tacomas are quite possibly the most popular overlanding vehicle on the market today. This is mainly due to their compact size, availability of aftermarket parts and modifications, capable off-road performance, and their incredible reliability.
Tacomas) have a very loyal almost cult like following in general, but especially in the overland community. We will discuss why these small pickups have become so incredibly popular, and if they truly live up to the hype.
Tacomas Are the Perfect Size For An Overlanding Vehicle
The successor to the wildly popular “Toyota Pickup” (what a clever name right?), the Tacoma was first produced in 1995. Since then, Toyota Tacomas have become the gold standard that all other small pickup trucks are judged against. Even before overlanding really took off, Tacomas were one of the most popular pickup trucks in America, and have had a loyal and devoted fanbase for many years.
It is no surprise that Toyota Tacomas have become one of the most popular overlanding vehicles. Tacomas are classified as “mid-size” trucks, though they are one of the smallest trucks available today. For this reason they are quite capable of fitting on tight off-road trails, or brushy overgrown forest roads. This smaller size makes it possible to reach destinations that many larger overlanding vehicles simply can’t. If your goal is to get way off the beaten path, and go further than most overlanders, a stock or slightly modified Tacoma is one of the most cost effective vehicles you will find.
How Much Do Toyota Tacomas Cost
Speaking of cost, the price of Tacomas can be seen as quite the double-edged sword. Later I will discuss why many people think Toyotas are overpriced, but in many ways Tacomas are a decent value when it comes to an overland rig. Especially when compared to a full size pickup truck. At the time of writing the average price for a new Tacoma is $36,150. Compare that to the Ford F150 which starts at $34,585, and averages around $56,516!
Of course most people will buy their overlanding vehicle used, so we will need to discuss the difference between price and overall value which I will get into later.
Off-road and Overlanding Features Of Tacomas
One of the best things about Toyota Tacomas is how capable they come stock from the factory. Most models come with four-wheel drive standard, though there are many used 2 wheel drive models out there, which can make finding the perfect used one a little challenging at times. Aside from 4WD, the main aspect that will determine the features and capabilities will be the trim level.
The Tacoma currently comes in 7 different trim levels. Each one of these can be built into an amazing overlanding rig, but the best one straight from the factory would be the TRD Pro. The TRD Pro trim level comes with some pretty incredible off road features built in, such as: an electronic locking rear differential, FOX® Internal Bypass shocks, skid plates, and Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) with Crawl Control, which is Toyotas fancy off-road driving modes system.
Many used Tacomas can also be found with rear lockers, and skid plates, making them quite possibly the most capable overlanding truck without having to add any aftermarket modifications.
Tacomas Have Aftermarket Parts and Mods Galore
One of the great things about Tacomas is that not only can they be pretty good overland vehicles in their stock form, there are so many aftermarket parts that can be utilized to build them into the ultimate overlanding and offroad machine. From roof top tents to light bars, lift kits, to wheels and tires the sky is the limit, or more accurately your wallet is.
With a quick Google or YouTube search you can find a plethora of examples of pretty inspiring Tacoma builds. Everything from 20 year old rigs with second hand and homemade parts for under $10,000 for the whole package (getting pretty difficult to do that these days), to brand new trucks with all the top of the line gear bolted on at price tags topping $100,000! When it comes to Tacomas there really is something for everyone.
You certainly can’t discuss the greatness of the Toyota Tacoma without bringing up its almost legendary reliability. Toyota as a whole has long been known for producing very reliable vehicles, from their cars to SUVs and pickups. Used Toyota vehicles, including Tacomas are highly sought after due to the fact that they can run for hundreds of thousands of miles, and often don’t ever have any costly repairs during that time. If you ask most people how many miles on a vehicle would be considered “high mileage” they would likely say 200,000 or maybe 300,000. However, with Tacomas most wouldn’t consider them high mileage until around 400,000-500,000, or even more. There are many examples of Tacoma’s making it to a million miles and beyond- with the original engine and transmission!
Of course, there are also certain model years and specific parts that tend to have their issues, but as a whole they are likely more reliable than just about any other make or model of the most popular overlanding vehicles.
Toyota Tacomas Do Have Some Downsides
Given all of the great things about Tacoma pickups its pretty clear to see why they are one of the most popular overlanding vehicles. However, there is no perfect overlanding rig and the Tacoma does have a few negatives that might make you consider looking for a different vehicle.
The first potential drawback is their size. While their size can also be a significant advantage, being so small does lead to a few issues.
The first is the lack of interior space. If you are a larger person it is likely you will find the cab of a Tacoma quite cramped. Not only that, but the amount of room in the back seat is pretty underwhelming. While smaller adults can fit just fine, it does not make for a comfortable ride. Granted if you are using it for overlanding you probably won’t be hauling many passengers, and in fact many people opt to remove the rear seats in order to increase the amount of gear storage.
Another significant downside to the Tacoma is their payload capacity. While the 2WD version has a payload capacity of over 1400 lbs., the most popular overlanding model the TRD Pro’s max payload is only 1,050 lbs. This may seem like a lot but overlanding gear is heavy (and we tend to haul around a lot of it), and it doesn’t take long to add up a significant amount of weight. Or you might want to also use your truck for “truck things”, and for that 1000 lbs just isn’t that much.
The final con for Tacoma’s that can’t be overlooked is their price. Yes, I know I said earlier their price is a positive thing, and in some ways it is when compared to certain other vehicles. However, due to their known reliability, resale values are often higher than full size trucks of the same year and mileage. This has become known as the “Toyota Tax”. Essentially if you want a vehicle that is likely going to last longer than most, you are going to end up paying a little more for it up front.
There are definitely cheaper options for overlanding vehicles (that are still quite capable, and likely almost as dependable) on the market so you will need to decide if paying the extra price is worth it to you, or if you can live with a vehicle that maybe has a lower reliability rating and may have a few more repair costs over time.
In many ways the Toyota Tacoma, might seem like the perfect overlanding vehicle. Or at least a great starting point for building one. It definitely checks almost all the boxes for a quality rig that is extreme capable both on and off road. While it has a few downsides, overall Tacomas are one of the best overlanding vehicles available and will likely continue to be. If you find a good deal on one, you almost certainly won’t be disappointed