Seven Months of 4×4 Research

Between August and December 2019 I was studying for the project management professional designation and during this same period of time I started heavily researching details about a new Toyota 4×4 vehicle. I knew there were three available options to consider: 4Runner, FJ or Tacoma.

A few years back I wrote an article called my obsession with mid size trucks, as it turns out this article didn’t provide quit the amount of information I was hoping for, as it was more about the trucks of 2014 and the upcoming release of the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado. Today, neither of those trucks were on my list of desirable modes of transportation and thus I had to start from scratch with researching the three-Toyota models against my expectations.

Goal: To own a 4×4 which could be used for inner city daily driving, long road trips, mountain off-road terrain and outdoor activities. It should have enough space to carry 2 to 4 passengers, mountain bikes, camping gear, coolers and/or other necessities.

Budget: This being Canada and the province of Alberta there would be a premium for buying an off-road 4×4 vehicle. Budget $20,000 to $30,000 Canadian dollars.

Years: Initially I looked at a decades worth of 4×4’s 2010 to 2020

Initial test drives: I spent the first month test driving the 4Runner vs FJ Cruiser vs Tacoma, to get a feel for handling, precision, on-road vs off-road driving, its 4×4 applications and testing the theories behind cargo space.

Field Narrowed: The results were definitely leaning towards one of the three. The FJ was awesome. It appealed to every 4×4 off-road application but lacked overall cargo space. The 4Runner has always caught my eye and it proved a worthy city driver and had the off-road capabilities but would become tiring to constantly clean up the carpeted cargo area after camping, or mountain biking or other outdoor adventures. The Tacoma on the other hand checked off each of the issues I had with the other two and had plenty additional features to offer.

Trim Levels: There are 6-trim levels to choose from: SR5, SR5 premium, TRD Sport, TRD Off-road, Limited or TRD Pro.

Narrowed: Instantly I was drawn to the TRD Sport because of its hood scope and superior sport tuned suspension. And to the rugged TRD Off-road package for the added under carriage protection, multi-terrain selector, rear locker and superb heavy duty off-road suspension.

Body Style: Tacoma has three generations of body style: 1st generation (1995 to 2004), 2nd generation (2005 to 2015) and 3rd Generation (2016 to present day).

SURPRISE: From conversations with my younger brother down in the United States, he said its easier to locate 2nd generation Tacoma priced up to $20,000 and to look for 100,000 miles (160,000kms) or less . After a month, I realized that his info might be true in the US but that was incorrect here in Alberta. A 2nd generation Tacoma with 150,000 kilometres is priced $28,000 to $33,000 dollars. In other words I should be looking at newer Tacomas instead of older Tacomas and I’d get something with far lower kilometres.

Result: A second narrowing of the field occurred and I chose to specifically search for a 2015, 2016 or 2017 with less than 100,000 kilometres in either the TRD Sport or TRD Off-road package. We increased the budget $5,000.00 to get a wider range of vehicles and even added in searches into two neighbouring provinces: British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Transmission: Tacoma comes in a 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. This proved to be a worthy adversary in the decision making process. And I was appreciating the time of year as I was test driving in November and December which meant plenty of slippery test drives in rain, sleet and snow. Also determining if you wanted to be in stop and go traffic with a manual transmission or not? This topic because the longest and most difficult decision in the whole process.

Body Style: Access Cab or Double Cab, that was the next question? Did I have a preference between the true 4-door or the 2-door with side access-doors similar to the FJ Cruiser?

Finalists: (1) a 2017 Silver TRD Off-road with 77,000 kms asking price $35,000.00 (2) a 2017 Orange TRD Sport with 105,000 kms asking price $33,000.00 or (3) a 2016 Black TRD Sport with 64,000 kms asking price $34,500.00

Purchased: The search lasted just shy of seven months when I finally agreed to purchase a certified black 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport on Saturday February 22, 2020 slightly over my budget with 64,350 kilometres and 4-years of full vehicle warranty which can be serviced at over 1,500 dealerships across the U.S. and Canada.

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport