Full-size pickup trucks are more desirable than ever, and every manufacturer is racing to get the most luxurious and technologically advanced model. The market is saturated with pickups to suit every driver’s need, and domestic giants like Ford, Chevy, and Dodge are leading the pack. However, there is a new contender trailing behind the rest and rising toward the top.
With its vigorous body, variety of body configurations, powerful engines, and distinctive ride, the Tundra made a name for itself. It stood apart from the crowd and became a threat to the domestic powerhouses. The Tundra is, without a shadow of a doubt, a feasible competitor. It is also one of if not the most reliable trucks you can get.
Plus, it is a good investment because they tend to hold on to their value. The Toyota Tundra is basically the same vehicle that came to the world in different waves. So, which model is the best one to go for? Follow this piece to find the answer.
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4X4 Reports Says…
These Toyota Tundra years are the best because they provide a consistently solid performance. In addition, they proved to be more reliable than other production years, receiving fewer complaints. However, 4X4 Reports recommend getting the vehicle checked by an experienced professional. And that applies to any vehicle. Ensure that the vehicle you want is well-maintained and has the OEM parts.
More importantly, do a background check to see if the model you are after has been recalled for the sake of your safety and your family’s well-being.
A Glimpse of Toyota Tundra’s History
Toyota shocked the world when they first introduced the Tundra in 1999 as the 2000 year model. It was a capable full-size pickup truck with big V8s and unmatched dependability, giving the local Giants like Ford and Chevy a run for their money. The first generation of the Tundra focused on being a fearless workhorse, while the second generation shifted its focus toward the modern luxurious style.
If you want to know more about the history of the Tundra, follow this guide.
The Tundra received very subtle updates since its launch in 2007. However, it brings a lot to the plate, such as roomy interiors and safety features. It is a flexible vehicle that accommodates the needs of almost every driver out there. You can select any configuration you want.
The Tundra comes with a double cab or a larger CrewMax style. Bed sizes include a short 5,5ft bed and a large 8.1ft bed. The 6.5ft bed functions as the medium size and is available on almost all trims. You can have your Tundra with RWD or 4WD. The engines lineup consists of two burly V8s:
- A 4.6L making 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque.
- A 5.7L putting out 381 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque.
Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 4.6L can be found on the SR and SR5, while the big 5.7L comes as standard on the top trims. Speaking of the devil, Toyota offers the 2018 models with several trim levels:
The SR and the SR5 are more or less the workhorses of the bunch. Still, they have decent features that make daily 9-5 more bearable. You get a rearview camera, power windows, cruise control, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen (7-inch on the SR5). The SR5 got supplementary packages that add power seats, a center console, and a bigger gas tank. It also got a TRD sport package.
The Limited, Platinum, and 1794 Edition are focused more on luxury and drivers’ comfort. They offer heated and ventilated seats, a leather interior, a better sound system, LEDs, and dual-zone climate control. There are no off-road-specific models for the 2018 Tundra, but the SR5, Limited, and 1794 Edition have TRD Off-road packages for rough terrains.
The 2018-year model is highly recommended and sought-after, and here is why:
- Top-tier Performance: The Tundra has quick acceleration and enough grunt to pull upwards of 10,000 pounds. It can also haul 1,700 pounds thanks to the brawny V8s. The handling is precise, and the steering is swift, making the Tundra easy to drive. Moreover, the brakes are firm and grippy.
- Safety: The Toyota Safety Sense-P is standard across the lineup. It adds blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, emergency braking, four-wheel ABS, and airbags. As a result, it received a five-star rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
- Convenience features: The 2018 Tundra gets many amenities as standard, such as; adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, and more.
There are a few noteworthy flaws:
- Way too big: The Tundra feels uncomfortably massive than most of its competitors, especially when you drive it on narrow pathways.
- Hefty price tag: The price tag of a 2018 Toyota Tundra in today’s market is on the high side. The lower SR/SR5 trims cost about 23,000-24,000 $, with a 100k on the dial. The fully-loaded upper trim levels can cost anywhere between 32,000 and 70,000 $.
- Stiff ride: The Ride quality on the Tundra is not as good as the competition. If you opt for the 5.7L V8, the ride will be rough and bouncy. It is because Toyota paired the bigger engine with the towing package. Models with the smaller V8 have softer springs but still lag behind rivals.
- Poor MPG: Having a big V8 is all fun and games until you have to refill the gas tank. The 4.6L gets about 15/19 mpg (city/highway), while the 5.7L averages about 13/18 mpg (city/highway). If you picked a 4X4 model, the mpg drops by a mile or two.
There were some issued recalls for this year for:
- Oil leaks
- Turning signals not bright enough
- Fuel pumps failure
- Airbags not working properly.
The 2009 Toyota Tundra redefined the meaning of “Reliability” and became highly sought after. The Tundra remained true to its roots and retained the same setup as the year before. Toyota kept the Regular Cab style and ditched the Extended in favor of the Double Cab and Crewmax. The latter is a jumbo-sized crew cab, making the Tundra a class leader in terms of interior space.
Not much changed about the Tundra. Still, 2009 got a couple of new TRD packages. The latter involves a suspension tuned for off-roading, all-terrain tires, Bilstein shock absorbers, fog lamps, and a new wheel design.
The Tundra is powered by three engines. The smallest is a 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque 4.0L V6. In the middle sits a 4.7L V8 making 271 hp & 313 lb-ft of torque. The biggest power plant is a 5.7L V8 with 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque.
I went on a trip with a couple of friends across Jebil National Park in Tunisia. The vehicle we had was a 2009 Tundra. An SR5 Crewmax with the 5.7L V8 and 4WD, to be more specific. These are the good things we loved about the 2009 Tundra:
- Easy-to-use spacious interior: The cabin is simple to understand and big enough to seat five adults.
- Fast acceleration: Thanks to the massive V8, the Tundra can go from 0-60 in 7 seconds flat (it may take longer than that if it’s fully loaded).
- Good safety: When it comes to safety, Toyota Tundra does not disappoint. It comes fitted with a stability control system, traction control, ABS, and airbags. Plus, it received high safety ratings from the NHTSA and the IIHS.
- Affordable price tag: A clean and well-maintained 2009 model can cost about 9,000 $- 30,000 $ depending on the vehicle’s features and condition. For instance, a CrewMax with four-wheel drive and 5.7L V8 can be found in the market for 24,000-26,000 $.
- Unparalleled reliability: The 2009 models are hard to kill, with some still in their best state. In fact, many owners reported doing over 300,000 miles in their vehicles before heading to the shop for maintenance.
We also discovered a few pitfalls of the 2009 Tundra:
- Not-so-good fuel consumption: The Tundra’s fuel economy may be a deal breaker for a lot of potential buyers. The big V8s are thirsty and barely manage 17 mpg on the highway. In the city, the mpg drops as low as 12 mpg. The V6 models are also not very fuel efficient, but they offer better mpg than the V8s (15/19 in city/highway).
- Old design: Despite being practical and easy to use, the Tundra’s design is pretty much antiqued from the inside out. The interior is sturdy and reasonably laid out, but some controls are out of reach for the driver.
- Rough ride: The ride is on the stiff side and can be very bouncy, especially if the bed is empty.
According to car complaints.com, the 2009 Tundra received only 55 complaints about paint damage and cooling system problems. The vehicle witnessed very few mechanical issues, but there were a couple of recalls for:
- Faulty power windows.
- Sticky accelerator pedals.
This year, Tundra received some noticeable visual upgrades. The exterior styling is no longer round and soft. Instead, the Tundra was given sharper edges around the corners to make it look huskier and more menacing. More than that, Toyota added two more trim levels over the previous year. But, the cab styles are carried over, alongside the bed sizes and the powertrain.
The Double cab has traditional rear doors for easy access, but it’s the CrewMax that stole the show with its humongous size. The interior was revamped as well.
The changes include replacing the old gauge cluster with conventional dials. Plus, all the buttons were brought within the driver’s reach, and the materials are high quality. A touch screen became standard on all models with smartphone connectivity. And it’s a pain to operate.
The engine lineup is carried over from the previous year and works well for the Tundra. The power plants provide ample power to pull and haul heavy loads. The V6 is good for 270 hp, the 4.6L V8 makes 310, and the 5.7L V8 puts out 381. It is not the most powerful in the segment, but it is fast enough for daily driving.
- Easy to configure: The Tundra has a 4.30 axle ratio, making it easy to set up depending on your needs. Plus, you have different cabs, beds, engines, and drivetrains to choose from.
- Roominess: The Tundra is still a class leader in terms of interior space, especially the colossal CrewMax Cab.
- Ample power: Powerplant lineup provides significant power to haul more than a thousand pounds, and tow 10,000 lbs.
- Poor Fuel Economy: The V6 can reach 16/20 mpg (city/highway), while the V8 can get 14/18 mpg. If you take the four-wheel drive into consideration, the mpg drops by a mile or two, especially if you’re hauling heavy weights.
- Below-average ride: The steering is responsive, yet the Tundra feels too big for the road. And, the ride is too rough in comparison to the smoother drive from the competition.
2014 and 2013 share many characteristics and not many complaints. A couple of recalls were associated with these models for:
- Power steering leaks
- Loose lug nuts
- Faulty airbags
2000, 2002 & 2003
At last, a full-sizer with Toyota’s legendary reliability. The early 2000s Tundra models are the “Goldilocks” of pickups and received a lot of praise from truck lovers. It provided an energetic performance, thanks to the pure heart that powered it.
The engines were neither massive nor the most powerful in the class, but they pack a mean punch. The 3.4L V6 makes 190 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque, and the big 4.7L V8 comes with 245 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. The V8 is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 has an optional 5-speed manual gearbox.
The 2002 and 2003 models carry over the same engines, however, they received a couple of body styles, safety, and interior upgrades. Moreover, they feature new sports packages and limited slip differential on the V8 models.
- Sublime capabilities: The six-cylinder power plant packs enough heat to tow 5,000 pounds and haul at least 1,200 lbs. Although, it is the V8 that offers the 7,000 pounds max tow. Plus, it can carry 2000 pounds with the 8-ft long bed. That is more than enough, even by our current standards.
- Soft ride: The ride quality is surprisingly comfortable, and the cabin is generous with the legroom. The V8 is quiet when cruising down the highway, but it sounds heavenly when you step on the gas pedal. Both engines are smooth and responsive on the road, and the transmission glides through the shifts.
- Trustworthy: In terms of reliability, 2000, 2002, and 2003 will probably outlast you and your kids. Some owners claimed that their Tundras made it past 400,000 miles.
I had the privilege of driving a 2002 four-door SR5 Tundra with a 4.7L V8 on the golden sand dunes of the Algerian Sahara, and it was perfect. It showcased a fantastic performance and completed a 560 miles trip without a single problem. Though, it is worth noting that it was well looked after and followed a regular maintenance schedule.
- Hungry gas tank: Beyond the reliability and the mesmerizing performance, the Tundra never goes easy on fuel. It can’t get more than 16 mpg even with the V6 and automatic transmission.
- Old car problems: This generation of the Tundra suffers from the same issues every old vehicle has, especially if it was abused during its lifespan. After all, it is more than two decades old. Some of these headaches include oil leaks, saggy suspension, excessive rust, and disintegrating parts.
2015 & 2016
The 2015 and 2016 models are basically twins, sharing various similarities with the 2014. The 15/16’ are available with the same cab styles as before, two-door regular cab, four-door double cab, and CrewMax.
There are three standard beds (5.5ft – 6.5ft – 8.1ft), with rear-wheel drive or 4WD. You can have any of the above in six different trim levels. The latter starts with base SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 Edition, and the TRD Pro.
The SR and the SR5 retain their position as the workhorses in the lineup. They come with 18-inch steel wheels, a tow hook, a bench seat, blacked-out bumpers, and a blacked-out grille. Despite being entry-level models, they have cruise control, good AC, and a 6-inch touchscreen with a USB connection.
The Limited stands in the middle, combining the working power of the SR5 with premium features from the top trims. It gets bigger wheels, a silver grille, a leather interior, heated seats, and dual-zone auto climate control. The Platinum and the 1794 Edition are luxury models. They stand apart with more chrome accents, a sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, LEDs, and an upgraded JBL sound System.
The TRD Pro is the off-road maniac. It is fitted with off-road tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks, skid plates, higher ground clearance, nobly tires, a bigger touchscreen, and TRD dual exhaust. All models are powered by a 4.6L V8 with 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque or a 5.7L V8 making 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. The V6 was ditched in 2015.
- Ample space: When it comes to interior size, no other truck comes close to the Tundra. The double cab is spacious and has traditional doors for easy access. However, the colossal CrewMax variant is the star of the show. Additionally, it is practical and simple to operate. The dials are easy to read, and all the buttons are within reach.
- Safety: 2015 & 2016 doubles down on the safety features. Thus, Tundra earned four-star ratings from the NHTSA and the IIHS. It is fitted with airbags all around the cab, ABS, blind spot monitoring, reversing camera, traction control, and much more.
It’s not all perfect! There are a few drawbacks that come with the Tundra.
- Old styling: While the competition is getting creative and futuristic with its latest models, the Tundra is still stuck with the same “antique” design it was born with. The interior received a few upgrades every now and then, but not enough to keep up with the rest of the pack. The technology is from the stone age, and the materials are not exactly “high-quality”.
- Stiff suspension: The seats are comfy, and the ride is smooth until you hit a pothole or the road gets wobbly. Cruising in such conditions becomes shaky, bouncy, and unbearable.
- Embarrassing mpg: Nothing makes a grown man cry like a massive gas bill at the station. If you are looking to get at least 20 mpg, I recommend buying a hybrid sedan instead.
The 2013 Toyota Tundra was cursed by the number three! It is offered with three cab styles (Regular, Extended, and CrewMax), three-bed sizes (5.5-ft, 6.5-ft, and 8.1-ft), three wheelbases (164.6 – 145.7 – 126.8), and three trim levels (Base, Limited, and Platinum). Additionally, it came with 3 engine options, including a V6 and two V8s.
The V6 makes 270 hp and 278 lb-ft. It provides the best mpg and is the most powerful base engine in the pickups category. The V8s feature a 4.6L and a 5.7L, producing 310 hp/ 327 lb-ft & 381 hp/ 401 lb-ft of torque, respectively.
Imagine how satisfying it would’ve been if Toyota gave the Tundra three transmissions. Sadly, it only has two automatic options (a six-speed or a five-speed). The amenities you get depend on the trim level. Some of the amenities include a leather interior, power accessories, automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise control, JBL sound system, chrome accents, and much more. Not to mention, the 2013 came with a wide range of styling and performance packages.
- Endless configurations: There is a very slight chance that you may never find two identical Tundras because they have a lot of configurations. You can get your hands on a base Tundra with a regular cab with a long bed, rear-wheel drive, a V6, and five-speed automatic transmission. Or, you may find a Limited trim in CrewMax cab style fitted with 4WD, short bed, 5.7L V8, and a six-speed automatic.
- Solid performance: The power plants are responsive and have good acceleration to overtake other road users. Moreover, the engines produce enough grunts to pull 10,000 pounds easily.
- Safe and durable: 2013 got excellent safety ratings from the IIHS and the NHTSA. Furthermore, it scores very high on reliability, running for well over 250,000 miles without any misfits.
For every upside, there is a downside.
- Tough driving demeanor: The ride is stiff and can be unstable on imperfect roads.
- Unimpressive fuel consumption: Fuel consumption is another variable that can increase your anxiety levels. The V8s average about 14-17 mpg, while the V6 can get up to 21 mpg.
- Dull interior: The interior is still very spacious, practical and has lots of compartments to store your valuables. However, it lacks the refinement, modernity, and creativity found in other rivaling trucks like Ram and Ford.
These model years are perhaps the best on this list for several reasons.
- Well-equipped: They are fitted with the latest convenience features, technology, and safety systems.
- Improved driving: the ride quality is much better and more refined.
- Still new: They are fairly new. They have low mileage and are still covered by the factory warranty. Plus, they offer the biggest bang for your buck.
- Power: They offer standard V8 power.
- Roomy cabins: Tundra is possibly the class leader in terms of interior space.
- They come with a high price tag.
- Fuel economy is still a problem.
- Still stiffer than most competitors.
- 2020-2021 are available with one powertrain.
Years to Avoid
Toyota is famous for making reliable vehicles, yet some decided to follow their own path. Here are some Tundras to stay away from:
These years received a lot of complaints and are riddled with malfunctions.
Alternatives to Consider
The pickup trucks segment is an ocean encompassing endless options from various brands. Before you make the final decision to get a Tundra, take a second to check some of these market offerings:
- Silverado 1500: The Silverado is one of Chevrolet’s halo pickups. It comes fully loaded with tech, and safety features, and offers a wide range of engines and body styles.
- F-150: Ford is bringing the big guns to the fight with class-leading towing and payload capacities with its F-150 lineup. In addition, the Raptor is the top dog when it comes to serious off-roading.
- Ram 1500: it comes with excellent ride quality and comfort. Plus, it is fuel efficient.
- GMC Sierra 1500: like the Tundra, the Sierra did not change a lot. But, it offers high levels of coziness and fantastic hauling and pulling abilities.
Question: Which Tundra is best for towing and hauling?
Answer: The latest 2023 Tundra offers maximum towing capabilities. It is rated at 12,000 pounds. Still, if you can’t get your hands on this beast, you can get a 2010-year model that can pull 10,800 pounds.
Question: How long can a Toyota Tundra last?
Answer: Due to its solid reliability, a good year Tundra is expected to 250k miles on average. Some owners reported passing the 300k miles mark.
Question: What is the best trim for a Toyota Tundra?
Answer: Numerous experts recommend opting for the Limited trim because it combines the working capability of the base models with the luxury or the top levels. Yet, if you are on a budget, an SR5 with a TRD package will suit your needs.
Best Years for Toyota Tundra: Final Words
To sum up, the Tundra is as reliable as it can get. After all, it is a Toyota! The manufacturer went above and beyond to improve and enhance the Tundra from every possible angle. The goal was to create an unmatched unique vehicle, and it shows. Toyota aimed at making an indestructible pickup, and they achieved it. In today’s world, you cannot talk about reliability without mentioning Toyota.