I foolishly titled my previous COAL entry “Ready For The Long Haul,” when writing about my 2014 Toyota Corolla.
Spoiler Alert, this in my driveway. Before we get to the 2015 Toyota Tacoma, I owe you an update on the Corolla, any why sometimes always isn’t forever.
When I bought the Corolla, I was coming off an accident that totaled my previous car and had a nice insurance check burning a hole in my pocket. I ordered the Corolla new, as it checked all my boxes. I needed something that got good gas mileage and that I could use to take our kids with me when needed. At the time, I did a lot of driving, and the Corolla did what Corollas do: work reliably and efficiently, albeit without a lot of pizzaz.
However, life changes. Since buying the Corolla, we’ve had our third (and final) kid, and I started working for myself, from home. This meant that there were many weeks the Corolla barely moved at all, keeping the miles low.
The Corolla was perfect; it never showed a single issue or hiccuped, even on long highway drives to Georgia or the coast of North Carolina. It felt a little down on power driving across the Smokey Mountains and the CVT sometimes just couldn’t make up its mind, but I think that would be true of any car of its class.
The Corolla did have a nasty habit of needing to have it hood re-painted. The first time it earned a re-spray after some neighborhood kids egged a bunch of cars up and down the street. As I wasn’t driving the car very often, this went unnoticed for several days, and by the time it was spotted, the summer sun we get here in Tennessee had really done a number on the paint across the hood and front driver quarter panel. A local body shop did the work, and it looked like new just a few days later.
Then in 2017, my neighbor’s oak tree dropped a limb during a thunderstorm, and the Corolla caught it across the hood and windshield. When I called the body shop, they joked that normally like to see their work last longer than a year and a half. I painfully agreed.
Past flying eggs and falling limbs, the Corolla served my dutifully, but after four years, the itch came back. As if they know, the dealership I ordered it from started bugging me about trading it in. On the last Friday night of September, I dropped it by “just to see” what they’d be able to offer me. In short, they made an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I wasn’t really in the market for a new vehicle at this point. We had just replaced my wife’s aging Honda Odyssey with a 2016 model over the summer, and while we had talked about me buying a pickup truck at some point, little did I know that time had come.
As the sales department looked over my Corolla, which they praised for its low miles, I noticed a 2015 Toyota Tacoma on the lot.
I’ve long admired the Tacoma line, but knew they kept their value extremely well, making even high-mile models more expensive than other trucks of their size. This model, however, was reasonably priced, and armed with my high trade-in value and it being the last weekend of the month, I made a call home about negotiating a possible deal. With visions of house projects in her head that a pickup would make easier, my wife signed off if I could keep the note less than my current one, without signing onto a loan that would add too many more years to my current one.
The truck in question is a 2015 Tacoma PreRunner V6 Double Cab of the SR5 variant. That is a lot of words, but in short, it’s a 2WD tuck with the suspension and ride height of a 4WD Tacoma. That’s what the “PreRunner” badge means, and I have to say, I think the stance of the truck looks great. I don’t need 4WD, and didn’t want the added complexity and decreased gas mileage, so it felt like the right compromise for me.
The Double Cab means I can stash some kids, in booster seats, pretty comfortably in the back seat. The leg room seems on-par with the Corolla, but the step-in height means little kids need some help, even with the optional running boards that my truck has. The back seats fold down for flat storage, and underneath them is a wide, shallow storage area. It’s great for things like ratchet straps, but I wish they — or the deep center console — could be locked for secure storage.
The SR5 trim lacks some of flashier options found on the TRO Tacomas, but that is fine by me. I do find the chrome at the front and rear of the truck nice, but I’m thinking about swapping out the running boards for something a little less shiny.
Out back is the short bed, measuring in at just five feet. That does limit larger loads, but honestly, I don’t think that will be a big deal for me or my list of house and yard projects. The Tacoma’s bed comes complete with a factory rail system with adjustable tie-down cleats that makes strapping larger loads down in the composite bed really easy. The cleats can travel back and forth along the rails with a simple twist.
This rail system is also found in the front of the bed, under the back glass, making for a convenient place to stash a couple of bike mounts:
The 2015 is the last model of the long-running second generation of Tacoma. Today both GM and Chevy are peddling a nice mid-sized pickup and the Ford Ranger is set for a comeback, but for years, Toyota had no real competition in the mid-size truck market. The Tacoma was the truck to buy if you didn’t want something huge, and I think Toyota got lazy in that environment. Over that time period, the truck got some new options and a minor facelift, but under the skin, my 2015 is pretty close to what shipped in 2005.
This means that some features, like the side-curtain airbags have been retrofitted in some pretty obvious ways. However, it also means that the interior is simple enough that I was able to drop in a Sony CarPlay-equipped head unit without too much trouble.
That includes the 4.0-liter V6 under the hood, which produces 236 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This gives the 2nd gen Tacoma a tow rating of 6,500 lb and a payload capacity of 1,650 lb, and from what I have read, is a pretty bulletproof motor. Coupled with the 5-speed automatic in my truck, it can get a bit noisy on the highway, but around town, it is smooth enough for everyday driving.
The new Tacomas have an updated version of this motor that displaces 3.5 liters for better gas mileage. Around town, my 4.0 is doing about 17 MPG, while doing 21 MPG on the highway. That’s not great, but it’s better than I feared it would be. Adjusting my heavy right foot has been required, however.
A few months in, and I’m in love with the Tacoma. I’ve always know they have a loyal fan base, and I understand that now. What I understand even better: I think I may have always been a pickup kind of guy, and just didn’t know it until a rather quick purchasing decision. Sometimes, something just feels right, and this red truck is one of those things.
I don’t know where you live, but here in the rust belt those Tacomas are a pretty hard sell, the late 2000’s models had a sealed transmission which was fine, till it had an issue. apparently they need to be rebuilt and worked on in a clean room or you’ll just keep having transmission issues with the truck. lets not even mention the frame issues those things had… didint Toyota have to replace a bunch of frames due to rust? but not to knock toyota too hard… around here they are practicly giving away GMT800 (1999-2006) GM pick ups…. the frame on those rusts worse than the body…. and i havent seen a clean GMT800 body in probably 3 years…..
It says Tennessee in the text, so I imagine rust issues are close to non-existent.
There has been a recall on the frames where Toyota will replace the entire frame at no cost if it has rust issues. Pretty incredible blunder on their part. I have a 2006 Tacoma that has spent its whole life in FL and I have noticed that it has more frame surface rust than other vehicles of its age.
I like my truck quite a bit–it fits my needs of towing and light hauling and commuting very well. With 4 doors and a back seat it is like a Camry but with some more utility. It has also been very reliable across 160k miles, but there are many areas where Toyota cut costs on it compared with my 1997 4Runner, such as the dashboard, door panels, etc. The frame rust issue seems like one where Toyota cut costs on coatings and got burned.
There has been a recall on the frames where Toyota will replace the entire frame at no cost if it has rust issues.
I wonder how long and how much work it takes Toyota to transfer everything from the old frame to new one. And the labour cost.
After my brother bought a brand new 4Runner in 1989, the frame developed a few cracks due to poor welding material about two months later. My brother accepted the swap with another 4Runner that was higher equipped than his first 4Runner at no extra cost.
His 1989 4Runner served him very well for nine years until the expanding family necessiated four doors. He traded it in for a new 1998 4Runner, which he uses as a daily drive to this day.
“… I wonder how long and how much work it takes Toyota to transfer everything from the old frame to new one. And the labor cost.”
Thanks for the video!
Reading through the comments, the length of time was two to four days on average, and the warranty cost was about $11,000.
The whole rust thing on these trucks is blown out of proportion. I live in an area that has more harsh winters and with more road salt than most people here and these 2nd generation Tacomas hold up fine. They are popular here and rarely do you see a rusted out 2nd gen truck. The first generation trucks were much more susceptible.
That is not to say that there aren’t frame rust issues. Toyota did issue a recall for frame rust, but the majority of trucks don’t get new chassis because they pass the inspection. If the trucks pass, Toyota applies a rust proofing compound at no cost. And if it does fail, Toyota installs an entirely new frame on the truck, something I have never heard any other manufacturer doing. GM GMT 800 trucks have frame rust problems and so did the 97-03 Ford trucks, but they did nothing to help their customers.
FWIW, the Toyota frames in question are made by the American company Dana Corp. The problem was the poor coating used on the chassis. The bodies on these modern Toyota trucks seem to hold up as well or better than the American counterparts.
And while anecdotal, one of my closest friends bought an 05 Tacoma at the end of 04. Even after 15 harsh winters his frame passed inspection and his truck still is in great shape, mind you he does have it Krown rustproofed. Regardless it is on better shape than most 15 year old trucks of any brand.
As for the “sealed” transmissions, that is also incorrect. They don’t have traditional fill necks, but that’s the case for many transmissions today. There is still a fill port and you can still change the transmission fluid, even as a DIYer. I have done it. Regardless, Toyota transmissions hold up well and are durable.
These Tacomas are outdated and aren’t the most advanced trucks, but they are good reliable vehicles. There is a reason the resale value is so high.
VinceC, I’m not surprised you don’t see rusted out trucks – as you yourself stated, the frames are the weak point rather than the bodies on these trucks. Additionally, the beds are composite according to the article (but maybe just the insides and not the outer panels? I’m not sure). Unless you get under these trucks a lot, I wouldn’t expect to see frame rot.
What makes me uneasy about the Tacoma’s frames, in addition to a history of bad rustproofing on multiple Toyota pickups, is their flexibility. Even back in 2005 when this truck came out, the frames were criticized in the press for not being terribly rigid and displaying a lot of flex. I would expect that flexible frames are tougher to rustproof in general as any coating would be thinned by convex flexing and pinched by concave, and any flex points would then be especially susceptible to corrosion.
The frame flex issue is a function of Toyota using a more “medium duty” approach to Tacomas (versus the older “Pickups” that got a Hilux heavy duty frame), with the Tacomas they prioritized both lighter weight and better passenger comfort (some compliance in the frame gives you that). As to why and how they rot, I suspect the actual metal thickness of the frame is thinner than say on a Ranger, from my own observations. That and whatever failure of factory metal coating by Dana ultimately lead to failures. Having said that, my ’97 Ranger was just about ready for the junkyard when I got rid of it, the frame was quite thin in spots, with total perforation near one of the rear shock mounts. My brother’s friend with an ’04 Tacoma (final year of 1st gen) in Central PA that was used heavily offroad and year round and never got washed finally got some perforation on the frame over the rear axle, apparently the local dealer was still going to honor the replacement.
gtem, do you have any source for exactly how Dana screwed up those frames? Was it poor coating or problems in the metal manufacturing itself?
No idea Petrichor. Seeing as the Tahara built 3rd gen 4Runners (and even some 4th gens) are starting to leave the road for rust related issues, I’m not convinced it’s all on Dana. Simply a function of thinner metal rusting through faster. Anyone that made even a casual effort at keeping their frame washed off and/or oil undercoated has not had issues that I’ve heard of.
Only the inside of the Tacoma’s bed is composite, the rest is steel. I don’t crawl under a lot of random trucks, but I do have a tendency to look at chassis on trucks as I walk past them and have peaked under the occasional one that looks particularly rusted. Trucks with rusty frames are easy to spot, since you can usually see lots of the frame in the rear wheel well area and under the cab. I am also very particular about under chassis maintenance on my own vehicles.
The Tacoma uses a very similar chassis to the Hilux, with the main difference being that the Tacoma is not fully boxed. The Tacoma as a boxed section, reinforced c channel and a c-channel section. This makes the frame much more flexible and Toyota likely does it to improve ride quality. While boxing the frame makes it more ridged, it also makes it more prone to rusting. The Hilux is a truck meant for utility first, comfort second, while the Tacoma is comfort first and utility second.
I don’t think frame gauge thickness has much to do with the rusting. The paint used on these chassis is thin, and has very poor durability. I noticed that the frame paint on Toyota trucks rusts through much quicker than say a late model F-150. The Ford F-series frames seem to have an excellent coating that stands up much longer than Toyota. While Dana Corp makes the frame (the make them for some domestic trucks too), they make it to Toyota’s specs, and obviously Toyota speced a terrible frame coating.
“I don’t think frame gauge thickness has much to do with the rusting”
I’d argue it most certainly does. A thicker frame by its very nature just takes longer to rust through, everything else being equal. My Ranger had a pretty thick (relative to my fully boxed 4Runner) C channel frame. I have a friend with an ’02 4Runner with a frame that’s rotting from the inside out. The frame externally actually looks quite good in terms of the OE paint hanging on there just fine. My Rangers have both had plenty of rust scale all over the frame, but there was just a lot of metal to rot through (and it did, on the ’97). My ’94 Ranger’s frame cosmetically for the most part looked worse than the one on my friend’s ’02 4Runner, but it was just surface rust and far from structural.
gtemnykh, I agree, a thinner gauge frame would rust through quicker. However, what I meant is I don’t think the frame gauge used on the Tacomas (at least the 2nd gens), is so thin that it is the root cause of the frame corrosion problems. I have worked on numerous, and while I haven’t measure the frame thickness, it wasn’t so thin that it stood out as being unusual.
Having worked on these trucks and also cleaned up the rust and repainted the frames, it is most definitely the inadequate coating protection that is the biggest problem with these chassis. The surface rust comes through at the welds pretty quickly and spreads from there. And Toyota’s fix for the non rusted through frames is simply a better rust proofing compound coating. When the frames have proper protection, they are fine. Further, the later model trucks, which use the same frame design, hold up far better with the newer improved frame coating and aren’t effect by the frame rust recall.
Here is an example of how the rust starts on these Toyota frames. In my area, when these trucks were new they’d get like in a few years if they weren’t rust proofed. This is a 2nd Gen Tacoma frame.
Toyota’s ‘pass the inspection’ program isn’t all that great. Friend bought an ‘inspected and rustproofed’ truck, and all they’d done was spray rustproofing over the existing rust. Looked good, but it kept rusting under the spray. Wound up with a rusted out frame, and Toyota would do nothing, as it had ‘already passed inspection’. Had to replace the frame himself with a good used southern frame. Their fix didn’t do anything, at least in his case, as they didn’t clean and prep the frame properly before applying the spray on rustproofing. I’ve heard several other owners say the same, they ‘passed inspection”, got the spray, and the frame kept rusting, just hidden.
That’s the first Iv’e heard of issues with the Aisin 5spd autos in the trucks/SUVs. They have a normal drain and fill plug, although they did lose a traditional dip stick (stupid).
These are scarce on the ground in my part of the world, but it’s easy to see their appeal. I worked with a woman who had one but it went away upon her and her partner purchasing a fifth wheel camper.
For the light duty tasks you describe, this Tacoma sounds ideal. You’ll no doubt have it for a very long time!
It looks like a nice truck. I don’t see many in Central Indiana, likely due to rust and the still-high popularity of American offerings.
I am occasionally tempted, but it has been a rare job at my house where a minivan has not been able to handle all the hauling I need.
Nice truck. These don’t have the near-cult following of the first gen Tacomas, but they seem as well built and durable.
“I think Toyota got lazy in that environment”
I don’t know if they were lazy so much as happily raking in profits on a vehicle that sold well long after R&D was paid off. I think if they’ve been lazy in the Tacoma, it’s with the new one–it doesn’t seem to be much of an advancement over yours, and the reworked 3.5 car engine has a lot of owners wishing for the old 4.0.
From my brothers observations in wrenching on both some 1st and 2nd gens, the 2nd gens definitely regressed in some areas of quality: he’s never ever had to touch a wheel bearing on a gen 1 Tacoma, but has replaced a few at less than 100k miles on 2nd gens (water getting past the seal). Some other small things in the interior and elsewhere, simply a function of Toyota transitioning from their overbuilt 1990s glory days to a new reality of a more expensive yen and striving for higher margins.
Stephen, Nice Tacoma; great color.
The bed of your truck is cleaner than mine (a 2013 double cab long bed SR5 4WD) and I bet your truck is a lot more maneuverable than mine with the shorter bed. The Tacoma DCLB is 18.5 feet long. Thank goodness for the rear view camera mounted in the tail gate handle.
I find the Tacoma’s ride very comfortable with little noticeable noise on the highway, but my other car is a Miata, so my reference point on these issues may be off.
The 4.0 V6 does make a bit of a roar when pushed, but I don’t do that very often.
Most of the time I am carrying tree debris, leaves, and brush, and lots of bulk items like furniture, old exercise equipment, and thousands of books that neighbors and friends need to move from one place to another.
I also carry a tire pump that runs on 12V and 120V, a battery booster, a tow strap, a long extension cord, and many bungee cords and have used all of these items over the past 6 years.
Good luck with yours!
I’ve owned a CPO 2016 Tacoma double cab short bed (DCSB), 4wd TRD OffRoad, for almost 3 years and 56K miles now. This is the 3rd gen, with the 3.5V6 and 6 speeed automatic and it doesn’t really get much better mpg than the 2nd gen 4.0. The engine is peakier and the transmission/throttle programming isn’t perfect, despite a few SW updates. My wife recently commented “This truck protests too much” as it bogged, then downshifted twice, on a gentle incline that wouldn’t have phased her stick shift 1.8T Golf in top gear. But I can live with it. Here in coastal California, the Tacoma is one of the top selling vehicles, and when you throw in their durability and the desirability of older Taco’s, they are one of the most commonly seen vehicles on the road. At a mountain bike trailhead or highway pullout by a surf beach, perhaps THE most common.
I just had a brand new ’18 Tacoma crew cab TRD Offroad as a rental from Avis of all places, drove it up to Chicago and back the week before Christmas for work. I will echo your sentiments: I see no practical benefit to the new downsized 3.5L. With 74mph highway driving I averaged 19mpg, about the same as I get in my iron block 3.4L 4Runner with a 4spd auto. The downshifting and roar on the smallest of inclines was frustrating as well, something I don’t deal with in that old 4Runner that has about 100 less hp, but has much better thought out gearing. Around town the 3.5L was alright, but again, merely adequate, and not notably peppier than my much older 3.4L. And from what I recall of my test drive of a 4.0L 2nd gen Taco (that weighs 400lb less than the 3rd gen), that was a much quicker truck on its feet than the current 3.5L.
I will say I thought the 3rd gen was remarkably quiet and refined in terms of road/wind noise, and the TRD suspension was a magic carpet ride over bad roads, absolutely stellar.
In western mountain driving at elevations up to 11K feet my new Tacoma is much faster than my old 3.4 + 4 speed automatic T100 which is the same powertrain as first gen Tacoma’s and your 4Runner. And the Taco gets better gas mileage in those conditions. But it’s not as pleasant to drive, especially on those grades where I could just push the OD button on the T100 shifter and keep it in 3rd. Sure, one can manually select the max gear in the Tacoma, but should it be 3rd? Or 4th? Or 5th? I worry about 8 or 10 speed AT’s unless there’s a lot of torque and good programming, else they might shift even more frequently.
This was a pretty telling comparison, although the 1st gen being a stick shift probably helped it keep up with the other two:
Great choice! I’ve had three Toyota trucks now – a ’93 2wd, a ’96 4×4 and my current an ’02 PreRunner – they’ve all been excellent trucks.
I’ve also owned two ’96 hardbodies (D21) – a 4×2 and a 4×4 that were on par or better than the Toyotas.
I haven’t messed with the newer trucks as I hear they’re de-contented pretty bad. Can’t beat 90s Japan, baby!
Toyota Tacomas were built in Fremont, CA, not Japan. We’ve had four (96, 02, and two 03) and I must agree about their excellence.
Yes, I recognize I should have said Japan marque, not Japan built.
The Nissan trucks have been US built since 1984 in Tennessee.
These are, indeed, great trucks. Used to have a ’06 Taco 4×4 double cab w/ TRD off road pkg which I bought new and owned for 9 years. Only put ~75k miles on it during that time, but I loved that truck. It was my trusty companion on many a turkey, water fowl and deer hunt in about every kind of foul (fowl?) weather possible, and that Taco never let me down. It was just a beast off road. My fuel mileage was not great…never got better than ~17MPG on the highway and around town was more like ~15-ish. Then again, Sammy’s “I can’t drive 55” is kinda the anthem to the way I drive. Comfort-wise it wasn’t the best with its low seating position, and things got cramped, even with the double cab, when loaded up with people and stuff. But terrific nonetheless, and I do kinda miss it. Enjoy yours!