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Why Are People Paying So Much For Used Toyota Tacomas?

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When shopping for a used car, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the price you’ll pay: type and brand of vehicle, model year, wear-and-tear, and mileage. Typically the more years and more miles a car had meant you’d pay a lower price. But that’s apparently not the case for one truck: The Toyota Tacoma. 

Jalopnik writer Tom McParland discovered the surprisingly cutthroat and expensive market for used Tacomas recently when searching for two such used trucks for individuals on the East and West Coast.

In his search for the used Tacomas, McParland writes that he discovered that in some cases the prices for the older vechiles were more closely aligned to the cost of new Tacoma trucks than to other used vehicles of similar makes and models.

For instance, one of the used Tacoma trucks McParland found was actually more expensive than a brand new Tacoma, despite being several years old and pre-loved with tens of thousands of miles.

The 2013 Tacoma with 38,000 miles cost $30,000, while a new 2017 model — with an offer of $2,725 off MSRP — was listed for $28,775.

But why? Are Tacoma trucks the best on the market? Do people just love them too much to sell them for a lower price?

We set out to look find out why used Tacoma trucks rival the newer versions in price.

Reputation For Reliability

We turned to our trusted colleagues at Consumer Reports in our quest to better understand the competitive market for used Toyota Tacoma trucks.

“The Tacoma has a tremendous reputation for reliability,” Nick Kurczewski, senior multimedia content editor for CR, tells Consumerist. “In the car world, the joke is that after the zombie apocalypse the only things to survive will be cockroaches and Tacomas.”

Indeed, a look at Consumer Reports’ ratings for the Tacoma show that the small, compact pickup truck show it has a long history of strong reliability among testers and customers.

The 2013 Tacoma scored a 5-out-of-5 in reliability, a rating that scores how models have performed in the past. Subsequent models from 2014 and 2015 also scored 5-out-of-5 in reliability.

Falling Scores

Scoring high on vehicle reliability was, well reliable, until just recently. In 2016, the Toyota redesigned the truck for the first time in 10 years, and the scores for the vehicle plummeted, according to CR ratings.

In fact, the 2016 Tacoma scored just 1-out-of-5 in reliability.

Problem areas with the new model, as reported by owners, included issues with wind noise, squeak or rattles in the door panels, slipping transmissions, and other nuisances.

CR notes that troubles in the first year of a newly redesigned model aren’t unheard of, as carmakers must work out bugs in the design.

However, it is really unusual for the Tacoma that has few problems for most of its production years.

As a result, a fall in ratings could contribute to the increase value of older model Tacomas, which are viewed as being more reliable.

Fewer Options

Another reason the Tacoma used market could be booming has to do with few options when it comes to smaller, compact trucks on the market.

While there seems to be a plethora of crossover and mid-sized SUVs, the same isn’t necessarily true of trucks.

The Tacoma, which retails for between $24,000 to $42,000 for a new model, is described by CR as a compact truck that remains a utilitarian workhorse.

“With its diverse lineup, the Tacoma can be anything from a stripped-down work truck to something that feigns luxury,” CR notes in its overview of the 2017 model.

Similar models to the used Tacoma would include Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline. Although a comparison of the three models shows that the Ridgeline scored higher in overall satisfaction, that vehicle was more expensive and had fewer options in body styles.

Today, the Tacoma is comparable to the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline. Each of this models have an overall higher ranking than the new Tacoma.

Recalls & Upkeep

Although Jalopnik’s McParland found a 2006 Tacoma with 130,000 miles listed for $12,000, significantly more than a new Nissan Frontier with just 85,000 miles, going too far back in time for a used Tacoma might also pose problems.

Kurczewski points out that reliability can only get vehicles so far. Last year, Toyota agreed to pay $3.4 billion to replace the frames on 1.5 million Tacoma, Sequoia, and Tundra trucks to settle a frame rust lawsuit brought by owners of the vehicles.

Under the settlement, Toyota will inspect and replace the frames for model year 2005 to 2010 Tacoma, model years 2007 to 2008 Tundra, and model years 2005 to 2008 Sequoia vehicles. The settlement estimates that each replacement will cost about $15,000.

“We want our customers to have a great ownership experience, so we are pleased to resolve this litigation in a way that benefits them and demonstrates that we stand behind the quality and reliability of our vehicles,” a rep for Toyota said at the time.

Since then, the carmaker has also issued at least two recalls for the Tacoma related to loss of control and unexpected stalling.

Additionally, McParland followed up his quest for the used Tacomas by exploring the cost of keeping the cars in model condition. After purchasing a 2003 Tacoma 4×4 with a V6 engine for $3,000, McParland reported that he spend another almost $2,000 in repairs and upkeep.

“Second-hand buyers may believe they are getting a truck that is invincible, but this stereotype shouldn’t be taken for granted,” McParland wrote. “The Toyota Tacoma is still a machine that can get worn and will need some attention every once in a while.”

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