Car Buying Tips

The Best and Worst Years For Toyota 4Runner (Buyers Guide)

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Last Updated on January 30, 2023 by Rose Morah

You probably have wondered what the best or worst Toyota 4runner years are, or maybe which Toyota 4runner years to avoid.

If you are looking to buy a new or a used 4Runner, we are going to provide a complete guide to buying a Toyota 4Runner to help you decide.

Here is what we are going to discuss:

  • What are the best and worst years for Toyota 4runner?
  • Pros and cons of the Gen 2,3,4 & 5 Toyota 4Runner.
  • Best 4runner year for off-road.
  • What type of buyer should buy a 4Runner (buyer advice).
  • What type of buyer should avoid buying a 4Runner (buyer advice).

What are the best and worst years for Toyota 4runner?

There are no specific best and worst years when it comes to Toyota 4Runners simply because they have not changed that much in the last couple of decades.

Most car experts actually refer to them as ancient vehicles. Any generation will be great depending on your needs and affordability.

However, I would recommend that you stay away from a used 2nd Gen Toyota 4Runner because of its high probability of being beaten down by rust. 

Additionally, when buying a used 4Runner be sure to do a proper inspection.

We have a detailed article about the Most Common Issues To Check Before Buying 3rd Gen Toyota 4Runner (Buyers Guide).

Advantages and disadvantages of the Gen 2,3,4 & 5 Toyota 4Runner

Pros and cons of the 2nd Gen Toyota 4Runner

  1. The only advantage I find in this vehicle is the price point. It is so much cheaper than all the other generations.

Moving on to the pros:

  1. Most people who have owned 2nd Gen Toyota 4Runner with the 3.0-liter V6 cylinder have reported having had to do so many repairs than those who have the 3.0-liter four-cylinder.
  1. The 2 Gen Toyota 4Runner is much older and may have typically weathered. 

Most of these vehicles suffer from rotten rust that may be beyond repair.

  1. It has a much lower towing capacity of 3,500 lbs.

Pros and cons of the Gen 3 Toyota 4Runner

Pros of 3rd Gen 4Runner

  1. The 3rd Gen had a huge engine upgrade from the generation 2 4Runner.

NOTE: Gen 3 comes with a V6 engine unless the owner swapped the engine.

  1. Of all the 4Runner generations, this generation was legendary because of its reliability to date.
  1. The 3rd Gen 4Runners still has good aftermarket support.

Speaking of which, check out the Best 3rd Generation 4Runner Interior & Exterior Mods & Accessories.

See also: Is 4Runner Comfortable For A Long Road Trip?

Cons of 3rd Gen 4Runner

  1. The major downside of this generation is the frame rust, especially if the owner did not take proper care of it. 

However, I have seen some 3rd Gen 4Runners that have been properly maintained and didn’t have rust that would end up breaking the car.

  1. The 3rd Gen has more road noise compared to the 4th Gen/newer generations.
  1. Its seats can be quite uncomfortable, especially if you are tall.

This is because the seats are lower to the ground, which means that when you are seated when driving, the legs kinda stretch out in an uncomfortable position.

Therefore, if you are wondering whether the 3rd Gen 4runner would be comfortable for a long road trip, well, I’m afraid they’re not. This includes their back passenger seats.

  1. Gen 3 has a less towing capacity compared to the 4th generation.


4Runners that are equipped with a 4.0L V6 engine have a towing capacity of 5000 lbs. 

Those that are equipped with a 4.7lL V8 engine are rated for 7000lbs and 7,300 for the 2WD versions.

See also: Don’t Buy A Toyota Extended Warranty Before Reading This (Is It Worth It?)

Pros and cons of the Gen 4 Toyota 4Runner

  1. The major advantage of the 4th Gen 4Runner is the V8 engine for torque.
  1. Its seats are also more comfortable than the Gen 3 4Runner. This is because they are not lower, therefore you get a more comfortable position than in the Gen 3 4Runner.
  1. The 4th Gen comes with a more towing capacity that ranges from 5000lbs to 7300lbs.

See also: Buying A Used Toyota: Best and Worst Used Toyota Cars.

Pros and cons of the 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner

  1. The 5th generation comes with a bit of modern interior looks and added features.
  1. The ride comfort is better compared to the other generations.
  2. It also has a better fuel economy than the 4th Gen.

NOTE: Other than that there are no other major changes, just as I had mentioned earlier. In fact, Toyota went back to the V6 engine in this generation.

See also:

Best and Worst Used Lexus Models (Buyers Guide).

Tips For Buying A Used Lexus and the Pros And Cons.

Best 4runner year for off-road

All the 4Runner generations are very off-road capable, especially when they are modified.

The older generations like the 3rd generations did not have many off-road features installed but they still perform quite well when off-roading.

What type of buyer should buy a 4Runner

  1. If you are looking for a good off-road vehicle, then the 4Runner would be a great choice because they shine when it comes to off-roading.

Additionally, they are reliable and perform very well when driving in snow.

4Runner is generally a great vehicle that will comfortably take you off the beaten path.

Speaking of unbeaten paths, check out these 14 Cheap Off-road Vehicles (For off-road & Overlanding Adventures).

  1. If you are an outdoor’s person who enjoys camping, fishing, hunting e.t.c then again, buying a 4Runner would be a great decision.

This is because it has more space to fit your camping gear. You can also fold the back seats flat and comfortably sleep in the car.

Check out the list of the Best Cars To Sleep In (Tips From Avid Campers).

  1. 4Runners, especially the 3rd generation are great vehicles for people who are nostalgic about the 90s and early 2000s body-style SUVs.
  1. If are looking for comfort and better rideability when driving on pavements, then I recommend you get the newer generation that comes with the KDSS suspension system.

Most owners who have 4Runners without the KDSS reported having felt a difference in comfort when driving on pavements in 4Runner that had KDSS, especially around curves.

See also: Should You Buy A Car Through Costco? 

What type of buyer should avoid buying a 4Runner (buyer advice)

  1. These vehicles tend to have a bad fuel economy.

Therefore, if you plan to drive it daily, get ready for frequent stops at the gas station.

  1. 4Runners, especially the older generations may not be the best choice for buyers who plan to be driving only on-roads like in the cities and interstates.

However, if you love and only want to buy a 4Runner,  then I recommend you go for the models/ trim levels that have proven to perform better on-road. A better place to start would be the new TRD Sport or SR5.

  1. If comfort is your top priority, then you may end up disappointed, especially if you are buying the older generations. 

Additionally, most of these early generations’ ride is more truck-like.

  1. If you are looking for a vehicle with tons of features, the new generation 4Runner may also not be a good choice. It lacks features that other vehicles with almost the same price will have.
  1. If you live in salty areas like Chicago, then you gonna have to figure out how you’re going to deal with rust on the 4Runner.

Indeed, 4Runners last forever but it is rust that kills them.

Why do the 4Runners tend to rust a lot?
The 4Runners are usually affected by rust mainly because they are painted but not coated when they come from the factory.
This makes them vulnerable to rust!

How to avoid rust on the frames of the Toyota 4Runner;
I recommend coating the frames of the Toyota 4Runner every few years. This will help with the rusting.

In conclusion, whether you are buying a new or used one, 4Runner has proven to hold its value incredibly well!

Hey, I'm Matthias. I am passionate about adventure travel, EVs, and tech in general. I am open-minded and pretty curious. But you know what they say, blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures!