For the past year, I’ve been thinking that my next car will be a pre-owned, depreciated 200-Series Toyota Land Cruiser (the "200 Series" is the Land Cruiser model that’s been on sale since 2008). My plan has been to sell both my 100-Series Land Cruiser and my Volkswagen GTI, consolidating the two into this new-to-me 4×4 that can serve as both a luxury vehicle and off-road toy. As my 20 year-old 4×4 and 6-year old German hot hatch seem to have been falling apart at a faster and faster rate lately, I’m starting to think it might be smart to make a change sooner rather than later.
The 200 Series was introduced in 2008 and has received two updates since then — a mild one for 2013, and then a major one for 2016. New 2018 models retail for just under $84,000 — while at the low end of the used market, a high-mileage 2008 can be had for well under $30,000. Land Cruisers buck the trend of the normal automobile lifecycle, as they’re built with a 25-year service life in mind. Therefore, historically at least, they’ve experienced extremely slow depreciation curves, compounded by the fact that they’re a low-volume vehicle here in the United States.
I’ve been keeping tabs on the used market for a while, but as Land Cruisers are rare to begin with, and owners tend to hold on to their vehicles the longest, the local market isn’t exactly flooded. The other day, though, I noticed that three had just popped up in the local classifieds: a 2008, a 2011 (the last year before the first update) and a 2013 (the first year after the update; Toyota skipped the 2012 model year all together).
For a while, I’ve felt that the 2013 model year is probably the one to target, as the facelift brought a number of modernizing creature comforts. Still, it all comes down to price, and I could see myself buying any model year if I saw enough value in it; an incredible deal on a 2008 would be equivalent to a just-okay deal on a more modern 2013. When it really comes down to it, a well-kept 200 Series of any model year is going to make for an exceptionally reliable, capable and cool vehicle, as far as I’m concerned.
So when I saw these three examples pop up locally, I thought I should probably take this rare opportunity to test-drive a few different iterations of 200 Series — and this Saturday afternoon, I set out to do just that.
The 2008: 115,000 miles; $29,995. I wanted this to serve as my baseline. I figured that out the door, this example could’ve probably been had for closer to $25,000, currently about the least one could expect to pay for a 200 Series with nothing seriously wrong with it. This one was to give me an idea of what I’d be looking at if I shopped purely on price.
As I was leaving my house, I called the small, independent dealer offering the vehicle only to find out that it had just sold yesterday. On to the next one.
The 2011: 70,000 miles; $38,000. Again, given how much margin is built into used cars, I figured this 2011 could’ve been purchased for probably under $35,000 out the door. The purpose of test-driving this one was to answer the question: How important is it to have the refreshed 2013-and-up model?
The answer? It’s quite important. This particular 2011 model was a little beat up inside, which didn’t help my perception — but overall, given the lack of usable luxury features, the grainy navigation screen and the hodgepodge of beige, black and shiny fake wood interior surfaces, it left something to be desired. I also grew a little frustrated: I understand Toyota has to offer the Land Cruiser as a luxury vehicle in the U.S. to make a business case for selling here, but certain "luxury features" now only served to make the vehicle feel dated here a decade later. The shiny wood steering wheel, utterly obsolete roof-mounted DVD player and accompanying peripherals, and antiquated infotainment system all took away value from the vehicle — at least in my eyes.
Overall, considering the current market prices, it’s difficult to see the value in a 2011 model. Handing the keys back was the first time I really started to wonder if a 200 Series is the right vehicle for me.
The 2013: 71,000 miles; $46,600. The 2013 immediately felt more special than the 2011. The fact that it was better maintained certainly didn’t hurt. The new features added for 2013 bring the 200 a bit closer to modern standards, approaching a level I deem acceptable for a daily driver in 2018. The 2013 comes with radar cruise control, perforated leather with heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a surround-view camera and an updated gauge cluster screen and center infotainment system. Still, though, this vehicle would need to cost around $10k less for me to really even consider buying it. $47k for a vehicle that lacks lane-keep assist? Living the next five years without blind spot monitoring? THIRTEEN miles per gallon in post-environmentalism America?
The fact of the matter is that it’s hard to justify spending close to $40,000 on a vehicle that lacks the comfort and safety features found on new vehicles costing half as much. And that’s assuming you’ve already gotten over the 200 Series’ abysmal 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway fuel economy rating.
What I’ve concluded is that given the current market, you’ve really got to value the Land Cruiser brand name to justify the purchase.
Do I? At these prices, not quite. Factor in that thanks to autonomous tech and systems like Apple CarPlay, the automotive landscape is changing more rapidly than it has in the past, and I fear that depreciation on these will start to accelerate faster than it has historically. I may be better off waiting a few years. Find a used Toyota Land Cruiser for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He managed to work in the auto industry for a while without once crashing a corporate fleet vehicle. On Instagram he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.