The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling midsize truck on the market, so if you’ve decided to buy one, you’re probably making a good decision. With a number of trim levels and configurations available, there are a lot of Tacomas to choose from. Below, we outline what to look for if you’re a buyer with a budget of $35,000.
The Tacoma was the recipient of a full redesign for the 2016 model year, and current 2018 models are still competitive in their segment. As of 2018, all Tacomas come standard with a number of driver-assistance safety features, which we feel are worth prioritizing. Given this, we recommend buyers look for a new 2018 or 2019 Tacoma. But if you’re set on a certain trim level or configuration that isn’t available brand new for under $35,000, buying a used Tacoma is also a great route to take, as the Tacoma is known for having great reliability and resale value. Buyers going the used route should look for a 2016 or newer model.
The 2016-2019 Tacoma is available with two powertrains — a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder making 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque and reserved for entry-level models, and a 3.5-liter V6, good for 278 hp and 265 lb-ft. The 4-cylinder is really only worthy of light-duty applications; the V6 is the engine you’re most likely to find on dealer lots, and it’s the one we recommend. The Tacoma is offered with either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. It’s up to you to determine which of these transmissions you prefer, but if you’re on the fence, we recommend the automatic.
For $35,000, buyers have their choice of just about any Tacoma trim level, provided they’re willing to consider used examples when it comes to upper trims. Given that the Tacoma is best suited for adventurous, outdoor situations, we can’t help but recommend that buyers look for a TRD Off-Road model, as it provides a great overall value and will emphasize the Tacoma’s strong points, while also offering many of the comforts one should expect from a $35,000 vehicle. To take things a step further, a used Tacoma TRD Pro may be tempting, and there’s a chance buyers could find a higher-mileage example for right around $35,000. Still, the TRD Pro is best suited for buyers expecting to go off-road a lot; otherwise, you’ll be paying for a lot of features you’ll never use. For that reason, we think the TRD Off-Road trim level is the best Tacoma.
TRD Off-Road models are offered in all of the Tacoma’s available cab and bed configurations. This means buyers can spec out either an access cab model with a 6-foot-long bed, or a four-door double cab with either the 6-ft bed or the shorter 5-ft bed.
While Toyota’s listed MSRP for the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is $36,315, there are currently over 500 new and gently-used 2018 or 2019 Tacoma TRD Off-Road models listed on Autotrader for under $35,000.
In our opinion, $35,000 is enough to get buyers the best overall Toyota Tacoma available. For most, this is either a pre-owned or brand-new 2016-2019 TRD Off-Road model. The Tacoma TRD Off-Road emphasizes the best of everything the Tacoma has to offer — great utility, aggressive styling and all the off-road worthiness the Tacoma is known for. Given that standard driver-assistance safety features were introduced for 2018 models, we recommend buyers look for a 2018 or newer Tacoma TRD Off-Road model, and there are currently plenty to choose from on Autotrader for under $35,000.