So you’ve got $15,000 to spend on a used Toyota Tacoma. With so many model years, configurations and trim levels offered, it may be difficult to decide where to start. Below we’ll outline some of the main things to look for in a $15,000 Tacoma.
The second-generation Toyota Tacoma was built from the 2005 model year all the way up until 2015, and it didn’t change a whole lot in between. A first-generation model will feel quite dated, while finding a current, third-generation model introduced for 2016 for under $15,000 will prove difficult. With that, we recommend looking for one of these second-generation models. Note that while the second-gen Tacoma didn’t change much, it was given a number of small updates over its 10 years on sale; if you’re willing to be patient, look for a 2011-2015 model that fits your liking.
Worth noting is that in 2016, Toyota settled a class action suit regarding excessive frame rust on 2005-2010 model year Tacomas. As part of the settlement, Toyota agreed to inspect and replace rusted frames if necessary. If you’re looking at an example from these model years, verify whether this issue has been addressed.
Right now there are 906 2005-2015 Toyota Tacomas listed on Autotrader for around $15,000.
The Tacoma has historically been offered with two engines — a 4-cylinder on entry-level models and a more powerful V6 for higher trim levels. We recommend a V6-powered example for its added power, payload and towing capacities. These models obviously take a hit with regard to fuel economy, but the V6 is far and above the better engine for doing trucklike things.
Of the 906 Tacomas listed on Autotrader that fit our requirements so far, 565 offer the V6 engine.
Configuration, Trim Level, Mileage
Two things of note about Toyota Tacomas are that they hold their value quite well and they tend to run forever (except for one with unaddressed frame issues, as referenced above). Given this, it’s a viable strategy to look for a higher-mileage Tacoma of a better, higher trim level, as opposed to sacrificing features in order to afford one with lower mileage. While we wouldn’t recommend this for every vehicle, a used Tacoma with 100,000 miles on the odometer is nothing to be afraid of, provided it passes a pre-purchase inspection.
When it comes to pickups, different configurations are right for different people, so it’s impossible for us to recommend one "right" answer here. We do feel that a V6-powered, 4-door, 4-wheel drive model, possibly with the top-level TRD Off-Road trim level offers the most overall utility and value — a Tacoma configured this way will bring the most power, payload and towing capacity, carry the greatest number of people and take you to the most places thanks to fun off-road features like a Bilstein suspension and locking rear differential.
Of the 565 V6-powered 2005-2015 Tacomas listed for sale on Autotrader for around $15,000, 304 offer 4WD. Of that 304, 213 are crew cab models. Of that 213, only three offer an off-road trim level, indicative of just how well Tacomas hold their value. Still, with some patience and perhaps compromise in one or two areas, a Tacoma that falls within these parameters will present itself at the $15,000 price point.
To summarize, the $15,000 Toyota Tacoma that offers the most overall utility is likely a 2005-2015 model with 4WD, a V6 engine and the crew cab configuration. As Tacomas offer such high resale value, finding one offering an off-road package on top of this may prove difficult, but with some patience and persistent searching, it isn’t out of the question to find a higher mileage model — over 100,000, but below 150,000 — that includes all of these attributes.