For four decades and counting, the Toyota 4Runner has been the heartthrob of off-road enthusiasts, earning its stripes with unmatched reliability and sheer grit. I remember when the 4Runner was just a beefed-up Toyota pickup with a snazzy fiberglass cap.
Fast forward to today, and it’s evolved into a beastly SUV, never forgetting its wild roots. Being part of the Toyota lineage, the 4Runner is celebrated not just for its indestructible engine but also for its off-roading prowess.
But hey, even the best have their off days. Drawing from my years turning wrenches in my own garage and test-driving a plethora of vehicles, here’s my take:
Golden years for the 4Runner? Hands down: 2020-2021, 2017-2018, 2012-2015, 2007-2008, and 2003-2004. But tread carefully with the 2019, 2009-2011, 2016, 2001-2002, and 2005-2006 models.
From my experience, the pesky evaporative emissions control (EVAP) system often acts up and doesn’t get me started on the catalytic converter issues. Drive safe and keep those engines roaring!
|Best Years||Why?||Worst Years||Why?|
|2020-2021||Top reliability marks in both categories||2005-2006||Struggles with powertrain overhaul|
|2017-2018||Major FIXD Reliability Score improvement||2001-2002||Reliability moves in the wrong direction|
|2012-2015||Solid fuel efficiency and value||2016||7-point drop in reliability, high maintenance costs|
|2007-2008||Notable step up in reliability||2009-2011||Trouble with the launch of the 5th-gen model|
|2003-2004||Well-executed rollout of 4th-gen model
|2019||FIXD Reliability Score dives|
Best Years Toyota 4Runner
Taking into account Owner reliability, government safety scores, fuel efficiency, and 4Runner owner survey responses, we’ve come up with this list of the best Toyota 4Runners. Pertinent recall information and notes about common DTCs are included as well.
- Engine Reliability: Solid 9-10/10.
- Owner Feedback: A perfect score, 10/10.
- KBB Value: Hovering between $34,794-$34,720.
- Fuel Efficiency: 17 mpg, not the best, but it’s a 4Runner!
- Annual Upkeep: A mere $250-$500.
- Safety: Respectable 4/5.
With most of these machines clocking in under 50,000 miles, it’s no shocker that the 2020 and 2021 models are the cream of the crop. The 2021 model, in particular, saw both FIXD and owner reliability ratings sync up at a flawless 10/10.
And hey, that’s a significant leap from 2019. Though there weren’t any major engine overhauls, the fuel efficiency took a slight hit in 2020.
But for true 4Runner aficionados, that’s hardly a deal-breaker. What caught my eye was the dip in annual maintenance costs in 2021 and the stabilization of the Kelley Blue Book values.
Given the 4Runner’s legendary status and the recent surge in the used car market, this makes sense. From the chatter in the community, about 40% of owners are optimistic about their 4Runners reaching the 200k mile mark.
While most rave about the comfy seats, there’s a bit of a learning curve with the 2020 entertainment system, thanks to the new Entune setup. Interestingly, a good chunk (40%) of the 2020 4Runner owners are families.
Toyota’s addition of family-friendly features like advanced safety nets, rear USB ports, Wi-Fi, and a safety telematics system in 2020 probably played a part. As for shop visits, you’re looking at less than a day annually for the 2020-2021 models.
But a heads-up for the DTC P0441 and DTC P0301 codes. The former might be a simple gas cap issue or a purge valve replacement, while the latter suggests a misfire, possibly needing new spark plugs.
And if DTC P0174 lights up, it’s likely an air-fuel imbalance, hinting at a new Mass Airflow sensor. Lastly, there was a minor recall for both years, concerning a load capacity label error.
But rest easy, any Toyota dealership should sort out safety recalls on a 4Runner up to 15 years old, free of charge. Drive safe and enjoy the ride!
- Engine Reliability: A decent 7-8/10.
- Owner Feedback: A range from 7 to a perfect 10/10.
- KBB Value: A range of $28,497-$29,808.
- Fuel Efficiency: A reasonable 18 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Between $250-$833.
- Safety: A commendable 4/5.
The 2017 model saw a whopping 6-point jump in the FIXD Reliability Score from its predecessor, with another point added in 2018. Owners’ sentiments did waver a bit but eventually settled at a stellar 10/10, a score the 4Runner has been no stranger to over the years.
Market values took a brief dip but rebounded in 2018. Maintenance costs varied, but the silver lining? Fewer days in the shop compared to other models. Interestingly, 17% of owners felt their 4Runner was a bargain to repair, which is double the usual rate.
A significant chunk of owners (between 40-57%) primarily used their 4Runners for extensive travel and driving. This aligns with the 33% of 2017 owners raving about the seat comfort.
Now, for the techy part: The DTC P1604, common in these models and Toyotas in general, points to a fuel system hiccup. It might be time to shell out $450-$600 for a new fuel pump. And if you encounter DTCs P0441 or P0455, it’s the EVAP system acting up, specifically the charcoal canister. Replacing this vapor-storing component will set you back $750-$1,000.
On the recall front, the 2017 model had five, including one concerning a TFORCE roof rack that affected around 1,000 vehicles. The 2018 model also had five recalls, with a notable one related to fuel pump failure impacting a staggering 1.5 million vehicles.
- Engine Reliability: Solid 8/10.
- Owner Feedback: A consistent perfect score, 10/10.
- KBB Value: Ranging from $14,452-$21,303.
- Fuel Efficiency: A commendable 18-19 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Between $500-$750.
- Safety: A good 4/5.
Toyota made a bold move in 2011 by axing the four-cylinder engine and saying goodbye to the V8 a year prior. This streamlining of the powertrain might be the secret sauce behind the uptick in the FIXD Reliability Score come 2012. And, hats off to the owners for dishing out perfect 10s for four consecutive years.
The absence of the V8 also meant a boost in fuel economy, peaking at 19 mpg in 2012. If you’re scouting for a used 4Runner, the 2013 model is a gem, averaging 150,000 miles and a KBB value of $16,000.
Now, 150,000 miles might raise eyebrows, but trust me, these beasts are built to last. Owners are optimistic about hitting the 200k mile mark, and 20% of 2013 owners even claim their 4Runners are a steal to repair. That’s the highest praise in two decades!
On the tech side, DTCs P1604 and P1605 pop up frequently between 2012 and 2015. These codes hint at subpar fuel quality, a blocked fuel filter, or a dying fuel pump. If it’s the latter, you’re looking at a $450-$600 bill.
Another recurring gremlin is the DTC P0441, pointing to the charcoal canister. This aligns with owners’ reports of the 2013 model’s fuel system repairs often crossing the $500 mark.
Recall-wise, the 2012 model had eight, and the 2013 had six, with three issues in both years tied to airbag inflators. The 2014 model had seven recalls, and 2015 had nine, with both years plagued by a fuel pump failure affecting a whopping 1.8 million vehicles.
- Engine Reliability: A moderate 5-6/10.
- Owner Feedback: Impressive 9-10/10.
- KBB Value: Ranging from $7,927-$8,698.
- Fuel Efficiency: A steady 17 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: A bit on the higher side, between $925-$1,100.
- Safety: A respectable 4/5.
The 4Runner’s journey has been a rollercoaster, with the FIXD Reliability Score taking a nosedive and then soaring between 2006 and 2008. While whispers of a head gasket issue in 2006 circulated online, Toyota never officially acknowledged it.
Yet, the DTC P0306, hinting at a 4Runner head gasket problem, was flagged 90 times in 2006, dropping to just 10 in 2007. Fewer head gasket hiccups certainly spell better reliability.
Given their age and an average mileage of over 190,000, it’s no surprise that these models demand higher maintenance costs and more frequent shop visits. But on the bright side, their market value saw an uptick in 2008.
- Engine Reliability: A bit low at 3-4/10.
- Owner Feedback: Respectable 8/10.
- KBB Value: Ranging from $4,984-$5,511.
- Fuel Efficiency: Consistent 17 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Between $432-$729.
- Safety: A commendable 4/5.
The debut of a new vehicle generation often comes with its fair share of hiccups. However, the 4th-gen 4Runner in 2003 bucked that trend.
Despite the FIXD Reliability Score being on the lower side, the 2003 model showed improvement from its predecessor, and 2004 continued that upward trend. What makes these older 4Runners stand out?
A rise in market value, a dip in maintenance costs, and a minimal recall count – just three for 2003 and two for 2004. While owners weren’t raving about the seats, many felt their 4Runners were a bargain to repair.
On the tech front, if you encounter the DTC P0442, it’s likely a minor EVAP system leak, often fixed by simply tightening the gas cap. But, if you come across DTCs P0420 or P0430, brace yourself.
These codes signal the need for a new catalytic converter, which isn’t a cheap fix.
Worst Years Toyota 4Runner
Working with the same information to determine the best Toyota 4Runners, we’ve compiled the list of model years to avoid. You can expect more issues with reliability, higher maintenance bills, and in some cases lower safety ratings with these poor-performing 4Runners.
We are starting from the absolute worst and progressing to the least worst.
- Engine Reliability: A concerning 1/10.
- Owner Feedback: A surprisingly perfect score, 10/10.
- KBB Value: Ranging from $7,408-$7,960.
- Fuel Efficiency: Steady at 17 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Between $563-$917.
- Safety: A solid 4/5.
Midway through the 4th-gen production, Toyota made some significant changes. They introduced VVT to the V8 and replaced the 4-speed automatic with a 5-speed on the V6.
Unfortunately, these changes didn’t bode well for reliability, pushing the 2005 and 2006 models to the bottom of the FIXD Reliability Score. There were whispers of a head gasket issue in the 2006 model.
While Toyota remained tight-lipped, FIXD devices flagged the DTC P0306 (indicating a head gasket problem) a staggering 92 times in 2006 and an even higher 127 times in 2005. This was way above the 20-year average of 27.
While P0306 was concerning, other codes like P0420, P0430, and P0456 popped up more frequently. The first two hint at a failing catalytic converter, while the latter suggests a minor EVAP system leak, often fixed by tightening the gas cap.
What’s intriguing is the stark contrast between the FIXD and owner-reported scores. A whopping 76% of owners believed their 4Runners could effortlessly cross the country, with the remaining 24% confident in a 500-mile road trip.
None felt their 4Runners were just city cruisers. However, there’s a catch.
The 2005 model had the highest DTC count of any year, with 2006 close behind. Both years had DTC counts more than double the 20-year average. Objectively, these 4Runners had reliability issues.
On the recall front, both years had five recalls each. The most significant in 2005 was a pedal entrapment issue affecting over a million vehicles. In 2006, a side-curtain airbag deployment issue impacted 320,000 vehicles.
- Engine Reliability: A low 2-3/10.
- Owner Feedback: Impressive 9-10/10.
- KBB Value: Ranging from $4,386-$4,759.
- Fuel Efficiency: 16-17 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Between $350-$417.
- Safety: A decent 3.7/5.
These third-gen 4Runners have a charm of their own. They’re relatively easy on the pocket when it comes to repairs, and owners have a soft spot for them.
However, the FIXD Reliability Score paints a different picture, making it hard to give them a full endorsement. Given that they’re clocking in around the 200,000-mile mark, the declining reliability year-over-year is a concern.
Interestingly, a good chunk of 2001 and 2002 owners felt their 4Runners were cost-effective when it came to garage visits. But a word of caution: if you’re hit with a hefty bill, it’s likely due to the brakes.
There’s a 40% chance that a major repair will be brake-related, which is unusually high for these models. If you’re looking at a brake pad and rotor replacement, expect a $500 bill if done by a pro.
On the tech side, the 4Runner’s love affair with EVAP issues continues. DTCs P0440 and P0446 both point to problems with the charcoal canister. And if you encounter the dreaded DTC P0420, brace yourself for a potential catalytic converter replacement, which can set you back up to $2,000.
Recall-wise, both years had three recalls each. A significant one was the ball joint failure, affecting a whopping 800,000 vehicles across both model years.
- Engine Reliability: A concerning 1/10.
- Owner Feedback: Respectable 8/10.
- KBB Value: A solid $30,762.
- Fuel Efficiency: A steady 18 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Around $750.
- Safety: A commendable 4/5.
A FIXD Reliability score of 1/10 is a red flag for any mechanic. The 2016 4Runner’s score, combined with a noticeable dip in owner-reported reliability, makes it hard to give this model a thumbs up.
However, its market value saw a significant boost in 2016, likely due to the introduction of the sought-after TRD Pro model the previous year, which quickly became the priciest 4Runner trim available.
Interestingly, half of the 2016 4Runner owners primarily used their SUVs for family outings. This is notably higher than the 34% average, possibly influenced by the 2014 refresh that introduced family-friendly features like a backup camera, an upgraded infotainment system, and plush door panels.
On the technical side, the 2016 model, like its siblings, had fuel system issues. DTCs P0441 and P0455 indicate a need for a new charcoal canister, which isn’t cheap, ranging from $750-$1,000. The DTC P1604, common in Toyotas, could point to a clogged fuel filter or a faulty fuel pump.
Recall-wise, the 2016 model had eight recalls, with two focusing on exploding airbag inflators, affecting a staggering two million vehicles.
- Engine Reliability: A moderate 3-5/10.
- Owner Feedback: Strong 9-10/10.
- KBB Value: Ranging from $9,980-$15,917.
- Fuel Efficiency: 17-19 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Between $250-$667.
- Safety: A varying 3-4.2/5.
The 5th-gen 4Runner made its debut in 2010, introducing a new four-cylinder engine and a beefed-up V6. However, the FIXD Reliability Score took a hit, continuing its decline from 2009. Despite this, owners remained largely satisfied.
The axing of the V8 led to improved fuel economy, and maintenance costs remained reasonable. However, the 2011 safety rating was a concern, especially when compared to industry standards.
Owners appreciated the 2010 model’s enhanced visibility and the luxury features of the 2011 model. Common DTCs during this period were fuel system-related, with P1603 and P1604 indicating potential fuel filter or pump issues.
The 2010 model had a whopping 12 recalls, with airbag issues being the most prevalent.
- Engine Reliability: Average 5/10.
- Owner Feedback: Stellar 10/10.
- KBB Value: A hefty $35,019.
- Fuel Efficiency: 18 mpg.
- Annual Upkeep: Around $417.
- Safety: A commendable 4/5.
The 2019 4Runner saw a decline in the FIXD Reliability Score, even without any significant powertrain changes. However, owners remained loyal, with every single one confident in their 4Runner’s cross-country capabilities.
This discrepancy between objective data and owner sentiment highlights the importance of viewing both metrics. Interestingly, 67% of owners felt their 4Runner was pricey to maintain.
Common DTCs for this model year revolved around the EVAP system, with issues typically resolved by tightening the gas cap. The most significant recall for the 2019 model was a fuel pump failure, impacting a massive 1.5 million vehicles.
What Owners of The Toyota 4 Runner Like to Use Their Car For:
|Frequent Use Categories:||How Useful? (Out of 5 Stars)|
|Lots of Driving (travel/long commute)||***|
|Office on Wheels||*|
Data Sources for Toyota 4Runner Reliability
This article explores the reliability of the Toyota 4Runner. Let’s break down the sources and methodologies used to arrive at the conclusions presented:
1. Reliability Score & Data:
- Methodology: The score is derived from the number of Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) recorded annually, adjusted for mileage. This data is then converted into a 1-10 scale for easier visualization.
- Nature: Objective.
2. Owner Reliability Score & Data:
- Source: Surveys from Toyota 4Runner owners using FIXD.
- Methodology: Owners are asked about the reliability of their Toyota 4Runner. Their responses are then translated into scores:
- Just point A to point B driving = 2
- A Daily Commuter = 4
- Good for a 100-mile road trip = 6
- Good for a 500-mile road trip = 8
- I could take a cross-country road trip, no problem = 10
- Nature: Subjective.
Note: Owners might have biases based on brand loyalty or familiarity with a particular model. For instance, Ford has won several consumer loyalty awards for models like the Ford F-Series, Mustang, and Expedition.
Such biases can influence perceptions of reliability. Hence, the question posed to owners is mileage-centric rather than comparative to other vehicles.
However, it’s essential to approach the Owner Reliability Scores with a grain of caution due to potential biases.
3. KBB Value:
- Source: Kelley Blue Book (KBB).
- Details: Represents the average valuation from private sellers for a Toyota 4Runner, considering typical mileage for the specific model year.
4. Fuel Economy:
- Source: EPA MPG on Fueleconomy.gov.
- Details: Provides miles-per-gallon estimates.
5. Annual Maintenance/Repair:
- Source: Surveys from Toyota 4Runner owners.
- Details: Reflects the yearly upkeep costs as reported by the owners.
6. Safety Rating:
- Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Methodology: All ratings for a particular year are averaged to derive a simplified, average safety score, facilitating easier graphical representation.
Which Toyota 4Runner years should I be cautious about due to engine or transmission issues?
The 2002 and 2006 models of the Toyota 4Runner have been flagged for potential engine problems. Specifically, the 2002 model has a 40% likelihood of encountering costly engine-related repairs, while the 2005 model stands at 33%. When it comes to transmission concerns, the 2005 4Runner takes the lead with a 22% chance of a significant transmission repair. This aligns with Toyota’s decision to transition from a 4-speed to a 5-speed automatic that year. Regular maintenance, especially for the transmission, is crucial.
What’s considered a lot of miles on a Toyota 4Runner?
On average, a 4Runner clocks in at about 140,000 miles over 21 years based on FIXD data. Some models, like the 2001, even reach an impressive 215,000 miles. Given that 27% of 4Runner owners anticipate their vehicle to surpass 200,000 miles, a reading of around 165,000 miles might be deemed as “high mileage.” However, the specific model year you opt for can influence how many more miles you can comfortably add.
Are there any other vehicles comparable to the 4Runner I should consider?
Certainly! While the 4Runner stands out for its off-road prowess, the Jeep Wrangler is a worthy contender in this segment. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, though, might be a closer match in terms of functionality and design. If you’re leaning towards a more crossover-style vehicle with some off-road capabilities, the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot are solid choices. They offer a blend of comfort and mild off-road capabilities. Regardless of your pick, always ensure you’re well-informed about off-road driving techniques to ensure a safe adventure.
The Toyota 4Runner, with its rich history and proven track record, remains a top choice for off-road enthusiasts and families alike. Its evolution from a simple pickup to a robust SUV showcases Toyota’s commitment to innovation and performance.