Why Are 1st Gen Tacomas So Expensive?

Toyota Tacomas are one of the most popular compact trucks on the market. The first generation of the Toyota Tacoma rolled out of the production line in 1995, and it lasted till 2004. Even though there are now two newer generations of the Tacoma, the first generation of the car still costs quite a lot.

The 2004 Toyota Tacoma has seven trims, which cost between $12,460 for the base trim to $ 22,700 for the highest trim. Compared to the 2010 Toyota Tacoma, which costs between $15,345 to $26,750, the cost of first-generation Tacoma will be a head-scratcher.

This close price between the two begs the obvious: What makes the price 2004 model comparable to that of 2010, which is six years and one generation ahead? There are several answers to this question. Let’s find out what makes 1st gen Tacomas expensive

Reasons Why 1st Gen Tacomas Are Expensive


First-gen Tacomas are one of the most reliable compact trucks in the market. Even though the last model of the 1st generation is more than a decade and a half, and with an average mileage of over 200,000 miles, they still run very well with relatively low maintenance costs.

It is this reputation for reliability that enhances the price of the first-gen Tacomas. When you know you are buying a car that will conveniently outlast most competitions, even models that came into the market after the 1st generation Tacomas were made.

One of the significant problems of 1st gen Tacomas is the early onset of body rust. Even at that, these Tacomas still run pretty well. Three words that people associate with the 1st gen Tacoma are durability, reliability, and quality.

There is no way a car with the above attributes won’t command a premium price in the market. The fact that 1st gen Tacomas age well also adds to their value. There is no doubt that a well-maintained Tacoma from the first generation can last a long time without costing an arm and a leg in maintenance costs.


Two things are responsible for a high demand for 1st gen Tacomas. The first is their famed reliability. The second is the fact there is so few 1st gen Tacomas in the market. The combination of these factors means that there is a high demand for these trucks.

We have already discussed the truck’s excellent reliability. There are not so many 1st gen Tacomas on the market because Toyota bought most of the 1995-2004 Tacomas from its customers because of early rust problems.

As expected in free-market conditions, when there is a limited number of goods available, demand increases. High demand will always lead to a rise in price. The good thing for sellers of the 1st gen Tacoma is that the demand will probably continue for a while. Which means the price will continue.

In the compact truck used car market, 1st gen Tacomas remain the undisputed king.

In other industries, demand simply is one of the biggest reasons why certain luxury cars are so expensive—

  1. Nissan GTR
  2. Porsche 911
  3. Audi R8
  4. Honda NSX
  5. BMW M8


1st gen Tacomas are adaptable; their drivetrains allow them to handle smoothly on the roads. They are also competent for off-road journeys too. This adaptability and superior handling give 1st gen Tacomas an advantage over its competitors.

This advantage translates to expensive 1st gen Tacomas. Its RWD makes it an all-terrain, all-weather vehicle that is comfortable for hauling loads wherever. This drivetrain is coupled with a four-speed automatic transmission. 

It is also equipped with all-season tires that give drivers peace of mind while driving in the winter. Some of Tacoma’s competitors have more robust engines, but its V6 engine is adequate for the truck’s requirements.

The adaptability of 1st gen Tacomas to act as everyday driving, haulage, off-road driving increases its values and price.

Lack of Faith in Newer Models

There is a belief among buyers of compact trucks. Older models are usually more durable than newer ones. This belief or lack of faith is not based on fact but nostalgia. There’s always a belief that things in the past are better.

1st gen Tacomas are one of the first sets of compact trucks that came on the market, which means it is one of the “golden oldies”. It commands respect from anyone with more than a passing interest in compact trucks or trucks in general.

Low Depreciation

Another reason for the high price of 1st gen Tacoma is that they don’t depreciate quickly. Together with its cousin, the Toyota Hilux, 1st gen is one of the most durable trucks in the market. This durability adds to the depreciation-resistance quality of the 1st gens.

For instance, the confidence that you can buy a 2003 Tacoma and know it hasn’t depreciated too much is a significant reason why 1st gens will always command a high price. Again, 1st gen Tacomas have problems with early rusting, but even that doesn’t add to its depreciation.

Toyota Buyback

In 2008, Toyota Motor Company had to recall hundreds of thousands of 1st generation Tacomas. The reason for buyback was the rust problem, which led to the degradation of the 1st gen Tacoma’s components. 

In 2012, there were further recalls of another 150,000 1st gen Tacoma for rust extra tire carriage. Now, you might be thinking that these recalls might have diminished the value of these cars. You would be wrong.

As part of the court settlement, Toyota paid Tacoma and some other Toyota brand owners $3 billion. They changed up most of the cars or scraped those that were severely damaged. Some car owners collected five-figure checks from Toyota for their 1st gen cars.

The scarcity caused by the recalls and the settlement checks meant that the value of 1st gen Tacomas shot up. The reframed cars were better. Tacomas are known for durability, so it was a no-brainer that people would want to get them.

This recalls that led to fewer 1st gen Tacomas is another reason that makes 1st gen Tacomas expensive.

Common 1st Gen Tacomas Problems

Like most cars, 1st gen Tacomas have some inherent problems. Here are some of them

  • Frame Rust

1st gen Tacomas and their issues with rusting have been discussed before. Their frames allow moisture in, leading to rapid rusting.  While Toyota recalled and compensated some owners, it is possible that the Tacoma you buy was part of those fixed.

Check the undercarriage of the truck thoroughly to check rust progression. Though most of the earlier ones already have their undercarriage coated to deal with the problem.

  • Failing Lower Ball Joint

There is a high risk of lower ball joint failure in 1st gen Tacoma because of a finishing problem during production by the plant. Mainly those models produced between 2001 to 2004.

Some drivers complained of a humming sound underneath the truck or stiffness in the steering before the ball joint failure. Others weren’t so lucky. Their trucks failed them without any warning. The lower ball joint problem was so widespread that Toyota had to recall Tacomas produced between 2001-2004 to fix the issue.

Before purchasing any 1st gen Tacoma, examine the lower ball joints. Especially if the models fall between the problematic years.

  • Broken Glove Compartment Tab

Another common 1st gen Tacoma issue is the problem with its glove compartment tab. Many first-gen Tacoma owners can relate to the rattling sound usually emanating from the vehicle’s passenger side.

The source of this sound is a couple of poorly fitted rubber tabs during production. During production, these tabs broke off and led to the glove compartment fitting loosely and hitting against the lower dash area. This is what causes the rattling sound.

The best way to fix the problem is to replace the glove compartment.

  • Automatic Transmission Issues

Trucks from about twenty models (1995-2015) have this transmission problem. The automatic gear in some (not all) of the cars doesn’t shift correctly. The solution to this problem is to adjust the gear sensor and replace the solenoid.

  • Crankshaft Pulley Bolt

This is a minor issue, probably due to worn out screw threads. The pulley bolt in the crankshaft comes loose. 1stgen Tacomas experience this because, well, let’s face it, they have been around for some time.

The solution to this problem is to use a thread locker, then re-torque the bolt.


First-generation Tacomas are one of the top three compact trucks in whatever category you look at them. Both the buyers and sellers know that the cars are reliable, durable, in-demand, and with a limited supply, all factor in to push up the price of the trucks.

First-gen Tacomas do what they are supposed to very well. Their versatility and adaptability satisfy most drivers. This is not to sweep some of the issues these beasts have under the carpet, especially the rust issues.

Most of their problems have been solved or solvable, so it doesn’t take anything from the aura near invincibility that these trucks possess. There’s no way a prospective buyer can lose when they choose a 1st gen Tacoma especially if they do their due diligence before purchasing them.

In other news, make sure you also check out our other articles so that you stay updated on current trends and facts—

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