Choosing a Toyota Truck: An Aftermarket Guide to the Top Toyota Models

Updated on Aug 10, 2023

It’s no secret that Toyota’s produced some of the most reliable, hearty, and capable pickups of the last several decades, including the Tacoma, Tundra, and Hilux throughout other parts of the world. As a result, Toyota pickups are a hot commodity, often purchased as daily drivers or bases to build highly-capable wheelers out of. But which models are superior? Let’s find out!  

In this guide, our experts outline the top Toyota pickups, including the various generations, highlights, and downsides (if any). We’re also covering the basic characteristics that most consumers look for in a pickup platform; now, let’s get started!

What Makes for a Good Pickup? 

4x4 pickup trucks are the ultimate utilitarian vehicle, featuring the ability to tow, haul, trek through challenging terrain, and mull around town. However, some applications fall flat in some categories, while others excel. In this section, we cover the most desirable characteristics of pickup trucks and why each is so crucial.

Cargo Capacity

The basis of a pickup is its cargo capacity, or the amount of tools, gear, furniture, or assorted junk you can load in the bed. It’s for this reason that most consumers opt for a truck over any other vehicle class in the first place! While some may need more cargo space than others, depending on their pickup’s use, a proper truck should be able to transport most goods like furniture, luggage, building supplies, etc.


As the family’s workhorse, your pickup needs to be reliable. And while reliable is a generally relative term, we’d define it as a vehicle that requires no major repairs or expenses outside of scheduled maintenance and services. That means nothing besides brakes, oil and other fluid changes, batteries, timing and accessory belts, spark plugs, tires, and other standard wear components. If your truck spends more time at the shop than in your driveway, odds are it isn’t too reliable! 

Powertrain: Performance and Fuel Economy

Another vital component of a proper truck is the powertrain. Aside from overall reliability, your pickup should have plenty of power to tackle any job you ask of it, including towing a trailer and hauling heavy gear and equipment, all while using as little fuel as possible. 

While we aren’t talking about hybrid-level fuel economy, most consumers will appreciate mileage from their pickups in at least the mid–high teens. 

Off-Road Prowess

While not critical to every consumer, trekking off-road is a substantial part of truck ownership for overlanders, wheelers, and even campers! Luckily, off-road prowess and Toyota typically go hand-in-hand, especially in 4x4 configurations. From the earliest Toyota pickups to modern Tundras, most Toyota offerings will take you wherever you’ll need to go, including off the beaten path. 

Payload/Towing Capacity

Payload and towing capacity, while related to cargo space, earn their own section. It’s not enough to have the room to load cargo in the bed, but a strong-enough chassis to support the weight you’re carrying! The same goes for towing capacity; the ideal truck for you should be able to safely tow whatever you ask of it, whether that be a lightweight flat-deck trailer or a substantial travel trailer. 


While not every individual is concerned with pricing, most consumers have an average range they’re willing to spend on a pickup. As such, the ideal truck should have clean, low-mileage examples in your price range; if not, you’ll be looking at rougher or higher-mileage examples, which will likely negatively impact reliability.  

If the overall price is less of a concern, you should focus on value. What are you receiving for the money? Are you overspending for minimal features, or do the equipment and specs warrant the price? 

Aftermarket Support

If you’re an avid modder, any platform with substantial aftermarket support will likely pique your interest. Luckily, most generations and models of Toyota pickups have a bustling aftermarket, including suspension modifications, wheels and tires, performance upgrades, and more!

Top Toyota Truck Models

Now, let’s turn our attention to the main point of this guide: Toyota Trucks! Our experts have selected the top Toyota pickup trucks throughout the years, including the Tacoma, the Tundra, and the Toyota pickup (the mid-size precursor to the Tacoma). For conciseness, we’ve stuck to the common and well-regarded models available in the U.S. (forgive us Hilux fans) and left out any SUVs.

Toyota Pickup (1968-1994.5)

While technically not the first Toyota truck sold in the United States, as that title belongs to the Toyota Stout, the Toyota Pickup is the most recognizable early Toyota truck model. The mid-size pickup stormed onto the scene in the late 1960s, blending the legendary reliability of Toyota’s vehicles with the utilitarian form factor of an American truck! 

Though the first couple of generations didn’t come in 4x4 or Xtra-cab variants, the iconic dual-headlight design in the first and second-generation pickups is still easily recognizable. The second generation Pickup also gave birth to the first 20R inline-four, which developed into the legendary 22R, 22RE, and 22RTE. 

All generations of the Toyota Pickup are renowned for robust reliability; however, we’d recommend a Gen 3–5 for a slightly larger form factor, legendary 22RE, and 4x4. These Toyota Pickup generations make excellent daily drivers or wheelers.

Toyota Pickup Generations

First Generation (1968–1972)

  • Only available as 2WD

  • 1.9L Inline 4-cylinder

  • Independent front suspension

  • Virtually identical to the Hi-Lux offered around the world

Second Generation (1973-1978)

Third Generation (1979-1983)

  • Introduced the legendary 2.4L 22R engine

  • Factory 4x4 option with a solid front axle and transfer case

  • Factory automatic transmission offered

Fourth Generation (1984-1988)

  • Introduced Xtracab model 

  • Fuel-injected 2.4L 22RE, turbocharged 22RTE, 3.0L 3VZ-E

  • IFS front suspension with torsion bars

  • 4x4 capable

Fifth Generation (1989-1994.5)

  • Fuel-injected 2.4L 22RE or 3.0L 3VZ-E engine

  • Offered in single cab or Xtra cab configurations

  • Offered with 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic

  • IFS front suspension

  • 4x4 capable

Toyota Tacoma (1994.5–Current)

Where other parts of the world continued the Toyota Pickup (Hilux), the United States saw the discontinuation of the model in 1994.5 to make room for its mid-size replacement: the Toyota Tacoma. Tacoma is a legendary name in the truck world; even those who aren’t fans of mid-sized pickups can appreciate the Tacoma's reliability, resale value, and unparalleled aftermarket support. 

After nearly three decades and soon-to-be four generations, the Tacoma shows no signs of slowing down; and neither does the model’s aftermarket support. Though not ideal for those that tow or haul heavy, the Tacoma is undoubtedly Toyota’s most-popular mid-size pickup. The model offers robust reliability, exceptional off-road performance, a peppy powertrain, and decent fuel efficiency to boot! Not to mention, Tacomas hold their resale value better than nearly any pickup on the market, averaging just over 63.5 percent after five years. 

Tacoma Tacoma Generations

1st Generation (1994.5–2004)

  • Coil-sprung IFS front suspension

  • Rear differential locker available on TRD edition

  • Offered in crew cab, Xtra cab, and single cab configurations

  • Offered with 2.4L 2RZ-FE I4, 2.7L 3RZ-FE I4, and 3.4L 5VZ-FE V6

  • Offered with 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic

2nd Generation (2005–2015)

  • Introduced the TRD PRO model

  • Offered with the first 6-speed manual option

  • Coil-sprung IFS front suspension

  • Offered in crew cab, Xtra cab, and single cab configurations

  • Offered with 2.7L 2TR-FE I4 or 4.0L 1GR-FE V6

3rd Generation (2016–Current)

  • Available with 2.7L 2TR-FE I4 or 3.5L 2GR-FKS V6

  • Coil-sprung IFS front suspension

  • Offered in crew cab and Xtra cab configurations

  • Offered with 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission

Toyota Tundra (2000-Current)

After years of producing only mid-size pickups and the ongoing demand for a full-sized V8 platform from the United States, Toyota released the Tundra in 2000. While technically not the first full-sized Toyota pickup in the states, the Tundra is a far more successful and longer-running platform than the 1992-1998 T-100.

The Tundra has competed head-to-head with the big-three American rivals ever since its conception, always reviewing well but never outselling. However, the Tundra is still a worthwhile investment that holds its resale value and fits into the full-size, half-ton market. 

Toyota Tundra Generations

1st Generation (2000–2006)

  • Available with 4.0 L 1GR-FE V-6 or 4.7 L 2UZ-FE V-8

  • Offered in crew cab, Xtra cab, or single cab configurations

  • Early model years feature 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission

  • Later model years feature 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmission

  • IFS coil-sprung front suspension

2nd Generation (2007–2021)

  • Available with 4.6L 1UR-FE V8 or 5.7L 3UR-FE V8

  • Offered in crew cab, Xtra cab, or single cab configurations

  • IFS coil-sprung front suspension

  • Available with TRD PRO package

  • Substantial facelift/revision from 2014–2021

3rd Generation (2022–Current)

  • All-new chassis

  • iForce 3.4L twin-turbocharged V6

  • First hybrid Tundra option

  • IFS coil-sprung front suspension

  • 10-speed automatic transmission

Which Toyota Truck is Best? 

So, which Toyota truck reigns supreme? The honest answer is...none! All three models–the Pickup, Tacoma, and Tundra–have their place in the market, and each features unique benefits that excel depending on your needs and expectations from your pickup. 

Both the Toyota Pickup and Tacoma are excellent daily drivers or wheelers. Late generation Pickups (gen 3–5) and early Tacomas make extremely capable wheeling rigs, and both feature immense aftermarket support to build your truck as you like! 

Later-generation Tacomas are the ultimate daily driver, featuring peppy powertrains, manual options, and plenty of space for cargo and passengers with available crew cab models and multiple bed configurations. 

Any generation of Tundra is an impressive full-size, half-ton offering, providing plenty of power to haul a trailer and room for the family in the spacious interior.

When it comes down to it, you truly can’t go wrong with a Toyota truck!     

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