5 Best And Worst Years For The Toyota 4Runner

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Toyota has been in the car business for quite some time now.

If you plan to purchase a Toyota 4Runner, it is a pretty good choice because it is said to be a strong vehicle, just like every Toyota vehicle.

When looking for a vehicle, it needs to last for a long period and reach long mileage to have an enjoyable experience. In this case, the Toyota 4Runner is outstanding in that category.

With that being said, let me tell you the best and worst years for Toyota 4Runner and how long they can last for as that will be valuable information for you.

So, you will be glad to know the Toyota 4Runner can last up to 200,000 miles on the odometer easily. As for the years, you should consider these models.

Best Years for Toyota 4Runner:

  1. 1984-1985 First Generation
  2. 1994-1995 Second Generation
  3. 1999-2000 Third Generation
  4. 2008-2009 Fourth Generation
  5. 2016-2017 Fifth Generation

Worst Years for Toyota 4Runner:

  1. 1986-1987 First Generation
  2. 1988-1989 First Generation
  3. 1990-1995 Second Generation
  4. 2001-2002 Third Generation
  5. 2003-2005 Fourth Generation

Now that you know the years, let’s get into the details of these models so you can know the good qualities and the bad ones for a better understanding.

Additionally, make sure to check out the buyer’s guide section, as I have answered some important questions so you can make your decision easier.

List Of The Best Years For The Toyota 4Runner: What Years To Buy

Let's compare the list of the Toyota 4Runner reliability by year

You might be unfamiliar with the older model of the Toyota 4Runner, but this article has got you covered.

All of the models listed here are the most reliable ones, but that’s not all that you should be looking at before buying a vehicle.

If you do like any of these models and wish to buy, then make sure to look into the model info, the model info, ownership procedure, trim levels, the used car price, and so much more.

Therefore, doing extra research of your own will give satisfaction when you purchase the car.

Other than that, these models are quite popular among those who rode them and are said to be a consumer-friendly SUV as well as a tough off-road fighter.

Do keep in mind that most of the information I will be providing is data received by the people who purchased and used this car so you can have a better understanding.

And these models are highly recommended by the Consumer Reports page.

So with that being said, let’s get into the list of the best years that you must have below:

#1 Best Year: 1984 – 1985 First Generation Toyota 4Runner

Although this model is quite old, it is still worth the purchase because of the incredible features and performance it has to offer.

The 4Runner was first released in 1984, and ever since then, the demand for Toyota four-wheel drive off-road SUVs have increased.

This vehicle is the most reliable one and is great for daily driving. The interior of these models is said to be comfortable and quiet.

It has a rear seat centered in a complete upholstered interior. Other than that, the vehicle’s top is fiberglass that can be removed easily.

Moving on, in this two first-generation 4Runner, you will be getting a 2.4 liter 22R or the 22RE four-cylinder engine.

Many have said that these engines have the power to last for a long period and allow you to go at a faster speed.

In addition to that, it also offers a 3.0 liter V6 and has turbocharged 22RE variants. These variants will be able to produce about 146 of Horsepower easily.

If you plan to buy this old version of the 4Runner, you better prepare yourself for extra maintenance so it can last for a long time without breakdowns or other problems.

#2 Best Year: 1994 – 1995 Second Generation Toyota 4Runner

Coming to the second generation, now you have these 1994 and 1995 Toyota 4Runner unique styles from the previous generation I discussed.

These are found in the two-doors and the four-door, which many people prefer.

In these models, the removable fiberglass roof was completely dismissed, but the retractable glass located in the tailgate is still there.

It is stated that the second-generation models are the perfect choice for off-roading and exploring with your friends or family in this vehicle.

Furthermore, the second generation 1994 and 1995 4Runner has the 22RE four-cylinders and the 3 VZ six-cylinder engines.

You will also be getting the option of automatic or manual variants for this model so choose wisely to have the best experience riding in them.

The great thing is that this model is not only reliable but also affordable. It is stated that you can easily find a second-generation 4Runner in the range of $5000 or more in the market.

#3 Best Year: 1999 – 2000 Third Generation Toyota 4Runner

If you want the most powerful engine that can be used for daily drives, then the third generation models 1999 and 2000 Toyota 4Runner are the best choices for you.

You will be surprised to know that when these models were first introduced, nearly 100,000 models were sold because of how excellent they can perform.

It is also stated that over 750,000 throw generation models of the Toyota 4Runner were sold. This is double the amount combining the first and the second generations of the 4Runner.

The great thing about these models is that they have two new engine options to offer people, the 2.7 liters four-cylinders which can produce 150 Horsepower, and the 3.4-liter V6 engine that can produce 183 Horsepower.

This is why the power of these vehicles has increased, which provides efficient and smooth rides all the time.

Other than that, you will also be able to enjoy the comfortable interior as well as the off-roading experience. You can find these models under $10,000 easily in the market.

#4 Best Year: 2008 – 2009 Fourth Generation Toyota 4Runner

Another amazing year for the Toyota 4Runner, both the 2008 and 2009 Toyota 4Runner is said to be family-friendly and road-friendly for many people.

There have been some changes in these fourth-generation models of the 4Runner as Toyota has improved the useful functionality for better performance.

These models come in a great sporty package with excellent handling capabilities while riding, making you have a smoother and more reliable ride.

Other than that, these models have a 4.0-liter V6 engine that will make sure to produce about 245 Horsepower effortlessly, and the other option, 4.7 liter V8, can produce 265 Horsepower.

Both of these have the power to increase torque production, which is why many people have it so much.

These models also have better-towing capacity as they can attach a trailer or a boat with them. Again for these models, you can find them for around $10,000 easily.

#5 Best Year: 2016 – 2017 Fifth Generation Toyota 4Runner

Coming to the last models in this list, you have the high generation of 2016 and 2017 Toyota 4Runners.

These models are said to be quite durable and dependable when it comes to the driving aspects.

You can find these models easily in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 in the market. However, it is also recommended that you purchase a used version of these models to save some cash.

You can find these models in a 4.0-liter V6 engine that will surely produce about 270 Horsepower.

With the help of this engine, you will surely reach a great mileage and go at a faster speed without any breakdowns.

Besides all that, these models also have excellent results on the frontal and side crash test ratings from the NHTSA, so it is most certainly a worth-have vehicle.

List Of The Worst Years For The Toyota 4Runner: What Years To Avoid

Although some of the Toyota 4Runners are said to be excellent for off-roading and are also user-friendly, which you should consider buying, there are still some models that have bad model years that must be avoided for your betterment.

Now you’re probably wondering why these are considered the worst years?

Well, the most common issue with these models is with the bodywork.

Most of these models are from the older generations, so you can only imagine the problems they might face.

This is why it is suggested that buying newer models is far better as they are less likely to have such problems.

Well, here are the worst years for Toyota 4Runner with numerous issues below:

#1 Worst Year: 1986 – 1987 First Generation Toyota 4Runner

As I have mentioned earlier, the first 4Runner was released in 1984. There have been many problems that various people faced after that.

You will be surprised to know that the retractable rear windshield would fall on the tailgate, causing a hazardous situation for many people.

Because of its popularity, people started to get attracted and purchase the 1986 and 1987 Toyota 4Runner with no concern about its reliability since they trusted it too much.

Although the engines these models have were said to be powerful, they could not produce horsepower above 100-150 hp.

In addition to that, there was also no use of the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission as they tend to malfunction frequently, which made people have a disturbing experience while riding.

Other common problems found in these models were rusting, leakage, and components that wear out easily. This is why it is best to avoid these models.

#2 Worst Year: 1988 – 1989 First Generation Toyota 4Runner

Again, while the demand for the first generation 1984 Toyota 4Runner was rising, the demand for these models started to fall due to the problematic features inside them.

These models have a 3.0-liter V6 engine that many said tends to ruin the performance of the vehicle’s entire system.

Many suggested that it is best to replace the 3.0 with a 3.4 V6 for better functionality.

Other than that, the chain-driven transfer case and the upgraded transmission are said to be terrible while off-roading because it does not have the power that most Toyota vehicles have.

Moreover, the feel of these vehicles is also said to be more truck-like, and it also does not go at a faster speed.

Besides that due to the engine issue, there will be continual head gasket issues, leaks, wear-out components, and suspension sagging.

#3 Worst Year: 1990 – 1995 Second Generation Toyota 4Runner

The first second-generation Toyota 4Runner was released in 1990. Although it was a new generation, it still did not have the same hype as the older generations had.

The second-generation 1990 up to 1995 Toyota 4Runners is said to have problems with its 3.0-liter V6 engine, leading to issues in all other vehicle components.

The change made in these models was that the fiberglass bed cap on the top of the 4Runner could not be removed.

Other than that, these second-generation models were said to be not safe to drive at all.

The NHTSA also gave these models a one-start for driver safety and four stars for passenger safety.

You will be surprised to know that these vehicles did not have the accurate protection for the crashes as at the front, the only protection was the window and the sheet metal that is said to be dangerous during an accident.

These models were said to be avoided at all costs with that alone.

#4 Worst Year: 2001 – 2002 Third Generation Toyota 4Runner

The 2001 and 2002 Toyota 4Runner, these models had the worst crash test ratings and rust problems in the design.

The third generation of Toyota 4Runner was the first to be tested by the IIHS. It is stated that the test results of these models were not good as they were below average.

The Achilles heel of the vehicles that were not in good condition as they crinkled way too easily. In addition to that, the reliability ratings on these models were also not up to the mark.

You will be surprised to know that according to the data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, each model from the third generation received around 250 complaints as they were reported to the NHTSA.

This is because each model had a rusting problem on them.

Another major issue was that Toyota also removed the manual transmission and locking rear differential, which decreased the off-road capabilities of these models.

#5 Worst Year: 2003 – 2005 Fourth Generation Toyota 4Runner

Coming to the last models in this worst years list, you have 2003 and 2005 Toyota 4Runner that are said to be avoided altogether.

The first fourth-generation model was first released in 2003. Many changes were made in this model year that made it look more like a car rather than truck-like Toyota previous designs.

It is stated that 2003 – 2005 models did not receive a good safety rating for the head restraints and the seats, which made them less reliable, especially during a crash.

Furthermore, it is a surprise that these fourth-generation models received over 400 complaints, one each model.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides this information.

The most common problems these models had were the rust on the body and the undercarriage of the vehicle.

There were also dashboard cracking problems reported that are said to be quite costly for repairs but a lot more for replacements.

Other than that, the head gasket issue is the one that received the most complaints since it can ruin the way the vehicle runs and is quite noticeable as well.

What Are The Most Common Problems With The Toyota 4Runner?

Despite Toyota 4Runner having the best years, this vehicle has a fair share of its issues. I will be listing down the most common issues reported in different 4Runner models.

According to Consumer Reports, these problems started occurring when the Toyota 4Runner reached around 100,000 miles on the odometer.

It is stated that even the strongest components on the vehicle can start to malfunction after some time.

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that in these models, it is highly likely that various components will start to wear out and require replacements quite a lot of times simply because the parts are either rusted or just wearing out quicker than usual.

With that being said, here are the common problems that you must know about:

1. Automatic Transmission Problems

You will most likely notice this issue in 1990 up to 2016 models of the Toyota 4Runner.

Because of this issue, the SUV would switch to manual shifting or not shift at all to overdrive or shift to drive, especially at the preliminary start-up stage.

In addition to that, due to this problem, the vehicle would lose power during driving and have a tough time-shifting.

There will also be a faulty throttle position sensor which might require replacement, and these problems are likely to arise when the vehicle reaches around 25,000 miles up to 150,000 miles.

Related: What Are The Toyota 4Runner Transmission Problems?

2. Airbag Issues

This is another issue that you will find in almost all Toyota 4Runner vehicles, whether they are on the best or worst years list.

You will be surprised to hear that Toyota recalled over 900,000 vehicles in the gear of 2019 to replace the airbags, putting lives at risk.

This issue was commonly found in the 2015 Toyota 4Runner as the front airbag inflators were defective.

Due to this problem, these airbags would fail to deploy or explode randomly during an accident, putting life in danger.

3. Rust/Corrosion And Body/Paint Issues

As I have discussed above, you will commonly find this issue in almost all fourth-generation Toyota 4Runners.

It is said that this problem will likely arise when you reach the 154,000 miles on the odometer.

Many people found that because of this problem, there will be a decayed frame and suspension, which prevents their vehicle from running smoothly.

This problem is common in the 2005 Toyota 4Runner as well, and because of this problem, Toyota had to recall and replace all the inadequate parts.

If you go to the professional technicians, fixing this issue can cost you around $1800.

4. Cracked Dashboard

You will see the dashboard cracked and melted or getting sticky.

This problem commonly happens in the 2004 Toyota 4Runner but is found in other models. You might be wondering how this might lead to a situation like that.

Well, people complained that the sun’s heat caused the dashboard to melt and become sticky and appear to be shiny in the spot of the plastic.

This made people think that the dashboard is made with cheap materials, but that’s not all.

Because of the melted dashboard, there are high chances that it will prevent the airbags from deploying during an accident.

Related: Why Won’t My Toyota 4Runner Start?

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What Year Toyota 4Runner Has The Best Engine?

According to the data provided by Consumer Reports, it is stated that the 2001 Toyota 4Runner has the best engine.

This model has the 3.4-liter V6 standard engine, which provides excellent driving results.

Q2. How Long Does The Toyota 4Runner Last?

A Toyota 4Runner could easily last up to 200,000 miles on the odometer and is said to be quite impressive.

However, with extra care and regular maintenance, it is asserted that the 4Runner can reach up to 300,000 miles.

Related: How Long Do Toyota 4Runners Last?

Q3. Why Are Toyota 4Runners So Expensive?

The main reason why Toyota 4Runners are so expensive is because of their reliability, long-lasting impact, and also because they do not cost a lot for maintenance.

Another major reason they are so expensive is that they hold their value. The demand for 4runners is also said to be quite a lot, which eventually increases the prices.

Q4. What Does SR5 Mean On Toyota 4Runner?

The SR5 stands for Sport Rally 5 speed. This was mainly presented as a boosted trim level for the base DX and DLX models.

The SR5 is the base trim that is used for the 2020 Toyota 4Runner and consists of cloth upholstery, and also has an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Q5. Which Is Better, RAV4 Or 4Runner?

It is stated that Toyota 4Runner can provide more power and extra space than the Toyota RAV4.

In contrast, the Toyota RAV4 can provide better yet efficient fuel economy while also delivering the desired performance.


Overall, the Toyota 4Runner is the perfect choice for you if you are looking for an SUV.

With the help of the best and worst years for Toyota 4Runner, you can make that judgment effortlessly.

You need to know that 4Runners are well known for being modest yet eligible off-road vehicles, and their reliability is also unbeatable.

Other than that, you will be glad to know that they hold their value so you can ride for a long time without any problems. Just be sure to avoid the worst years for your good.