What to Look for When Buying a Used Toyota Tundra


The Toyota Tundra is legendary for its reliability and dependability and it’s also a pretty capable full-size, light-duty pickup truck. If you’re thinking of buying one there are definitely worse choices you could make, so here’s what to look out for when buying a used Toyota Tundra.

When did the Toyota Tundra go into production?

The Toyota Tundra went into production in May 1999 as a 2000 model year at the company’s Princeton, Indiana plant. Production ended at that facility in 2009 but it continues to be built in America at Toyota’s San Antonio plant in Texas.

How many generations of the Toyota Tundra are there?

There are have only been two generations of the Toyota Tundra so far, although an awful lot of development has gone on during the second generation so early models are quite different from later models and they can look, feel and drive like different generations.

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First-generation Toyota Tundra (2000-2006)

The first generation of the Toyota Tundra went into production in May 1999 and it was available in 2-door Regular cab, 4-door Access cab and 4-door Double cab variants. The original base engine was a 3.4-liter V-6 that was borrowed from the older Toyota T100 and the compact Tacoma pickup, but a more powerful and capable 4.7-liter V-8 was also available.

That base engine only produced 190 horsepower and 220 lb.-ft. of torque, but a Toyota Racing Development (TRD) supercharger was available between 2000 and 2003 which increased the base engine’s output to 260 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft.

A second TRD supercharger was introduced for the V-8 which increased that engine’s power from 245 horsepower to 300 horsepower and from 260 lb.-ft. of torque to 400 lb.-ft. If you fancy buying a first-generation Toyota Tundra it would be a good idea to look for one of the supercharged examples.

Second-generation Toyota Tundra (2007-present)

In 2007 a new second-generation Toyota Tundra was introduced that took the truck to another level. Until 2014 it was available in 2-door Regular cab, 4-door Double cab and a 4-door Crewmax variant, but in 2014 the 2-door Regular cab was discontinued.

Toyota upped its game in terms of towing capacity and payload with this one as it could now tow up to 10,000 pounds and had a payload capacity greater than 2,000 pounds. The base engine was now a 236 horsepower 4.0-liter V-8, and a new 5.7-liter V-8 was introduced to the lineup that boasted 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque.

In 2008 another 13 variants were added to the Tundra lineup to take the model variant count to 44, and in 2010 the Tundra benefitted from a visual refresh and the addition of a new premium Platinum trim level.

Several changes and special editions were introduced over the years that you’ll now find in the used market, but in 2014 the Tundra got a refresh that was so significant many would regard it as close to a new third-generation as makes no difference.

You might want to look at the 2015 model year as that was when Toyota tried to go up against the Ford Raptor and Ram 1500 rebel with the introduction of the TRD Pro option package.

If you’d like the chance to buy a used Toyota Tundra or lots of other trucks, cars and SUVs for potentially bargain prices, then look no further than government auctions. Federal and local government dispose of thousands of well-maintained vehicles all the time as well as vehicles that have been confiscated from criminal enterprizes, and a government auction subscription will tell you when and where these auctions are being held to put you at the front of the line for a potential bargain.

How much can a Toyota Tundra tow?

The 2000 model year Tundra had a maximum towing capacity of 7,200 pounds, but this increased to a much more capable 10,300 pounds in 2007. The maximum trailer rating for the Tundra has remained between 10,000 and 11,000 pounds ever since.

How much can a Toyota Tundra haul?

The maximum payload for the 2000 model year Toyota Tundra was 1,705 pounds but it increased to 1,924 pounds a year later and it has stayed around 2,000 pounds ever since.

What is the best year for a used Toyota Tundra?

The best years for the Toyota Tundra are 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the highly regarded Consumer Reports, but there isn’t really any such thing as a really bad year for the Tundra at all.

What is considered high mileage for a Toyota Tundra?

In general, a Toyota Tundra should be good for at least 200,000 miles as long as it’s properly maintained but it’s not unusual for these trucks to keep going strong for many miles more than that.

In 2016, a gentleman called Victor Sheppard was found to still be happily driving his 2007 Toyota Tundra even after it had clocked up more than one million miles. Victor drove 125,000 miles each year from his home in North Dakota, Wyoming to Virginia for his job, and his truck still has its original engine, transmission and paint job.

Toyota production engineers and team members were so impressed with the truck’s longevity they saw it as an invaluable opportunity to gain valuable and unique insight for producing future products. That led to them swapping Victor’s truck for a brand new one. If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a truck’s reliability I don’t know what is.

Victor Sheppard’s 1million-mile Tundra

Which Toyota Tundra is the best?

The off-road-focused TRD Pro version of the Toyota Tundra is probably the best and most desirable version due to its standard four-wheel drive, front tow hooks, front skid plate, TRD Pro front shocks, Fox rear shocks, uniquely branded aggressive interior and exterior design elements. The Tundra can’t really compete with most of its big domestic rivals in terms of capability, so the cool styling and off-road capability of the TRD Pro makes it a standout model.

2019 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Why do Toyota Tundras hold their value?

There are three reasons why the Toyota Tundra holds its value better than just about any other vehicle for sale in America, and they are reliability, reliability and reliability. Nothing matters more to most truck owners than reliability and the Tundra has proved itself in this vital area over and over again over more than two decades.

How much should you pay for a used Toyota Tundra?

A decent, early, first-generation Toyota Tundra can now be bought for as little as $3,900, although you will be looking at a truck with more than a quarter of a million miles on the odometer. At the other end of the pricing spectrum, it’s also possible to pay close to or even more than $70,000 for a late, high-spec used Tundra. It’s hard to be more specific than that as used trucks can vary so massively in terms of specification, condition and mileage.

Potential Toyota Tundra problems

The Toyota Tundra is one of the most reliable and dependable trucks you can buy in the used market, but every vehicle has its faults that become apparent over time and here are some things you need to watch out for if you’re thinking of buying a used Toyota Tundra.

  • Failure of the secondary air injection system
  • Camshaft failure
  • Integrated brake controller failure
  • Floor mat design problem
  • Accelerator pedal sticking issue
  • Power window master switch fail
  • Front lower ball joint wear wearing prematurely
  • Premature corrosion of the frame
  • Degrading airbag propellant
  • 2013 model year and onwards

If you’re considering buying a used Toyota Tundra it really is worth knowing what to look out for to avoid buying yourself a load of problems in the future. I’d offer that same advice for buying any used vehicle, to be honest, but it’s particularly important with pickup trucks. A used pickup truck could have had a much harder life than a car of the same age and mileage, so here are some of the main faults and issues you need to be aware of if you’re interested in buying a used Toyota Tundra.

Secondary air injection system failure

This is a problem that owners started to report when their Tundra got a couple of years on its back. The secondary air injection system is designed to improve the vehicle’s emissions when starting from cold, but the components turned out to be vulnerable to corrosion. The problem occurs when water finds its way into the system’s induction pumps, and in some cases, the valves too.

The issue is with models from the 2007 year onwards, although it shouldn’t be a problem with models from 2014 onwards. The response to the problem from Toyota was to extend the warranty on models that could be prone to this problem to 6 years or 60,000 miles.

Camshaft failure

In 2007 the Tundra got a new 5.7-liter V-8 engine option, but in May of that year, it was revealed that there had been 20 camshaft failures reported with Tundra trucks equipped with this particular powerplant. The failure occurred as a result of a flaw in the casting process, and the supplier of the components moved quickly to correct the problem.

If a Tundra experienced this camshaft failure, Toyota offered to either replace the engine and extend the powertrain warranty, or if the owner preferred, they’d buy the truck back from them. It’s unlikely this problem would show up after all these years, so it’s not something you should worry about too much if you’re looking at a 2007 Tundra with a 5.7-liter V-8.

Integrated brake controller failure

It turns out that the integrated brake controller fitted at the factory to later Tundra models wasn’t up to the job of providing adequate braking power for those who were towing trailers with their Tundra. That’s a bit of an issue for a pickup, and a lot of owners sorted this problem themselves by fitting aftermarket brake controllers that are actually up to the job of braking when towing.

If you’re looking at buying a Tundra that’s between the years of about 2012 to 2016, it’s worth checking to see if the brake controllers have been upgraded if you’re going to be towing.

Floor mat design problem

How bad can the design of the floor mats actually be? Well, as it turns out, it can be worse than you might think. The mats in the 2007-2010 model years could actually cause the accelerator pedal to get stuck when the driver put their foot down in the Tundra. The issue was so serious that Toyota issued a recall.

The problem was fixed by dealers by replacing the pedal, altering the shape of the floor mat, or replacing the floor mat completely with a redesigned one that didn’t cause the problem to occur.

Accelerator pedal sticking issue

Even if the 2007-2010 Tundra you’re looking at has had the floor mat replaced, there can still be a problem with a sticking accelerator pedal. After a lot of owners complained about unintended acceleration in the Tundras, Toyota investigated the issue and discovered the sliding surface of the friction level was becoming very smooth, which could then cause condensation and then the accelerator pedal was liable to sticking.

The fix was to install a reinforcement bar in the accelerator pedal system to make the whole operation smoother, and this was done as a recall. If it’s a 2007-2010 model year Tundra that you’re considering, make sure you get proof that this recall was carried out as some will inevitably have been missed.

2006 Toyota Tundra

Power window master switch fail

2007-2011 models often had a problem with the power window master switch failing, but it’s only the one on the driver’s side. The switch was prone to short-circuiting, overheating and melting. This happened because the sliding electrical contacts in the switch didn’t have the appropriate amount of lubricant applied in the manufacturing process, which then meant they weren’t properly protected from debris and moisture.

In 2015, Toyota issued a recall to solve this problem by replacing the switch circuit board cost-free for Tundras that experienced the fault.

Front lower ball joint wear wearing prematurely

If the model you’re looking at is a 2007 or later, this is something you won’t have to worry about. The problem here was the lubricant that covered the front lower ball joint degraded too fast, and that led inevitably to premature wear. The first thing you’ll notice if this is an issue with a 2000-2006 model year Tundra is a hard feel to the steering.

If the problem isn’t recognized and addressed soon enough, the issue can then escalate to loss of control of the vehicle due to the ball joint actually falling out of the knuckle that’s supposed to accommodate it. Hundreds of thousands of the trucks were recalled to fix this in 2007, so make sure it’s been done to any 2000-2006 model year Tundra you’re considering buying.

Premature corrosion of the frame

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s not especially surprising that the frame of a first-generation (2000-2006) Tundra might be suffering from some corrosion by now, but it shouldn’t be as bad as it might be if you find a bad one.

The problem is with the way the first-generation frames were designed. They were designed in a way that allowed moisture to enter the inside of the frame, which then had the almost inevitable conclusion of corroding the frame from the inside out. Toyota agreed to help owners of affected Tundras sort the problem, and it was reported to have cost the company a cool $3.4 billion.

Degrading airbag propellant

There were problems with the airbags in the Toyota Tundra long before Takata eventually became a household word due to mass recalls of tens of millions of vehicles from lots of manufacturers a few years ago. Here we’re talking about an issue with those first-generation Tundra models, and it was the front passenger airbag inflator lacking a crucial chemical drying agent that is intended to absorb moisture.

When an excessive amount of moisture builds is able to build up in the airbag inflator, it then leads to the premature degradation of the propellant that is supposed to inflate the airbag in the event of a collision. This leads to an increased risk of the airbag actually exploding when it’s deployed. Inevitably, Toyota and its airbag manufacturer – yes, Takata – eventually issued a recall to fix this potentially very serious problem.

2013 model year onwards

2013 Toyota Tundra

All of the above sounds quite bad, but I would assume the vast majority of you who are interested in buying a used Toyota Tundra will probably be considering something more recent. If you are, I have some pretty good news for you about the Tundra and its reliability, and that news is you’re looking at one of the most reliable pickup trucks you could buy.

Back in 2013, Consumer Reports rated the two-wheel-drive versions of the Tundra as being the most reliable of all full-size pickups. Don’t worry if you want a 4×4 version though, and that’s because they were rated the second most reliable, after their two-wheel-drive siblings.

At the time, the Toyota Tundra was the only full-size pickup truck that even made it onto the Consumer Reports lists of the most reliable new vehicles, and it was the only truck of its type that got a reliability rating of above average.

Another trusted resource, Edmunds, also rates more recent Tundra models extremely highly. The 2016 used Toyota Tundra gets a consumer review rating of 4.5 out of 5, with 73% of respondents giving the Toyota a full five-star rating.

If you’re in the market for a used full-size pickup truck, you’re not going to find one much more reliable and dependable than a Toyota Tundra. If you want to get a used truck or other used vehicles for the lowest possible prices, government and police auctions are the way to go. You need to know what you’re looking for to buy at auction, but this guide is a great place to find used vehicles at incredible prices.

Should you buy a used Toyota Tundra?

If you’re looking for a used full-size pickup truck and you intend to keep it for the long haul then you can’t do much better than a used Toyota Tundra. If you’re going to buy at the cheaper end of the market I’d only recommend a truck with 200,000+ miles if you’re going to use it lightly. If you want a truck to work hard and do serious miles then something with fewer miles would be the way to go.

As long as the truck you’re looking to buy has been maintained properly and has good service history, it’s hard to think of a better used truck to buy than a used Toyota Tundra.

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and an automotive writer and journalist for the last 8 years

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