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6 Factors When Choosing – Should I buy a Tacoma or Tundra?

differences with Tacoma and Tundras

Beginning in 1995, the Tacoma replaced the previous pickup that Toyota cleverly dubbed the Toyota Pickup. With a simple moniker like that, it’s probably a good thing that Toyota switched up its naming structure with the introduction of the Tacoma. The Tacoma is considered a midsize truck in comparison to Toyota’s more significant pickup, the Tundra.

Released a few years after the Tacoma, the Tundra debuted in 1999 as the first full-size truck offered in North America from a Japanese automaker. With the Ford F-150 as the top-selling truck in America and the release of the Chevy Silverado in 1999, Toyota introduced the Tundra to compete with some of the bigger names in the game. Both the Tacoma and Tundra are assembled in the southern United States, in San Antonio, Texas. When debating between the Tacoma vs Tundra, each truck is going to offer different trim levels, engines, and features. Let’s take a look at how each truck performs to help you decide which is right for you!

Toyota has a well-earned and long-established reputation for excellence in both style and performance. It produces dependable vehicles that look good and hold up well over the years, all for an affordable price. When it comes to trucks, you may have a hard time choosing between the Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota Tundra, both popular trucks produced by Toyota and both offering excellent features and pricing.

When looking for a new Toyota truck, you may be asking yourself, should I buy a Tacoma or Tundra? Well, at Toy Car Care, we know how excellently built all Toyota vehicles are, so the choice is really about weighing the pros and cons of each model and comparing how well the different features will suit your specific lifestyle. Read on for some helpful comparisons between the Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota Tundra before making your decision.

If you’re a Toyota fan and loyal to the brand, you have a few options when it comes to your next truck. The brand is known for its quality and consistency. Whether you want safety, a quality interior, high towing-capacity, or lots of tech features, Toyota has you covered. But which truck should you buy? The answer may lie in the most significant difference between the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma and which one meets your needs the best.

Toyota has put itself in an incredibly strong position. They have the truck market cornered, whether you are looking at full size or midsize trucks. Tundra vs. Tacoma. Virtually the same yet very different. Tomato – Tamahto. Pa-Tundra – Pa-Taco. They are known for toughness and long-term reliability. Both trucks lead the field in 2019 Highest Resale Value across all vehicles.

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Toyota Tacoma

Since 1995, the Toyota Tacoma has been gracing the streets of America, and people love this light to medium-duty pickup truck. Over the years, it has even become larger for today’s drivers. In 2005, Toyota launched the 2nd generation, larger version of this truck, and people loved it. Here in Colorado, they’re great for camping, towing toys and generally getting to and from the mountains, even in bad weather. The Chevy Canyon is really the only other truck that can compare to its beefiness when side by side.

Making its way onto many lists for ‘best,’ ‘top,’ or ‘most,’ the Toyota Tacoma is a truck that takes on a lot. It’s built for hauling, going off-road, and is a great work truck. Aside from the worst year model, 2007, and possibly even the 2016 and 2017, the Tacoma has been a reliable truck overall.

It has a reputation for durability and reliability and its high residual value, too. They do well when it comes to resale, with used ones sometimes being almost as expensive as new ones.

Now in its third generation, the Toyota Tacoma has become more refined with each year. It’s not just a work truck any longer but has become a daily-use vehicle for all roads. The overall image of the truck is meant to be rugged, so the interior keeps with that trend, but other improvements that have come with the years include more safety features, added tech features, a more comfortable ride, and a quieter cabin.

But it still does an excellent job at what it has always been good at, with improvements to the truck’s tow rating that takes it from 5,000 lb towing capacity to 6,800 lbs. The engine performance has been upped with a 3.5-litre V6 that touts 278 hp and 265 lb-ft. It’s also got more room and better fuel efficiency now. The fact that it’s only getting better with the years sure makes it even more appealing. 

Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra replaced the Toyota T100, which was not a huge success with truck buyers. It was also initially named the Toyota T150, which Ford thought was too close to their F100 series trucks name and soon followed with a lawsuit over it. So, Toyota introduced the Tundra and made some heads turn. Today, the Tundra is one of America’s top-selling full-size pickup trucks.

The Toyota Tundra is another great truck, although it could use a redesign since it’s been a long 13 years since the last one. Despite that, it continues to please.

Perhaps that’s due to the ample safety features, ability to drive the trails or the fact that it has roomy back seats. The V8 engine provides plenty of power under the hood, and 2020 brought 5.7-liters standard. They’ve added new tech features and even leather, proving their commitment to improvement.

But there’s talk that a redesign won’t happen until 2022, making fans of the truck have to wait even longer. This is causing sales to drop, so perhaps a refresh like the one in 2014 could help ease the wait. If you really like this truck, you’ll either have to get on now or wait a few more years for a new one.

Either way, it is still a powerful, capable option in the full-size truck category. In fact, it’s won Kelley Blue Book’s 5 Year Cost to Own Award due to its resale value and steady performance. It also delivers by towing up to 10,000 lbs. Both strong enough to do tough jobs and tech-savvy and comfortable enough to compete with everyday trucks, it meets just about every need. 

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Exterior

Before we get into the specific performance aspects of the Tacoma and Tundra, let’s address the aesthetics of each pickup. While the Tacoma is obviously going to be smaller in stature than the larger Tundra, there are several other identifiable differences in their exteriors. For both the Tacoma and Tundra, the most basic model is the SR edition. One of the first major noticeable idiosyncrasies will be the front end, especially the grilles. While both the Tacoma and Tundra have hexagonal-shaped grilles, they aren’t identical by any means. The Tacoma has a more defined and angular grille than the Tundra, which is bigger and blockier. Slanted headlights on the Tacoma give it a sleeker front end, along with the less-obtrusive, integrated bumper.

One distinguishing feature of the Tundra’s grille is the hood bulge right above the grille, which has a thin rectangular opening. A large protruding bumper and bigger headlights add to the Tundra’s stocky appearance. Both the Tundra and Tacoma have similar-shaped wheels wells that aren’t quite as round as the F-150 or as square as the Silverado. When it comes to the back of the trucks, the Tundra and Tacoma have a similar-looking tailgate with embossed lettering in different locations. For the Tacoma TRD Sport, a honeycomb grille and a hood scoop are additional features that give the truck a more aggressive look.

Take a look at the Tundra, and the Tacoma parked side by side, and you will notice right away that the Tundra is a lot beefier. The Tundra looks almost like the Tacoma after intense training. This is a trucked that has bulked up, and you can see the defined bulges throughout the body!

Just looking at the numbers, the 2017 Toyota Tacoma is 212 to 226 inches long, depending on the cab and bed configuration you choose. The Tacoma is 74 to 75 inches wide and 71 to 72 inches high. Meanwhile, the 2017 Toyota Tundra is a much longer 229 to 248 inches long, 80 inches wide, and 76 to 77 inches high. It has more bulk all the way around. While a few inches might not seem like much, it can make a big difference in terms of interior comfort and what you can haul in the bed.

We have all heard the expression telling us that size does not matter. But when shopping for your next truck, it probably does. Bring your tape measure to the dealership with you next time. Use it first to measure the important dimensions of your garage—no need to take chances. Let’s see if it will fit before you buy it.

Depending on what 2019 Tacoma catches your eye, you will find these trucks range from 212.3” to 225.5” in length. That is either 17 or nearly 19 feet long. They range from 74.4 inches to 75.2 inches wide and 70.6” to 71.6” in height (on the TRD Pro).

The nice thing about Tacoma is I have not yet found an owner unable to find room in their garage for this tough beast. Well, unless it was time to clean – major spring cleaning.

Tundra, on the other hand, and being the full-sized giant that it is, has exterior dimensions that might fall into what some might call the “plus” size. Big and tall store anyone?

Depending on the configuration, your 2019 Tundra is either 19 feet long (228.9”) or 20.6 feet long (247.8” Long Bed). Again, get that tape measure out – stat!

All Tundra’s are 79.9 inches wide, which is about half a foot wider than its Tacoma counterpart. As you would expect, Tundra is between 75.8” and 77.2” tall. 

For an even more sinister appearance, though, the Tacoma TRD Pro has a hood scoop with a unique graphic and a heritage grille that features the “Toyota” lettering rather than the logo. There are several other trim levels for the Tacoma, with the truck’s appearance varying slightly for each. As with the Tacoma, the Tundra also has several different models to choose from. From those, the Limited and 1794 editions have a chrome grille featuring horizontal lines that give the truck a classier appearance. Of course, wheel options and emblems will vary from model to model for both Toyota trucks. Whether you prefer the look of the Tacoma or Tundra, you can’t deny they are two good-looking trucks!

Tacoma or Tundra Top utes

Interior

When it comes to the interior of the Tacoma and Tundra, they are fairly similar. For both the basic models of the 2018 Tacoma and Tundra, power windows, door locks, and mirrors are standard. A reverse camera also comes equipped straight from the factory for each truck. While the Access Cab for the Tacoma can only seat four, the Double Cab can seat up to five passengers. However, the Tundra can fit up to six people with the Double Cab and sit five or six with the CrewMax model, depending on if you opt for the standard bench seat or front bucket seats.

Specifically designed to reduce wind noise, the Tacoma’s cabin is quiet thanks to enhanced aerodynamics and a cab-to-bed seal. Power-adjusted seats or pedals are not available for the Tacoma, which only features a tilting and telescoping steering column. Leather, as well as heated front seats, are additional options. While the infotainment system is a touchscreen, it does not include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which is a pretty big drawback for those with smartphones. Qi-compatible wireless charging is available for certain devices. Voice command, Bluetooth, an auxiliary input, a USB port, and a 12-volt outlet are more technological features that can be found in the Tacoma. One pretty exciting feature for off-roading enthusiasts is that the Tacoma does come with an integrated GoPro mount on the windshield.

For 2018, the Tundra received more interior updates than its smaller counterpart. A new 4.2-inch driver, display gauge cluster, makes it easy to view important vehicle information. Even though the Tundra might not be as luxurious as other trucks, the 1794 edition will feature upgraded leather seats in a lovely brown colour. Memory driver’s seat and power seats are available in the Tundra, unlike the Tacoma. Along with heated front seats, the Tundra also offers cooled front seats as well. Similar infotainment options available in the Tacoma can also be found in the Tundra.

A lot of people drive trucks for work, so they think more about practicality and not comfortable when they are shopping. But you don’t want to feel cramped in an uncomfortable truck when you’re climbing into the driver’s seat after a long day at work.

You’ll find a bit more space inside the Tundra, which can seat six passengers instead of five. The front legroom is about a half-inch smaller than what you get in the Tacoma, but the head and shoulder room are both a few inches bigger. Overall, you are going to enjoy a roomier ride with more people in the Toyota Tundra. However, you’ll be comfortable enough in Tacoma. The interior comparison won’t necessarily make or break your decision.

You are going to spend a lot of time here, so make sure you are happy and comfortable. The Tacoma offers some new interior feature upgrades, scoring its high points, but it is smaller than the Tundra inside. So if legroom and ample seating are on your list of must-haves for a truck, go for the bigger vehicle when deciding should I buy a Tacoma or Tundra.

Two different-sized cabs are available with each truck. While all four cabs offer tons of front-row space, it’s the second row that varies quite a bit.

The Toyota Tundra is ready to haul you and the whole crew with the Double Cab and the Crewmax cab. Both offer plenty of space for adults in every seating position – but the Crewmax goes the extra mile. The Double Cab offers 34.7 inches of legroom, which is good enough for most adults for short runs around East Petersburg. The 42.3 inches of legroom in the second row of the Crewmax is enough for long trips, whether it’s taking the family to Long Island or running a work crew to a job site that’s hours away. Both cabs offer 65.5 inches of shoulder room or more.

To make it easier to fit into smaller garages, the Toyota Tacoma had to trim somewhere. The front seats offer as much head and legroom as you’ll get in the Tundra, although they do suffer from five inches less hip room and seven inches less shoulder room. The rear seats of the Tacoma Access Cab are suitable mainly for storage or small children, providing 24.6 inches of legroom and 34.9 inches of headroom. Opt for the Double Cab, and you’ll have enough space for full-size adults to be comfortable on short rides, although at 32.6 inches of legroom, we wouldn’t recommend much more than an hour or so back there, unless you want complaints. But for a small family, or infrequent, short trips around East Petersburg, it’s close to perfect. As far as creature comforts, both trucks have the same availability of infotainment systems, upscale trim, and conveniences. In essence, it’s just a matter of packaging everything together with the way you want it.

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Performance and Off-Road Capability 

Now, looks aside, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of the Tacoma vs Tundra. While the Tacoma and Tundra are perfectly adequate pickup trucks capable of hauling and towing massive amounts, how do they compare to each other? For the 2018 Tacoma, Toyota didn’t bring any new engine options to the table but instead ditched the five-speed manual transmission for a six-speed. The basic engine option for the Tacoma is the 2.7L inline 4-cylinder that puts out 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. If you think those numbers are underwhelming, there is a slightly more powerful 3.5L DOHC V6 engine that puts out 278 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. of torque.

Constructed from high-strength steel, the Tacoma is a tough truck. With the TRD Off-Road edition, the Tacoma comes equipped with the 3.5-litre V6 engine combined with the six-speed auto transmission. Featuring Bilstein shocks and an electronically locking rear differential, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road is extremely capable for the trail. Tackling rough terrain is a breeze with Crawl Control, Hill Start Assist Control, and a Multi-Terrain Select system, which allows the driver to select one of five modes to regulate traction control and engine throttle based on driving conditions. With the TRD Pro model, a skid plate helps protect the truck against sharp rocks and other obstacles that can be found on the trail. Also included with the Pro version is a special cat-back exhaust that not only gives the Tacoma a killer look and sound but also enhances the efficiency as well. While the TRD Off-Road features the Bilstein shocks, the Tacoma TRD Pro has special-tuned FOX Internal Bypass shocks that give the truck greater ground clearance along with better travel and flexibility. A new Tundra TRD Pro version will be available in the fall of 2018.

Not everyone in the Harrisburg and Philadelphia region has plenty of parking at home. While large garages and driveways are aplenty, newer construction leans towards smaller garages, and not everyone has off-street parking. Sometimes you have to fit your truck to space you have on hand.

The Toyota Tundra is a thoroughly capable truck. Three different bed sizes are available, depending on the cab size chosen – a 5.5-foot Short Bed, a 6.5-foot Standard Bed, and an 8-foot Long Bed. While these are super capable, they do come with a size penalty – the shortest version of the Tundra you’ll get is 229 inches in length. They’re also 76 inches or taller, and 80 inches wide. That’s not particularly handy for smaller parking garages or attached garages at home in Harrisburg.

With a 5-foot Standard Bed and a 6-foot Long Bed, the Toyota Tacoma can haul a fair amount, maybe not quite as much as the Tundra but pretty darn close. It comes in a much more manageable package, though, topping out at 75 inches in width and 72 inches in height. Even with the 6-foot bed, the Tacoma comes in at 225.5 inches, shorter than even the shortest Tundra. Go with the Standard Bed, and it comes in at 212.3 inches, meaning it is ready to squeeze into the smaller spots in East Petersburg without the back end hanging into traffic. If you have size limitations for parking and driving, the Tacoma is your better option.

As a full-size pickup, the Toyota Tundra features a bit more pulling power. With the standard 4.6-litre V8, you get 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque on tap, some pretty potent numbers. Only available with a Standard Bed, it can tow up to 6,800 pounds – perfect for towing small camper trailers and plenty of gear to the sites past East Petersburg and Reading. If that isn’t enough, you can upgrade to the 5.7-litre V8, which raises power output to 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Towing potential gets a massive boost, as with this engine, the Tundra can tow up to 10,200 pounds, depending on if you want two- or four-wheel drive, and how big of a box you want on the back.

While the Toyota Tacoma can’t match those towing and hauling numbers, it does have pint-sized power. The base engine is an efficient 2.7-litre inline four-cylinder, offering 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Even with low power numbers, it still puts in work – with 3,500 pounds of maximum towing capacity; it’s perfect for towing smaller boats and off-road vehicles. With 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, the available 3.5-litre V6 gives the Tacoma a great power-to-weight ratio and makes it a solid bet for towing and hauling. With a maximum towing capacity of 6,800 pounds, it’s right up there with the base level Tundra.

Both the Tundra and Tacoma are available with two- or four-wheel drive, but considering how the weather can get in the region and some of the road conditions – or lack of roads, if you’re really adventurous – the four-wheel drive is generally the way to go. If you love playing in the mud, the Tacoma offers the TRD Off-Road and TRD PRO trims, featuring trail-ready capabilities and agility. While the Tundra also offers the TRD PRO trim for some trail and field capabilities, it just doesn’t have the go-anywhere mindset of the Tacoma.

Are you a green thumb who likes to use your truck to haul loads of mulch or wood for your hobby projects? Or are you a contractor who needs your truck to haul rental equipment and loads of raw materials? The answer will determine what kind of truck you need.

The Toyota Tundra is better suited for those who need to haul heavier loads. It can tow between 6,400 and 10,500 pounds, depending on how it’s configured. The payload is between 1,440 and 2,080. In comparison, the Toyota Tacoma can tow between 3,500 and 6,400 pounds, and it has a payload between 1,120 and 1,620 pounds. You must be realistic in your estimation of how you will use your truck when you are deciding between these two models. You don’t want to underestimate and then find yourself in a tough situation because your truck can’t handle what you need.

This is one of the most critical factors that make a pickup truck, a pickup truck. The drive train determines how well they tow, how much they can tow, and how much of a payload they can bear. If the engine has no horsepower, then it just becomes a slow slug climbing up the mountain, and the same thing goes for the transmission, if it cannot keep up with the demands, it will soon overheat.

In the Toyota Tundra, a V6 and a V8 are available, so towing is a cakewalk. Most Tundra’s with the V6 is going to be your base model work truck and are good for simple everyday hauling, but don’t expect to haul around anything too heavy. The nice thing is, you have the option for a factory supercharger, which jumps your horsepower and torque up massively.

The Toyota Tacoma comes with either an inline 4 (older models) or a V6 (newer models). The reason being is, when the Tacoma grew in size, it became the go-to truck for heavy work, and requires a larger, more powerful engine, upping the tow rating to 6,500 lbs. in the V6.

So as far as drivetrains go, the Tacoma with the V6 is less powerful than the Tundra with the V8, but you will be spending more money on fuel with the bigger version, so if commuting is your primary use, you may want to opt for the Tacoma.

Factors when choosing Tundras or Tacomas

Specs

As the Tacoma is a smaller truck, it has a cheaper starting price than the Tundra. The Tacoma is also much more fuel-efficient than the latter, offering 23 miles per gallon for highway driving. However, the Tundra has a higher towing capacity if you’re looking to haul frequently. If you need a longer truck bed, the Tundra will offer additional length. Both trucks offer a six-speed automatic transmission and optional four-wheel drive.

Now it comes to your specific needs and desires when buying a pickup. Do you do a lot of outdoor activities that require heavy towing of your toys such as a large RV, trailer or second vehicles? If you are towing less than 4000 lbs., you can get away with the Tacoma, but for anything beyond that, go for the Tundra that has immense towing power. The Tacoma is much easier to maneuver in hard to reach areas, and much more fuel efficient, so adjust according to your lifestyle.

Hopefully, we have answered the hard question of, should I buy a Tacoma or Tundra. If you are still looking for some great advice on the subject, stop by Toy Car Care today and ask our friendly service staff and our certified technicians for their thoughts on the subject, from everything to do with maintenance costs, parts and servicing, we are here to take care of all your Toyota needs.

The sticker price is just the start of paying for a vehicle. Ongoing costs from registration to maintenance to fuel tend to add up over the lifetime.

The smaller engines in the Toyota Tacoma also come with the benefit of being friendlier on the monthly fuel budget. Even the most fuel-hungry version, the V6 with a manual transmission and four-wheel drive, offers commuter-friendly mileage of 17 MPG city and 21 MPG highway. Go with the four-cylinder engine and two-wheel drive, and you’re getting 20 MPG city and 23 MPG highway.

With more power in the big V8 engines in the Tundra, you’d expect reduced fuel economy, but actually it’s not that bad! If you go with the two-wheel-drive 4.6-litre combination, you’ll still get 15 MPG around York and 19 MPG on the highway. At worst, you’ll have to deal with 13 MPG city and 17 MPG highway with the full-size, four-wheel-drive Tundra using the powerful 5.7-litre V8. Not a bad trade-off for all that towing power.

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Pricing Differences

The 2017 Toyota Tundra is a bigger truck that offers a more powerful performance, so it comes at a higher price. The base model Toyota Tundra starts at $30,120. The price goes up with the higher trim levels, and with the more options, you add.

In contrast, the 2017 Toyota Tacoma starts at an affordable $24,575. Likewise, the price goes up with the trim levels and the extras you add on.

When comparing costs, you’ll need to look beyond the simple numbers. Compare the features you get in exchange for that price to consider if it’s the right value. For example, do you find the more powerful engine and extra cab space to be worth the extra money that the Tundra costs? If so, that might be the right truck for you.

We all want to pay a fair price, and this is where you will need to hone your negotiating skills, as prices vary on many levels. You can expect to pay about $5,000 less for a Tacoma base model in comparison with a Tundra, but depending on the add-ons and upgrades you want, both these trucks can get well into the $40,000 range. So, deciding should I buy a Tacoma or Tundra isn’t so much about the price since bells and whistles vary so much.

The biggest difference between the Tundra and Tacoma

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two comes down to capability and redesign. The Toyota Tundra is a more powerful truck with its V8 engine and higher towing capacity. It’s made for the long-haul and heavy lifting.

The Toyota Tacoma doesn’t offer this same power but does seem to be a nicer everyday type truck that can also be used for work. It’s had a more recent redesign, with its latest in 2016. And its plush interior is suitable for everyday use.

Which is Right for You?

You really can’t go wrong with a Toyota truck. However, to make sure that the truck you buy is perfect for you, you need to visit a Toyota dealership and take a test drive of both the Tacoma and the Tundra. Get a feel for what those engines do in action, and see how the trucks handle. Make sure you feel comfortable behind the wheel. Also, take time to try out each of the features, so you can make sure that the trucks offer everything you need.

Once you experience the trucks for yourselves, you’ll quickly know which one feels better to you and which will best meet your needs. Then you can talk with the specialist about financing offers to make sure that the perfect truck for you is also perfect for your budget.

Only you can decide which truck is truly right for you. If you’re looking for something on the smaller side that is more easily maneuverable, then the Tacoma is a great option. For those seeking a more heavy-duty, full-size pickup, then you may want to consider the Tundra rather than the Tacoma. The Tundra is going to offer a roomier interior and a longer truck bed. If you need a family truck to tote around the kids, the Tundra may be more comfortable for that purpose, but the Tacoma still offers plenty of room for passengers. If you’re still debating between the Tacoma vs Tundra, then you should visit your local Toyota dealership and test drive both models so you can see which one you prefer.

Another thing to keep in mind is your budget. The Tacoma will be less expensive than the Tundra if the cost is a deciding factor. Check out our Toyota loan calculator to help you see what you can afford. Either way, you’ll drive off the lot happy!

We’ve found both the Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota Tundra to be solid, reliable vehicles that are built with both budget and quality in mind. It’s not a question of whether or not they are the right truck for the job; it’s a matter of figuring out which one is the right truck for you and your lifestyle. With great reliability and resale value, it’s no surprise that the drivers of East Petersburg, York, and Reading have made the Tacoma and Tundra two of the most common trucks on the road today!


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