5 Reasons Why A Toyota 4Runner Makes A Great First Car




Shadow Gray 4th gen 4runner

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Are you in the market to get your soon-to-be or newly-driving teen their first ride? Maybe you are the soon-to-be or newly-driving teen trying to convince your parents to purchase you a rad ride that’ll make all your friends jealous. Either way, I’ve got your answer right here: (drum roll please) the Toyota 4Runner. Wait, what?

No, it’s not a “soccer mom car”. You might be surprised at the ‘ole 4Runner and how awesome it truly is. Here are 5 reasons the Toyota 4Runner makes an awesome first car, for both parents and teens alike.

The Toyota 4Runner undoubtedly makes a fantastic first car. Between its safety, legendary reliability, and on/off-road capability it can handle whatever your teen needs it to while giving you the peace of mind that they’re safe while doing it. When choosing the 4Runner, you can’t go wrong.

Listed below are just a few of the many reasons that a 4Runner makes a great first car and, I’m sorry to say, the gas mileage isn’t one of them.

Legendary Reliability

Let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way: the Toyota name is synonymous with reliability. Toyota was built on the premise of being not only an affordable vehicle but also the most reliable vehicle their customers could buy. Respect for the consumer is consummate in Toyota’s ideology.

Now, Toyota reliability may be obvious. It may even be something that you’ve been beaten over the head with for years, but let’s be clear here: it’s extremely important. Reliability should be one of your top priorities, regardless of whether you’re a parent or a teenager. Reliability isn’t just a feature of Toyota either, it’s built into the company.

Shadow Gray 4th gen 4runner

Toyota operates on the idea of kaizen, or “continual improvement”. In their own words, this means that no project can ever truly be perfect, and therefore there is always room for improvement. With this core value at the forefront of everything they do, you can be sure that when buying a Toyota, new or old, you’re always getting their best.

It’s always reassuring to know when you or your child pulls out of the driveway, they’ll be pulling back in instead of waiting on you to rescue them from the side of the road.

You could even go as far as to say that reliability is built into not only Toyota culture but Japanese culture as a whole as well. Craftsmanship, duty, and a willingness to do a job to the best of one’s ability are highly honored in Japanese society and culture. Considering the 4Runner is built in Japan itself, you can be confident that your vehicle meets the highest possible standards for the company.


Parents, have no fear for the safety you need is here. Teens… well, just don’t drive too crazy. The 4Runner is, as you might expect, a pretty safe vehicle. I know, “pretty safe” isn’t a particularly exact rating so let’s break that down just a bit.

4Runner NHTSA Safety Star Ratings:

1st Gen (1984-89)N/A
2nd Gen (1990-95)1 star driver/4 star passenger
3rd Gen (1996-2002)3 star overall
4th Gen (2003-09)4 star overall
5th Gen (2010-current)4 star overall

As you can see, the 4Runner began as, well, not so safe admittedly. As the years have come and gone though, the safety rating has improved significantly. The humble 4Runner is now considered to be a very safe vehicle and one you can trust to keep all your precious cargo safe.

Being a parent myself, I know firsthand how keeping your child safe is the first and foremost thought in a parent’s mind. I drive a 4Runner and anytime my son and fiance are riding with me, I know they’re as safe as can be. The peace of mind that knowledge brings is nothing less than invaluable and when choosing a first car for your child, you really can’t ask for too much more than that.

While I have crash-test ratings listed here, there are many other factors when it comes to vehicle safety. If you’re curious and want a more in-depth review of the 4Runner’s safety stats, check out this article right here on Canadian Gearhead: Are Toyota 4Runners Safe?

4th gen 4runner and 2nd gen tacoma

All Of The Space, For All Of Your Stuff

“Stuff”. The universal word for any and everything. Good stuff, bad stuff, important stuff, and meaningless stuff. At the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. And guess what? The 4Runner has every last bit of space you need for all of that stuff you need to carry around.

The 4Runner, if anything, is certainly spacious. The front and back seats have plenty of room to keep everyone comfortable, and the cargo area has all the room you’ll ever need for whatever you want/need to put back there. Do you have a high-schooler who plays every sport in the book? They’ve got the space to put every gym bag, baseball/softball bat, hockey stick, and gear that they need.

The 3rd, 4th, and 5th Gens all have optional 3rd-row seating which means there’s room for everyone to carpool to practice and games. Plus, as any new driver knows, it’s always coolest to be the friend with wheels so it can’t hurt being able to carpool a friend or two.

Almost like an added bonus, there are even small spaces to store stuff in too. In the glovebox there’s a secret compartment, there are two small storage boxes on top of each wheel well in the cargo area and, in the 4th Gens, the center console is not only deep but also folds out from the front into a “burger tray”! There truly is a home for everything in the 4Runner.

Cold weather car wash

It Can Go Anywhere

The 4Runner, in any generation, is known worldwide as an off-road beast. The 4Runner can drive off the sales lot and straight to a dirt road or trail – it’s just what they’re built to do. Throw in some relatively simple mods like a suspension lift and larger tires and the 4Runner becomes unstoppable off the beaten path.

This makes the vehicle perfect for first-time owners with a family that loves the outdoors. The 4Runner makes getting to a campsite easy and fun, especially when you consider models that have added off-road features like Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), crawl control, and a locking rear differential to name just a few.

What if my family or child doesn’t really have much to do with off-roading or the outdoors in general? Stay your worries, because the 4Runner still has your back.

The 4Runner doesn’t receive many rave reviews concerning its on-road driving, but I can tell you from experience that doesn’t mean it underperforms by any stretch of the imagination. I have had the pleasure of driving a 3rd Gen and 5th Gen while owning a 4th Gen.

All three vehicles drove very smoothly and handled very well; almost surprisingly well considering the 4Runner is a bit top-heavy. If you’re in the US like me, you may even have the option of purchasing a 2WD variant if you know that 4WD is something you’ll never need.

4th gen 4runner and 2nd gen tacoma

The Look And The Lifestyle

Let’s get one thing straight here, 4Runners look fantastic. Even before I owned one or really even knew much about them, I can vividly remember seeing a 4Runner and thinking to myself, “Yeah, that’s what I want to drive.”

From the rugged 1st-3rd Gens, the smooth and sophisticated 4th Gens, and the aggressive 5th Gens, every single iteration of the 4Runner is just that truck. And that’s bone stock too.

Whether you want to go off-road or not, when you buy a 4Runner you can almost certainly count on having the ability to customize it however your heart desires. There are literally endless aftermarket parts for each generation of 4Runner, ranging from massive facelifts and lift kits to small organizers for your center console. The possibilities are endless.

2023 Toyota 4runner TRD Pro

This can even be used as a sort of incentive program for parents. Using a teenager’s desire for a specific mod could be a great way to teach them the importance of getting a part-time job, saving money, or even as a reward for keeping good grades.

You also may have heard of communities that surround certain manufacturers and vehicles, and the 4Runner is no different. When you purchase a Toyota product you aren’t just buying a vehicle, you’re buying into a lifestyle and community. The Toyota community, and more specifically the 4Runner community, is one of fun, positivity, and helpfulness.

I have found help multiple times with questions I asked on websites like 4runners.com, and in turn, have been able to help others out by answering their questions as well. Most people are extremely kind and willing to give out any info they can. Along with websites like this one, there are many resources to help you out with anything you may need. You may even find a new friend!

A Little Bonus

One extra “feature” of the 4Runner is how easy it is to work on, which should help comfort you if you’re looking at an older variant of the 4Runner. A driveway mechanic or parent/child duo can have a blast if you own a 4Runner that needs a little work and in some cases, it’s a great vehicle to learn how to work on cars with.

I certainly know that’s what I did. Plus, when you add in the fact that parts are usually readily available, it makes the perfect weekend project when it comes time to replace something on an older model truck!

The 4Runner, hands down, is an excellent first vehicle. Whether you’re a parent looking for a first car for your teenager, or a teenager looking for the perfect ride to show off to your pals, the 4Runner can do it all and then some.

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