The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most popular vehicles on the used market. There’s a huge demand for these little trucks but that comes with a downside – the combination of their popularity and high resale value makes them a target for theft. How easy is it to steal a Tacoma?
Toyota Tacomas aren’t known for being easy to steal. They aren’t considered to be an easy target and there aren’t any stand-out issues that cause them to be stolen. Yet, they are stolen often. This is due to their demand and not a problem with security.
Are Toyota Tacomas commonly stolen?
The popularity of Toyota trucks is both a blessing and a curse. They’re strong, capable, and reliable. Their resale value is strong. Many parts are interchangeable with other Toyota models. Because of this, many thieves want them – and they want them bad.
The Tacoma isn’t particularly easy to steal. No more than any other modern pickup truck. But because their demand is so high, thieves are willing to put the effort in to snatch them. Unfortunately, there are plenty of dishonest people out there that will do anything to make a buck.
Being popular in other regions of the world isn’t the only reason why Tacomas are stolen. The other reason is that many of their parts are interchangeable. On top of that, they are known to last for a really long time, making replacement parts more desirable. They’re likely to be worth fixing even when they’re worn out, so replacement parts are in high demand.
Toyota trucks are often stolen and then shipped to other countries and sold. This was a big problem a few years ago here in Canada. Tundras, Tacomas, 4runners, Sequoias, and FJ Cruisers were all being stolen and shipped overseas to places like the Middle East.
A friend of mine works at a Toyota dealership and told me they had 4 Tundras and a Sequoia go missing one night. He also said that at least 2 neighboring Toyota stores had multiple trucks stolen that very same night. It was clearly an organized plan by professionals.
I also had a co-worker that had his beautiful black FJ Cruiser (manual, too!) stolen when he went to Montreal for a weekend. Luckily, the police recovered it – they found it at a loading dock about to be put into a shipping container with a bunch of other Toyota trucks.
Modern Toyota anti-theft systems are quite effective. At least they were. Thieves don’t give up easily though, and they figured out new ways to defeat these systems.
How do thieves steal Toyota Tacomas?
Gone are the days when all it took to steal a pickup truck was drilling out the door lock and hot wiring it. Modern vehicles have become much more complicated and have plenty of electronics that control them. Anti-theft systems are intertwined in that and can include things like immobilizers, alarms, and glass breakage sensors.
Yet these trucks can still be stolen. It’s possible that some model years of Tacomas are easier to steal than others. Here’s a table of the optional anti-theft equipment offered on each generation of Tacoma:
|Remote keyless entry||Vehicle security system||Engine immobilizer (Transponder chip key)||Glass breakage sensor|
|1st Gen (1995-2004)||Yes||Yes|
|2nd Gen (2005-2015)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|3rd Gen (2016-Present)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
How do thieves outsmart these anti-theft features?
Fake the key signal
Tacomas that have a security system and an engine immobilizer can be “hacked” just like any household computer. Thieves will show up with a laptop and a program that allows them to trick the security system into thinking you are unlocking it with the key fob and have the proper key with the chip in it.
They can do this in a matter of seconds and from there, they can steal it like any other vehicle.
Pick it up with a tow truck
You’d be surprised by just how brave some car thieves are. Some of them have the courage to show up with a tow truck and steal your Tacoma in broad daylight as if it was parked illegally. In this case, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. You can have every type of alarm, immobilizer, and mechanical deterrent done to your truck but physically picking it up will still be possible.
Get the keys
Another common way people steal Tacomas is simply to get the keys. This happens more often than you’d think. Sometimes a really brave thief will break into your house and grab the keys from where they’re kept. This is what happened at the Toyota dealership I mentioned earlier – they broke into the business and knew where to find the keys.
More often though, this happens when people leave their keys in the ignition. Here in Canada, some of us like to warm up our vehicles by letting them run in the driveway in the wintertime. Many of us will install remote starters to enable us to do this while keeping the doors locked and the alarm armed.
But there are also a lot of people that just go out and start their car, then go back inside for a few more minutes while it warms up. Every winter, the police remind us of all the car thefts that happen this way.
Want to learn more about the 2nd Generation Toyota Tacoma? Check out my buyers guide here:
Ways to keep your Tacoma from being stolen:
Here are some ways to help prevent thieves from taking your beloved truck:
Keep it locked in the garage
This is your best bet because they’ll first have to break into your garage, then break into your truck. You’re more likely to hear something going on if your garage is attached to your house and thieves know that. This is usually enough to make them want to keep looking for another victim.
Upgrade your factory alarm
Factory alarms are better than nothing, but aftermarket ones can be more helpful. They’re more sensitive and can communicate with you wherever you are to let you know something is wrong.
Add a kill switch
No laptop computer in the world can start your truck if you have a manual kill switch hidden somewhere in your truck. If you set this up so it kills the power to your fuel pump, it’ll turn over and over but never fire up.
Use GPS tracking software
This won’t keep your truck from being stolen but it will help you find it before it’s too late. There are trackers you can buy for this purpose but some clever people will use an old cell phone hidden somewhere in the truck and take advantage of the “find my device” function.
In the end, keeping your Tacoma safe is a matter of target hardening rather than theft prevention. Making your truck harder to steal than your neighbor’s is the name of the game. Finding ways to waste a thief’s time or startle them will usually send them looking for a softer target.
There’s no way to fully prevent someone from stealing it – if a determined thief wants it bad enough, they’ll get it. For that reason, it’s important to have your truck properly insured and make sure you don’t leave any valuable or sentimental property in it.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: