Reliability and resale value are two of the most well known traits of a Toyota truck. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Tundra, Tacoma, Sequoia, 4runner, or Land Cruiser – they all have a similar reputation. What makes these Toyota trucks last so long though?
There are a few reasons why Toyota trucks last so long. Toyota likes to focus on finding ways to improve the manufacturing process. When compared to the competition, Toyota trucks tend to use a simpler design and it isn’t changed or updated as often. They figure out what works and stick with it.
Modern Toyota trucks might not be built the same as the legendary Hilux we all saw the folks at TopGear do their best to destroy. Love them or hate them, some of that same heritage has continued on in today’s trucks and SUVs. Modern features come with modern problems, but for the most part, Toyota trucks are still built tough and simple.
Kaizen: Toyota’s business philosophy and what it means
Kaizen is a Japanese term that translates to “continuous improvement” in English. This is something that Toyota takes very seriously. They do not want to get comfortable or follow the pack by doing what the competition does. Toyota is constantly trying to find ways to improve their manufacturing process by finding ways to be more efficient or provide a better product.
This isn’t just an empty marketing statement either. Toyota really does live by the Kaizen code. One of the ways they do this is with what are known as “Take Action” forms. These are made available to all employees on every assembly line and are used to share suggestions for improvement with management.
Any of the thousands of workers in a Toyota plant can share an idea or issue and it will be sent to the necessary decision makers. Employees are encouraged to use these forms whether it’s for a complaint or creative idea.
Unlike some automakers, Toyota isn’t afraid to learn from their mistakes. No, they haven’t had a flawless track record on every vehicle. They don’t get it right on the first try every single time.
Contrary to what some may think, Toyotas do actually break down. But they’re willing to learn from it and will make changes to make sure it’s no longer an issue. Some examples are the rusty frame recall, cracked dashboards, blown head gaskets, and problems with air injection pumps.
These were known failures but Toyota stood behind their products with extended warranties, then improved on them in the future.
Pride and attention to detail
Pride, attention to detail, hard work, and respect are all important things in Japanese culture. This spills over into Toyota as a company too. They focus on getting the little details right when other companies would rather call them “good enough” and move onto something more exciting.
The components of a Toyota truck tend to be over-engineered and under-stressed. A lot of thought, research, and testing goes into every part of the vehicle. In order to keep costs down, they’ll use a lot of the same parts across other platforms (like electronics and suspension.)
Toyota tries to pass these cultural traits on to their employees, even in North American plants. New team members are taught all about the family history of the company and the values it stands for. They understand that Toyota’s reputation is important, and keeping a close eye on the details is a great way to maintain that.
Toyota trucks are simple
Toyota has been both praised and ridiculed for keeping the designs and features of their trucks simple. Less moving parts typically means there are fewer things to fail. There’s really something to be said for a simple design.
Overly complicated engines, suspension designs, and electronics might be fun and exciting but they also create the potential for new problems. Aside from the Sequoia, all of the Toyota trucks share a similar independent front suspension design along with a basic solid rear axle setup. This has worked great for decades and Toyota knows it.
You aren’t going to find a ton of cutting edge electronics in a Toyota truck. In a way, it’s part of their charm. Toyota has carved out a niche in the truck market for people that want simple, tough trucks. Rather than follow what the American trucks are doing, they chose to own what they’re good at.
We’re living in an era where the interior of a Ford F150 is more comfortable and better equipped than the living room of your house. That’s fine and dandy when everything is working properly, but I can’t imagine what it costs to fix some of those features.
On paper, the V6 in the Tacoma should probably be making a lot more power than it does. Don’t think for a second that Toyota couldn’t crank these engines up to make well North of 300hp. They don’t want to. That engine gets the job done, albeit in a less dramatic and exciting way.
Toyota trucks aren’t updated very often
This is another thing that is both a blessing and a curse for Toyota. Their trucks are often slammed by consumers and journalists for being way behind the times in terms of modern technology. They find something that works, and stick with it for as long as they possibly can – until they’re essentially forced to do something new.
If you’re a fan of the simplicity of Toyota trucks, this is a good thing. It’s certainly what they’ve become known for over the years. But if you’re shopping and comparing them with trucks from Ford, GM, and Ram, the Toyota almost always comes up short on the list of features.
The Tundra is a good example. The 2nd generation Tundra was entirely new compared to the 1st gen. That truck came out in 2007 and in 2014 it received enough updates to be considered a 3rd gen Tundra. It wasn’t a complete redesign this time though. In fact, a brand new truck still uses the same drivetrain as the 2007 model.
While other companies are coming out with twin turbos and 10-speed transmissions, the Tundra is still using a 14 year old 5.7L and 6-speed. Are they outdated? Yes. Do they still get the job done? Absolutely.
The Sequoia is the same story. Toyota went for many years without changing anything but the steering wheel. Even the “new” Sequoia offers very little more than a minor facelift.
Fuel economy is not exactly a selling point of a Toyota truck. In all honesty, it’s another thing that they lag behind on. Many automakers are coming up with complicated ways to make their trucks more fuel efficient but Toyota doesn’t seem to be willing to go down that road yet.
If they can’t come up with a reliable way of doing something, they aren’t going to do it. Their engines might be dinosaurs but the money you waste on fuel is likely much less than what you could potentially be paying for in repairs with another truck.
The Land Cruiser stands out from the rest of the lineup in an interesting way. It’s Toyota’s flagship truck and clearly the one they’re most proud of. This is one vehicle that actually does offer a lot of high tech features while still being based on a rugged, traditional platform.
The way Toyota is able to offer these features reliably is to over-engineer them until they’re confident they can be trusted. That comes at a cost – the Land Cruiser is very expensive when compared to the others. That’s the trade-off, and it seems Toyota is only willing to go that direction with their pride and joy.
It’s cool to see some of those high tech features slowly being trickled down to the other trucks later on though, such as crawl control and air suspension.
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest technology, a Toyota truck probably isn’t for you. Many people see their tried and true designs as a selling point. You have to manage your expectations though – you aren’t going to be getting a full-size pickup that boasts 40MPG and a Tesla-sized infotainment screen here.
Owners are more willing to spend money on maintenance
The reputation of Toyota trucks is no secret. Most people have heard that they “last forever” even if they don’t know why. This has been a big reason why their resale value is so strong. Many people believe that a vehicle depreciates because it doesn’t work as well and breaks down over time.
If it’s true that this isn’t as much of an issue with Toyotas, there’s no reason for the price to drop as much when they get older.
The other reason Toyota trucks hold their value is because of what I talked about above. They don’t change much. When the new Ram offers a ton of new features and flashy new looks, the older outgoing Ram isn’t worth as much to buyers. If the new Tundra is relatively the same as a 5 year old one, there’s less incentive to pay more for it.
Aside from an extra hood scoop and a few safety features, your old truck will probably get mistaken for a brand new one out in the wild.
Since the trucks are more likely to hold their value, many owners are willing to spend the money to maintain them properly. Nobody wants to spend thousands of dollars on a truck that’s going to be worth $15,000 less in a couple of years. But when you know your truck is going to continue to be worth something, you tend to want to protect your investment.
This could play a big role in why we still see so many old Toyota trucks on the roads these days. You extend the life of any vehicle when you keep up on the maintenance. Perhaps Toyota owners are more willing to stay on top of it because they feel like they have something worth keeping.
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: