Reader Question: Tacoma vs. Highlander vs. F-Truck?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Matt asks: I am going out of California, sold my Prius; they may not have let me into Idaho with that. For the Boise area I am considering a Toyota Tacoma dual cab, a Toyota Highlander, or a Ford F-150 dual cab. All 4WD of course. Not sure the ins and outs of these. I don’t generally like the newer iterations of autos lately. Is there an advantage to buying used this way? I have not seen recent reviews of any of the above on your site. I am especially interested in the Toyota dual cab truck vs. F-150 dual cab, and if used ones, say 2017, may have some advantages due to stupid gov’t regulations implemented the newer autos. All help is appreciated! thank you for what you do.

My reply: Well, first let’s separate out the Highlander from the other two as it is a crossover SUV built on a front-drive layout with all-wheel-drive available. The Tacoma and F-150 are trucks, built on heavy-duty rear-drive layouts – with four-wheel-drive (and a two-speed transfer case with Low range gearing) available. The Highlander is not meant for serious off-roading or towing. But the Highlander might be okay for you if you expect to drive mostly on-road and just need a vehicle that can handle snow – which it can. Especially with a set of good snow tires.

The next point of difference is size. The Tacoma is a mid-sized truck; the F-150 is a full-size (1500, half-ton) truck. For this reason the F-truck will have a roomier interior and a larger bed, but that may not matter to you.

I would avoid the 2015 (and newer) F-150 because of its aluminum body and turbo V6 engines (a V8 is available but they are hard to find). If you need a full-size truck, I recommend a Toyota Tundra or a Ram 1500, leaning toward the Tundra – which is an outstanding specimen, well-built and known reliable.

For the same reason, I also endorse the Tacoma – which is a superb mid-sized truck. Just be careful to make sure the one you buy isn’t rusty – a general caution with all used trucks! Other than that, these things are very safe bets and I think you’ll be very happy.

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  1. Not so fast, Eric: For 2018+, the 2.7L ecoboost Gen 2, has both port fuel injection and direct injection. (Has to be a Gen 2) I opted for that rather than the cylinder deactivation on the Ram and Chevy V-8’s, as the turbos are *external* to the engine. Agreed that Ford 5.0 V8 is probably better long haul than the ecoboost 2.7, due to lack of said turbos. I am pretty happy so far with my 2020 F150 2.7L ecoboost.

  2. Hi Matt,

    Just some additional feedback regarding the Highlander (spoken from personal experience). As Eric said, it is an SUV. I usually buy my vehicles new and drive them for about 200k miles so I get an average use of about 10 years for each vehicle I purchase. I am a loyal Toyota/Lexus girl. My Highlander currently has about 125k miles on it. The Highlander has been a reliable vehicle. I do very little to it except get the oil changed every 5k to 10k miles (I use synthetic, which is a bit more expensive, but well worth it) and rotate the tires.

    Since I have owned it these are the issues that I have had: the electronic tailgate is unreliable (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t), the AWD button will pop on from time to time (this is due to bad gasoline not the AWD system itself). It works perfectly fine with 87 octane, but it hates cheap gas. I usually buy from Sunoco, Shell, or Exxon. The third row seat is a joke, unless you have a few 3 or 4 year olds. Please do not put any adult over 5’2” back there, they will hate you for it.

    Other than the items above the car has been steadfast. She gets about 23 miles per gallon, has never left me along side the road, can comfortably hold 4 (5 if you are desperate), 3 large dogs, and a few duffel bags….at the same time. Also, it will hold 2 adults and 2 large chairs OR a small sofa, if the need arises. It is also comfortable for long distance traveling. You can skip most of the bells and whistles, but I would upgrade from fabric to leather seats, if I could do it differently.

    I hope this helps.


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