2004 Tacoma vs. 1997 Land Cruiser: Long Term Ownership

I've been discussing trading my '97 80 series for a cherry-looking 2004 Tacoma Xtracab 4x4 5 speed with the 3rz. It had the frame replaced at some point. 250k miles, but mostly highway according to the seller.

I got the Land Cruiser recently and I was exciting given how legendary those things are. But so far, it's been kind of a frustrating experience. First of all, I haven't even been able to take it off-road for fear of the worn bushings and tired suspension, among other things. Okay, it is an old truck so I won't blame it for that.

Even so, it just feels so big, heavy, and unwieldy. Where my old 98 Tacoma single cab felt spry and eager, like the little truck that could. the Cruiser feels ponderous and plodding, the big lazy inline 6 always groaning in protest schlepping you around town. The 3rz was no powerhouse, but at least it wasn't being asked to haul around two tons+ of truck.

By the same token, the little Tacoma felt like it could scamper over just about anything it had the clearance for , while the Cruiser feels like it might sink to its frame rails as soon as you drop it into a mudhole.

Don't get me wrong, the J80 is a cool truck with timeless styling and a really tough drivetrain. I really appreciate the solid front axle as well, but it just doesn't have the same sense of fun as the Tacoma, especially with the old 4-speed slushbox instead of the fantastic 5 speed manual in the OG Tacomas. If it was twin-locked I'd be more inclined to stick with it.

Am I missing something here? Will this be a decision I come to regret? I'm worried that over time, I'll wish I stuck with the beefy frame and solid axles of the Land Cruiser when I'm constantly fixing the IFS and rack and pinion on the Tacoma, or dealing with LBJ and frame issues.

In fact, the flimsy frame of the first gen Tacomas is what concerns me the most. The reason I got rid of my old one was that the frame started rotting from the inside out! I never could've imagined something like that before I bought the truck, but it goes to show how poor-quality the steel was.

Anyone have experience owing these and have a different perspective? Which one will be more fulfilling in the long term?

Finally, is this a fair trade, straight up? The Cruiser has 227.5k and its running well with good compression/no overheating. It is in rougher shape overall, but you could argue it's more "classic" and has better value with the solid axles and heritage etc.

Pics of the actual two rigs below. Thanks for reading.





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FreeRideSLR

New member
TLDR - You'd be getting the short end of the stick trading the 80 for the taco and you'll regret it. Keep the 80.

I've owned both of these vehicles (97 80 and 99 Taco) for over 5 years and I kept the 80 and sold the Taco. I've never regretted the decision once. The Taco feels cheaper and more disposable. Sure, its a fun truck and part of that is due to its lower weight, but start adding armor and accessories and it is going to suffer. Meanwhile, the 80 is a tank and takes gear, armor, etc like a champ. The 80 just feels like a flagship vehicle, which it was. No, the 1FZ isn't super powerful, but it is sufficient and very reliable. My rig weighs in around 6500lbs and I am at over 270K without any major work needed. The engine is still smooth as silk. I just took it down to Baja for 3 weeks from Colorado without any reliability concerns. I much prefer solid axles and a full boxed frame. My 80 is triple locked, and I have never even needed to lock both axles. Its just extremely capable right out of the gate. That being said, you should baseline the truck and stay up to date with maintenance. You can still buy OEM Toyota parts for the 80, which is amazing. I honestly don't think I'll ever sell mine.
 

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TLDR - You'd be getting the short end of the stick trading the 80 for the taco and you'll regret it. Keep the 80.

I've owned both of these vehicles (97 80 and 99 Taco) for over 5 years and I kept the 80 and sold the Taco. I've never regretted the decision once. The Taco feels cheaper and more disposable. Sure, its a fun truck and part of that is due to its lower weight, but start adding armor and accessories and it is going to suffer. Meanwhile, the 80 is a tank and takes gear, armor, etc like a champ. The 80 just feels like a flagship vehicle, which it was. No, the 1FZ isn't super powerful, but it is sufficient and very reliable. My rig weighs in around 6500lbs and I am at over 270K without any major work needed. The engine is still smooth as silk. I just took it down to Baja for 3 weeks from Colorado without any reliability concerns. I much prefer solid axles and a full boxed frame. My 80 is triple locked, and I have never even needed to lock both axles. Its just extremely capable right out of the gate. That being said, you should baseline the truck and stay up to date with maintenance. You can still buy OEM Toyota parts for the 80, which is amazing. I honestly don't think I'll ever sell mine.
There's no doubting the 80 is more solidly built. But it seems like the tank-like feeling could be a downside off road. Especially on right trails with lots of mud and water crossings, where it might get bogged down or high centered easier due to its bulk.

Also the Taco is in better shape and will be easier and cheaper to keep on the road. The manual/4 cylinder combo seems better for a daily driver and commuter.
 

The_Dude

Adventurer
Is the taco a locked model? I had a 98 taco 5spd/trd and the same truck as an 03. Also had a tripled locked 97 80 for 7 years. I missed the tacos about as much as the 80. 80 was legendary but the Tacoma’s were better all around. A truck bed is something I love. I feel like the tundra is the best of Both worlds. If you aren’t head over heels for the 80 trade it.




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Toyaddict

Active member
If I were going to own one long term keeping in mind the mileage and age of the vehicles I'd want the Tacoma. Parts availability and price is something I weigh heavily when buying a vehicle. Same reason I'll likely buy a 4runner over a gx460 when/if the market cools down.
 

tacollie

Glamper
They are different vehicles with different strengths. I've always preferred Tacomas/4runners because they are lighter and cheaper. If you baby the throttle you can get decent MPGs. Land Cruisers are super stout but they are heavy. The 80 is slow and thirsty. I've tried to buy an 80 multiple times but the test drive always left me feeling unenthused. I'm just not an SUV guy. My 08 Tundra has been my favorite Toyota even over my 100. I'm shopping for 1st gen 4runner because it's kind of both🤣
 
Is the taco a locked model? I had a 98 taco 5spd/trd and the same truck as an 03. Also had a tripled locked 97 80 for 7 years. I missed the tacos about as much as the 80. 80 was legendary but the Tacoma’s were better all around. A truck bed is something I love. I feel like the tundra is the best of Both worlds. If you aren’t head over heels for the 80 trade it.




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It is regeared for 33s but not a TRD. I forgot to ask if they put in a locker while regearing.
 

ryan.ziffer@

New member
Is the taco a locked model? I had a 98 taco 5spd/trd and the same truck as an 03. Also had a tripled locked 97 80 for 7 years. I missed the tacos about as much as the 80. 80 was legendary but the Tacoma’s were better all around. A truck bed is something I love. I feel like the tundra is the best of Both worlds. If you aren’t head over heels for the 80 trade it.




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Off topic, but is that pic off Lockhart basin rd outside of moab? It looks exactly like I place I’ve camped before…


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The_Dude

Adventurer
Off topic, but is that pic off Lockhart basin rd outside of moab? It looks exactly like I place I’ve camped before…


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It’s right towards the area there. That area is the wind caves.


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nickw

Adventurer
If I were going to own one long term keeping in mind the mileage and age of the vehicles I'd want the Tacoma. Parts availability and price is something I weigh heavily when buying a vehicle. Same reason I'll likely buy a 4runner over a gx460 when/if the market cools down.
+1....as cool as the rigs are, I think parts availability is going to be MUCH better with the Tacoma's along with less expensive repairs for what is functionally a sim rig....moving forward that means less headaches.
 

Fishenough

Creeper
If I were going to own one long term keeping in mind the mileage and age of the vehicles I'd want the Tacoma. Parts availability and price is something I weigh heavily when buying a vehicle. Same reason I'll likely buy a 4runner over a gx460 when/if the market cools down.
My adventure vehicle, no matter how well-loved, isn't a long term I'll be buried in the vehicle. Backcountry is my primary recreation, put on more miles on my 4x4 than my daily driver car or other toys. I drive on beaches and close the salt air constantly, long distances on Canada's salted roads, and don't hesitate to drive down an overgrown road that will cause that nails on chalkboard sound of branches removing paint.

Had an HJ47 and a HJ61, pinned for an 80 for years. Stuff breaks, gets knock off, and I want the rig to be maintained perfectly as we always find ourselves remote far from cell service. Maybe 1 day I'll justify a new old Landcruiser, but being experienced with the cost to play I'll stick to 4 cyl Tacoma's/4Runner.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/pMa2Q5E5LbauEKjx7

Note scrapping sound in vid clip. Had a 3rd Gen Tacoma for 2 years, but it was a babied work vehicle, had less backroad pin stripping than my current Toyota after it's 1st outing.
 

beef tits

Active member
Tacoma is a more useful vehicle, all around. 250k is nothing on one, my dad's 3.4 4Runner has 480k and counting. Still shines like new. Personally, if it were a "keeper" vehicle I would wait and buy a clean lower mileage TRD model (120k or less). They are out there but get pricey.

No need to worry about "frame beef" unless you are rock crawling, in which case; buy a Jeep.

Also for 99.999% of intended vehicle uses IFS > SFA. Solid front axles are super overrated.

MPG? Taco hands down. Now as a third vehicle? I would consider the 80, but I like my 120 far better; way more power, better MPG, better ride w/IFS, etc. Frankly I'm not sure why anyone buys an 80 series or older LC for a main vehicle. Are they cool? Yes. Are they a great all around vehicle? Hell no. They're awful.
 
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T-Willy

Well-known member
Your intended use matters a lot.

If you want a light duty daily, get the Taco. If you're looking for a heavy duty remote tourer, stick with the 80.

I had a gen one Tacoma. One month in baja running just below payload capacity ruined the springs. It was very disappointing. In contrast, our 30 year old 80 has completed dozens of heavily loaded dirt tours in Mexico since it was new, and has never flinched.

Edit: Having owned both, I can say the 80 is in an entirely different league in terms of build quality, durability, and longevity.
 
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