Best Year For Toyota Tundra – Which Tundra Is The Best Performer?

by Conner Mckay

Are you on the market for a full-size pickup truck? But you don’t want to get a Chevy or a Ford? If that is the case, the Toyota Tundra is the perfect option for you. But which is the best year for Toyota Tundra? Don’t worry because we are going to help you out.

Doing the proper research before you make a purchase of a vehicle is key if you don’t want to waste all of your money on a car that doesn’t work at all or has a million gremlins inside. Shopping for a truck is not grocery shopping because when you buy something this expensive, it means that you are going to stick with it in the upcoming years.

That’s why before purchasing a car or a truck, you need to make your own research and learn the specs of this vehicle. Knowing the specs is going to help you out immensely in order to get the right engine and transmission for your application. Also, other aspects like fuel economy, safety, and practicality play a major role. But as we said, you shouldn’t worry because we are going to help you out.

In this article, we are going to learn what is the Toyota Tundra. Then we will go through each of the generations of the Tundra and learn the specs of your future Tundra. After we will focus on the problems of the Tundra as well as the best year for Toyota Tundra. So, let’s begin.

What Is The Toyota Tundra? – Best Year For Toyota Tundra

The Tundra is a full-size pickup truck offered by Toyota in the US market. But what does full-size mean? Full size means that this truck belongs in a certain category of cars and trucks.

There are compact trucks, mid-size and full-size trucks. When a truck gets in the full-size category means that this truck needs to meet certain dimensions to be considered as such.

More precisely, full-size vehicles are the largest vehicles on the road. But even more precisely than this, for a car or a truck to be considered a full-size vehicle needs to have an interior volume index of more than 120cu ft. In simple words, those are the full-size requirements.

Best Year For Toyota Tundra

But to easily understand the dimensions let’s compare the Tundra to some contemporary trucks. Namely, the Ford F-150 belongs in the same class of trucks as the Tundra. Other trucks that belong in this class are the Silverado, RAM 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and others. You get my point.

All these trucks that we mentioned target the same piece of the cake, in other words, the same market. They basically compete between them in order for the customer to pick them instead of the competition. But this competition is healthy since the customer always gets the best products.

But what is the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that a bit later when we will cover the Tundra reliability and after that, we are going to make our decision which is the best year for Toyota Tundra.

Not to forget that this truck is in production since 2000. Which means that it has a long legacy and a lot to cover. Fortunately, we have all the time in the world to discuss some interesting facts about the Tundra.

Generations Of The Toyota Tundra

As we mentioned above, the Toyota Tundra is produced since the year 2000. This means that this year the Tundra celebrated its 21st birthday. This tells us that there is a lot to cover on this model.

In the following chapters, we are going to cover the last two generations of the Tundra. We will dive into the specs and options that were included in the Tundra.

We will emphasize the aspects like safety, practicality, fuel consumption and we will give our thought on which is the best year for Toyota Tundra. So, let’s begin.

1. First Generation Toyota Tundra – Best Year For Toyota Tundra

The first generation of the Tundra was introduced in 1999 for the 2000 model year. This generation remained in production until 2006 when it was replaced with the second generation that is still in production.

The first generations shared a lot of elements with the older generation Toyota T100 and the smaller Tacoma. Namely, the engines and transmission. But as we said in the introduction, the Tundra is a full-size truck, which means that it is considerably larger than the Tacoma.

The original truck was intended to be called T150, but many people claimed that this name is too similar to Ford’s F-150 they picked the name Tundra. Which in my opinion complements the smaller Tacoma and is a good-sounding name. If you didn’t know, names also play a big role in marketing. So, this was a winner for Toyota.

In the first year, it was selected to be the truck of the year by Motor Trend and also the best full-size truck by Consumer Reports. And this tells you quite a lot about the Tundra and its reliability. Even though, later we are going to discuss what is the best year for Toyota Tundra. But first, let’s discuss the engines and transmissions used in the Tundra.

Engines And Transmissions

There were a few engines to choose from when it came to the Tundra. The smallest engine was a 3.4L V6 engine that produced 190hp and 220lb-ft of torque. Which was plenty to drive this truck.

But there were also some more powerful alternatives. Namely the 4.7L V8 that produced 245hp and 315lb-ft of torque. This was the engine to go if you were hauling a lot of stuff with your Tundra.

There was also a V6 introduced in 2005 that was rated at 4.0L. This engine produced 236hp and 266lb-ft of torque. This engine was also used on a lot of Toyota products, namely the FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, and other more modern Toyota products. So, if you want a 1st generation Tundra, this is the engine to go. Since it is the most modern one in the lineup.

In terms of transmissions, There were a few options available. On the early models, there were two options. A 5-speed manual and a 4-speed automatic transmission.

Then in 2005, the transmissions were updated with a 5 speed automatic and a 6-speed manual. This new improvement slightly improved the fuel efficiency of the Tundra. But what about the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that in a bit.


The Tundra was one of the rare trucks that got “good” in their test of the frontal offset. In comparison, other trucks were rated as “Poor” or “Marginal”. Which is a good thing since this truck is quite a lot better in comparison to other trucks in the same era.

Although, these safety scores for 2021 don’t quite matter. Since there were 20 years since the introduction of this model and a lot of things have changed in terms of safety.


When comes to practicality, the Tundra cannot compete with the big three. But still delivers quite a lot. For example, the V8 engine has a towing capacity of 6,900lbs on the Double Cab, while the Regular cab had a bit more towing power, 7,100lbs to be more exact.

Fuel Economy

The fuel economy is not that great for the first generation. But this is understandable since the Tundra is a full-size truck. The ratings on the 3.4 V6 were 15 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway, and 16 mpg combined.

The 4.7L V8 performed slightly worse with 15 mpg combined and 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway.

The 4.0L was a more modern engine and performed better than the other two. With 16 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and a combined fuel economy of 18 mpg. This is the engine if you want to get a good fuel economy on your Tundra. But what about the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that in a bit.

1.5. Toyota Tundra Problems – Best Year For Toyota Tundra

In this chapter, we are going to cover one of the most common problems on the Toyota Tundra from the first generation.

Rust Issues

The rust issues on the Tundra are probably the worst that could happen to you as a Tundra owner. Are they that serious? Yes, they are.

The frames basically disappear and the truck crumbles. As we know the frame is the integral part that holds the entire body of the truck and if it rusts, then the truck will fall apart.

That’s why you should watch out not to get a rust bucket if you want to get a used Tundra. Avoid trucks that were been used in the North where there is a lot of salt on the roads during the winter.

Toyota in fact has issued a recall for these early 2000 to 2003 models in order to patch these issues.

Paint Fading

Another problem with these early cars and most of the cars in the early ’00s is the paint fading away. Not a big deal since this problem is purely cosmetic.

And considering the age of the Tundra, this is quite understandable. A good respray will fix the issue permanently.

Secondary Air Injection Pump Failure On The 4.7L V8 2005 to 2006 Models

The secondary air injection pump is notorious for failing on these models between 2005 to 2006. When this pump fails it causes a check engine light.

When this pump fails the codes P1442 and P1445 are common. If you have one of these codes, then you know that the pump has failed and needs replacing. The solution for this problem is estimated close to $2,000.

Catalytic Converter Failure 2005 Model

The catalytic converter is also notorious to break down on the 2005 models. The catalytic converter simply stops working and the O2 sensor as well.

The fix for this problem is getting a new catalytic converter (like the 2008 Infiniti G35 catalytic converter) and O2 sensor. So, how much for a catalytic converter? The cost for catalytic converters is also quite expensive and this repair could cost you close to $2,000 or even more in some instances. But what about the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that in the next chapter.

Best Year For Toyota Tundra

When it comes to getting a Tundra from this generation. Getting a 2003 model is the best. Since these models have the least complaints.

The only major issue is the rust on the frame. If you are looking after some Tundras out there, the first thing to do is to inspect the frame and see if there is significant rust buildup.

Also, avoid frames that are covered with rustproofing. This black rubbery product traps moisture and rusts the frame from the inside out. Avoid these at any cost. Because it might look good from the outside, but on the inside, it’s going to be a rust bucket.

2. Second Generation Toyota Tundra

The second generation of the Tundra was introduced at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. The new Tundra shares a lot from its styling cues with the smaller Tacoma. This model started production in 2007 and is still in production. From the following year, this generation is going to be replaced with the third generation of the Tundra.

When compared to the previous generation, this new Tundra was a day and night change. It offered so many options and it almost started to compete with the big three truck makers in terms of power usability and also looks.

The new Tundra implemented a modern design that looks particularly pleasing and you can see that this is a truck for the new millennium, unlike the previous generation that had design lines from the ’90s. But what is the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that a bit later. Let’s first discuss the specs and also the problems of this model.

Engines And Transmissions

Unlike the previous generation of the Tundra, in this generation, a variety of different engines were used in order to fill up as many roles possible for the potential owners.

The base engine was the 4.0L V6 from the previous generation. This engine made 236hp and later with the updates from 2011 this number was bumped to 270hp.

There was also the 4.7L V8 that made around 276hp and a new 4.6L that produced 310hp. The top of the line engine is the 5.7L V7 that produces 381hp.

There were three automatic transmissions offered on the Tundra, all of them were automatics. Namely one 5-speed and two 6-speed transmissions were available.


The safety quite improved in comparison to the early model and was on par with contemporary trucks on the market. The NHTSA gave the Tundra overall rating of 4 stars which is quite good for a truck. But what about the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that later, let’s first discuss the practicality of the Tundra.


The new Tundra had an increased towing capacity of 10,000 lbs and also allowed a payload of 2,000 lbs. Which is quite respectable for a truck.

It is not in the class with the Cummins or Duramax diesel-engined trucks. But for gas-powered engines, these are good numbers.

Fuel Economy

The fuel economy of the Tundra is not that bad. The 5.7L engine gets 18 mpg on the highway and 13 mpg in the city with an average of 15 mpg.

While the 4.6L gets 19 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg in the city with an average of 16 mpg. Which is quite good for a gas-powered truck. But what about the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that a bit later, let’s first cover the problems of this generation of the Tundra.

2.5. Toyota Tundra Problems – Best Year For Toyota Tundra

In this chapter, we are going to discuss the problems of the Toyota Tundra and learn what are the downsides of this truck.

Air Injection Pump Failure On 4.7L Engine

This generation inherited the 4.7L in its early years of production and the problem with the air injection pump is still present in the Tundra. The fix for this issue is replacing the air pump on your Tundra with a new one. A repair that on average costs around $2,000.

Piston Knock When Engine Is Cold 5.7L

Piston knocks or piston slaps as they call them are pretty frequent on the 5.7L V8 when the engine is cold. This is caused by the ambient temperature.

This problem, fortunately, doesn’t create damage to the engine. But it only sounds awful as many Tundra owners would say. This a normal work for the 5.7L. You need to be patient until the engine warms up and gets up to temperature. Then, it will stop knocking.

Oil Consumption On The 5.7L

The oil consumption issues are also quite common on the 5.7L. The engine likes to drink oil more often than other engines. Especially at higher miles when the oil rings weaken and allow the oil to go into the combustion chamber and burn off.

If you have this engine, it is quite useful to monitor the oil levels every now and then. Just to be on the safe side and not let your engine starve for oil. Because if it starves from oil, engine damage could happen and you will have to replace the whole engine. And you don’t want that.

But what about the best year for Toyota Tundra? More on that in a bit after we finish the Toyota Tundra problems.

Paint And Rust Issues

Paint and rust issues were also reported on this generation as well. Not that aggressive as on the first generation of the Toyota Tundra. But they are present. Especially on the early year models.

Before buying make sure that you inspect the frame and other sections like the wheel wells and the floor pans for rust. Because fixing rust is quite expensive and you don’t want to deal with that, to be honest.

Alternator Issues

On some of the Tundras, there were also alternator failure issues that were reported by owners. This was not that common. But it is worth noting out for you to have a better idea that there were some other problems as well. But what is the best year for Toyota Tundra? That we are going to cover next.

Best Year For Toyota Tundra

When it comes to the best year for Toyota Tundra if you want to go for an older model would be to get a 2013 model. This model on the’s website has the least complaints from all the years from 2007 to 2013. Also, the 2015 model is good as well.

And since 2018 and over, all models are in pretty good conditions. They are practically brand new. But as the years go by, they as well are going to develop some issues. And we will see in a few years if they aged well like a fine wine.

3. Third Generation Tundra

The third generation of the Tundra hasn’t been released yet into the public domain and there is not quite a lot to cover on it. What is known about it, is that it will use a new generation 3.5L V6 twin-turbo engine that will also use hybrid power. As Toyota claim, this model will be the most powerful Tundra up to date and will become a great competition to the big three truck makers.


When it comes to alternatives, on the market, there is plenty of options. New or used, depending on which route you will want to go.

But just to throw some hints. The Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra are some of the few trucks available for purchase. And they also deliver quite a bit of performance for the money.

Toyota Tundra Used Trucks – Facts

  1. The Toyota Tundra was introduced in May 1999 as a full-size truck that replaced the T100.
  2. The Toyota Tundra is considered one of the most reliable trucks on the market.
  3. Sales of the Toyota Tundra have exceeded 100,000 units in the United States, with Canadian sales averaging 9,559 units.
  4. The 2014 Toyota Tundra SR5 with TRD package offers excellent off-road performance and reliability ratings.
  5. The 2003 Toyota Tundra TR3 offers a TRD package, blacked-out grille, and special 17-inch rims.
  6. The 2010 Toyota Tundra Work Trim offers basic necessities at an affordable price for a work truck.
  7. The 2011 Toyota Tundra offers options for owners to lean towards work or play with a spacious cab and easy-to-use interior controls.
  8. The 2013 and 2016 Toyota Tundra Platinum trims offer luxurious leather seats, a sunroof, and JBL sound system.
  9. The 2018 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition offers a tribute to American heritage with woodgrain inlays and brown leather.
  10. The 2020 Toyota Tundra Limited Edition offers a smooth suspension system and a 5.7L engine.

Overall, the Toyota Tundra is a versatile and reliable truck that can be used for work or play. While it may not have the most modern design or technology, it offers great performance and safety ratings. Its towing capabilities are impressive, and it has several trims and options to suit various needs and preferences.

Conclusion – Best Year For Toyota Tundra

In this article, we have covered a lot when it comes to the Toyota Tundra. First, we learned what the Tundra is and its characteristics. We mentioned that the Tundra is a full-size truck that belongs in the same group of trucks as the F-150 and the Silverado.

Then, we have covered the last two generations of the Tundra. We learned when they were introduced and until when they were produced. After, we covered the specs of each of these two generations as well as the safety and fuel economy.

Lastly, we learned what problems are the most common in both of these generations. This will be of great use if you are on the second-hand market trying to find a Tundra. And then we also mentioned what is the best year for Toyota Tundra for both generations.

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