If you’re in the market for a new truck, Toyota is definitely a manufacturer to consider. They are tough, reliable, and long lasting. However, you have two very impressive trucks to choose from: Tundra and Tacoma. Which is right for you? Obviously there are plenty of factors to keep in mind from MPG to towing, but let’s take a dive into each category to see where each one falls.
To keep things consistent, let’s take a look at the 2022 models for each. There are plenty of trim levels and optional packages for each truck, but let’s cover the ranges of each category for this chart, and we can break things down later.
Specs are just numbers. While they can tell you a lot, what do they actually translate into?
Price is a big factory for anyone looking into a vehicle, and that’s a big difference for the Tacoma and Tundra. The base model SR for each is going to be your “no frills” type of truck. This is your best option if you plan on using a truck for more utilitarian or work purposes. The Tacoma starts at $28,485, while the Tundra is almost ten grand more at $37,745! Yes, you’re getting a much bigger truck with different specs, but that’s a lot of cash.
The trend continues as the trim levels go up… The SR5 is $13,000 more and the highest trim Tacoma level known as the Nightshade is $41,670 while the Capstone Hybrid trim for the Tundra is $76,025. That’s an over $35,000 difference. You can buy two Tacoma SR5s and still have money left over for the price of one Capstone Tundra.
This is common across most car manufacturers. The bigger and “fancier” the vehicle, the more it costs. However, with inflation causing a mess for every person on the planet, make sure you double check all the options and features to make sure you can justify the cost to yourself.
Both trucks offer work, off-road, and luxury models. The SR for both models is generally your work truck. They have what you need, and not much else. They are designed for you to use, abuse, and get stuff done. The SR5 is where you start getting into all of the options to pretty much build a custom truck the way you want. Both Tacoma and Tundra are pretty similar here for both of these trims in terms of features; just the truck itself is different.
After this is where these different trucks start to take their own unique identities. While both trucks have luxury and off-road options, the Tacoma is where you’re going to get most off-road abilities. The TRD Off Road and Trail Edition will give you the most bang for your buck for a factory Tundra off-road. While the Tundra can also tackle the outdoors, your only “dedicated” trim level would be the TRD-Pro.
Both trucks offer a Limited trim, which will be your entry level luxury model. The Tacoma has the Nightshade, which is your luxury model, but also blacked out. That makes it pretty darn unique. However, the “bigger is better” motto fits the Tundra well, as luxury is key here with this truck. The Limited, Platinum, 1794, Capstone, and the hybrid versions of each are all focused on luxury.
To sum it up… If your focus is more trails, off-roading, and overlanding, the Tacoma might be your best option. If you need a larger and more luxurious truck, the Tundra could be for you.
Engines, Power, and Economy
Both the Tacoma and the Tundra have limited their engine options over the generations. For the first time, the Tundra has dropped its V8 for a more powerful and efficient 3.5L twin turbo V6 with a hybrid version available as well. That does seem to be the trend with all vehicles these days. How does that work for you though?
The Tacoma offers a 2.7L inline four cylinder that makes 159 horsepower and 180 foot pounds of torque. For more power, you can go with the 3.5L V6 that makes 278 horsepower and 265 foot pounds of torque. Many claim that by modern standards, both engines are a little weak. However, they are very reliable and capable in the Tacoma.
While miles per gallon are not the main thought when getting a truck, it’s still important in today’s economy. The 2.7L will get you 19 city and 24 highway miles. For a truck, that’s not too bad. The 3.5L will get you 20 in the city and 23 on the highway. Honestly, there is not much of a difference, so why not go for more power?
If you really need more power, then you’ll have to go with the Tundra. The Tundra’s 3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 is tuned for different levels depending on which trim level you have. The lowest power you’ll get is 348 horsepower and 405 foot pounds of torque. That’s already 70 more ponies and 140 more foot pounds compared to the highest output of the Tacoma.
If you go for the higher-end hybrid, you’ll be getting 437 horsepower and 583 foot pounds of torque. In other words, you get ALL the power! Obviously the Tundra is your only option if you want to go hybrid. However, here is the kicker: you only get two more miles per gallon in the city. Your standard engine will get you 18 city and 24 highway, while the hybrid will get you 20 city and 24 highway. Clearly it’s not a massive difference, but it could be worth getting if you want more power. Keep in mind you’ll use far less fuel if you idle a lot too with a hybrid, so there’s that as well.
Both Tacoma and Tundra are basically tied with fuel efficiency. However, if you want power, the Tundra is the clear winner. In a truck, power translates into performance, which leads me to the next topic…
Towing and Hauling
One of the main reasons anyone gets a truck is for towing and hauling. Both trucks do this very well for their size, but let’s get into some numbers. At the lowest, the Tacoma can tow up to 6500 pounds, and 6800 at its best. If you have a two wheel drive model with the four cylinder, you’ll have the maximum payload capacity of 1685 pounds, but the four-wheel drive and V6 will only allow 1050 pounds.
The Tundra is a massive difference. Depending on trim level and options, the Tundra can pull from 8300 to 12000 pounds. The payload ranges from 1575 to 1940 pounds. Clearly that is substantially more than its little brother, but it’s a much bigger truck with much more power.
If you plan on towing and hauling heavy loads, the Tundra is going to be best for you.
As established, the Tundra is a bigger truck, so how much bigger is bigger? In terms of overall size, the Tacoma is 6.2 feet wide and 17.69 feet long. The Tundra is 6.68 feet wide and 19.47 to 21 feet long. That’s about half a foot wider and up to 3.31 feet longer!
The Tacoma offers two bed options: 5 and 6 foot. The Tundra offers three different options: 5.5, 6.5, and 8.1 foot beds. For both trucks, these options may change the cab sizes. Speaking of which, the Tacoma can seat up to five people, and the Tundra can sit up to six. While you probably don’t want to reach that maximum seating for either truck on a long road trip, the Tundra can probably handle it more comfortably.
Keep in mind that bigger is not always better. If you live in a city or in an area of town with tight parking, you’re not going to want that extra length. Chances are you’re not towing much either, so a larger truck may not be needed. When it comes to off-roading, the Tacoma tends to be more nimble and easier to get around in tight spaces. On the flip side, the longer wheelbase in the Tundra can give you a bit more stability in certain terrains.
To sum up this section, unless you’re going for the 8.1 foot bed, there is not much difference with the other bed sizes. Six people in a pickup isn’t the most common thing, even on the worksite. Off-roading really depends on where you find yourself most. All in all, the Tundra is bigger, and if you need the little bit extra you get from it (besides the one substantially larger bed option), then go Team Tundra!
If you buy your truck with the goal of modifying it, both trucks have a pretty healthy aftermarket available. Bumpers, bedracks, sliders and steps, lights, roof racks, and more are all easy to find. Since the Tacoma is a bit more geared to off-roading, you can generally find more parts for the Tacoma. However, there is no shortage for the Tundra either. Basically both have a wide selection of parts available to build your dream truck.
There are plenty of reasons to argue for each truck. Clearly it comes down to being super subjective depending on your needs and budget. Here’s a little recap…
Now that you have a better understanding about which is better for you, go out there and get yourself a Toyota! When you do, don’t forget that Empyre Off-Road has the parts that you need to help you build the Tacoma or Tundra of your dreams. Thanks for stopping by!
Tacoma - Courtesy of Toyota
Tundra - Courtesy of Toyota