What are the best years for the Toyota Tundra? The Toyota Tundra has years in which the Tundra offered serious competition in the full size truck category.
But how do you know which years were best for the Toyota Tundra? Finding the information and the right opinions as they apply to your needs is difficult, and most people don’t want to spend their time long term test driving more than 20 years of Tundra models.
The best years of the Toyota Tundra are 2009, 2019, and 2013. 2009 has the best combination of a sharp exterior, reliable engine, and competitive towing. 2019 adds many more options and has excellent handling. We also included the unique 2003 TR edition.
So how do we know which years of the Toyota Tundra were best? The chief concerns for most truck drivers include the overall reliability of the vehicle, the interior, the engine, and to some people, the exterior look. We evaluated which years of the Toyota Tundra looked and worked the best on the inside, as well as those with the fewest complaints about mechanics. Why does this matter? When searching for a used truck to purchase, knowing which trucks were built to last definitely helps make a good buy.
We understand what most truck drivers are looking for, and know how to find information about vehicle issues. We’ll be looking at research on a variety of sites regarding which vehicles are the most reliable, and perspectives on which Tundras had the best functionality.
What are the best years of Toyota Tundra?
Best year for Toyota Tundra: 2009
The 2009 Toyota Tundra is the first vehicle that comes to mind when we think about a reliable, rugged truck. The 2009 Toyota Tundra offered multiple, great engine options with a 4.0L 6-cylinder engine and two 8-cylinder engines, including a 4.7L and a 5.7L for some extra power.
One of the biggest claims to fame for the 2009 Toyota Tundra was it’s best in class towing capacity. The 2009 Toyota Tundra could tow up to 10,800 lbs. The same year of Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge RAM could only haul around 7,000 lbs max.
From an award and review standpoint, the 2009 Toyota Tundra was, and still is amongst the best. US News, which reviews vehicles on the regular, tied with the 2009 Ford F-150 as the best full size pickup truck available. US News stated that the Tundra came up favorably for it’s strong use of engines, tow capacity, and great safety scores - which can be overlooked in favor of braun for a pickup.
For a pickup that has only been in production for a decade to earn a high spot on US News is impressive. The only part we or US News has to complain about is the interior, which is what we could call a bit spartan, but the 2009 Toyota Tundra otherwise performed well and is a reliable truck.
The 2009 Toyota Tundra even managed to look pretty nice for the price. Given the particular aesthetics for a truck, finding a truck that looks sharp, drives well, and lasts a long time is swhat places the 2009 Toyota Tundra at the top of our list for best years of the Toyota Tundra.
2nd best year for Toyota Tundra: 2019
While the 2019 Toyota Tundra hasn’t been around that long, initial reliability scores have looked good, which tend to indicate that the vehicle has a lower risk for unexpected repairs in the future. Consumer Reports actually gave it a Perfect score, which is not common.
The 2019 Toyota Tundra has a lot going for it. Toyota loaded it up with standard safety features including lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and more. Toyota Tundra owners also got a nicely upgraded interior. For engines, Toyota equipped this Tundra with a choice of two 8-cylinder engines, both of which accelerate well, even while towing.
The 2019 Toyota Tundra earned the second spot for a specific reason: Since 2009, full size pickup manufacturers caught up to Toyota in terms of towing capacity, and often exceeded 10,000 lbs. For a rather specific set of buyers who rely on their full size truck to tow 10,000 pounds or more on the regular, they could have done slightly better.
Still, it’s a willing compromise. The 2019 Toyota Tundra is also said to have better than average steering and handling for a big truck.
3rd best year for Toyota Tundra: 2013
The 2013 Toyota Tundra is known for its reliability, still. The 2013 is also known for something that not all Tundras have in common: a nice interior. For people who like a few extras, the seats were extra comfortable, and there were a few additions like remote keyless entry (great when you have tools or stuff in your hands), which aren’t all that common on full size trucks that tend to go with a no frills approach.
The introduction of the Platinum trim actually reversed the rather limited accessories one could get in the Tundra. The Platinum could include heated and ventilated leather seats, sunroofs, and more for those who wanted a bit more than the average truck. Today, you could get a well loaded 2013 Toyota Tundra Platinum for a good price.
Engine wise, the Tundra came with three possible engines, including two 8-cylinder engines that pushed the towing capacity to a class competitive 10,400 lbs.
The Tundra again earned a perfect rating from Consumer Reports for predicted reliability, which is to say that even a few years ago, not many people found early quality control issues with their 2013 Toyota Tundra.
The 2013 Toyota Tundra also earned the first Top Safety Pick for a full size pickup. To be fair, previous years weren't eligible for the award yet.
Thanks to a blend of the potential upgrades available in a 2013 Toyota Tundra, a used truck is a bit more palatable than spending way more on a new one. When current truck purchases look at trucks that are nearly a decade old, they expect to lose some modern features. Not necessarily with the 2013 Toyota Tundra, which is why it ranks high on our list of the best years of Toyota Tundra.
4th best year for Toyota Tundra: 2011
You might be noticing a bit of a pattern in the range of early Toyota Tundras here. The middle generations of Toyota Tundra (and Toyotas in general) were among the favored vehicles in the early 2010s.
The 2011 Toyota Tundra offered Toyota’s legendary reliability and was among the first of a generation built to be enhanced, nicer than average work trucks. With a 6-cylinder or 8-cylinder still as options, the Tundra got a bit more fuel efficient at a max of 16/20 miles per gallon, which offered some improvement over rivals - and a big deal for truck owners. Many drivers also stated the 8-cylinder felt exceptionally quick, combined with good gas mileage, making for a good experience.
This Tundra doesn’t quite reach the top because some drivers object to it’s handling, which was not as refined as other trucks unless the bed had some weight in it. Others also felt that the interior on the 2011 Toyota Tundra was a downgrade from our next best truck, the 2010 Toyota Tundra, which comes in at 5th.
5th best year for Toyota Tundra: 2010
Want a plain and simple work truck? The 2010 Toyota Tundra offered an interesting blend of some of the first higher end trims in a Tundra, and a trim that was just a work truck. You might already have the idea of a “work truck” down, but to be a bit more detailed, they often come with minimal amenities and can go so far as having manual crank windows and manual seats.
One of the best parts about the 2010 Toyota Tundra was the price. Given the lack of serious amenities, one might expect that the MSRP wasn’t high either. The 2011 Toyota Tundra did a good job of blending a low price without taking away too much. The ride wasn’t stellar, but the powerful 8-cylinder engine got the job done.
The 2011 and 2010 are rather close when it comes to ranking, in part because the higher end interior on the 2010 Toyota Tundra does a better job on average than the 2011.
6th best year for Toyota Tundra: 2015
We’ll be candid here: The 2015 Toyota Tundra could be a lot higher. The 2015 offers solid performance with the powerful 8-cylinder engine, a nice look, and has been considered fairly reliable now that’s getting to be a few years old.
What’s missing? Toyota decided not to make a 6-cylinder model for the year. Many truck manufacturers, from Chevrolet, RAM, and Ford, make a base 6-cylinder model for people who want slightly better gas mileage and aren’t all that interested in towing and more prompt acceleration. The 6-cylinder also has a base cost savings of a couple of thousand dollars that people on a more strict budget do tend to enjoy.
An honorable mention for Toyota Tundra: 2003 TR3 Edition
So we’ll admit we picked this truck in part because it looks cool. You might have not noticed a detail in the title here: this was the TR3 edition, or Terminator 3. TR3 was a blackout trim with different badges and a unique, rare interior trim. You also received a Borla exhaust, which added a sound as menacing as the truck’s aggressive look.
In case you were wondering, yes, the Terminator character (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course) drove a Toyota Tundra like this in the movie itself.
This Tundra added some zest to the original Tundras, which were very reliable vehicles, but were mostly slim down work trucks built to lower costs and increase tow capacity.
A Tundra that might feel left out: the 2012 Toyota Tundra
We’ve read more than a few Toyota Tundra reviews and used reliability, upgrades, towing, and other amenities to choose which Toyota Tundras were best. Since the Tundra has not been around as long as the F-150 or Silverado, we don’t have quite as many to choose from, but we noticed one Tundra has slipped below the radar.
The 2012 Toyota Tundra is iconic for being part of an advertising campaign involving towing the 150,000lb space shuttle, the Endeavor, and 120,000 lb worth of trailering equipment across a Los Angeles area bridge and to a new destination.
How can a truck capable of towing 10,000 lbs tow nearly 300,000 lbs? By going rather slowly, and overnight. To be fair, we didn’t expect a vehicle to go be able to tow a space shuttle fast. Also of note, this was more of an advertising campaign that Toyota hopped on. It’s feasible for a truck of any manufacturer to take on towing the space shuttle at a lower than average speed.
How can I use this info about used Toyota Tundras?
Combing through automotive classified sites and looking at years, makes, models, and features might produce too many results. It’s easy to perform a search that isn’t quite specific enough, and find a truck that fits, but doesn’t excel at what you really want it to do. Take a strong look at your specific needs to avoid paying for an interior you don’t need, or learning that the year of Tundra you are looking at isn’t amongst the most reliable or safest on the road. While we didn’t go into detail on the worst years of Tundra available, there are some that provide the same quality and value as our list.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding