By on June 2, 2014

Earl writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My wife wants me to sell our pristine, time-capsule 90 Cressida for a 4Runner (or similar) because we live in winter-world. I am looking at used 4Runners and the prices are crazy. Typically a rusted 1996-98 with 350-390,000KM will be asking $5,000 – $6,000CDN. I have seen Lexus LS with half the mileage, far better condition and all services done for that price.

What gives? Are 4Runners that good?

Sajeev answers:

Of course used 4Runners aren’t that good! Well, except they are that good for many folks.

Here’s the deal: you, much like me, have a soft spot for classic luxury (or near luxury) sedans. They are so nice, so affordable and give you so much more than any other road going machine.  And the Cressida isn’t a K-car derived New Yorker, it kinda gives the same thoroughly satisfying experience as a newer near luxury sedan. But for pennies on the dollar. An excellent value proposition that everyone should embrace!

The fallacy?  Nobody’s gonna embrace a cheap alternative to an Avalon under warranty. But everyone outside of Manhattan wants a beater truck (or truck based SUV) to carry shit, safely travel through snow, flash floods, non-KOA campgrounds, etc.  As much as my Lincoln-Mercury fanboi self enjoys the occasional compliment on my cars, I get cash offers on my 5-speed Ranger. On a regular basis: the market has spoken, son!

Is the 4Runner worth the money?  Sure, as they earned a reputation for great quality, excellent performance and even superior fit and finish. And the market reflects those opinions.  But that’s another fallacy: the quality gap at the fully depreciated level really depends more on service records. I’ll take a cherry Explorer/Blazer/Durango with a binder full of receipts over a rust bucket 4Runner with zero service history. Odds are both can be had for the same price.

If you are so frickin’ bad-ass enough to roll a choice Cressida, I don’t peg you as a lemming. The tone of your letter also proved the point. But if the sedan has to go to keep your household in balance, buy something other than a 4Runner.   Because, unless your Fanboi blood runs deep, Toyota SUVs and Trucks (especially Tacomas) can be a poor value for their premium asking price.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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51 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Luxury Sedan Fanboi Fallacy...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The old adage “You get what you pay for” holds true here, 4Runners really are great trucks. But Sajeev is on the money: buy something based on condition and maintenance records, not reputation of the model. I paid $6300 US last summer for a 1996 4Runner Limited with 99k miles. It hadn’t seen a winter since 2002 and was absolutely cherry. Now I still had to replace some soggy suspension bits and do the timing belt and some other odds and ends. Just took it to the woods yesterday for some hiking and shooting, it is sublime on fast gravel roads and crawling over washed out fire roads in 4 Low.

    In addition to the usual domestic suspects, have a look at Isuzu Troopers and Mitsubishi Monteros (fullsize is preferable to the Sport). The downside of these is that parts will be harder to find and more expensive. But they are both incredibly durable rigs and will give a 4runner a run for its money, while not having the “Toyota tax.”

  • avatar

    There were so many Troopers and Rodeos made that parts aren’t that hard to find. Watch out for the Troopers with the 3.5L in them though. They used a lot of oil due to the design of the oil seals on the heads. They will run forever but you have to add oil a lot. They fixed the problem on the 2002′s (last year for them). Troopers and Rodeos are very inexpensive due to the orphan brand stigma.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “oil seals on the heads” Huh?

      As I recall it was the design of the oil passages in the pistons, not allowing enough oil to drain back after the oil ring on the piston wipes it off the cylinder wall. More of these passages are needed.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Rodeo is COMPLETE CRAP, and all Troopers (in the US anyway) had the 3.5L. They eat transmissions and like to rust for funsies. This is a terrible recommendation and I publicly shame you.

      • 0 avatar
        facelvega

        The Troopers didn’t have the 3.5 before it was invented, so seven years out of the twelve of the second gen Trooper didn’t have the 3.5. They rust, but not as bad as 4Runners or Pathfinders. The older ones even came with manual transmissions, so a patient buyer could find a truck with none of the problems you mention.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          For the “second gen” I was incorrectly thinking 96+, when it became more rounded. I didn’t count all the way back to 1991. So you’d be limited to 96 and 97 if you wanted a more modern, non 3.5 version. And I think they got rid of the manual by then.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Stick shift was available in the trooper until 2001.

            92-97 had a SOHC 3.2 that doesn’t have oil burning problems, but these tend to have noisy hydraulic lash adjusters. Engine still runs fine, just sounds like a clattering diesel at times lol, my old MPV had similar issues until I replaced the HLAs.

            The DOHC came in 1998, big boost in power and torque, unfortunately accompanied by these oil burning issues. Some say the problem is atleast somewhat caused by poor oil changing habits. The piston oil passages can gunk up if oil isn’t replaced regularly and with good quality stuff.

            Drivetrain and other components (excepting 4L30E auto transmission) are insanely overbuilt on Troopers. Torsion bar IFS is basically unkillable, front brakes last 100k.

            Bodies seem to held up better than Nissans of that vintage, about the same as Toyotas I guess. The 1998+ Rodeo on the other hand had a recall with the rear trailing arm mount rusting apart and ‘unsettling’ the rear end quite a bit. Rodeos were assembled in Lafayette Indiana, and seem to have more issues in general than Japan assembled Troopers.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    You’d have to pry a pristine Toyota Cressida from my cold dead hands. Those cars are something special. Inline 6, RWD and they drive really well.

    Unless you’re just hell bent on getting another Toyota product, I’d go with one of the American domestic SUVs. Cheap parts and cheap to fix. Blazers, Explorers, Jeeps, I’m not a Durango fan, but that too can be an option. I’d say the best option would be to find an Explorer. I’ve had 2 before my F-150 and those things last forever with very minimal upkeep.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    I’ll take the Cressida…if Lang doesn’t beat me to it.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      This one is available, if you have the wallet:
      http://www.japaneseclassicsllc.com/1988-gx81-toyota-mark-ii-grande.html

      As for the original question, how about an Xterra?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I think unless you find a diehard fan, you’re not going to get much for the Cressida, therefore it won’t be an even swap. Personally I don’t think a beat ride of any inclination is worth a clean Cressida plus debt. So one of two things comes to my mind, either keep the Cressida and spend the say $3000 CDN difference between it on a *minivan* which doubles as a hauler/winter beater or go all out with the debt and aim for near new 4-Runner.

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    Get the Lexus LS. It has traction control which makes it an ideal winter car, don’t you know?

    If it must be AWD, how about an RX330 or RX350?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I had the GS and it was complete rubbish in winter, so cannot recommend that for Canadaland.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      The “TRAC” system on my LS doesn’t do much for Canadian winters. It’s great for starting off on slippery or lightly snowed pavement, but anything more than than or any type incline and you’re on your own. This is with rear snowies.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Sajeev, what did this mean? Was this a reference to the Cressida? There were empty years between these products!

    “Nobody’s gonna embrace a cheap alternative to an Avalon under warranty.”

    RE: Price of 4Runners in Canada
    Could you just purchase one in the US and bring it back there with you? The prices here are -not- nearly that high if you’re set on one of those. You can find non-rusty ones in Ohio, or more easily even the further south you go. The stated Blazer alternative isn’t a bad idea, but it’s doesn’t have middle class cachet like the 4R, but you can substitute some by getting a two-tone Platinum trim Bravada or Diamond Edition Jimmy. For a -similar to 4R- Japanese ride, how are the prices of the QX4 up there? Here, they don’t rust like the 4R’s do, are always loaded like a Limited, and tend to have better, older owners. You could get a 00+ restyled version for the money you’re talking, with xenons and upgraded interior trims.

    RE: Selling Cressida
    Why don’t you not do that, and keep something which is cool and unique and very nearly JDM.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      QX4s and Pathfinders rust so bad that Nissan recalled thousands, 96+ 4Runners rust much LESS.

      http://www.nissanpathfinders.net/forum/topic/30159-nissan-to-recall-195000-pathfinder-qx4-suvs/

      Don’t know where you’re getting your info from, seems anecdotal at best.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I feel you need to take a breather whenever someone mentions anything about the 4Runner, because your bias causes you too many snap defenses.

        It IS anecdotal. I see many old 4Runners, Pathfinders, and QX4′s. The pre 96 Pathfinders have lots of rust, most old 4Runners have lots of rust. Post 96 Path/QX4 have less rusting issues here in SW Ohio, as my anecdotal observations have indicated.*

        *This does not provide infallible conclusions about the rustproofing of older 4Runners, and all advice should be taken as opinion rather than stated fact.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Check the link, Pathfinders right up through 2004 are susceptible, the strut housing collapses for Chrissake. That is a fact, not some sort of random observation.

          http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/acms/cs/jaxrs/download/doc/UCM424989/RCRIT-11V244-5867.pdf

          1996-2002 4Runners will start to rust on their steel bumpers if so equipped, but even then it takes a long time with someone who doesn’t wash it at all. I’ve only several extremely neglected trucks with rocker rust and a few with surface rust on the rear fenders behind the flares. Frames are rock solid, unlike Tacomas of the same vintage. The 1990-1995 4Runners are magnitudes worse unfortunately, maybe you’re thinking of these?

          I only speak up because you’re spouting off misinformation. I’d like to think that I’ve very open and critical of my own vehicles, and I mention pluses and minuses. I proved you wrong beyond any doubt so you default to “oh why are you so defensive?”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’ve already stated they were opionions of anecdotal nature, and further clarified with a (*) above. I don’t know what else you want.

          • 0 avatar
            Feds

            Which makes these Pathfinders an excellent buy. Get one with rusty wheel arches, drive it for 2 years, bring it to Nissan and they’ll buy it back for 3x what you paid for it. At least that’s what happened to me.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        Heck, I see rusted out Xterras up here frequently. Ghosn must’ve really cheaped out on the steel when they were building those.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Seems to me like the Xterra was designed and built on the cheap overall. Rarely do you see one of any vintage in good condition. I think they suffer (beyond the cheap build) rough owners and constant parked-outsidedness.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Forget the SUV and buy a used Outback or Legacy and some snow tires. A pristine Cressida should fetch enough from the right buyer (probably in a city) to get one. A Cressida with a manual transmission (and engine) from a Supra is one of those fanboy dream cars.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Once you get past shock, be glad she doesn’t want a Tacoma crew cab 4X4 of the same vintage. Actually the crew cab didn’t happen till 2001, but they’re both really expensive for a reason.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    No the 4Runner is not that good, it is just a matter of supply and demand and the demand is still high. That and everyone has too much money into them so they are reluctant to part with them for too little money.

    There are much better choices for a 4wd/AWD wagon to keep the wife happy. I’d suggest looking at the Explorer/Mountaineer for starters. The 4.6 powered 02 and up models are starting to come down in price and their much more sophisticated 4 wheel independent suspension makes them a much better on road driver. Plus you could get them in AWD versions with a track lock rear end for excellent snow performance without your wife having to think about which mode to select.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The 2002-2005 Explorer might just take the cake for worst built mainstream (not counting British) SUV that comes to mind. Absolutely everything goes wrong with them: Transmissions, camchain tensioners (on 4.0 v6), transfer cases, endless balljoints. I’d say an earlier gen 1998-2001 might be a safer bet, although you’re still risking a flaky transmission and the aforementioned balljoint problems, and the 4.0 issues lol. Find a 5.0, they have the 4R70W transmission which is a solid unit, and the small block ford doesn’t have camchain problems. Then again neither does the 4.6 you speak of.

      How about a WJ (1999-2004) Grand Cherokee with the legendary 4.0L I6? I personally know 2 people that have racked up huge miles on these (212 and 250k). Buy a stripped down Laredo to avoid electronic problems and the pesky blend door failure.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Like I said you want the 4.6, not the 4.0. Some of the earliest ones did have problems with the transmission but if they have made it this long then it has either had the transmission replaced with one that used the upgraded parts or it is one of the newer ones that came from the factory with the upgraded parts.

        You also need to keep in mind that there are very few real transmission shops still around so instead of fixing the problem, the solenoids or the servo for a couple hundred dollars, they replace the unit with one rebuilt by a 3rd party if there are any problems at all for up to $4000.

        There are not significant ball joint problems with any of the Explorer versions.

        The most common problem with them is the plastic panel below the rear window cracking and wheel bearings as long as you stay away from the German engineering of the 4.0.

        The engine on the Grand Cherokee will last a long time if it is the 4.0 but the transmissions are not any better than the mid/late 03 and up Explorer unit.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      Explorers hold up horribly

  • avatar
    facelvega

    Forget the 4Runner, you should get something much more distinct from the Cressida. I’m thinking you need a Discovery. Consider the beautiful English engineering and build quality. And hey, the used prices are very, very reasonable!

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “beautiful English engineering and build quality”

      Was this said tongue in cheek or what? They’re awesome looking and supremely capable rigs, but holy hell would that be a change coming from a Cressida in terms of running costs and reliability!

  • avatar
    Meathead

    I’ve had Toyota 4-Runners and Land Cruisers in most configurations and in many parts of the world where rust is not an issue. That said, I think the 4-Runner is the second-best SUV produced and the Land Cruiser is the unquestionable, over-engineered first.

    I can live with Toyota’s weird styling and quirky ergonomics knowing it will take me AND bring my people and gear back home every time, which is a huge priority in my case. Based on experience and in my humble opinion there are no other vehicles in production quite like them.

    Finally–but not related to the initial post–the dogs simply love the 4-Runner’s rear window which is raised and lowered remotely from the cockpit.

    The premium is worth it, IMO.

    Good luck in your search,

    Meathead

  • avatar
    omer333

    Have ya thought about a Pathfinder? I can tell you from experience that one that’s had regular maintenance can last well into the coming Road Warrior-extra-gas-tank-on-the-roof apocalypse. Just make sure the seals are good and the timing belt/chain’s been replaced.

  • avatar
    Feds

    Where exactly are you in Canada? You are falling into the exact right parameters for a JDM import. For the same money , you can find a well maintained, rust free, low km suv of your choice that will last you as long as you care to keep it.

    Anywhere west of Quebec it’s an option worth pursuing.

    http://www.kijiji.ca/v-cars-trucks/calgary/1994-mitsubishi-montero-pajaro-limited-edition/597528984?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

    http://www.kijiji.ca/v-cars-trucks/vancouver/1995-toyota-hilux-suv/594899013?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

    http://www.kijiji.ca/v-cars-trucks/hamilton/rare-rhd-mitsubishi-pajero-exceed-7-passenger-4wd-jdm/583530982?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Just bought a 95 4Runner. Everything works. In Texas the AC is probably as important as anything else I can think of. You could hang meat with it on. If rear window and front passenger windows are cracked there is a decent cross ventilation. Plenty of cargo due to trailer hitch. 4wd works good even with my near street thread. Paid too much but don’t regret it. At almost 200k miles it doesn’t act it at all.

    Have heard about the head gaskets but 95 was the last year for the 3.0. Love the remote rear window. It runs so quietly that today I found myself cruising in 4th gear. Get almost 20mpg. Exceeded that once. Wife doesn’t enjoy it as much because of the height and mileage.

    Have always heard that it’s cheaper to keep a car and fix it than it is to buy another. I think this is going to make me find out. I have no real comparison but I think this truck is great.

    • 0 avatar
      guevera

      If you’ve got the 3.0 v6, make sure your head gasket has been done under the recall… which it almost certainly has if it’s lasted this long.

      You should also make sure that it’s had the steering linkage recall service performed — which it’s very possible hasn’t been done.

      You can find out what’s been done for your ride, here:

      http://www.toyota.com/owners/web/pages/resources/recalls

      The local dealer did the steering linkage recall work for me two years ago, on a 1990 pickup with a salvage title…made me a believer in Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        Thanks Guevara

        Really appreciate your info. Saved your comment and will do the proper research.

        I knew before I bought that the 3.0 was problematic. Thought the last year of the run was a decent bet. This was owned by another old guy I was told. I believe it because it runs better with every tank of gas. Think it always was driven slow. 5 speed stick with 4wd just backed me into a corner where I knewI had to have it. Haven’t been sorry yet but drive pretty easy. It works as a farm truck thanks to the light trailers that I have available and the 4wd. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m pretty happy with it. With that sort of miles something is bound to break. I can’t recall the last vehicle that felt this solid.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    One of the reasons why used 4Runners are so expensive in Canada is that they are worth a lot in export markets. Old Canadian 4Runners and Corollas get shipped by the boatload to Karachi and various African ports. That sets a high minimum price and squeezes supply.

    You sound like you really really want a Toyota, so why don’t you look at their crossovers? Someone suggested a Lexus RX, and I concur. It may not be the toughest offroader, but it will do better than your Cresida.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      Exactly, I couldn’t believe the man who bought my 98′ 4×4 w/ 2.7l 4cyl with 370,000 kms was shipping it to Haiti for his family. I bought in 2008 from the GM dealership I worked at for $2300 including their mandatory $500 padding to sales staff with 225,000 kms on it. Sold it in 2012 for $1800. Only put tires, one brake job in to it over 150,000 kms. Loved it! Very reliable and excellent off road at the cottage

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    Or a Jeep. I have a 2003 Jeep Cherokee I bought for $2k last year. It’s great. I know their reputation for reliability doesn’t touch Toyota’s (I’ve owned four Land Cruisers and they are the best, but they’re out of this discussion), but they can be had fairly cheap anywhere and they’re good if taken care of.

    I second Sajeev’s comments on the Ranger v Tacoma comparison. I, too, have a perfectly fine 5-speed 97 Ranger and it’s a fabulous vehicle, even at 185k miles. I confess to lusting after similar Toyotas, but where I live they cost almost exactly twice as much as a comparable Ranger. They are not worth twice as much.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I can’t believe you’re all missing the obvious answer.

    Grey-market 280GE, mid-80s vintage.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “… isn’t a K-car derived New Yorker”

    Don’t be hatin’ Sajeev.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Yes, 4Runners really are that good when it comes to reliability and durability. There is one in the below thread with over 500k. Many make it over 200k with only basic maintenance. I’m at 170k with 0 issues.
    http://www.toyota-4runner.org/4th-gen-t4rs/37419-highest-mileage-4th-gen-39.html

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Go for the Toyota/Lexus, whether that’s a 4Runner or LS. Speaking from personal experience I have had absolutely ZERO mechanical, electrical, fit/finish problems on my 2007 V8 4Runner. My previous Land Cruiser went 180,000 miles without a single failure. Look at the stats from the pros and it speaks volumes. I highly doubt you can find a better used car.


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