1996 Toyota Tacoma Guide

1996 Toyota Tacoma Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Toyota’s popular Tacoma nameplate was introduced in 1995 as a compact pickup truck for the first generation, graduating to the mid-size pickup truck segment from the second generation onwards, in 2004. Derived from the Coast Sailish People’s name for Mount Washington, the Tacoma entered the US market in March 1995, as the replacement for the popular but aging Hilux — A pickup I love to this day.

Closely related to the Hilux of the same generation that was sold in Japan and elsewhere, the first generation Tacoma came with a range of three gasoline engines and could be had as a regular cab or Xtracab double cab, albeit the rear section was smaller than what was seen on mid-size pickup trucks. The first generation Tacoma saw enthusiastic sales figures in its first few years of introduction, as it appealed to a younger generation and new segment.

The first generation Tacoma would see a long production run from 1995 to 2004 due to its popularity. However the time for change was ripe, and by 2004, the second generation debuted and entered the mid-size segment, with four proper doors and a decently-sized rear section.

The first-generation Toyota Tacoma is still considered a reliable workhorse and one that can go about its business quietly, if it has received requisite maintenance. That is why I’ve put together this 1996 Toyota Tacoma Guide for a vehicle that is approaching a solid 26 years, and looks every bit its age. However, will it be a smart and savvy investment for someone who wants a reliable and dependable pickup truck on the cheap? Read on to find out.

Interesting Read: Comprehensive Guide to Toyota Tacoma Accessories.

My Bottom Line Upfront

If you’re looking for a tough and reliable truck in the midsized category, then the Tacoma is a great option to consider. It may not have the bells and whistles of some of its competitors, but when it comes to a used pick-up, that can actually be preferable, with the Tacoma trading on the solid reputation of reliability that Toyota is known for.

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1996 Toyota Tacoma Specifications

1996 toyota tacoma

The 1996 Toyota Tacoma came in four trims, encompassing two body styles. You had the Regular Cab 2WD, Regular Cab 4WD, Xtracab 2WD, and Xtracab 4WD to choose from. Bed length is fixed and you cannot change that.

The 1996 Toyota Tacoma was offered with three power source choices, coupled to either a 4-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual transmission, depending on trim level and optioning available.


  • Gasoline 2.4L 2RZ-FE in-line four
  • Gasoline 2.7L 3RZ-FE in-line four
  • Gasoline 3.4L 5VZ-FE V6

Power Outputs

  • 2RZ-FE – 142hp
  • 3RZ-FE – 150hp
  • 5VZ-FE – 190hp

Torque Outputs

  • 2RZ-FE – 160lb-ft
  • 3RZ-FE – 177lb-ft
  • 5VZ-FE – 220lb-ft


  • Regular Cab – 4X2 and 4X4
  • Xtracab – 4X2 and 4X4

Exterior Dimension

  • Regular Cab 4X2
  • Regular Cab 4X4
  • Xtracab 4X2
  • Xtracab 4X4

Length with rear bumper

  • 180.7 inches
  • 180.5 inches
  • 199 inches
  • 199 inches

Overall Width

  • 66.5 inches
  • 66.5 inches
  • 66.5 inches (P225/70R tires) / 67.7 inches (31 x 10.5R tires)
  • 66.5 inches (P225/70R tires) / 67.7 inches (31 x 10.5R tires)

Overall Height (Unladen)

  • 61.2 inches
  • 62 inches
  • 67.3 inches
  • 68.3 inches


  • 103.3 inches
  • 121.9 inches
  • 103.3 inches
  • 121.9 inches

Ground Clearance

  • 6.3 to 10.8 inches depending on trim level

Interior Dimensions

  • Regular Cab
  • Xtracab

Seating Capacity

  • 3
  • 5

Truck Bed Payload Capacities with passenger load

  • Regular Cab with 2 occupants – 1,100lb (2WD/4WD)
  • Regular Cab with 3 occupants – 950lb (2WD) / 1,100lb (4WD)
  • Xtracab with 2 occupants – 1,100lb (2WD/4WD)
  • Xtracab with 3 occupants – 950lb (2WD) / 1,100lb (4WD)
  • Xtracab with 5 occupants – 650lb (2WD) / 700lb (4WD)

1996 Toyota Tacoma Trim Levels

1996 toyota tacoma trim levels

There were several trim levels offered for the 1996 Toyota Tacoma. The range started with a base trim regular cab model with the 2.4L gasoline engine, and 2WD. You could also have the base trim as a regular cab with the 2.7L gasoline engine and 4WD, or the same configuration in Xtracab form.

Moving up, the V6 trim brought you the 3.4L V6 in either regular cab or Xtracab 4WD guise, as well as in Xtracab 2WD guise. The range-topper was the SR5 (Sport Rally 5-Speed) which was only available in Xtracab form, with the 3.4L V6, a five-speed manual transmission, and 4WD.

  • Base Trim – Regular Cab 2.4L 2WD
  • Base Trim – Regular Cab 2.7L 4WD
  • Base Trim – Xtracab 2.7L 4WD
  • V6 Trim – Regular Cab 3.4L 4WD
  • V6 Trim – Xtracab 3.4L 2WD
  • V6 Trim – Xtracab 3.4L 4WD
  • SR5 – Xtracab 3.4L 4WD

1996 Toyota Tacoma MPG

While gas mileage is often subjective, the 1996 Tacoma could be fairly decent between the pumps. Of course, in addition to your own driving style, it also depends on the configuration of the Tacoma in question.

In my experience, it’s no surprise that due to the less taxing demands of a two-wheel drive drivetrain, the Base Trim Regular Cab 2WD will do the best milage, at around 22 MPG combined.

Step up to the V6 Trim or SR5 with four-wheel drive, and that could drop to around 18 MPG Combined.

Base Trim Regular Cab 2.4L 2WD

  • City 20MPG
  • Highway 26MPG
  • Combined 22MPG

Base Trim Regular Cab 2.7L 4WD

  • City 17MPG
  • Highway 21MPG
  • Combined 18MPG

Base Trim Xtracab 2.7L 4WD

  • City 17MPG
  • Highway 21MPG
  • Combined 18MPG

V6 Trim Regular Cab 3.4L 4WD

  • City 15MPG
  • Highway 18MPG
  • Combined 16MPG

V6 Trim Xtracab 3.4L 2WD

  • City 17MPG
  • Highway 21MPG
  • Combined 18MPG

V6 Trim Xtracab 3.4L 4WD

  • City 15MPG
  • Highway 18MPG
  • Combined 16MPG

SR5 Xtracab 3.4L 4WD

  • City 15MPG
  • Highway 18MPG
  • Combined 16MPG

1996 Toyota Tacoma Prices

1996 Toyota Tacoma Prices

The 1996 Toyota Tacoma range started at $12,028 for the base model, rising to a high of $22,228 for the full-fat SR5 variant with the V6, Xtracab body style and 4WD among other things.

The used price for the 1996 Toyota Tacoma ranges from $816 to $4,426 depending on vehicle condition, mileage and options, making it an ideal vehicle to purchase for rough use on a farm, construction site, or scenario where simplicity and reliable performance are desired.

Buyers should bear in mind that on a 26-year-old truck, finding one with a displayed mileage of below 100,000 is very rare, and implausible. These trucks can be subjected to mileage tampering, and low displayed mileages should be backed up by service records justifying the same. Genuine mileages exceeding 200,000 miles are not uncommon, and with the right care, these indestructible trucks can easily rack up double or even triple these mileage figures.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Hauling/Towing Capacity

The 1996 Toyota Tacoma has a decent towing and hauling capacity for its size, and being a Toyota, some users have exceeded the official ratings and reported no ill effects. However, being a 26 year old truck, I’d recommend you stick within the rated towing capacities. The 1996 Toyota Tacoma’s maximum towing capacity is rated depending on engine specification.

  • 2RZ and 3RZ engines (in-line four) – 3,500lb
  • 5UZ engine (V6) – 5,000lb

Furthermore, the tongue load should not exceed 350lb.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Accessories

One of the best ways to freshen up an old truck that’s seen plenty of miles and is looking tired is to accessorize it. I’ve got plenty of ideas for you on how to freshen up your 1996 Toyota Tacoma. Here are a few of my best picks.

1. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Floor Mats

1996 Toyota Tacoma Floor Mats

A brand new set of floor mats and cargo liners are a fantastic way to refresh a tired looking interior, especially if the factory mats are still on the truck and looking rather pitiful.

Check out these Car Floor Mats fit for Toyota Tacoma from Amazon as they’ve got options for all Tacomas since 1996.

WeatherTech also carries a range of floor mats and cargo liner products starting at just $35.

2. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Seat Covers

1996 Toyota Tacoma Seat Covers

Once you’ve cleaned up the floors with new mats, why not clean up the seats as well? Chances are the factory fabric looks extremely dirty and tired, and while you should give your seats a thorough professional cleaning, why not protect them with a set of seat covers?

You can usually find seat covers that will fit a 1996 Toyota Tacoma on eBay, as well as Dash Designs, a custom fabric auto accessories store that offers a range of colors to choose from.

3. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Roof Racks and Cargo Accessories

1996 Toyota Tacoma Roof Racks and Cargo Accessories

Roof racks, racking systems, cargo boxes, and cargo accessories further enhance your cargo carrying capacity, so why not install one on your 1996 Toyota Tacoma? Check out this Universal Luggage Carrier from MeeFar via Amazon, which fits a variety of vehicles, or if you want enclosed storage for your 1996 Toyota Tacoma, this Car Rooftop Cargo Carrier Rack could fit the bill.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Replacement Parts

Finding brand new OEM parts for a 26-year-old truck is nigh-on impossible, as Toyota no longer produces new factory parts for these models. However, the aftermarket community comes to the rescue, and you’re sure to find high-quality OEM-spec parts that perform to the same degree, or even better, ensuring that keeping your 1996 Toyota Tacoma running as it should isn’t as hard as you’d expect.

1. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Tires

The 1996 Toyota Tacoma came with four wheel and tire options. Base 2WD models typically came with 14-inch wheels shod with 195/75 tires. Moving up to meatier rubber, you could find 215/70 tires on 14-inch wheels, and 225/75 tires on 15-inch wheels. The largest specification would see 31×10.5 tires on 15-inch wheels.

These are all very common tire sizes that remain in production from a variety of tire manufacturers, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding new tires for your 1996 Toyota Tacoma. Goodyear, for example, has a dedicated page with all offerings.

2. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Air Filters

1996 Toyota Tacoma Air Filters

Timely replacements of your vehicle’s air filter as per the manufacturer’s guidelines is critical for trouble-free engine operation

. You can find air filters for the 1996 Toyota Tacoma from many places, including Amazon and Autozone, and should you want to go aftermarket for some added pep, check out a K&N filter.

Ensure that your chosen filter matches the engine spec of your 1996 Toyota Tacoma before purchasing.

3. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Headlights

1996 Toyota Tacoma Headlights

Finding OEM headlights may be tough since Toyota doesn’t make them anymore, but there are plenty of aftermarket options, some with upgrades such as LED lighting modules.

Check out these Black Diamond semi-sealed beam headlight upgrades from Amazon.

4. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Brake Pads

1996 Toyota Tacoma Brake Pads

Brake pads are a critical component to ensure that your 1996 Toyota Tacoma stops perfectly every time. This range of Bosch brake pads from Amazon offer a great mix of performance and durability.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Engine Lubrication

The 1996 Toyota Tacoma owner’s manual states that the recommended oil for the engine is API SH, “Energy-Conserving II” multigrade engine oil or ILSAC multigrade engine oil, and the following oil capacities apply.

2WD models

2RZ-FE engine

  •  With filter 5.5L
  •  Without filter 4.8L

5VZ-FE engine

  • With filter 5.4L
  • Without filter 5.1L

4WD Models

3RZ-FE engine

  • With filter 5.4L
  • Without filter 4.7L

5VZ-FE engine

  • With filter 5.2L
  • Without filter 4.9L

1996 Toyota Tacoma Modifications

Want to go a bit further with customizing your 1996 Toyota Tacoma? In my experience, there’s a whole community of aftermarket modifications out there for you to choose from.

You could lift it up, give it some extra lights, new bumpers, side steps, upgraded sound system, and more. Here are a few ideas from me to kick off your 1996 Toyota Tacoma modification journey.

1. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Lift Kits

1996 Toyota Tacoma Lift Kits

Why should you lift your 1996 Toyota Tacoma? There are several reasons. You may want a higher ride height and better ground clearance, allowing you to tower over everyone else and conquer obstacles with ease.

A lift kit is also important if you’re going to upsize your Tacoma’s wheels and tires to larger and chunkier units.

I’ve scoured Amazon for options, and you should check out this Torch 3-inch front and 2-inch rear leveling lift kit that fits 2WD and 4WD models, albeit those with 6-lug wheels.

2. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Extra Lights

1996 Toyota Tacoma Extra Lights

I love seeing Tacomas with some beefy lighting upgrades. Lighting mods for your 1996 Toyota Tacoma open up a whole new world, from upgrading the bulbs in your stock headlights to fitting auxiliary lights on the grille, hood, truck bed, and anywhere else, really.

You can literally turn night into day with the right lighting set-up, and this could help you in your work or play. Here are some options that I’ve curated from Amazon for your 1996 Toyota Tacoma.

How about a pair of ZMoon LED fog lamps for extra illumination, or if you want something smaller, a pair of 3-inch cube LED worklights from Auxbeam that can be installed facing forwards or rearwards as you desire.

Don’t forget safety when installing new lights. Savvy automotive technicians will install extra lighting on a separate circuit, with dedicated fuses and relays as required, as well as advise you if your alternator and battery should be upgraded.

3. 1996 Toyota Tacoma Side Steps

1996 Toyota Tacoma Side Steps

If you’ve lifted your 1996 Toyota Tacoma, a set of side steps or running boards would be a handy addition to help entering and exiting the vehicle, especially if you’ve got kids or elderly parents who ride along with you.

These Bully BBS-1101S Black Bull side steps are a perfect fit for your Tacoma with multi-level height adjustment, and available on Amazon

1996 Toyota Tacoma Maintenance Schedule

If you’re going to buy a 1996 Toyota Tacoma, this 26-year-old truck will need proper maintenance. A well-maintained Tacoma can easily give you another 26 years or more of service.

So how do you ensure that your investment will last as long as possible? Here are the manufacturer-recommended maintenance intervals and items.

Every 3,000 and 7,000 miles

  • Oil Change – Engine (Depending on driving conditions)

Every 5,000 miles

  • Tire Rotation and Condition Check
  • Check Fluid Levels
  • Lubricate propeller shaft
  • Re-torque propeller shaft

Every 30,000 miles

  • Replace the air filter (with checks every 5,000 miles.)
  • Replace cabin air filter (with checks every 5,000 miles if vehicle is equipped such)
  • Replace transmission oil
  • Replace transfer case oil
  • Replace differential oil
  • Replace spark plugs every

Every 60,000 miles

  • Replace engine coolant
  • Replace timing/serpentine belt

Every 2-3 years or 24,000-36,000 miles

  • Replace brake fluid

1996 Toyota Tacoma Recalls

The NHTSA (National Highway Transport Safety Administration) is the best place to check for recalls on any vehicle, including your 1996 Toyota Tacoma.

I’ve done the legwork for you and found that, to date, the 1996 Toyota Tacoma has had six recalls throughout its lifetime so far. I’ve arranged them in reverse chronological order.

  • May 2009 – Replacement of the headlamps and amber reflector, as decreased lighting visibility could impair nighttime driving vision and cause a crash.
  • April 2009 – Aftermarket Combination Lamps by Sabersport could malfunction, causing decreased light output with impaired visibility and potential for a crash as the effects.
  • May 2006 – Amber side reflectors made by CK Motorsport Inc. could malfunction, causing decreased visibility and potential for a crash.
  • March 2006 – Amber side reflectors made by Pro-A Motors Inc could malfunction, causing decreased visibility and potential for a crash.
  • July 1996 – Independent Front Suspension support could crack and break under certain conditions, causing a loss of control while driving and potentially life-threatening crash.
  • January 1996 – Rostra Precision Controls Fuel/Throttle Linkages and Control for cruise control equipped vehicles can malfunction, failing to hold set speed and causing unintended acceleration.

As can be seen, two of the six recall items are critical (Cruise Control and Independent Front Suspension), and four are important (Lighting). Therefore, it’s best to check that your chosen 1996 Toyota Tacoma has had the appropriate corrective actions done to it.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Common Problems

The 1996 Toyota Tacoma is overall a supremely reliable vehicle that can deliver hundreds of thousands of trouble-free miles if maintained correctly. However, there are potential problem areas that can be detected and corrected before they become major issues if you know what to watch out for. I’ve done ample research for you and identified the most common problems, which you can find below.

  • Leaf springs at the rear can sag with age and require replacement. Many owners have recommended Deaver Spring and Alcan Spring as the best aftermarket replacements.
  • The water pump is known to be weak, with some failures reported as early as 30,000 miles between replacements. Check for water leaks beneath your 1996 Toyota Tacoma after it’s been parked for some time as one indicator of this failure.
  • Jerky and Stuttering Engine – this can occur if you haven’t taken care of your engine and transmission maintenance issues in a timely manner, including spark plug and wire replacements, throttle body cleaning, fuel filter replacements, and other things commonly performed during what’s known as an engine tune-up.
  • Some owners have reported rust on the frame, particularly towards the rear portions. It’s best to check these areas regularly and ensure that the frame coating remains intact.
  • Automatic transmissions can become reluctant to shift with age and miles if they haven’t received an overhaul. The same can occur with manual transmissions that become noisy.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Resale Value

In terms of resale value, the 1996 Toyota Tacoma has depreciated as much as it can be expected to, and the resale value will hold more or less stagnant if the truck is looked after well, cosmetically as well as mechanically. You might be able to improve the resale value with some tasteful upgrades and enhancements, but that depends on finding a buyer who will like these. If selling your 1996 Toyota Tacoma in the future is a major part of your plan, I’d recommend keeping it in as pristine order as possible.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Which 1996 Toyota Tacoma Engine is the Best Choice?

Answer: The 1996 Toyota Tacoma came with just three engines, and the models on offer meant that you couldn’t always choose which engine you wanted. For example, if you want the SR5 variant, you’re stuck with the 3.4L V6 and five-speed manual, which is no bad thing, really, as it offers 190hp and 220lb-ft, delivered to all four wheels via a nice manual transmission, a rarity these days.

If you really want the most economical 1996 Toyota Tacoma, go for the base 2.4L with 142hp and 160lb-ft in 2WD guise. Bear in mind that you do get a useful performance increase by opting for the 2.7L mill, as well as 4WD, although fuel economy suffers as a result. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, and each engine has its strengths and weaknesses.

Question: Is the 1996 Toyota Tacoma a Full Sized Truck?

Answer: Far from it. In fact, the 1996 Toyota Tacoma comes from the first generation of Tacoma, which was a compact truck, before the second generation onwards climbed up one rung to the mid-size segment. However, it’s not a bad thing to be a compact truck as it’s very maneuverable, relatively fuel-sipping in pickup truck parlance, and still offers enough space to transport up to five occupants in Xtracab guise.

Question: How Many Miles Will A 1996 Toyota Tacoma Last?

Answer: How many do you want it to last? That’s my question to you. Nineties Toyotas are legendary survivors, and with the right maintenance, you can easily touch a million miles in a 1996 Toyota Tacoma. Bear in mind that many of the examples you’d be looking at have already pushed past 200,000 miles, and you may even find 300,000-mile examples. I’d be optimistic and say 500,000 miles is a good lifespan for an average 1996 Toyota Tacoma.

1996 Toyota Tacoma Conclusion

As I’ve told you, the 1996 Toyota Tacoma is a superb little workhorse for those who want a budget pickup truck and aren’t looking for the latest gizmos and gadgetry. Give it the right TLC, and it will be a dependable partner for your trucking needs. I hope this article has helped you with any doubts or questions that you had and you’ve found it useful.


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