Towing with a Toyota Tacoma 4 cylinder

Hi, this is my first post but I like what I have been reading. Learned a bunch already.

I would like to from an older car to a newer small truck. No off road stuff but some towing may be needed from time to time. Mulch for the yard, maybe a 4 wheeler ATV, a Uhaul trailer to move a kid to college. What I would call light towing and not frequent. Towing on paved roads, highway speeds.

Any advice? Can I go with the 4 or should I get a six. Looking 2013 or newer. What sort of questions should I ask? This will be my first truck.


The trucks you are looking at are new enough so you can get factory towing specs. is a good sight for research.

I’d say the 4 would have minimal towing capacity, about 2000 lbs.

A brochure from 2013 shows a V6 towing package that includes a factory installed Class-IV hitch, transmission and supplemental oil coolers, 130 amp alternator, HD battery, 7 pin connector and trailer sway control.

I think if you can locate one with that package, you’ll be in good shape.

The new 4-cylinder Tacoma’s are rated as Class-II towing (up to 3,500lbs). While it probably can do it…I wouldn’t do it long term. The gas mileage difference between the 4 and 6 cylinder isn’t that significant. If you plan on doing a lot of towing then I’d get the V6.

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Another vote for the V6. Gas costs will not be much more, and it’ll do a better job overall.

The terrain would also have an effect on your towing. I’ve done a lot of towing with a 4 cylinder Subaru and no issues but the terrain here is pretty flat for as far as the eye can see.

If you live in a hilly or mountainous area I would certainly agree with the V-6 recommendation because a load will be very noticeable on an upgrade with the 4 cylinder.

Simply compare the towing spec of the two vehicles. Whichever one suits your needs is the one to go with. Add a bit of “fudge factor” just in case the marketing people are exaggerating (Marketing people exaggerating? What can I possibly be thinking?!!)

Actually towing specs are usually conservative.

For your needs…you surely do not need a V6…but the V6 is a nicer driving experience and a nicer Trim level. The wheels are nicer the ride is smoother…more power etc. You also probably do not need 4WD either. You can go either way on this one. 4WD adds a lot of weight to a truck…and if you don’t need it…you don’t need it.

Most guys and trucks are some kind of Psychology experiment if you pay attention. I mean…does a man need a Ford F-350 Diesel with a 10 inch lift and 4WD when he lives on an Island in NJ where nary a hill or incline can be found? Same goes for Mud or 4 wheeling opportunities…Nada. Most of these guys just haul “Air” all day long…but their truck is armed to the teeth and ready for action…that they will Never See… It seems the only constant is the One Upmanship with these guys and their trucks. Ive never seen so many over equipped vehicles prowling the same FLAT Island in all my days… Huge tires, Big Lift kits, Bully Bars…light bars…you name it…all on an island with Stop signs every 100yds and no Hills or mountains to be found anywhere…AND no beach driving permits in the windows, so they dont go in the sand and salt water either…Nope…they just drive around their flat island and continue to get bigger and bigger vehicles. The last one I saw was a V10 Ford Expedition with a 12 inch lift kit and huge wheels n tires…yup…just driving down Dune Drive…on the Flat island… So TRY not to be one of those guys. We can leave the “Measuring Tape” at home kids…if you know what I mean.

So…What kind of truck do you need? If you are honest with yourself and know pretty well what you will use it for…you might be surprised to find out that you dont need much truck at all. Its that “Honest with yourself” part that trips up so many people.

My advice is to go with what you know… If you don’t have a ton of money then just buy what you Need not what you Dream you need. I would also suggest a MANUAL transmission for either one you go with as the Auto with 4WD always makes me cringe. Not because they are bad…but when they fail…its not an easy removal with the 4wd…and it was never that great to begin with being an Auto with 4wd.

If you think you might get into something more than light towing…and or snow conditions…or off roading…then by all means go with a V6 and 4WD… If you just need something to carry an occasional light load and just Bop about town…a 4cyl with a manual will serve you well. Sometimes its hard to get a nice looking 4cyl Toyota without upgrading to the V6 and 4wd though…Those usually need to be special ordered so they look like a V6 trim and wheel package.

Many times you will find a truck that has all the upgraded stuff for a sweet deal…Sometimes you can get a fully loaded V6 4wd Manual Toy for 4cyl money… All Depends… Just buy what you need really…thats the moral of the story. Unless you find a sweet deal…then you can get more than you bargained for…with not a lot of money.


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The V6 4x2 lists higher EPA mpgs that the I4, 19/24 vs. 19/23.

I’d be surprised if many are on lots with manual trannys.

Mike, what you say is true. And the tow rating is actually generated as a part of the engineering design specifications package that marketing then turns into sales brochures. But I hope I got a chuckle out of you anyway. :smiley:

However, the tow rating only looks at the technical capabilities of the drivetrain and perhaps the braking systems. And maybe the dry weight. And it’s stated for a brand new vehicle… and I still like to be using my vehicles ten years after I buy them. Personally, I like a bit of buffer in case I have to stop going down a hill with a full load. Call me chicken. I can live with that probably better than I could live with suddenly discovering that the truck won’t stop! :flushed:

When we bought our Nissan Frontier with towing package it was less money new than a lot of 2 and 3 year old Toyota’s in our area.

Much as I love manual transmissions, I’ve always been told if you’re going to be doing towing, you want the automatic. You’ll burn the clutch up a lot faster with towing, plus there’s the added complexity of backing up with a trailer and shifting gears at the same time.

Of course the “OP” doesn’t mention towing a boat. I think a lot of the burning up the clutch would apply to launching and retrieving a boat from steep boat ramps.

In regards to @“Honda Blackbird” 's last post. Those trucks do serve a purpose. They help an astute woman determine if a man is ‘compensating’ for certain anatomical deficiencies. :wink: Same way with many high-end sports cars. On the other hand, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

You can tow more with an automatic. Last manual I bought was my 98 Pathfinder. It was rated Class-II (3000 lbs). The automatic version with same engine was rated a Class-III (5000 lbs).

For the 2013 model, the Tacoma with the 6-cyl automatic costs about $18,800 while the 4-cyl costs about $14,800. Gas mileage is 21 avg for the 4 and 19 for the 6. As mentioned above, the 6-cyl will provide more power for towing or hauling in the bed, and will provide a more pleasant ride overall. If the extra $4000 doesn’t scare you off, consider an 8-cyl Tundra with the auto trans. It will start just $1000 more than the 6-cyl Tacoma and gets 17 mpg average. With the Tacoma, you could easily haul your mulch in the bed and could probably put your ATV in there, too. The Tacoma also comes with the 6-cyl, but gas mileage is the same. If you decide to consider a full size truck, think about Ford, Chevy/GMC, and RAM. They generally rate 1 though 3 with the Tacoma in 4th place and the Nissan pulling up the rear. I’d be inclined to go with the full size truck because the ride is much better than the compact trucks and the gas mileage sacrifice is not much. It might come down to your cost restraints. You could probably find a comparably equipped full size that is 2 years older than the 4-cyl Tacoma for about the same price.

Just for reference, I have a 97 Nissan PU with a 4 cylinder and 5 speed manual. I use it for gardening, hauling the trash and carrying loads from the hardware store that won’t fit in the car. I use it to tow a 4x8 ATV tilt trailer (1000 lb capacity) for the bigger loads. I have no problems with it other than its very noisy and is prone to getting stuck in soft ground. 4x4 or LSD would be nice.

I hauled a 14’ Hobie catamaran sailboat all over Texas and even took it to Tampa, Florida and Oklahoma City to compete in the Nationals using a '78 Datsun 620 pickup truck with a 2 liter four and a five speed manual transmission.
The trick here is to use some common sense and not try to keep up with the traffic in the left lane going 80 mph.
We also once pulled a small sailboat and trailer (Sunfish) from Austin TX to Galveston TX using a 1991 Geo Metro with a 997cc three cylinder engine and a five speed manual. But we kept the speed down to 55 mph. That was the speed limit in those days anyway.
This resulted in the car getting 45 mpg.

Forty five mpg@55mph=1.22 gallons per hour fuel burn.

While this car would get 50+ mpg on the highway if you obeyed the 55 mph speed limit without a trailer, keeping up with 70 mph traffic would take the gas mileage down to 45 or lower mpg.

Forty five mpg@70mph =1.56 gallons per hour fuel burn.

Doing the math, it looks to me like the engine was actually working harder pushing the naked car along at 70 mph than it was pulling that small trailer at 55 mph.
Cruising speed makes a difference.

II had a small toyota puckup, 4 cyl and man trans 2wd and used it for towing the 16’ speed boat Sea Ray with a 100 hp motor. even towed the boat to MN, only one major incline, I-94 at the St. Croix river kept me from doing whatever speed I wanted. Had traction trouble on a pea gravel launch, luckily it was owned by a bar with a large patio, 4 guys jumped in the back of the truck and got the boat out. Stuck to cement launches after that. Original clutch at 110k mikes when I traded it in.

Thank you for all the input. It is helping. Ultimately I plan to have this truck,for a very long time and do not want to buy more than I really need.

Planning to have the truck for a long time places new higher on the list. In my area used pickups are really priced high, factor in the cheaper loan rates and new vehicle warranty new would be my choice.