Ford Ranger vs. Toyota Tacoma

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - March 27, 2019

Once among the most popular compact trucks on the market, the Ford Ranger has been gone for a while. It’s back as a mid-size pickup and it has another favorite in its sights: the Toyota Tacoma. Loved for its adventure-ready personality, the Tacoma has been the best-selling mid-size pickup on the market. But while that market is growing, it’s also getting more competitive. Does the Ford Ranger have what it takes to dethrone the king?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Ranger & Tacoma »

What the Ranger Gets Right

The Ranger’s advantages begin with price. Starting at $25,395 for the 2019 model year, the Ranger undercuts the 2019 Tacoma by $1,200.

This difference gets much worse when you look at the engines. The Tacoma’s base engine is a four-cylinder unit that doesn’t hold a candle to the Ranger or to the much more popular V6 upgrade. But the Tacoma’s V6 puts it well above $30,000.

To add fuel to the fire, the Ranger is the better performer. With a payload of up to 1,860 pounds and an impressive 7,500-pound towing capacity, the Ranger outguns the Tacoma. Even the Toyota V6 can only tow 6,800 pounds.

To put the cherry on top, the Ranger is more efficient. All that power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which may be unusual for a mainstream pickup, but it means EPA ratings of 21 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway, and 23 combined. These trump the Tacoma's ratings of 20/23/21 mpg (city/highway/combined).

Even with that value, the Ford keeps up on feature selection. Ford’s standard active safety tech is nearly as strong as Toyota’s, and the interior is roomier. As long as you’re deliberate about option selection, the Ford stays reasonably priced.

What the Tacoma Gets Right

The Tacoma may look like it’s down on paper, but it does have a few factors in its favor.

The first may be tradition. With a V6 soundtrack and a manual option, the Tacoma is likely more appealing to those who prefer an old-school feel. The Ranger is available only with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Plus, the Tacoma’s powertrain comes with Toyota’s reputation for excellent reliability.

The Tacoma’s clearest advantage may come in the form of the TRD and TRD Pro trims. While Ford makes various off-road technologies available across the Ranger lineup, it hasn’t yet released a dedicated off-roading trim. Toyota’s TRD trims are effective and decent value.

Finally, while the Tacoma does lose out on some price wars, it tries to make up the gap with more standard features. For instance, an infotainment touchscreen is standard – base Rangers have to make do with an old-fashioned 4.2-inch radio screen.

King of the Hill

The Tacoma enjoys widespread popularity for a reason: it’s a practical and utilitarian package, with nice additions like the TRD off-road goodies.

But Ford may have outdone Toyota at their own game here. The Ranger is arguably more practical, with a better value proposition and more customizable features. It’s too early to comment on reliability, but short of long-term durability issues, the Ranger looks to be sitting pretty.

Our Verdict: Ford Ranger

It’s just too hard to ignore the Ranger’s value here. That much performance for the price makes it a tempting buy, and the customizable features seal the deal. The Toyota Tacoma can’t keep up. The Ford Ranger brings strong performance, a spacious interior, and plenty of utility for the price. A regime change may be in order.

Take a closer look at the Ford Ranger »

Take a closer look at the Toyota Tacoma »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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