Ford Ranger vs. Toyota Tacoma: Compare Trucks

Mid-size pickups appeal to buyers who don’t need the vast space or extreme capability of full-size trucks but still want a vehicle that can work when needed. They’re also easier to maneuver, less expensive, and they can be even better off-roaders. 

The bestselling mid-size pickup is the 2023 Toyota Tacoma, which is offered in a variety of models including three aimed at off-roading. It’s an old design, but it’s still a favorite despite a weak base engine.

The 2023 Ford Ranger also carries an old design, though it may not seem old because this generation was available overseas for several years before it came to the U.S. It has more power in its base form than the Toyota, but it doesn’t offer as many off-road variants, and no off-road version can match the Tacoma TRD Pro. 

Both trucks take on newer rivals, such as the Chevrolet Colorado and Honda Ridgeline. For those considering the Ranger or Tacoma, though, which is the best choice?

2023 Toyota Tacoma

2023 Toyota Tacoma

Ranger vs. Tacoma prices and features

  • Base Ranger costs about $28,000

  • Base Tacoma costs about $1,000 more

  • Best picks: Ranger XLT, Tacoma SR5, Tacoma TRD Pro

How much is a Ford Ranger?

Ford offers the Ranger in XL, XLT, and Lariat models. The base Ranger starts at about $28,000, and comes standard with cloth seats, vinyl floors, power features, a 3.5-inch information screen on the dash, and 16-inch steel wheels.

Four-wheel drive adds about $3,500 and the crew cab body style adds about $2,000.

We’d move up to the XLT for about $33,000. It adds cruise control, carpeting, remote keyless entry, fog lights, a power locking tailgate, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The top-line Lariat starts at about $37,000 or $42,000 with four-wheel drive and the crew cab. It comes with LED headlights and taillights, LED fog lights, rear parking sensors, a sliding glass rear window, ambient lighting, leather front seats, and 18-inch wheels. 

All Rangers carry a basic 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.

How much is a Toyota Tacoma?

Toyota offers a wider range of models for the Tacoma. The models are SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, Trail Sport Edition, and TRD Pro. 

The base Tacoma costs about $29,000. It has more equipment than the Ranger, but a weaker 4-cylinder engine. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, power features, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa connectivity, a sliding rear window, engine and front suspension skid plates, a Class IV towing hitch receiver, and 16-inch steel wheels. Four-wheel drive costs about $3,000 more and the crew cab/short bed combo adds about $800.

The roughly $31,000 SR5 adds remote keyless entry, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, fog lights, and alloy wheels, plus access to several more options packages.

Buyers spend about $48,000 for the off-road-focused TRD Pro, which only comes with the crew cab, short bed, four-wheel drive, and V-6. It gets power-adjustable seats with leather upholstery, navigation, a premium audio system, an off-road camera system, wireless smartphone charging, LED headlights, a sunroof, an electronically controlled locking rear differential, and 16-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires. 

The Tacoma has the same warranty as the Ranger.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma, though more model options mean more money. 

2023 Ford Ranger

2023 Ford Ranger

Ranger vs. Tacoma performance

  • Base Tacoma is underwhelming

  • All Rangers have a strong turbo-4

  • Tacoma offers a strong V-6

The Tacoma’s base 2.7-liter inline-4 and its 159 hp would be modest for a compact car, let alone a mid-size pickup. Settle for the base engine, and it will take patience and planning to make passing moves. We recommend against it, especially because it tops out at the same 21 mpg combined as the V-6.

Most Tacoma buyers will choose the 278-hp 3.5-liter V-6, which costs about $2,300 where it’s optional. It’s much stronger, but its 6-speed automatic transmission is tuned to shift up early, so it occasionally needs deep stabs of the throttle to tap into the power. The available 6-speed manual shifts smoothly and allows drivers to determine the proper gear.

Every Ranger comes with a 2.3-liter turbo-4 that makes 270 hp. Its 310 lb-ft of torque bests the Toyota V-6 by 45 lb-ft. It also uses a more modern 10-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and is one of the reasons the Ranger can get up to 23 mpg combined.

The Ranger can also tow 7,500 pounds in every configuration, beating the Tacoma by 700 pounds compared to the V-6 and 4,000 pounds compared to the inline-4. The Ranger can haul up to 1,860 pounds in its bed, while the Tacoma tops out at 1,685 pounds.

Both trucks use rear leaf springs and solid rear axles that create choppy rides, and neither is fun to drive on the street. 

Advantage: Ford Ranger, though the Toyota V-6 closes the gap.

2023 Toyota Tacoma

2023 Toyota Tacoma

Ranger vs. Tacoma off-road and 4×4 systems

  • The Tacoma has more off-road-oriented models

  • No Ranger Raptor is available for this generation

  • Both have part-time four-wheel drive

The Ranger offers a part-time four-wheel-drive system and a pair of packages for those who want to go off-roading. The Tremor package is the most capable, with almost 10 inches of ground clearance, a terrain management system, and Fox shocks that improve ride quality on road and soak up heavy impacts off road.

The Tacoma also offers a simple part-time four-wheel-drive system, as well as three off-road-focused models. Additional off-roading equipment includes a locking rear differential, several traction control modes, and a low-speed crawl feature that keeps the truck moving in a controlled manner in tight or steep off-road situations. The TRD Pro gets its own more substantial skid plates, a taller ride height, and its own Fox shocks. To clear off-road obstacles, the Tacoma TRD Pro has better approach and breakover angles than the Ranger with the Tremor package, but the latter has a better departure angle.

Advantage: Toyota Tacoma.

2023 Ford Ranger

2023 Ford Ranger

Ranger vs. Tacoma size, space, and seating capacity, and bed space

How big is the Ford Ranger?

The Ranger comes in one length with an extended cab and a 6-foot bed or a crew cab and a 5-foot bed. Extended cabs seat four, while crew cabs seat five. 

Compared to the Tacoma, the Ranger makes better use of its cab space. Every version has 39.8 inches of front headroom and 43.1 inches of front legroom. Both are marginally more than the Tacoma. 

The Ranger’s rear seat has a bigger advantage. It has 35.9 inches of rear headroom in the extended cab, which beats the Tacoma by an inch, and 38.3 inches in the crew cab, which is the same as the Tacoma. Rear legroom is a big win for the Ranger. Its 30.4 inches in the extended cab beat the Tacoma by 3.8 inches, and the crew cab’s 34.5 inches beats the Tacoma by 1.9 inches. 

Both models outfit their beds with four standard tie-downs. 

How big is the Toyota Tacoma?

The front seats in both vehicles have more than enough space. However, the rear seat in the Tacoma’s extended cab is best left to dogs or packages, while the Ranger will fit people in a pinch. The Ranger’s crew cab is also moderately more comfortable. This is all despite the fact that the Tacoma is 1.5 inches longer than the Ranger.

A little of that space is added to the Tacoma’s bed. It’s a half-inch longer with the short bed and 0.9 inch longer in the long bed. The Tacoma also comes standard with a sliding rear window to allow access to the bed from the cabin.

Advantage: The Ranger for a bigger cabin.

2023 Ford Ranger

2023 Ford Ranger

Ranger vs. Tacoma styling

Neither the Ranger nor the Tacoma dominate a driveway the way a full-size pickup does, and that’s one of the reasons to buy them. However, their styling is inspired by full-size trucks. 

The Ranger has slab sides and curved wheel flares like the F-150, but it’s more restrained with some curves in place of blockier elements. For example, the nose isn’t as squared off and the grille is much smaller. Inside, the Ranger has an older design with a smallish center screen that tops out at 8.0 inches. It’s a monotone look without a pretense of luxury. 

Meanwhile, the Toyota is blockier, carrying on most of the elements of a design that’s made it popular for decades. It has a larger grille, angular wheel arches, more sculpting along the sides, and a notable hood scoop. Off-road versions get blocky tires and blacked out trim. Its cabin has chunky control dials and a larger standard screen, and it’s also made from mostly monotone black plastic.

Advantage: Draw.

2023 Toyota Tacoma

2023 Toyota Tacoma

Ranger vs. Tacoma safety

  • Both get four stars from the NHTSA

  • Automatic emergency braking comes standard on both

  • Tacoma has more standard safety features

How safe is the Ford Ranger?

Neither truck scores all that well in crash tests. The Ranger earns four stars out of five overall from the NHTSA, but it gets a disappointing three-star rating for rollover resistance. IIHS crash-test scores are mostly good, but it gets Acceptable ratings in the passenger-side small front overlap test and the new tougher side crash test. 

The Ranger comes standard with only automatic emergency braking, though the XLT model adds blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and automatic high beams. 

How safe is the Toyota Tacoma?

The Tacoma earns four stars overall and four stars in the rollover test from the NHTSA. It receives mostly the same ratings as the Ranger from the IIHS, but it gets a worse Marginal score versus the Ranger’s Acceptable score in the tougher new side-crash test. 

Toyota outfits every Tacoma with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.

Advantage: Tacoma for more safety features.

2023 Ford Ranger

2023 Ford Ranger

Which is better: Ranger or Tacoma?

It’s a close race between these two, but the numbers show that the Ranger earns a narrow win here based on our TCC Ratings of 5.0 for the Ford and 4.8 for the Toyota. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

However, the Tacoma will be the better choice for some people. It’s the better off-roader and it comes with more safety features. The Ranger, on the other hand, has more interior space, a better powertrain, and more towing and hauling capability.

Winner: Ford Ranger by a hair.

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