What’s It Like to Own a 100 Series Land Cruiser?

In this installment of “What’s It Like to Own,” we sit down with Edmunds staffer Josh Sadlier to talk about the highs and lows of owning one of Toyota’s legendary off-roaders, the 100 Series Land Cruiser.

How did you get interested in Toyota Land Cruisers?

My favorite Land Cruiser has long been the previous-generation FJ80 — perfect styling, solid front axle, just enough modern creature comforts — but the 100 is a better value in today’s market. It’s not too difficult to find a nice 100 without too many miles for $20k or less, whereas FJ80s fitting the same description are now well over $20k and heading for the collector stratosphere.

Although the 100’s independent front suspension makes it ultimately less capable off-road, you still get a dual-range transfer case (of course) and lots of ground clearance, and 33-inch all-terrain tires fit just fine without any modifications. Throw in the 100’s superior luxury and virtually unbreakable 4.7-liter V8 engine, and you’ve got a compelling recipe for a durable and versatile off-roader on the cheap.

How long have you owned the Land Cruiser, and how did you acquire it?

I found this Land Cruiser on craigslist in the San Francisco area and procured a one-way rental car at LAX to go get it. It was a one-owner California car with no accidents, so my want was strong. I’ve owned it for about five months and driven it more than 10,000 miles. Blame the pandemic; the 100 has become my go-to social-distancing device. Every Sunday I head out in search of a new off-road adventure.

How do you typically use the Land Cruiser?

Most of my Land Cruiser drives involve dirt roads or “forest routes,” some rockier than others. I rarely need to use 4-Lo, but on a few occasions it has kept me from getting stuck and left me with great respect for its capabilities. I typically drive to a secluded spot and go for a hike, or open the rear hatch and tailgate and relax with a book for a while.

What do you enjoy most about it?

The 100’s almost peerless reputation for reliability gives me confidence in remote areas, and in my first 10,000 miles with it, this particular Land Cruiser hasn’t missed a beat. I also like the combination of on-road luxury, off-road capability, and cavernous cabin capacity. There aren’t many vehicles that bring all of these attributes together.

What don’t you like?

Fuel economy rarely exceeds 14 mpg, yet acceleration is ponderous. It’s the worst of both worlds. If only Toyota had brought the diesel engine to the US.

What’s something most people probably wouldn’t know about the 100 Series?

The Land Cruiser doesn’t have many secrets, but It’s worth noting that the 100 Series didn’t get a built-in touchscreen until 2003, so if you can find a pre-’03 model without the optional navigation system, upgrading the audio interface to modern spec is as easy as buying a double-DIN aftermarket unit. For ’03 and later — or on an earlier model with optional nav, which includes integrated climate controls — this upgrade will be considerably more complicated.

How demanding is maintenance and upkeep? Any big surprises?

About as undemanding as it gets for a 20-year-old truck. The only real surprise is that the 100 Series brake booster/ABS pump system is failure-prone and will run you $2,500 or more to replace with factory parts. That’s disconcerting.

What should a potential buyer know before pulling the trigger?

Be ready to pony up the cash for that brake repair. Otherwise, the LC100 is quite likely to keep on truckin’ through just about anything you throw at it. You pay a lot for gas, sure, but the low cost of ownership should more than make up for that in the long run. And unlike unscheduled maintenance, fuel is a predictable expense.

Would-be owners should also know that the windshield on this model is notoriously finicky to install, and unfortunately shortcuts are often taken. If you’re looking at a 100 Series that doesn’t have its original windshield, be sure to inspect inside the exterior A-pillar trim moulding on each side by peeling back the rubber press trim that covers the moulding’s four mounting holes. The trim should lie flat in its channel, and when you peel it back, you should see the flat heads of four rivets filling those holes.

Installers tend to skip the riveting stage and use screws instead, which puts metal on metal at the holes (the factory rivet shafts are plastic-coated), enlarges the holes so that the rivets won’t fit next time, and prevents the press trim from fitting properly. If you see screws, there’s a good chance you’ll find rust underneath the mouldings, and sorting all of this out at a body shop can be a real pain.

Don’t walk away from an otherwise solid specimen if you find windshield issues — the next one may well have the same issues — but do try to use it as a bargaining chip in the negotiation.

What are your future plans for the Land Cruiser?

Having added 33-inch Falken WildPeak A/T3W tires and removed the factory running boards (to improve ground clearance), the grille guard, and the interior wood trim, I don’t have any further plans to modify the LC. It is now plenty capable off-road for my purposes. I just plan to keep exploring.

What would it take for you to consider selling it?

I don’t really know. Even if I sold it for $20k, what would I get instead? I’ll probably have this rig for a while. It already seems too handy and trusty to get rid of.

What’s something that you’ll always remember about your 100 Series?

All of the new destinations it has opened up for me. It may not be ready for the Rubicon Trail, but for the most part, the 100 is unstoppable. I don’t hesitate to drive down any dirt or rocky road I come across. It’s a whole new way to see the country.

About the SUV

  • 2001 Toyota Land Cruiser (UZJ100)
  • 4.7 liter V8 engine (230 hp)
  • 4-speed automatic transmission
  • purchased in March 2020 with 94k miles
  • driven 11k miles since purchase
  • purchase price: $16,000
  • current value: $17,000 (est.)

About the Owner

Josh Sadlier is Director of Content Strategy at online car buying resource Edmunds. He once drove a 1989 Yugo GVL to Monterey Car Week, where it won the Kommunist Kar class at the Concours d’Lemons. He lives in Los Angeles.

Photos courtesy of Josh Sadlier


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