Why purchase a Toyota 4Runner? I live in Colorado! That’s why! I have only ever owned 4Runners, only selling them to upgrade to a much nicer model; Off-roading in Colorado is a popular activity; The weather can turn from sunny and 70 degrees to snowing and 30 in the amount of time you need to make a sandwich; And with all the fun outdoor activities, I need to be able to haul all my toys to the mountains! Needless to say, a 4Runner purchase was necessary for living in this beautiful state.
Catching My Eye
I fell in love with the Gen 5 4Runner at the 2014 Denver Autoshow (where coincidentally I met my wife, Megan, and first thought of my proposal plan to her). The Inferno Red of the TRD Pro caught my eye and my heart was set. This thing was badass! Everything from the rims of the tires, the leather seats with the TRD Pro trim, the upgraded front bumper, and the off-road capabilities pushed it above the rest.
Limited edition color for each year’s TRD Pro.
2015 TRD Pro: Inferno Red (orange)
2016 TRD Pro: Quicksand
2017 TRD Pro: Cement
2018 TRD Pro: Cavalry Blue
2019 TRD Pro: Voodoo Blue
Private Party Sales vs. Dealership
Dealerships: Buying a brand new 4Runner. Yes a dealer can mark it down, but MSRP value on a 4Runner TRD Pro is $45k. The dealer will never do 45k (unless they need to get rid of it), they mark it up to $48k-$50k so they can make some more money (dealership fees). These fees are the cost to store the vehicle, pay their car salesmen/women, overhead and the electric bill, and lastly be able to profit from the sale.
Private party: Craigslist may be between $38k to $45k because they want to recoup the loss of buying the car, except that there is depreciation (as soon as you drive it off the lot, it loses a few thousand) and typically the seller needs to sell soon. A dealer can hold onto the vehicle until the right buyer comes along, whereas a private party might be because they can’t afford a car payment or life changes occur (loss of job, had a baby, etc.). That’s why I went private party. Obviously cheaper. But I held out for a really good deal with low mileage because I knew I would keep my vehicle for as long as I can manage.
I began my search in the spring of 2016 (March) on Craigslist and checked out an inferno TRD Pro that was listed for $43,000 and 10,000 miles. Talked the seller down to $41,000 but still couldn’t pull the trigger as I was worried about the KBB price range. These vehicles hold their value much higher than KBB estimates, so don’t listen to that bologna. As I write this article, I’m still finding online that 2015 TRD Pro’s are going for $40,000+ with many more miles. Should I have pulled the trigger on the Inferno? Maybe, but at the time I was not knowledgeable enough about the vehicle I was looking to purchase to know that $41k was a great deal.
That being said, over the next year and a half I continued my search. I test drove vehicles at dealerships, from private party Craigslist sellers, and checked out friends rigs. Dealers prices are as expected higher, but they are also able to make the transactions smooth. I was determined to find something Private Party and pretty soon had a good method to check my search radius pretty quick. I started by searching “TRD Pro” under “cars+truck” on Craigslist for Denver. Quickly scanned the current listings before jumping to the next location drop down to move around the search radius.
Denver⇒Western Slope⇒Salt Lake City⇒Elko⇒Reno⇒Fresno⇒Los Angeles⇒San Diego⇒Yuma⇒Phoenix⇒Show Low⇒Albuquerque⇒Clovis Portales⇒Lubbock⇒Abilene⇒Dallas⇒Austin⇒Houston⇒Shreveport⇒Little Rock⇒Southeast MO⇒St Louis⇒Indianapolis⇒Chicago⇒Iowa City⇒Des Moines⇒ Lincoln⇒North Platte⇒ Wyoming
Eventually, I found one! Chicago! … well really Valparaiso, Indiana. But advertised on the Chicago Craigslist page! So I got in contact with the guy, called him to verify I was real and very interested, and bought a one way ticket on Southwest Airlines ($120) to Chicago to go buy this beautiful Barcelona Red “Trail Off-Road Premium” and drive her back to Colorado!
WAIT! I thought I was buying a TRD Pro?! Why the change?!
Ok, the TRD Pro looks badass, but is all cosmetic upgrades and can be added with after market parts. The TORP has the same capabilities with locking differentials, missing the bilstein suspension, but has a sunroof. Essentially, I traded sunroof for suspension with the knowledge that I can always upgrade the vehicle to become a TRD Pro. Unless I roll the TRD Pro while 4-wheeling and pop a hole in the top, there is no way I can get a sunroof. Good trade off? Yep, I’m happy!
So I purchased a Trail Off-Road Premium that has already had a bit of work done toward the TRD Pro status. It came with the TRD rims w/ upgraded General Grabber tires. The emblems had already been black plasti-dipped. The tint was darker. WeatherTech TRD Pro floor mats. All for under $40,000 and with only 5,000 miles! I put another 1,000 miles on it to return to Colorado, but well worth it! Now I am in full build mode and making the purchases to build her up to the off-road machine I want her to be.
First modification I made was during my vehicle registration. I attended Colorado State University for my engineering degree and wanted to get personal plates. I went to Colorado DMV website to find out more information. I then found the Personalized Plates Application and filled it out for my very own personalized license plates. Fairly simple process that required a donation to CSU, but still required a bit of wait time from the DMV to receive the plates.
I have a good friend that decided to get married on a jeep trail in Moab, UT. I wanted to be able to take my 4Runner out on the trail and not worry about damaging her. I started by ordering Rock Sliders. Tube steps are ok, but hang lower off the frame and decrease clearance. C4 Fabrication seemed to do the trick. I noticed that after my order request that the time frame for fabrication would have the rock sliders coming in the week AFTER the wedding! I immediately contacted C4 and they were able to help expedite my order. I picked up the sliders the morning I left for Moab, installed them in 2 hours, and hit the road… Couldn’t have cut it much closer. One note, C4 Fabrication doesn’t powder coat their products and ships the raw steel Sliders. You need to get powder coating afterwards. I went to Pristine Powder Coating in Sheridan, CO and Lee did a fantastic job giving it a Satin textured black powder coat. These Rock Sliders look amazing with the red and black theme of this 4Runner! As an additional note, if you are wheeling and catch a few rocks on the sliders, touch the powder coat up with a bit of Rustoleum Truck Bed Liner so that it protects the steel. You don’t want to have it start rusting if the paint is removed.
I have contemplated other additions from C4 Fabrication like the Low Pro Winch Front Bumper for a badass bumper that doesn’t replace the 4Runner look and possibly a Skid Plate for extra protection on the trail. Other places to pick up rock sliders include: Rago Fabrication, RPM Fab, Shrockworks, Bud Built, Southern Style Offroad, CBI Offroad, RCI Metalworks, Smittybilt, and many others.
As I was looking on Craigslist for quite some time, I became aware of the awesome, sleek look of the Gobi Roof Racks w/ ladder. I went ahead and ordered the Gobi Rack at the same time I ordered the C4 Rock Sliders knowing that the Racks have a 12 week lead time and I wouldn’t be able to use it in Moab… boo. Oh well! Gobi has several styles of Roof Rack available on their website and I chose a lower profile one that allowed an LED Lightbar setup on the front. The Roof Rack also came with a rear mounted ladder that allows for easier access of your rooftop gear and doesn’t interfere with the rear window. Gobi has a lot of other products that fit their roof racks as well, so check them out here. Gobi offers free install for local pickup in Aurora, CO. Over all, install for them took an hour lunch for me to drive up to their location and wait. Refreshments and cable TV were provided while waiting.
Cleaning the roof of the car with the Gobi Roof Rack is a bit difficult. This rack and others are not allowed through a car wash because all those spinning brushes and moving parts become entangled in the racks bars and mesh grates. Hand washing is the only way to go, however, here are the tricks. Buy a pressure washer that is vehicle friendly. I purchased a Ryobi 1700 psi pressure washer from Home Depot, you can also find it on Amazon. This is a medium/high pressure that can be used on vehicles, siding, and fences. It is great for getting rid of the bugs and grit that build up in the front grille and undercarriage as well as cleaning the roof between the Gobi. Also pick up a Swiffer mop. It is one of the only mops that fits between the low profile of the Gobi mesh and the roof of the vehicle. With a bit of muscle and suds, the roof is squeaky clean again.
I plan to use a ReadyLift Lift Kit with 3″ lift in front and 2″ lift in back. Daystar makes a good 2.5″/1.5″ kit as well, but in discussion with installers I was able to find out that Daystar uses a urethane spacer that wears out and erodes, whereas ReadyLift uses a metal spacer that will last much longer, hence a slightly higher cost. I have not added the Lift Kit to the 4Runner at this time, but is in the works.
Electrical Wiring/Relays/Push Buttons
As I began to research “how to wire LED Lightbars” it occurred to me that there isn’t much direction and every product is slightly different. You will need a wiring harness for the light bar. I removed the Rocker Switch and installed the Toyota Push Buttons instead as these fit the OEM console.
The Toyota Push Buttons I found from CH4x4 work well and have different diagrams for each of the uses I wanted. Grille Light Bar, Roof Light Bar, etc.
Grille LED Lightbar / Hidden Bracket
30″ Grille LED Light Bar purchased from Amazon for $90.
Rago Fabrication Hidden Bumper Bracket costs $125. Check out Rago Fabrication for some great offroading gear for 4runners! Their products are awesome and customer service is amazing! If you are not in a time crunch, keep an eye on the Rago Garage Sales to see about scoring great products at discounted prices. I was able to snag the universal hidden bumper bracket through the online sale. If you ever have any questions about the install, they have great videos on YouTube.
Grill Amber LEDs
YotaLEDs provides an excellent product for the Amber Grille Lights. These lights are super clean and fit perfectly into the front grill of the 4Runner compared to other grill lights you can find on the market. Included with these lights is the foolproof wiring kit that requires you to run the wiring system before plugging in and going. Super simple!
Roof Rack LED Lightbar
40″ Curved LED Lightbar purchased from Amazon for $50. Rigid Industries has a very expensive light bar that sells for $1,600! KC Hilites has an expensive light bar that sells for $486. Yes, these light bars are top of the line, however, I was definitely not comfortable getting either light bar with no previous experience. I figured to go a much cheaper route and if I need to upgrade later, I can invest at that point. I have heard that the cheap light bars are more prone to getting water inside. To combat this, it is fairly easy to take apart the housing and use glue to seal up any holes.
Rock Lights purchased from Amazon for $80. These really come in handy when you get stuck out on trail after dark. Headlights and light bars can only illuminate so much and when you have clearance issues, the rock lights save the day. Choosing where to mount them was a bit tricky…
Rago Fabrication Modular Storage System is a great storage addition. Slightly more expensive ($375) than I would have preferred, but a fun accessory. Again, keep an eye out on the Rago Garage Sales page and sign up on Facebook to Rago Cool Kids to hear the fresh scoop about upcoming sales and group buys! I was able to score a pair of RAW storage panels from the Hot Summer Sale for $275 (You can order Powder Coated panels for $384 regularly). Painted panels are up to you. Some like the look of the raw steel, but I wanted to finish the panels (prevents any rust) and chose to go with a good coat of paint. Ran over to Lowes and picked up a couple cans of Rustoleum Truck Bed Liner and Rustoleum Regal Red spray paint (matching the theme of the Runner) for about $20. After a couple good coats, I had the color I wanted and the panels were ready to be mounted. Check out the Rago Install video. Some mounting solutions I purchased for this rack include Carabiners, Straps, and Quickfist Mounts.
I chose against upgrading the front bumper to the TRD Pro grille (another link). But if you wish to replace it, these are the parts you will need to purchase in order to upgrade.
- PZ323-35056 – GARNISH, FR BUMPER
- PZ327-35053 – GRILLE, RADIATOR, UPPER
I wasn’t keen on spending upwards of $500 for 2 pieces of plastic that really don’t do much for the overall look of the vehicle.
The TRD Pro Skid Plate… again, a piece of the vehicle that makes it look more like a TRD Pro, however, there are better after market 4Runner skidplates that would do a much better job. Check out C4 Fabrication, RCI Off-Road, Schrockworks, BudBuilt, ARB, CBI Off-Road,
Roof Top Tent (RTT)
I have always been fine with sleeping in a tent on the ground. I love my Marmot Tungsten 3P tent that I managed to find for $100 at an REI Garage Sale! BTW, if you haven’t checked out an REI Garage Sale, the items are usually returned merchandise that people barely use (used once and was too hot for a 0-degree sleeping bag) and REI discounts the price almost in half! REI is awesome! If you aren’t an REI member, joining is $20 for a lifetime membership and you get great deals. Become one here today!
I digress. I wasn’t keen on spending upwards of $1,000 to buy a nice RTT and decided that it wasn’t a necessary addition. Until I also found a Tepui Tent Ayer Sky 2 at an REI Garage Sale for $575!!! Well within an affordable price range as it typically retails for $1,050 at REI! Always check out garage sale items for the “defect” on the return. This tent had been returned because the original purchaser had attempted to put on the factory roof rack crossbars of his Honda CRV and it crushed the crossbars and scratched his car. One man’s loss is another man’s treasure. Obviously I scooped this addition up and we love the ease of setting up camp. Find a camp site, pop up the tent, cook dinner, go to bed.
Have you ever watched ridiculous dash cam footage? Check here! Drivers in this day and age are absolutely ridiculous! When you get rear-ended, the other driver gets out of their car confused and upset as if it were YOUR fault for being in THEIR way! People can be frustrating, luckily there are Dash Cameras out there that can help you PROVE who is truly at fault in an accident, or just another means of catching something truly unbelievable on camera that you have to show your friends later. Recent footage of a woman in the UK was shown to USA Today that shows a couple of guys attempting to scam her, luckily she had a dash camera and as soon as she informed them, they knew the jig was up and booked it. I purchased the GRDIAN Defendr and installed this beautiful little dash camera as additional insurance for my vehicle. This camera is out of sight and has easy installation. It helps give me peace of mind that IF something were to happen, I would hopefully be able to prove fault. Do yourself a favor and protect your investment with a Dash Camera.
Seat Gap Fillers
I was so tired of putting my phone on my lap and going around a curve to have it shoot across and down beneath the seat. These Seat Gap Fillers look similar to the leather of the premium and are super functional with phone pockets so you can actually use your cup holders.
OCD Console Tray
I think this speaks for itself. I have OCD about stuff being everywhere. The 4Runner has a large center console, but ridiculously doesn’t have anywhere to put your things. I had a pile of sunglasses and random objects in there with no organization. Purchasing the OCD Console Tray allowed me to get organized easily for $16.
Bumper License Plate Mount
Some states don’t require a front license plate. In Colorado, we do… So I snagged this 4Runner Front License Bracket from amazon.
This one is more of a for fun item. I wanted to try to customize some of the interior display settings. I’m a huge Star Wars fan and love Stormtroopers, so I figured I’d combine TRD and the troopers.
Every time I start my 4Runner I have this image pop up: