2021 Tacoma vs. Gladiator Comparison

If you're wanting a truck that hauls what you need and is capable enough to go off grid, the Tacoma and the Gladiator are standout choices.

One reason the Tacoma stands out is that it packs a lot into a little price tag. The base MSRP of the Tacoma SR 4x2 Access Cab 4-Cylinder is $26,400, while the base model Gladiator Sport has a base MSRP of $33,715. Even if you decide to spring for the Tacoma SR 4x4 Double Cab V6 6-speed automatic transmission with the 5-ft. bed, the base MSRP of $32,665 is still cheaper than the Gladiator Sport base MSRP.

Wherever your adventures take you, it's important to keep up with maintenance as scheduled; however, that can get expensive. That's why ToyotaCare is included with all new Toyota Tacomas. Jeep just got on board with offering complimentary maintenance for the 2021 model year with Jeep Wave® Customer Care. It doesn't encompass quite as much as ToyotaCare, though.

Let's go beyond the surface level features to truly see which truck has it all in categories like performance, reliability, and safety.

Published Date: 07/13/2021

2021 Tacoma driving on a dirt road

Performance

  • For ease turning in tight spaces, the Tacoma has a smaller turning radius and shorter overall truck length.
  • You get more off-roading specific features with the Tacoma TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro for less than the Gladiator off-roading models.
  • Even if you're not into off-roading, the Tacoma SR5 4x2 Access Cab V6 can tow more straight off the lot.

If you're looking for the thrill of traversing a mountainside or splashing through mud puddles, the Tacoma and Gladiator have what it takes.

Off-Roading and Towing

When you're traversing boulders and steep descents, size matters. The Tacoma takes the advantage with a total length of 212.3 in. compared to the Gladiator's 218 in. total length. Plus, you can take tighter turns with a 40.6-ft. turning circle standard with the Tacoma. The Gladiator takes a larger loop with a 44.5-ft. turning circle.

If you're looking for sheer towing power, the Tacoma SR5 4x2 Access Cab V6 has a max towing capacity of 6,800 lbs., a payload of 1,525 lbs., and a starting MSRP of $31,335. The most the Gladiator can tow without additional equipment is 6,000 lbs. Only the most expensive High Altitude model can handle this feat, but it will cost you significantly more with a starting price of $51,765. Plus, you can only haul up to a 1,120-lb. payload.

One of the other differences between these two trucks is torque. While horsepower offers speed, torque offers brute strength. With 265 lb.-ft. of torque, the Tacoma SR5 4x2 Access Cab V6 is capable of towing more. The Gladiator High Altitude has 260 lb.-ft. torque in comparison. Plus, the Tacoma has Trailer-Sway Control (TSC), which applies brake pressure and manages engine torque to maintain control of the trailer.

As mentioned before, one thing both of these trucks are made for is off-roading. However, the Tacoma has earned a name for itself as an off-roading icon, having been around for over 20 years. When you choose the Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4x4 or TRD Pro V6, you can expect features like an electronically controlled locking rear differential, Multi-Terrain Select (MTS), and Crawl Control (CRAWL), and an off-road tuned suspension will keep you prepared. Comparatively, only the Gladiator Mojave 4x4 has a standard E-Locker Rear Axle. You can get Off-Road Plus Mode and off-roading suspension with shock absorbers on the Rubicon and Mojave. However, it will cost you.

Tacoma driving fast on a two lane road

Reliability

  • Both trucks come with scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance plans, however Toyota covers more.
  • Based on reviews from Kelley Blue Book, the Tacoma has proven that it's a good investment that can offer a good resale value.
  • For the last 16 years, the Tacoma has been at the top of the midsize pickup category.

To keep your truck performing at its best, regular maintenance and upkeep is important.

Years of Tacoma Heritage

All newToyotas come with a factory-scheduled maintenance plan called ToyotaCare. This includes engine oil and filter changes, tire rotations, fluid inspections/adjustments, multi-point inspections, and more. Plus, ToyotaCare lasts for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. Recently, Jeep has announced Jeep Wave® Customer Care; however, it only covers three oil changes and tire rotations during the first 36 months of ownership.

Both trucks offer 24/7 roadside assistance as well. Toyota's 24/7 Roadside Assistance lasts for two years and unlimited mileage and includes battery jump-starts, lockout protection, emergency fuel delivery, tire service, towing, and winching. The roadside assistance program for Jeep customers is through Mopar® and covers jump-starts or towing to the nearest FCA US LLC dealer, and it’s applicable for the term of the manufacturer's warranty period of 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.

If you're looking for a vehicle that has a trophy case filled with awards, the Toyota Tacoma has full shelves. The Tacoma has been awarded the Best Resale Value: Midsize Pickup Truck for 11 years in a row (2010-2020) by Kelley Blue Book® KBB.com. Additionally, the Toyota brand itself also won the Best Resale Value Award: Top 10 by Kelley Blue Book®'s KBB.com. That means if you do decide to change trucks in a few years, you can get your money's worth. It's no wonder that the Tacoma has been America's best-selling midsize pickup for the last 16 years. The Gladiator is slightly newer to the truck market and hasn't won any Kelley Blue Book® awards.

2021 Tacoma parked in the mud

Safety

  • Both vehicles have advanced active safety features; however, you'll have to pay more to get them with the Gladiator.
  • The Tacoma also has the added safety that comes with the Star Safety System™ like Traction Control and Smart Stop Technology® (SST).
  • You can get available Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) starting on the Tacoma Sport.

Vehicles like these are made to explore. But which vehicle has more standard active safety features to help keep you safe while you explore the world around you?

Standard Safety Features

For all-over coverage, every Toyota Tacoma model comes with a safety suite called Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P). TSS-P includes: a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC). The Gladiator requires the Adaptive Cruise Control/Fwd Collision Warning Plus Package for more advanced active safety features. Available starting on the Sport S, drivers get Advanced Brake-Assist, Automatic High-Beam Headlamp-Control, and Full-Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus. Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Enhanced Adaptive Cruise Control are only available on certain configurations. This package costs an additional $795, and it doesn’t come standard on any Gladiator model.

All models of the Tacoma also come with the Star Safety System™. This includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology® (SST). The Gladiator has some comparable features like Electronic Stability Control but lacks a whole suite of features comparable to the Star Safety System™.

Know what's happening when you're changing lanes with the Tacoma Sport, which has available Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA). This safety feature comes standard on the Tacoma Limited and TRD Pro. The Gladiator only has Blind-Spot and Cross-Path Detection standard on the High Altitude. You can also get this feature on the Sport S with the Jeep® Active Safety Group Package for an additional $995.

2021 Tacoma parked at an outlook in front of a scenic mountainscape

Conclusion: Tacoma vs. Gladiator

  • Tacoma has 33 different model configurations to choose from.
  • Get more standard active safety features for a lower starting MSRPwith the Tacoma.

Both of these vehicles put up a good fight and offer off-roading capabilities, scheduled maintenance, and active safety features. However, when you're looking for adventure, the Tacoma gives you more for less.

The Tacoma has a whopping 33 model options, so you can get exactly what you want and need in a truck. The Gladiator only has 11 and isn't as customizable as the Tacoma. Plus, when it comes to starting price, even the Tacoma's most expensive model costs less than the Gladiator's top model.

Upgrades are great, but standard features are better. That's why the Tacoma comes stacked with a lot of standard features like Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P). The Gladiator doesn't even come close in terms of standard safety offerings, not to mention you have to pay extra for them.

Whether you're off-roading or working, the Toyota Tacoma has the price point and utility to get the job done.