Is the Toyota FJ Cruiser already collectible?

2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Ultimate Edition front 3/4

The Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser has left the affordability zone for many of its fans. According to the Hagerty Valuation tool, excellent, #2-condition examples have hovered in the $50,000–$75,000 range in the last three years, and top-level concours-quality examples have exceeded $100,000 in some cases. That’s quite a price to pay for a bare-bones SUV that Toyota sold in the U.S. from 1963 to ’83. In 1979, the FJ40 retailed for about $6,000, with neither air conditioning nor power steering.

Is it possible the collector status of the FJ40 has rubbed off on its modern late-model successor, the FJ Cruiser? This retro-styled SUV, offered from 2007–14, embodied the go-anywhere capability of its esteemed predecessor, packaged with fully modern safety and comfort.

There must be something going on to explain a trend that Edmunds Senior Analyst Ivan Drury describes as “bizarre.” Values for the modern FJ Cruiser, it seems, are on the rise. Drury was considering buying a used FJ Cruiser when his own data confirmed what he was seeing in vehicles offered for sale.

“You’re looking at 70–80 percent of retained resale value. Some are as high as 90 percent. It’s crazy,” he says. “And it doesn't seem to matter what the mileage is; they’re usually high miles.”

1978 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser rear 3/4
1978 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser front 3/4

In the third quarter of 2017, a three-year FJ Cruiser had an 87.3-percent residual value, according to Edmunds. The data also show that in 2012, a four-year-old FJ Cruiser was selling for $22,000. Today, a four-year-old FJ Cruiser sells for about $29,000. Coincidentally, that was almost exactly the base price for an FJ Cruiser in 2014, during its final model year here.

Heritage done right

The FJ Cruiser, first shown as a concept vehicle in 2003, instantly resonated with fans of the original FJ40. To those unfamiliar with the old vehicle, it just looked plain cool. “Heritage” design cues included the boxy shape with white-painted roof, wraparound rear windows, a narrow grille, two round headlights, pronounced front fenders, and rear-mounted spare wheel. Like the Honda Element, the FJ Cruiser featured rear-hinged half-doors for back-seat access.

2003 FJ Cruiser Concept
Toyota
2003 FJ Cruiser Concept

Staying true to the FJ40’s heritage, Toyota made the FJ Cruiser a bona fide, Rubicon Trail-capable SUV. Based on the 4Runner chassis, the FJ had a 260-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 that moved the 4,300-pound. SUV with some authority. The rear-wheel-drive base model had a five-speed automatic transmission. There were two different 4WD systems: a sophisticated full-time 4WD with a Torsen center differential and a six-speed manual transmission, or a simpler part-time 4WD system with the automatic.

Independent front suspension and a well-located solid rear axle offered plenty of articulation for trail driving. An electronic locking rear differential, nearly 10 inches of ground clearance and standard skid plates could be augmented by off-road options, including the TRD and Trail Teams Special Edition packages.

Inside, the FJ Cruiser mixed function and comfort, giving you water-resistant cloth seats and rubberized floor mats on the one hand, and a slew of modern tech and safety on the other. Side curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Control, and a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity were standard. An available rear-view camera was a big help for the visibility-challenged FJ Cruiser.

From hot to not and back to hot

The FJ Cruiser was a hot seller at first, moving more than 55,000 units in each of its first two years. Sales then dropped off quickly, to just under 12,000 in 2009. It never again broke 15,000 in sales before being discontinued after the 2014 model year. All told, Toyota sold about 220,000 FJ Cruisers here. Rarity is not an issue.

2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Ultimate Edition rear 3/4
Toyota FJ Cruiser interior

Oddly, a November 2015 Automotive News article reported that used FJs were hard to find and selling for near-new prices. Yet there were still some brand-new FJs on Toyota dealership lots at the time. Toyota reported sales of 229 2014 FJ Cruisers in 2015 and nine stragglers in 2016.

One final note if you’re thinking about buying one of these unique and highly capable SUVs: Edmunds data also show a turn time, or how fast a vehicle sells, as short as 30 days for the FJ Cruiser. “It’s not a buyer’s market for these, that’s for sure,” Drury says.

Only time will tell if this value and desirability holds. For now, if you spot one you want, you’ll have to move fast to get it. According to Hagerty Valuation Information Analyst Jesse Pilarski, insurance quotes for FJ Cruisers are up 35 percent in the last 12 months. “The Cruiser stands to do well in the next five years. Fifty percent of our quotes come from Gen-Xers and Millennials, meaning that younger enthusiasts are interested,” he notes. “If you told me that a well-maintained example with 30,000 miles would increase in value by 25 percent in the next five years, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

With all that said, if you miss out, Toyota unveiled its FJ40-inspired FT-4X concept at the New York International Auto Show earlier this year. Powered by a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine mated to a 4WD, Toyota hopes the smaller, more civilized FT-4X will appeal to urbanites and outdoor types alike.