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Complete Guide to Buying an 80 Series Land Cruiser: Tips, Reliability, and Top Picks

Land Cruiser 80 Articles

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Complete Guide to Buying an 80 Series Land Cruiser: Tips, Reliability, and Top Picks

If you’re looking for more information on how to buy an 80 Series Land Cruiser, we’ve put together a comprehensive buying guide for you.

The 80 Series Land Cruiser

The first Land Cruiser was launched in 1951 under the Toyota BJ badge, and in 1958, it was introduced to the U.S. market. Between 1961 and 1965, it was the best-selling Toyota in the U.S. Over the years, the Land Cruiser has evolved. The 80 Series is one of those evolutions.

80 Series Land Cruiser Overview

In 1990, Toyota introduced the Land Cruiser 80 as a replacement for the FJ62 in the U.S. and other 60 Series models worldwide. Toyota produced the 80 Series in various body styles, including a wagon, a hardtop, and a cab chassis. Initially, it had swing-out back doors, which were replaced by a gate and hatch in 1994.

Toyota offered the 80 Series with either a gas or a diesel engine, and you could choose between RWD and 4WD. The 80 Series was the first Land Cruiser to ride on coil springs and was designed more for driver and passenger comfort than previous models. It was an effort to balance the smoother ride while maintaining the legendary toughness that people expected from the FJ.

The 80 Series is considered one of the best Land Cruisers among the off-road enthusiasts.

Purchase Considerations

When considering buying an 80 Series, you should focus on the vehicle’s condition, maintenance history, and unique attributes that set it apart from all other SUVs on the market.

Black 80 Series Land Cruiser 4.2 GX

Key Concerns When Buying

Like all used cars, there are specific things to look for when shopping for a used 80 Series. In addition to the usual things like leaks, rust, and driving characteristics, here are some other things to consider when purchasing an 80 Series:

Condition, Mileage, and Maintenance

The Land Cruiser 80 Series is made for going off-road, so expect some body damage or modifications from previous owners. Ensure that any mods are good quality, in good shape, and properly installed.

Specific Parts

All parts will wear, but due to the nature of the vehicle, some specific areas need close scrutiny before you buy. You may need to clean the 80 Series Land Cruiser off before examining it underneath. The steering box area is prone to cracks, so inspect all around the box for stress cracks. The mounts are also prone to stress and cracks, so look for any sign of damage. Look at the chassis mounts under the front end and ensure they are all solid. At the back of the engine compartment, check the firewall for rust that will cause leaks in the footwells.

Under the hood of the 80 Series Land Cruiser

Don’t forget to check out the bushings on the tie rod ends and any other suspension parts.

Accident or Damage History

You should check the accident history or look for signs of repaints, like overspray on trim pieces, inner fenders, or inside the gas door. Look for weld work on fenders, core supports, or on the underside. If there were cracks in the steering box or chassis, you may see weld marks or patch panels. A magnet will help you find body patches.

Avoid Snowy or Ocean Region Vehicles

Anywhere there is salt, you’ll find damaged cars. Avoid this issue by not buying vehicles subject to sea spray or road salt. You may need to do a little title history or get access to the service records to find out where the SUV was stored. It’s not unusual for rust to appear in small areas along the window seams.

Previous Owners

The fewer previous owners the Land Cruiser 80 has, the better. It can be difficult to find a one-owner vehicle but do a little research to determine whether the vehicle you’re looking at is an auction car or wholesale purchase by a small dealership. Sometimes, those vehicles are in bad shape.

The Land Cruiser 80 Series Reliability

It’s not unusual for a Land Cruiser 80 Series to surpass 300,000 miles if properly maintained. The most common issues are suspension wear and tear, overheating, and steering box stress cracks. However, because it’s a Toyota built for off-road use, it has been rigorously tested and engineered to withstand heavy use.

80 Series Land Cruiser

Durability

The 80 Series is considered a reliable LC for all uses. It has years of experience behind it to substantiate that claim. While it is an older model, it is still a solid off-road vehicle with years and miles of use left. Some even consider it indestructible. However, that doesn’t mean it comes without its weak spots. As discussed, the chassis cracks around the steering box are a big issue, usually due to larger tires. Thankfully, you’ll find plates to fix that issue.

If the handbrake is lacking, it could be poor adjustment or maintenance. This can be fixed by adjusting the brake and checking the rear disc/drums to ensure your shoes are in good shape. Upgrades and handbrake lever kits that change the pivot point on the handbrake are available.

In the diesel version, the big end bearings have had issues straight from the factory. Now that the 80 Series is older check these when purchasing. Previous owners may have never touched these bearings, so replace them before they fail, regardless of age.

Power steering leaks are rather common in the 80 Series. It is not uncommon for the reservoir to be the culprit. Rather than replacing hoses and having the steering box rebuilt, check the reservoir first for worn or missing seals. Check the seal under the lid and the top plate of the reservoir.

Snapped axle studs occur when trying to wheel out of rough terrain. Many people upgrade the studs from 8mm to 10mm to eliminate some problems. A bent or warped axle is usually the problem due to banging on the axle rather than using care in removing the studs. You may need to reface the axle if it’s too far gone.

Best Models to Consider

Everyone has their favorite year, so we’ve compiled a list to help you decide. Here is a complete guide to the years and models. Our complete guide lets you find more information on buying a pre-owned Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series.

Top Performing Models and Years

1991 – 1992 FJ80

1991 – 1992 FJ80

These are the first two years of the Land Cruiser 80 Series, and they were available with full-time 4WD (as are all of the years) and a center differential lock. The original DX version is the workhorse of the 80 Series, and if you’re planning on driving your 80 off-road and using it to its fullest, the DX from these years may be your best choice. It is a basic SUV with no frills; it doesn’t even have carpet or a tachometer. It is one of the least expensive 80 Series Land Cruisers and is considered a tough, reliable vehicle.

The 4.2L non-turbo 1HZ is underwhelming and only has 155HP, but its reliability can’t be denied. However, gearbox issues caused major vibrations throughout the cabin, and the clutch had a pesky leak. Those issues were resolved in the next iteration.

For a practical 4WD, the DX may be your best bet.

If you are looking at the 1HD-T, you need to know there were big-end issues requiring expensive services. Ensure that any 1HD-T engines you are considering have had the bottom end professionally rebuilt.

1993 – 1994 FXJ-80

1993 – 1994 FXJ-80

Toyota changed the 1993 models by adding front and rear optional locking differentials; these options carried on for the rest of the model’s life. The 1F2-FE 4.5L gas engine was durable and reliable but expensive to service. Supercharger systems were available.

1995 – 1997 FXJ-80

1995 – 1997 FXJ-80

In 1995, the 1HD-T motor was replaced by the 1HD-FT. Side-by-side cat converters were changed to inline converters to eliminate excessive heat on the passenger side floor-board, and airbags became standard equipment. Turbos and superchargers were available.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the models is covered in this article about Land Cruiser 80 features.

Common Issues and Red Flags

In addition to what we’ve already addressed, there are some other problem areas of the 80 Series to be aware of.

Potential pitfalls and common issues

VIN

Make sure your VIN matches in all places on the vehicle. The VIN is in the doors, hood, and tailgates. The late model years had stickers attached to each body panel.

Electrical

Make sure the electrical connections are sound, and if any mods have been done, make sure they are professionally finished. If you can remove the dash panel below the steering wheel, check for clean wiring. Make sure trailer wiring is properly installed.

Leaks

Check the block for antifreeze leaks.

Knuckles

Look for caked-on grease and dirt on the outer steering knuckles. This can indicate failed inner seals. If you remove the square plug on the knuckle, runny grease indicates differential oil leaks.

What to inspect during a pre-purchase evaluation

Body Lines

Look for gaps in the panels.

Front Face of the 80 Series Land Cruiser

Pillars

Check the pillars for overspray. Body shops will blend the paint in this area if they only paint part of the vehicle.

Frame

Look for pull marks on the frame.

Comparison with Other Models

The Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series stands out in a competitive market, but stiff competition exists between the 80 Series Land Cruiser, the Land Rover Discovery, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Unique Comparisons

We’ve broken down some key features to help you decide which SUV is right for you.

Off-Road Capability

Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series

There’s no question that the 80 Series Land Cruiser has a 4WD pedigree to be proud of, so it’s no wonder this model is renowned for its superior off-road capabilities. It has full-time 4WD, a strong ladder frame, and solid front and rear axles. These are just a few reasons why the LC 80 is a favorite for serious off-road enthusiasts.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Grand Cherokee comes from the fabled Jeep, so you would expect this to be a more rough and tumble vehicle; however, the Grand Cherokee has its eyes set on creature comforts like a smooth ride. Its air suspension allows it to glide over any surface, but it is more luxury-minded, so it’s not as rugged as the 80 Series Land Cruiser.

1993-1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Photo by Jeep

Land Rover Discovery

Another 4WD vehicle focused on luxury, but unlike the Grand Cherokee, the Disco performs well off-road, so it can give the 80 Series Land Cruiser a run for its money when tackling terrain. It also has a softer ride than the 80 Series Land Cruiser and more comfortable cabin surroundings.

1995 Land Rover Discovery

Photo by Edmunds

Reliability

Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series

The Land Cruiser 80 Series can hit over 300K miles with proper maintenance. It is made with fewer electronic components that can fail.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Grand Cherokee has a hit-or-miss reliability score, with some years being rife with recalls and other years being as reliable as any other vehicle.

Land Rover Discovery

The Land Rover Discovery is another vehicle with a spotty history in the reliability department. Many Discovery models are equipped with complex electronics that fail, driving their scores down. As long as repairs and maintenance are performed regularly, the Discovery stands a chance of being quite reliable.

Rear side of 80 Series Land Cruiser

Comfort and Technology

Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series

The Land Cruiser 80 doesn’t stand a chance regarding luxury and comfort. However, it is spacious inside and built for long treks. It’s more utilitarian than the competition, and its technology is not as current as some other models. While that is great for reliability, it can make the 80 Series less exciting for anyone who loves bells and whistles.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

There are many advanced features on the Grand Cherokee, and while you can’t compare today’s technology with the technology of the 1990s, this vehicle has always been in the luxury class. You’ll get a comfortable ride regardless of the year.

Land Rover Discovery

The Discovery is another luxury-minded vehicle that puts driver and passenger comfort over off-road capabilities. It also focuses on the latest technology as far as performance, safety, and entertainment are concerned.

Interior of the 80 Series Land Cruiser

Testimonials and User Experiences

Edmunds is well-known for its reviews and overviews. When reading some of the comments from Land Cruiser 80 Series owners, it’s not unusual to see them discuss the merits of the 80 Series Land Cruiser.

One reader commented that he expects his ‘91 to go over 500,000 miles since he feels it is bulletproof solid. He bought his car with 314,000 miles and spent $2,000 doing minor things like adding new tires, a radiator, a windshield, and U-joints. As he said, since there is no timing belt, you never need to replace it.

Another reader bought his 1991 brand new and has been driving it since. His objective was to find a long-term reliable vehicle; he says he’s met that objective.

These are just a few testimonials from 80 Series Land Cruiser owners found online and in 4WD owner groups.

80 Series Land Cruiser

Sharing real-life experiences from 80 Series Land Cruiser owners

It doesn’t seem to matter that the vehicle is from the 1990s; people who have bought them new or used them have done so with the thought that they will be reliable vehicles for years to come. They don’t hesitate to spend money on a car with over 100,000 miles. While some people have been able to get a good deal on a used one, others have not hesitated to buy one that was in rough shape, knowing they would have to fix it up.

One user bought his 1991 in bad shape but went over the vehicle from the inside out, replacing every seal, hose, and part in between. He admits that it cost a lot to get it running, but the result is a vehicle he can depend on in all weather conditions.

As we’ve discussed, the early years lacked power, so consider your power needs before you put your money down.

Insights into long-term ownership and satisfaction

Kelly Blue Book says that consumers give the 1994 80 Series Land Cruiser 4.8 out of 5.0 ratings and 98% recommend buying an 80 Series. One reader commented that he would never get rid of his Land Cruiser 80 Series because he had never seen another vehicle as reliable as the 80 Series Land Cruiser. He wishes it got better gas mileage, though.

Someone said that although the gas mileage was less than stellar, he would take that sacrifice as the 80 takes him places that nothing else could. He says he’s owned and driven 4WD vehicles all of his life, including military Hummers, Jeeps, and more.

Another person said, “Buy one and drive it forever.”

Why Choose Flex for Your Land Cruiser Purchase

Are you ready to jump behind a Land Cruiser 80 Series wheel? We’re here to help you do just that.

There are advantages to choosing Flex

When you choose Flex as your Land Cruiser partner, you get a knowledgeable and experienced staff working with you to bring your overlanding dreams to fruition.

We have access to Land Cruisers from the largest Land Cruiser dealership in Japan and can import the year and model you’re looking for.

Staff at FLEX Automotive

Quality and Selection

In addition to the quality and selection available from the Japan dealership, we also specialize in retrofitting newer models with our own custom body kits. The word “Renoca” is derived from the words “renovation car”. You’ll find a large selection of models available in Japan and San Diego. Please, don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions.

Renoca Wonder series based on 80 Series Land Cruiser 4.5 VX Limited 4WD

Renoca Wonder series based on 80 Series Land Cruiser 4.5 VX Limited 4WD

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many Land Cruiser 80 Series configurations on the market. Once you decide how and where you’ll be driving a 4WD, it makes it easier to determine which one is right for you.

Renoca Wonder series based on 80 Series Land Cruiser 4.5 VX Limited 4WD

Renoca Wonder series based on 80 Series Land Cruiser 4.5 VX Limited 4WD

In Summary

When buying a used Land Cruiser 80 Series, focus on its condition, the maintenance, and the owner history to narrow down other 80 Series that may have mechanical issues, driven until they fell apart, or haphazard modifications. As far as reliability goes, you can’t beat the 80 Series Land Cruiser, as you saw in the reviews from real Toyota owners. With three significant model years to choose from, you’re sure to find one that suits all of your needs.

Making Informed Decisions

By following our guide, we hope that it helps you make an informed decision about the 80 Series Land Cruiser in your future and steers you around some of the known pitfalls. When you have this information, you should find buying your next 4WD a rewarding experience. In addition, choosing from Flex means the buying experience will be seamless and smooth from start to finish.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re standing by ready with answers.

Julie Cleveland

Julie Cleveland

Julie Cleveland grew up with an interest in cars, racing and anything with wheels. She even tried her hand at driving stock cars and drag cars, but found out that walls hurt. She has been writing for over 40 years with articles in a number of publications and newspapers, including National Dragster and Daytona News Journal. She spent 15 years working in the F&I and sales department of manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volvo. For 10 years, she worked for newspapers in both the marketing and editorial departments, and she has been freelance writing automotive make and model overviews, parts and “How To” articles, and general articles about the automotive industry for 12 years. She has authored four non-fiction books and enjoys writing trivia. She still likes cars and is always interested in new ideas and technology.