The Ahead-of-Its-Time Toyota FJ Cruiser Is Finally Having Its Moment
Vintage Land Cruisers have long been coveted. Now this quirky off-roader is gaining value, too.
No vehicle put the “Toy” in “Toyota” quite like the FJ Cruiser. A successor to the popular FJ40 Land Cruiser that surprised everyone by keeping its concept-car styling, the off-road-engineered SUV was called “cartoonish” and “kinkily Playskool” when it debuted for the 2006 model year. It was moderately successful but never caught on in a big way and was discontinued in 2014.
Not long after the FJ Cruiser stopped rolling off the line, something odd happened: people started to finally appreciate the quirky off-roader. Just three years later, Hagerty noticed “bizarre” valuations for the SUV — they were already increasing. Two years after that, popular car YouTuber Doug DeMuro spent 25 minutes arguing why Toyota should bring it back (that video now has 2.5 million views). And now, Hagerty has revisited the topic and found the trend is only continuing; the median sale price for the base model, which started around $27,000 in 2014 for a brand-new SUV, is now over $30,000.
“Something happened in 2020. Classic car auctions went from selling two or three FJ Cruisers a year to selling more than two a month,” Hagerty writes. “Median sales prices for the base model more than doubled from about $14,000 in 2019 to $27,500 in 2020 and continued to rise to $30,450 in 2021. We’re feeling the heat on the insurance side of the business — policies for FJ Cruisers have been doubling every year since 2018 and aren’t slowing down.”
That “something” is likely a confluence of factors. There is, as Hagerty notes, the ever-increasing value of older Land Cruiser models, which means many people who are priced out of those logically end up considering something less expensive. While the iconic FJ40 on which the FJ Cruiser is based, at least stylistically, peaked in value in 2015 according to Hagerty’s assessment, it’s climbing back up and has remained the most coveted model; it’s one of those vintage SUVs that gets scooped up by shops like ICON 4×4 and The FJ Company and restomodded for well-heeled clientele like Tom Hanks and menswear designer Todd Snyder.
The resurgence of the FJ Cruiser does not exist in a Toyota vacuum, either. It’s no secret that the vintage SUV craze (specifically the vintage off-road SUV craze) has been going on for some time, and that has in part been fueled by automakers releasing modern versions of their celebrated back catalog. I’m talking about vehicles like the Ford Bronco (which has been one of the hottest vehicular assets), the Land Rover Defender and the Hummer EV. By ushering in a new generation of these defunct SUVs, the automakers have triggered a wave of nostalgia for the forefathers, with people both celebrating the legacy and making the typical curmudgeonly “they don’t make ‘em like the used to” argument; and that’s likely led to higher sales for the predecessors.
But the FJ Cruiser is also on something of a redemption tour in the style department. I distinctly remember the FJ Cruiser being the butt of many jokes, its blob-like design hard to digest for much of the public, similar to the PT Cruiser of the same era. It was a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. Now, like Britney Spears, short shorts and backwards caps, people are realizing the FJ Cruiser was unfairly maligned in its heyday. The swollen exterior, the simple and oversized aesthetic, the rounded headlights set in a front end that seems primed for a starring role in the next movie in the animated Cars franchise, the cheerful color schemes that bucked the trend of boring paint jobs — these are all features that have been adopted by vehicles like the new Bronco, Defender and Hummer, to much acclaim.
If you’re interested in buying an FJ Cruiser before prices really get out of hand, head on over to Hagerty where they have all the details on which model years you should consider (there were some upgrades over the years if not a full redesign) and which special editions you should look out for.
But if you by chance bought and held onto one of these recently redeemed SUVs, don’t feel like you need to sell it and cash in on the hype. We’ve got proof the trend is only going to continue, and high mileage examples aren’t deterring buyers.
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