Building a 5th Gen 4Runner for under $3000

How to Build a 5th Gen 4Runner for under $3000 – What mods should you start with?)

We recently got a question on the site about what to do with a $3000 budget when it comes to modding a 4Runner. In this case, we are specifically looking at an SR5. The SR5 does not have KDSS which makes on-road driving much stiffer than an SR5. KDSS also make off-road driving a bit more “buttery” if you will.

We love and hate KDSS. It is a pain to work on when dealing with most mods, but it does make driving your 4Runner much more enjoyable as opposed to a stock SR5, it’s a huge difference. We have the 2014 Trail which has KDSS and it was much more stable on-road than our SR5, from a stock perspective.

The first thing I would personally do is limit the amount of body roll, nose dive upon braking and steering wheel shake that a stock SR5 has. And then the other mods would start from there. By fixing your body roll, nose dive, and steering wheel shake, it will make your on-road and off-road experience much more enjoyable, but more so on-road.

Where to Start with a $3000 budget?

I have found your blog to be super helpful in getting my mind wrapped around 5th gen T4R mods. Thank you. As you know, often the more you read and research, the more confusing things become and the more unsure you can be on what mods to choose. If you have time, I would love your advice on what mods you would make with a $3k budget.

I am starting with a bone stock 2017 SR5 with 27k miles. Super white with black interior. This will be a 90% road queen with 10% mild off-roading on camping, hunting, and fishing adventures. That said, I would lean toward over building rather than under.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  • Old Man Emu 3″ lift kit (still not sure on exactly what springs I need.) ~$1000
  • Level 8 MK6 wheels in black ~$600
  • 285 70 17 tires (not sure which) ~$1000
  • That would only leave roughly $500 for suspension install. (I have a buddy who runs an auto shop, so I would get a bro deal on that.) Any thoughts, advice you could provide would be great.

Thanks again for your killer blog. Clark – Sacramento, CA

Where to Start with Mods?

If I had to start over and had a brand new stock SR5, this is exactly what I would do with a $3000 budget. I wish that I could afford a little more because, with a $4000 budget, you can add some mods that will make a real difference. But, let’s stay with our $3000 budget and go to town!

Mod #1 – Suspension (Fixing Body Roll, Nose Dive & Cornering)

Icon Coilovers 5th Gen 4Runner

Recently, we wrote a post on the Icon suspension Vs. stock suspension. You may want to check this out before we continue. In this post, we summed up the transition from stock KDSS to an aftermarket $3000 suspension with KDSS.

We felt less body roll, tighter cornering, everything just felt tighter and more comfortable while driving on-road. Braking is much more firm and stable with less steering wheel shake and rattle. With an upgraded suspension, your nose dive on braking is almost eliminated (depending on the suspension and how it’s tuned).

What would I Buy?

  1. Icon or King Extended Travel Coilovers ($1200): If I had a stock SR5, I would want to tighten everything up as much as possible. Grabbing a set of Bilsteins would help, but not as much as a pair of Icon or King shocks. This is almost half the budget right here. Tightening up your front suspension is key. This will help on and off-road but more importantly, it will increase your every driving on-road experience. You can opt for UCAs (Upper Control Arms) and a remote reservoir but that just starts getting pricey and we need to stay on budget.
  2. Rear Springs – Dobinsons ($225): The rear spring are key in most areas of off-roading and weight. But in the case of 10% off-road, these will do just fine.
  3. Rear Shocks – Dobinsons ($230): Again, you don’t need the most epensive rear shocks in the world. These rear shocks should be fine what you are looking to accomplish.

UCAs NOTE: You should be ok with the extended travel coilovers without aftermarket UCAs as long as you stay under 3″ of lift.

General Total: $1700

Mod #2 – All Terrain Tires (No Wheels)

4Runner Rock Sliders & Toyo Tires

You have to have good tires. If you are reading this post, you are obviously looking to mod your 4Runner in a type of way where you can use it off-road, on occasion.

The stock Goodyears that come on your 4Runner are great. Most often you will find Goodyear AT (All Terrains) on your 4Runner stock. And, they are great tires, there is nothing wrong with them. There are just better options out there for all-terrains.

What would I Buy?

  1. Nitto Terra Grappler G2s – 285/70R17 ($160)
  2. Falken Wildpeak AT3W – 285/70R17 ($180)
  3. Toyo Open Country A/T II – 285/70R17 ($180)
  4. BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2s – 275/70R17 ($220)

These are my top picks for tires on a budget. And, we are actually running the Toyo Open Country A/T II but in a 34″ tire, not a 33″ tire which is mentioned above.

And, the 34″ tire is $260 a tire, not $180. I did not list any off-brand tires because I would never buy off-brand tires.

Tires are what supports you and your family. Tires are one of THE MOST IMPORTANT mods you can buy. If I had to pick, I would buy the Toyos, but I had the Nittos for three years and loved those as well.

General Total: $800 + $1700 = $2500

Mod #3 – Intake or Catback Exhaust

2017 4runner TRD Intake Install

Both of these mods, the TRD Intake, K&N Intake (2016, 2017, 2018+), or the Magnaflow Exhaust are a must-have mod on the 4Runner (for me, personally). Adding some power to your 4Runner is essential for everyday life. We have a 2016 SR5 with no exhaust or intake, and my 2014 Trail 4Runner with a Catback exhaust and an intake.

Let’s just say I try to not drive the SR5 whenever possible. Power in a 4Runner makes everything much more enjoyable, on-road and off-road.

And, this is a complete “what would I mod for $3000” and that is all the money I had.

What would I Buy?

  • Catback Exhaust 1. Magnaflow (Loud, Deep, Mean): $700
  • Catback Exhaust 2. Borla (Subtle, Gentleman, Classy): $600
  • Air Intake 1. TRD (not made for current models 2017,2018+ but fits everything else): $400
  • Air Intake 2. K&N (Fits everything and kicks ass): $330

General Total: $800 + $1700 + $500 = $3000

Mods on a Budget?

Why no wheels? Wheels only offer an aesthetic value and don’t do too much in the way of performance. Everything that we decided to buy here adds true performance value.

Whether it is on-road performance or power performance, all of the mods above are going to make your 4Runner much more enjoyable to drive.

This is along the lines of what we would do to a bone stock SR5. As the question clearly had wheels in the lineup, I think there are much better ways to spend the money. By adding aftermarket power performance and an upgraded suspension, this is a much better build in my opinion.

But that’s the beauty of your 4Runner, it’s YOUR 4Runner.

Hopefully, this gives you a couple of ideas on what to do with your stock 4Runner.

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3 years ago

Brenan, I know this is a super old thread…but I’m curious what you would have added if you could go to $4k? I’m looking at a 2013 SR5 myself…same driving split (90 road / 10 off)…and wanted to see what you’d recommend. Your comment of “with $4k, you could add mods that would make a REAL difference”…sounded very interesting!

3 years ago
Reply to  Brenan Greene

Thanks, Brenan!

Curious, then, what did you mean when you said “I wish that I could afford a little more because, with a $4000 budget, you can add some mods that will make a real difference.”

Seems like there were some interesting recommendations you had in mind if the budget could stretch.

Jason W
Jason W
4 years ago

You can install the TRD intake on a 2017+ no problem. I dropped it on my 2019 a few weeks back, you just have to route the MAF sensor a bit different

Jonathan Duffey
Jonathan Duffey
5 years ago

As a kit how is the Toytec Boss kit, I am 90 percent on road but want something that will be of good quality and tighten up everything from cornering to braking. I also want something where I’m not going to be hearing any squeaking or rattling (you get what you pay for in suspension) but is this of high enough quality that I don’t have to deal with that crap? Also want something that is not too firm but not too spongy so i can feel comfortable while driving. Im thinking adjustable suspension and riding around 2 inches of lift (im currently on spacers but those can go) . UCA are something i am considering as well just for good alignment and geomety (Ive heard great things on Total CHaos but dont know much on them or the differnt incons UCAs). lastly, rear springs are somthing new to me so im not sure on those about brands or in the kit either

5 years ago

Thank you for your awesome page and information. I was a Wrangler guy but recently switched to the 4Runner as I realized this vehicle would better match my everyday needs and occasional weekend wants. I really like this specific post as it’s very similar to my current situation but slightly different. So here is where I am at. Same budget (around $3000) but with a 2018 TRD off-road no KDSS. Daily driver but do want/need more capable off-road. Wanting to add 3 inches and 285/70/17’s as the first mod. Can you provide me with your insight?

5 years ago

I have a 2015 SR5 and just installed the TOYTEC BOSS 2.5 3″ suspension lift, with fully adjustable coilovers, SPC adjustable UCA’s, HD spring and shocks with external oil reservoirs. I absolutely love it!!! Cured the body role and nose dive and my SR5 is much more fun to drive now. Next some 285 / 70 / R17’s, ICON wheels and sliders!!!

Israel Martinez
Israel Martinez
6 years ago

Brenan! So considering this set up, as I haven’t pulled the trigger yet…this offers 0-3 inch lift vs say Toytec Boss kit? And UCAs…If I skip this for now how will if affect me in the long run? Will it cause damage? I do some off road trails, but we are in DC Metro! So I have to travel min 2hrs to get somewhere where its more than just gravel/dirt… and when I do…its not rock climbing and not like I am there every weekend either….So road manners are important to me also…

6 years ago

That makes sense and goes right along with my initial comment about leaning toward “overbuilding.” UCAs could come later if needed, I suppose.

6 years ago

Lots of great ideas here. With my limited knowledge of 5th gen suspension mods and limited budget, I would not have thought that far out of the box with high-end long travel coilovers in the front. I will definitely be incorporating some of these ideas into my build. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. So you think the Icon long travel coilovers are worth the money over say the Toytec coilovers (or similar), the Dobinson springs and shocks in the rear and Light Racing UCAs (for peace of mind)? That setup would end up at ~$1600. What’s the difference between the Bilstein shocks/coilovers and the Icons? Keep up the good work!

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