NOTE: This article is biased towards 40 series Land Cruisers, although it can be applied any model. Also, parts of this may sound a little like a sermon. This is because for me Land Cruiser ownership goes beyond possesing a vehicle and well into the realm of the occult. Are YOU willing to sacrifice you life for your Land Cruiser?
Furthermore, this article should be required reading for the new Land Cruiser owner. Running through the pre-buy checklist will help you find potential problems in your new truck, and see what maintenance needs to be done.
So you want to buy a Land Cruiser. First, some words of warning. If you're looking at a 40 series, the vehicle will be at least 11 years old. It was built as an offroad vehicle and as a result has probably taken alot more of a beating than a car of a similar vintage. It will definitely require more upkeep than a new vehicle.
With all Land Cruisers, newer is definitely better. Unlike the Jeeps whose "quality" varied widely from year to year until Chysler "neutered" them all and Land Rovers where some Series are shunned because their headlights are in the wrong place, Toyota was continually improving the Land Cruiser. Check the production timelines earlier in the FAQ to determine which features you can live without and hence how old you're willing to go. The only exception to this rule is if you're living under a fascist regime such as Kalifornia where ancient frames are prized for their smog exempt status.
Usually long before someone decides to sell a Cruiser, they decide that they should stop pouring money into it. Therefore, shortly after you purchase your truck you can expect to have to dump a whole lot of money into it to fix little things the previous owner couldn't be bothered to do. This can be VERY discouraging. Don't worry. Once you get your truck into a roadworthy state, it will remain there for quite some time. When I first got my truck, the fuel gauge didn't work, most of the knobs were missing, the headlights had a nasty habit of turning off instead of switching to high-beam, none of the interior or signal lights worked, the u-bolt plates were cracked, the shackle pins were about to rip out of the shackle plates, the rear tub was basically gone, along with the bottom 2" of the hard top and rear doors.
Older Land Cruisers (Anything other than a 60 or 80) make lousy daily drivers. They're loud, they suffer from a relatively harsh ride and vague-on road handling, and the gas ones get lousy fuel economy. Thanks to brick-like aerodynamics, side-winds quickly become tail-winds. You don't want to commute in an FJ40.
Anyways, that said, there are some requirements that I believe a Land Cruiser owner should meet. They need to have a steady income. I bought my Cruiser while I was in university and wound up having to take a couple of years off to work to be able to fix it up. If you're a starving student, you're probably better off with a mini-truck. Parts are cheaper, and there's a whole lot more of them so they're more "disposable"
If you've got a significant other, your relationship has to be up to the stresses imposed by the new arrival. It took a long time for my girlfriend to adjust to being a "Land Cruiser widow" If a Land Cruiser is brought into a weak relationship, there's always the chance you won't get to keep the house--then you'd be without a garage to work in.
Actually, a garage is pretty much required. Lying out in the street is hazardous and people tend to walk off with tools they find lying on the sidewalk.
I also firmly believe that you should do EVERYTHING on your Cruiser AT LEAST ONCE. If you have a professional mechanic attend to all you maintenance, you'll be out of luck when something goes wrong miles from the nearest gas station
So you've warned anyone that cares about you that you'll never see them again, and their only contact with you will be standing in the garage yelling at the underside of your truck. You're mentally prepared to become the caretaker of a disappearing breed. Time to go shopping.
You should start scanning the local classified ads for a couple of months before you actually begin to shop in earnest. That way, you can begin to check out the local price-structure. In certain parts of the U.S. and Eastern Canada, you may only see one Cruiser a week, if that. Once you learn that the most ancient truck costs more money than you have, you're ready to start making calls.
When you finally locate a truck, it's time to go for a look. The things you should watch for can be grouped into several categories.