Toyota Highlander Years To Avoid (Top 3 Problems)

Highlanders are strong, dependable, and remarkably last for a very long time. Well, virtually all Toyota vehicles last longer, and they are reliable. However, some specific model years don’t live up to the expectations.

For the Highlander series, there were several complaints reported for the 2015 model year, making it the worst Highlander year to avoid. But it’s not just the 2015 model only; this article explains the Toyota Highlander years to avoid and why you should do so.

Mainly, it is advisable to stay away from these problematic Highlander model years because they are linked with a high number of engine problems that occur at different intervals even before you hit 150,000.

Toyota Highlander Overview

The Toyota Highlander is a 3-row midsize crossover SUV, the crossover alternative of the 4Runner, and the bigger version of the RAV4. Toyota started producing Highlanders in 2000; the Highlander has been redesigned many times across four (4) generations.

No doubt, Toyota Highlander is one of the finest SUVs from the Japanese automaker Toyota. You can take a Highlander through rough terrains without hassles. The Highlander has multiple trim levels, and it also has a hybrid model.

Generally, the Toyota Highlander is a desirable ride; the interior is well equipped and designed for luxury comfort.

But when buying a used Highlander, it is advisable to avoid some specific model years due to the high number of complaints the years have received from people who owned and currently own them.

Toyota Highlander Years To Avoid And Why

A few Toyota Highlander model years are reportedly problematic and mostly had engine problems before 100,000 miles, which is just untypical of Toyota vehicles.

Due to the high number of complaints from the owners, these are the worst Toyota Highlander years to avoid.

  • 2003 Toyota Highlander
  • 2008 Toyota Highlander
  • 2010 Toyota Highlander
  • 2012 Toyota Highlander
  • 2014 Toyota Highlander
  • 2015 Toyota Highlander

For these model years, it is reported that the engine used on them isn’t as efficient as the engine in other model years. Below are the common problems with these Toyota Highlander models, which are the reasons why you should not buy them.

Common Toyota Highlander Problems

1. Engine Problems

  • Affected Models: Mostly reported for the 2003 and 2008 models

The commonly reported engine problems on the 2003 and 2008 Toyota Highlanders include engine bolts threads got stripped, spark plugs burned out, O2 sensor issues, rubber oil line failure, engine turning over but won’t start, and complete engine failure.

Well, the most critical Toyota Highlander engine problems occurred after 120,000 miles, and the typical solution is to replace the engine, which costs an average of $3,000.

2. Internal Accessories Problems

  • Affected Models: 2008, 2010, 2014, and 2015 Toyota Highlander years

Highlanders are not synonymous with interior accessories failure, but a few problems are reported for these indicated model years.

The problems include alarm system malfunctioning, CD stops playing, door ajar light come on even doors are closed, and infotainment system not working properly. These problems are not so severe anyways, and the average repair cost is $500.

3. Electrical System Faults

  • Affected Models: Mostly reported on 2003, 2010, 2012, and 2014 Toyota Highlanders.

Electrical problems reported on these specified Toyota Highlander years include AC problems, heater malfunctioning, power hatch not working, door locks not functioning properly, and a few other issues.

There are no specific intervals when these problems occur, and the average repair cost is $150 – $400.

Best Toyota Highlander Years To Buy

Typically, Toyota Highlanders are reliable, so almost all the model years are recommendable. But then, to enjoy great value for your money when buying a used Toyota Highlander, these are the best model years to choose from.

  • 2001 to 2002 Toyota Highlander
  • 2004 to 2007 Toyota Highlander
  • 2009 Toyota Highlander
  • 2011 Toyota Highlander
  • 2013 Toyota Highlander
  • 2016 to 2022 Toyota Highlander

These model years are recommended because the owners are very much satisfied with the performance and comfortability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Toyota Highlanders Reliable?

Yes. Just like the 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, and Land Cruiser series, Toyota Highlanders are built tough and ready for any type of weather condition. Also, the Toyota Highlander has an average 4.0 out of 5.0 reliability score on RepairPal. It is a strong crossover SUV.

What’s The Life Expectancy Of Toyota Highlanders?

The Toyota Highlander is one of the longest-lasting midsize SUVs, with a predicted life expectancy of up to 300,000 miles. Nevertheless, some Toyota Highlander owners have alleged that they’ve done over 400k miles on their SUVs.

Which is More Reliable Highlander or Pilot?

Both the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot are three-row midsize SUVs; however, the Toyota Highlander practically beats the Honda Pilot in every aspect, including reliability. The Toyota Highlander is a more recommendable option than the Pilot.


So, what are the Toyota Highlander years to avoid and why? The 2003 and 2015 Toyota Highlanders are flagged as the worst years because a reasonable number of people who owned these model years reported several complaints regarding the engine and interior accessories available on the rides.

But then, the Toyota Highlander is a reliable car that can go over 400,000 miles if maintained properly. When buying a used Highlander, choose from the “Best” model years and ensure you scrutinize every aspect of the car; get a professional mechanic you can trust to help you with the inspection.

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