Toyota Highlander Years To Avoid (Updated in 2024)

Toyota Highlander Years To Avoid – Are you in the market for a reliable and versatile SUV? Look no further than the Toyota Highlander, a popular choice among families and adventure-seekers alike. As with any vehicle, certain model years may have their fair share of issues and concerns.

In this article, we will explore the Toyota Highlander years to avoid, providing you with valuable insights and guidance to help you make an informed decision.

Whether you’re a prospective buyer or a current Highlander owner, understanding the worst years can save you from potential headaches and expenses down the road.

Toyota Highlander Years To Avoid

The Toyota Highlander has been a mainstay in the midsize SUV segment since its debut in 2001. With its spacious interior, comfortable ride, and reputation for durability, it’s no wonder that many consider it a top contender.

However, not all model years have been created equal, and it’s crucial to be aware of any potential pitfalls before making your purchase.

Toyota Highlander Years to Avoid

Throughout its production history, a few model years of the Toyota Highlander have shown recurring problems or issues that may impact your ownership experience.

By being aware of these years, you can avoid potential headaches and ensure a smoother journey with your Highlander.

While the Highlander is known for its dependability and overall quality, it’s essential to be aware of the worst years to ensure a satisfactory ownership experience.

Toyota Highlander Years To Avoid

By arming yourself with this valuable information, you can confidently navigate the market and find a Toyota Highlander that will bring you joy and reliability for years to come.

2003 Toyota Highlander

The 2003 model year of the Toyota Highlander had some reported issues that should be taken into account. While not as severe as the following years on this list, it is still worth considering alternative model years to ensure a smoother ownership experience.

Read Also: Toyota Land Cruiser Years to Avoid

2008 Toyota Highlander

The 2008 Highlander faced various transmission issues and electrical problems, making it one of the Toyota Highlander years to avoid. These problems could lead to costly repairs and potentially diminish the overall driving experience.

It is advisable to explore other model years to ensure a more reliable and enjoyable ownership experience.

2014 Toyota Highlander

The 2014 Highlander experienced problems with its powertrain, resulting in a lack of acceleration and reduced fuel efficiency. These issues can be frustrating and may impact your satisfaction with the vehicle’s performance.

Considering alternative model years is recommended to avoid these complications.

Read Also: Toyota Tundra Years to Avoid

2015 Toyota Highlander

The 2015 model year of the Toyota Highlander also had some reported problems, although not as severe as the previous years on this list. It’s essential to conduct thorough research and consider alternative years to ensure a well-rounded ownership experience.

Although not listed as the worst years, it is worth mentioning the period between 2010 and 2012.

While these model years did not exhibit severe issues, they were not considered as durable or practical as the model years preceding and following 2015.

However, with careful research and inspection of maintenance records, a 2010 or 2012 Highlander could still be a viable option if the price is right.

It is crucial to note that while some problems may be minor and manageable, others could be more severe and significantly impact your driving experience, particularly if you rely on your vehicle as your primary mode of transportation.

Thus, it is prudent to thoroughly research and consider alternative model years to ensure a more reliable and trouble-free ownership experience.

Read Also: Toyota C-HR Years to Avoid

Toyota Highlander Common Problems

The Toyota Highlander has gained popularity as a reliable and versatile SUV, but like any vehicle, it is not exempt from experiencing common problems.

We will explore the most frequent Toyota Highlander common problems and provide valuable insights to help you understand and address these issues.

Toyota Highlander Common Problems

Whether you’re a current Highlander owner or considering purchasing one, being aware of these common problems can save you time, money, and potential frustration.

1. Engine Bolts Becoming Stripped

One of the more severe issues that Highlander owners may encounter is stripped engine bolts. The primary indication of this problem is coolant leakage and overheating engines. Catching this issue early is crucial to prevent further damage.

If the engine bolts are stripped, they can be replaced, and the bolt holes can be re-drilled.

However, if the overheating has already caused additional damage to the engine, a total engine replacement may be necessary.

This problem is most common around 130,000 miles but can reoccur even after the first incident.

Read Also: Toyota FJ Cruiser Years to Avoid

2. Engine Failure

Engine failure is a significant concern among Toyota Highlander owners and may be related to stripped engine bolts and resulting overheating issues. However, other problems can also contribute to engine failure.

It’s important to note that engine failure often requires engine replacement, which can be a costly endeavor.

If you’re considering purchasing a Highlander from a problem year, it’s essential to evaluate whether you have the resources to address potential engine failure.

Engine failure is most common around 120,000 miles, although some vehicles may experience it slightly earlier or later.

3. Using Engine Oil Faster Than the Average

The Toyota Highlander is known for consuming engine oil more rapidly than average. While this issue can occur in various Highlander model years, it is more common in certain problem years.

Notably, the 2002 Highlander stands out as the worst model year for burning through engine oil, although it is generally considered a reliable car.

If you’re considering a different model year with additional known issues, the engine oil consumption problem may be more prevalent.

4. Fuel Tank and AC Condenser Problems

The 2020 redesigned Toyota Highlander, despite its overall positive reception, had a few reliability concerns. Some owners reported issues with the fuel tank, stating that they couldn’t fill it to the advertised maximum capacity. Instead, they could only fill approximately 12-14 gallons of gas.

Additionally, the AC system in the 2020 model was known to have problems with the condenser, resulting in the AC not blowing cool air.

Replacing the condenser can resolve this issue, with an estimated cost ranging from $60 to $150, including labor.

Read Also: Toyota Celica Years to Avoid

5. Faulty Head Gasket and Oxygen Sensor

For 2001-2007 Highlander models, engine overheating is a relatively common problem. Frustrated owners have reported that the engine overheats due to a blown head gasket. Closer inspection reveals that the head bolts tend to pull the threads out of the engine block, leading to the blown head gasket.

Additionally, several Highlander models have been reported to have faulty oxygen sensors, resulting in engine misfires and rough idling.

By being aware of these issues, you can take preventative measures, address them promptly, or consider alternative model years to avoid potential complications.

Regular maintenance, early detection, and proper repairs are key to maintaining the reliability and longevity of your Toyota Highlander.

Toyota Highlander Alternatives to Consider

If you’re not sold on the Toyota Highlander or are hesitant to buy a used model, there are plenty of alternatives to consider. Here are a few SUVs that are worth a look:

Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot is a spacious and reliable SUV that’s perfect for families. It has a comfortable ride, impressive safety features, and a well-designed interior.

Related: Honda Pilot Years to Avoid

Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 is a stylish and fun-to-drive SUV that’s perfect for those who prioritize performance. It has a sleek design, a powerful engine, and agile handling, making it a joy to drive on winding roads.

Related: Mazda CX-9 Years to Avoid

Subaru Ascent

The Subaru Ascent is a practical and reliable SUV that’s perfect for those who value safety and versatility. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, has a spacious interior, and offers plenty of advanced safety features.

Related: Subaru Ascent Years to Avoid

Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer is a classic American SUV that’s been a popular choice for families for decades. It has a spacious interior, strong towing capacity, and a range of engine options to choose from.

Related: Ford Explorer Years to Avoid

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a rugged and capable SUV that’s perfect for those who like to take their adventures off-road. It has impressive off-road capabilities, a luxurious interior, and a range of engine options to choose from.

How many miles does the average Toyota Highlander last?

How many miles does the average Toyota Highlander last

The average Toyota Highlander can last up to 300,000 miles or 20 years with excellent care. Toyota vehicles, including the Highlander, are known for their durability and longevity. Regular maintenance, timely repairs, and responsible driving habits can significantly extend the lifespan of your Highlander.

Read Also: Toyota Sienna Years to Avoid

What year is a bad year for a Toyota Highlander?

While most Toyota Highlander model years enjoy an excellent reputation for reliability, there are a few years to avoid. The problematic years for the Highlander include 2003, 2008, 2014, and 2015. However, it’s important to note that these are the years with the most significant reported problems, and they represent a small portion of the Highlander’s production history.

What is the best type of Toyota Highlander?

For the most reliable first-generation Highlanders, the 2004 and 2005 model years are highly recommended. Both these years have reliability scores of 4 out of 5, indicating strong reliability.

Additionally, they have perfect owner satisfaction ratings of 5 out of 5, further affirming their reliability and customer satisfaction.

Read Also: Most Expensive Toyota

How reliable is the Highlander?

According to, the Toyota Highlander has a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0. This score ranks Highlander 7th out of 26 mid-size SUV models, indicating above-average reliability.

The Highlander’s strong reliability ratings both overall and within its class make it a wise choice for customers seeking a dependable vehicle.

Is it expensive to maintain a Toyota Highlander?

The annual cost estimate to maintain a Toyota Highlander is approximately $732, as per current data available. It’s important to note that this estimate can vary depending on factors such as the service provider, location, and specific maintenance or repairs required.

Regular maintenance, including oil changes, tire rotations, and inspections, can help prevent costly repairs in the long run.

Additionally, following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and using quality parts can contribute to the cost-effective maintenance of your Toyota Highlander.


When considering a Toyota Highlander, it’s essential to be well-informed about potential issues and problem years. While the majority of Highlander model years have an excellent reputation for reliability, there are specific years that should be approached with caution.

The 2003, 2008, 2014, and 2015 Highlander models have been associated with more significant problems, making them the Toyota Highlander years to avoid.

To ensure a more reliable ownership experience, it’s advisable to consider alternative model years such as the highly recommended 2004 and 2005 models.

These years have demonstrated strong reliability and high owner satisfaction ratings.

Maintaining your Toyota Highlander through regular service, timely repairs, and responsible driving habits is key to maximizing its lifespan and minimizing potential issues.

While it’s important to be aware of the Toyota Highlander years to avoid, it’s equally important to remember that the Highlander is generally known for its dependability and longevity.

By being well-informed and conducting thorough research, you can make an informed decision when choosing a Toyota Highlander that will provide you with reliable transportation for years to come.

Remember, understanding the Toyota Highlander years to avoid can save you from potential headaches and ensure a more satisfying ownership experience.

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