Which Toyota Highlander Years to Avoid and Why? (Explained)

The Toyota Highlander is one of the most popular SUVs in the United States because of its flexible seating and since it was built to accommodate large families tucked in a compact space comfortably because of its non-sports features.

This Highlander sits comfortably between the tiny RAV4 and the bigger 4Runner in the Toyota SUV series. It comes with only one hybrid powertrain.

The vehicle’s popularity on the road, however, did not convert to off-road capability because it was based on the Camry. The Highlander was Toyota’s best-selling SUV until the RAV4 surpassed it in 2006.

Even though the Highlander is one of the greatest, it still has a few blemishes in its record as the perfect vehicle is not easy to come by. Toyota debuted the Highlander in 2001. It was the first car-based mid-size SUV, based on the Camry’s chassis.

Toyota highlander Years to Avoid (List of Years)

If you want a long-lasting vehicle, stay away from the following Toyota Highlander years.

Following years you want to avoid being on the safe side:

The list of faulty vehicles for the Highlander is not large for a model that has been and is still being regularly produced. The four below are the only ones that potential buyers should refrain from spending money on.

  • 2003 Toyota highlander
  • 2008 Toyota highlander
  • 2014 Toyota highlander
  • 2015 Toyota highlander

It should be kept in mind that the 2010 and 2012 models almost made this list as there are a few concerns, and these versions aren’t as durable or effective as the other models introduced by Toyota.

Conducting some research beforehand gives you insights into why and how these models are worth the money. Only at the appropriate price and with good maintenance records can these two models be worth spending on.

Some of the Toyota Highlander’s usual issues are minor and easily fixed.

Other issues are more serious, and if you use your automobile as your primary mode of transportation, they may be a major annoyance.

To avoid dealing with these issues the vehicle should be thoroughly checked to ensure its condition.

What Makes These Toyota Highlanders Years Worth Avoiding?

Toyota vehicles are known for their reliability, like the rest of the vehicles from them.

Toyota has been trying hard to accomplish the goal of perfecting their vehicles, especially in the case of the Highlander but faults aren’t being fixed on newer models and the issues keep rising as more of these are sold.

It’s disappointing to see how a huge firm like Toyota was unable to tackle various reoccurring faults despite being berated continuously by customers and critics. These here are the most common problems faced by users of the Toyota Highlanders.

  • Engine and Electrical issues
  • Accessories issues
  • Sensor Issues
  • Transmission problems

Engine and Electrical Issues:

Engine failures are very common in the early stages of a vehicle’s production. Some of the failures are most likely due to engine bolts becoming stripped and overheating.

This can be a significant problem if you don’t discover the problem early on. Coolant leaking and overheated engines are unfortunately the most typical initial signs that your engine bolts have stripped.

When necessary, the bolts can be changed and the bolt holes pre-drilled, but only if your engine has not already been damaged by overheating.

Other problems with the engine include A broken rubber oil line, rattle noise on startup, and the engine not starting at all. Timing chain cover leaking oil is a big concern as it takes $2000 for repairs and more for replacement of the parts.

These problems are most dominant on the 2008 year model of the Highlander and have given users quite a bit of trouble over the years. In one case the engine even caught fire as the oil kept leaking continuously.

Electrical problems occurred most often on the 2010 and 2014 Toyota Highlander. The door locks do not function properly, The interior light flickers or flashes and sometimes after the door is closed the chime stays on.

Accessories problems; Interior and Exterior:

The 2015 Toyota Highlander comes with heaps of interior and exterior accessories issues.

The seats on it are not on par with the comfortability that Toyota promised when they put it out on the market. The audio system needs to be reset quite often as it does not work properly.

The Bluetooth stops working randomly and the navigation, and radio reboots randomly with the radio settings not saving or working properly.

The liftgate does not open as the indicator says it’s open even though it is closed. The alarm randomly goes off for no reason as well.

Sensor issues:

The temperature sensor for the cabin makes a buzzing noise while starting up when the outside temperature is near freezing.

The O2 sensors in these older automobiles are prone to failure so, it’s a good idea to evaluate the problem and see whether it’s caused by the sensor.

If that’s the case, you’ll have to replace it.

Transmission Issues:

Transmission issues can be annoying if not dealt with in time.

The vehicle hesitates to accelerate when idle or at a stop and gives a bump before accelerating. There are also complaints about a whining noise coming from the transmission as well.

The transmission slips out of gear making the car stop in unwanted scenarios like changing lanes or making a turn in busy traffic. The car slows down to almost zero and the AC starts to smell bad.

When changing lane and the gear slips out and if there is a vehicle behind that does not expect a sudden stop there is a big chance for an accident.

Which Years is Safe to Buy Used?

Let’s talk about the model years that are most consistent and worth your money now that I’ve covered the model years to avoid.

These models aren’t flawless; all automobiles run the danger of something going wrong, and all vehicles have part failure. I have not included the 2010 and 2012 versions as they need special care from their previous owners which is almost impossible to judge.

However, these vehicles are typically reliable, and long-lasting. Driving a highlander may be dull for some people but overall it is a great choice for most.

The most dependable highlander year models are:

  • 2001 Toyota highlander
  • 2005 Toyota highlander
  • 2006 Toyota highlander
  • 2007 Toyota highlander
  • 2009 Toyota highlander
  • 2013 Toyota highlander
  • 2017 Toyota highlander
  • 2018 Toyota highlander
  • 2019 Toyota highlander
  • 2020 Toyota highlander
  • 2021 Toyota highlander

Highlander models released after 2016 are more consistent and, on average, have fewer faults or complaints than previous versions. So far, the 2021model appears to be a terrific model, but it is a new model, so it should be taken into consideration that it hasn’t been driven enough for the faults to pop up.

The newer versions are not recommended wholeheartedly as they will be more expensive to buy used than the older versions and who knows, you might be the one who’s facing some of the first issues with these models after a couple of years.

However, given Highlanders’ prior track record, we anticipate the 2021 model to be a strong long-term performer.


Toyota, in any event, has a long history of producing high-quality items at competitive prices. They offer various usability and characteristics with each of its different models to soothe the taste buds of different people.

Ultimately, the Toyota highlander is a robust, dependable pickup truck with a variety of user-friendly characteristics that demonstrate how Toyota values its customers and consumers.

Now that you know the best and worst years for Toyota highlander, you should be able to figure out which model is perfect for you and which model you should avoid at all costs.

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