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

The Toyota Highlander is one of the most popular SUVs in the United States, reaching a sales record in 2018.

However, it still has a few blemishes in its record, so let’s see which Highlanders should be avoided.  For the 2001 model year, Toyota debuted the Highlander. It was the first car-based mid-size SUV, based on the Camry’s chassis.

This Highlander sits comfortably between the tiny RAV4 and the bigger 4Runner in the Toyota SUV series. The Highlander’s major goal was to be a capable SUV on the highway as well as adequate on off-road routes.

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

Toyota just achieved a new sales record for the Highlander in the United States, selling almost 250,000 vehicles in 2018.

Even though the Highlander is one of the greatest, it is not without flaws.

Toyota Highlander Years to Avoid (List of Year)

 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:

  • 2003 Toyota Highlander
  • 2008 Toyota Highlander
  • 2014 Toyota Highlander
  • 2015 Toyota Highlander

That’s a relatively small list of trouble years for a vehicle that’s been in regular production since 2001. Those four years are the ones with the most significant difficulties, and they are the ones that customers should avoid now.

There was also a rocky spell between 2010 and 2012, and those model years were on the verge of making this list. There are a few concerns, and the 2010 and 2012 versions aren’t as durable or effective as previous or later model years.

A 2010 or 2012 Highlander, on the other hand, maybe a solid investment at the appropriate price and with good maintenance records. If you’re contemplating any of the models we’ve already mentioned, you should probably conduct some research beforehand.

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.

What Makes These Toyota highlander Years is Worth Avoiding?

Toyota vehicles are known for their reliability, as are the rest of the company’s automobiles. The Toyota Highlander appears to be far from perfect, with a slew of long-term concerns spanning decades. These faults would be passed down from model to model, making them quite common.

It’s disappointing to see how a huge firm like Toyota was unable to tackle various reoccurring faults despite being chastised by numerous customers and critics.

  • Engine failure
  • Transmission Issues
  • Sensor Issues
  • Excessive oil consumption

Engine Failure:

Engine failure is one of the most common problems with Toyota Highlanders in general. Some of the failures are most likely due to engine bolts becoming stripped and generating overheating, but other concerns can cause engine failure as well.

If you acquire a Toyota Highlander from one of the trouble years, you’re far more likely to need to replace your engine. Because engine failure is an issue that only a few vehicle owners are willing to solve, it’s also worth evaluating if you have the financial means to replace your engine or whether you’d need a new car if yours failed.

Engine failure occurs most frequently at 120k miles, however, it can occur earlier in certain circumstances. Some Highlanders may go over 120k miles without trouble, but later on, they may have issues.

Engine Bolts Problem:

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.

As a result, for many customers who had this problem, a complete engine replacement was the only option. Around 130k miles, this problem is most prevalent, although it can return after the first time it occurs.

Sensor Issues:

The O2 sensors in these older automobiles are prone to failure, resulting in a slew of problems. It’s a good idea to evaluate the problem and see whether it’s caused by this sensor if you have a check engine light.

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

Excessive Oil Consumption:

Unfortunately, the Toyota Highlander is one of those vehicles that are notorious for just using oil. While this is a problem that may affect practically any Highlander model, it is more prevalent during the troubled years.

Surprisingly, the worst year for burning up engine oil is 2002, even though it is generally a good automobile.

So, if you don’t mind spending a bit more on oil, we wouldn’t be concerned about this issue in a 2002 Highlander.

It may be more of a concern if you’re contemplating a different model year with other recognized faults.

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.

However, these vehicles are typically reliable, long-lasting, and enjoyable to drive.

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’s possible that people haven’t driven it enough to notice faults.

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


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.

Toyota, in any event, has a long history of producing high-quality items at competitive prices.

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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