Toyota Highlander Years To Avoid (Read First)

Toyota Highlander is a mid-size three-row crossover notable for offering a striking design, an abundance of standard features, and high resale value.

The Highlander is generally known for its reliability, but not all model years are problem-free. If you’re looking into buying one, it’s essential to understand which years are safe and which ones you should avoid.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the best and worst Highlander years. We’ll also list the most common issues for every Highlander from the past 15 years.

Toyota Highlander

Which Toyota Highlander Years to Avoid: Quick Answer

If you’re in the market for a used Highlander, you should avoid buying ones produced in 2008 alongside the newest models from 2019 and 2020.

Since 2008 marks the first year of the second-generation Highlander, it’s not surprising that this particular model rates poorly on the reliability scale. It suffers from various electrical issues and poor brakes, but the most persistent problem seems to be a defective oil cooler pipe that tends to burst suddenly and leave your engine without any oil.

The newer 2019 and 2020 models, on the other hand, both have a defective oil pump that tends to fail rather often. They’ve also received lower reliability scores from J.D. Power (83.5/100 average) and user reviews on Edmunds (3.85/5 average).

Related Article: Toyota RAV4 Years To Avoid (Read This First)

So, which years should you go for?

According to our findings, the best Toyota Highlander year is 2016. This year boasts some of the highest reliability scores from J.D. Power (84/100) and Edmunds user reviews (4.3/5) and the best PPMY index score of 0.09 among all Highlanders from 2001 onwards. It also has the fewest complaints among the newer models.

The 2016 Toyota Highlander’s reliability credentials are further highlighted by the fact that fewer than 20,000 units have been recalled so far.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, the 2007 Toyota Highlander comes in close second place. It too boasts high-reliability scores and suffers from fewer problems than what’s typically the case with older vehicles.

You might also like: Why Are Toyota Highlanders So Expensive? (3 Reasons Explained)

Do Toyota Highlanders Have a Lot of Problems?

While Highlanders tend to have slightly more problems than the most reliable Toyota models, they still fare better than most of their competitors.

Although some problems have been consistent throughout the years, very few Highlander model years stick out as highly problematic.

The biggest concern is the recent trend of a downgrade in quality as the newest models seem to be the least reliable since Highlander’s introduction to the market 20 years ago.

Toyota Highlander Problems by Year:

Further below, we’ve listed some of the most common problems of Toyota Highlanders over the years.

The data comes from carcomplaints.com and NHTSA.

2020 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • hybrid models’ fuel tanks can’t be fully filled
  • engine may stall

Total complaints: NHTSA 51, car complaints 15.

2019 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • the fuel pump may fail
  • engine may stall

Total complaints: NHTSA 154, car complaints 28.

2018 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • the fuel pump may fail
  • various brake issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 130, car complaints 19.

2017 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • engine may stall
  • various electrical issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 145, car complaints 20.

2016 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • various brake issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 83, car complaints 27.

2015 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • various electrical issues
  • various systems prone to failure

Total complaints: NHTSA 150, car complaints 82.

2014 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • various electrical issues
  • various systems prone to failure (liftgate failure is the most common) Total complaints: NHTSA 112, car complaints 45.

2013 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • hesitation while accelerating
  • sudden acceleration when braking
  • steering wheel prone to failure
  • liftgate failure

Total complaints: NHTSA 192, car complaints 40.

2012 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • steering wheel prone to failure
  • liftgate failure

Total complaints: NHTSA 170, car complaints 48.

2011 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • steering wheel prone to failure
  • sudden acceleration
  • various electrical issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 171, car complaints 41.

2010 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • sudden acceleration
  • various electrical issues (faulty door sensors stand out as the most common problem)
  • steering wheel prone to failure

Total complaints: NHTSA 219, car complaints 53.

2009 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • defective oil cooler pipe develops a significant oil leak
  • sudden acceleration

Total complaints: NHTSA 118, car complaints 19.

2008 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • defective oil cooler pipe develops a considerable oil leak
  • sudden acceleration
  • various brake issues
  • various electrical issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 368, car complaints 76.

2007 Toyota Highlander Problems

  • sudden acceleration
  • various electrical issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 111, car complaints 10.

What Is The Most Reliable Highlander Year?

The most reliable Toyota Highlander year, according to our sources, is 2016.

Not only is it one of the least recall-affected years since Highlander’s introduction, but it boasts some of the highest reliability scores from J.D. Power (84/100) and Edmunds user reviews

(4.3/5). Moreover, the 2016 Toyota Highlander features the best PPMY index score of 0.09 among all Highlanders ever produced.

The PPMY index or “problems reported per thousand vehicles per year” index balances the number of reported problems with the vehicle’s age and production totals. The end result should paint a clearer picture of a particular vehicle’s reliability since older cars tend to exhibit more problems than newer ones and because higher production numbers have a similar impact as well.

You’ll find a table of “problems reported per thousand vehicles per year index (PPMY)” for the past 15 Toyota Highlander model years further below.

Model YearNumber of problemsSales FiguresVehicle AgePPMY Index
202068212,27620.3
  2019  228  239,437  3  0.27
  2018  175  244,511  4  0.2
  2017  208  215,775  5  0.23
  2016  100  191,379  6  0.09
  2015  190  158,915  7  0.14
  2014  130  146,127  8  0.21
  2013  247  127,572  9  0.17
  2012  200  121,054  10  0.16
  2011  205  101,252  11  0.22
  2010  244  92,121  12  0.24
  2009  155  83,118  13  0.21
  2008  450  104,661  14  0.23
  2007  139  127,878  15  0.12

Toyota Highlander Reliability By Year:

Although not the most reliable of Toyota models, Highlander is still far more reliable than most of its competitors. The following rundown of the Highlander reliability from the past 15 years comes from the data found at Car Problems, J .D. Power, and Edmunds user reviews.

J.D. Power uses a scale from 1 to 100.

Edmunds user reviews use a scale from 1 to 5.

Car Problems PPMY index is simple – the lower, the better.

2020 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 85
  • Edmunds Rating: 3.8
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.30

2019 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 82
  • Edmunds Rating: 3.9
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.27

2018 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 84
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.1
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.20

2017 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 84
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.1
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.23

2016 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 84
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.3
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.09

2015 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 83
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.0
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.14

2014 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 83
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.4
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.21

2013 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 81
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.2
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.17

2012 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 84
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.5
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.16

2011 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 82
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.6
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.22

2010 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 84
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.7
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.24

2009 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 85
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.6
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.21

2008 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 86
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.6
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.23

2007 Toyota Highlander Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 84
  • Edmunds Rating: 4.4
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.12

Final Thoughts – Toyota Highlander Years Not To Buy

Toyota Highlander is generally considered a reliable family crossover with few serious problems and even fewer problems that tend to be consistent throughout the years.

Whether you’re looking for a newer or older and more affordable Highlander, model years 2016 and 2007 are your best bet, respectively. Like most Highlanders, the 2016 model’s only severe issue is its poor brakes. On the other hand, the 2007 models have problems with the electrical system and sudden, unintended acceleration that’s present across the Toyota range.

However, you would do well to stay away from the newer 2019 and 2020 models and especially the older 2008 Highlanders. The former are notorious for engine stalling and water pump issues, while the 2008 Toyota Highlander suffers from all that and more.

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