6 Toyota Highlander Years to Avoid Buying in 2024

The Toyota Highlander mid-sized SUV became the fastest-selling car after its launch in New York in 2001 for its outstanding features, including better handling, better passenger comfort, interior and exterior design safety, and driver assistance features.

However, some model years didn’t meet customer expectations and had problems with performance, control, and comfort despite many appealing features.

I’ve listed the five-year models with the most problems.

Let’s check the statistics to determine which Toyota Highlander model years you should not purchase.

6 Toyota Highlander Years to Avoid

There are six different model years of the Toyota Highlander that you should steer clear of purchasing. Model years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019, 2020, and 2021 are included in the list. When looking for a new or used vehicle, you should steer clear of these model years because they are known to have more problems than other model years.

2013 Toyota Highlander Problems

The 2013 Toyota Highlander is a mid-sized SUV ranked number 5 among affordable mid-sized SUVs.

But it has some issues; let’s discuss the problems briefly.

Acceleration Problems: Various customers reported hesitation in acceleration while accelerating the SUV by pressing the gas pedal.Even some customers faced the problem multiple times. No specific reason was pointed out. Cleaning or replacing the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve will solve the issue.

Transmission Malfunction: Some owners reported issues with the transmission. The problem was that the SUV suddenly activated neutral mode while the shifter was still in drive mode. No specific reason was identified for the transmission malfunction.

Braking: The owners of the 2013 Toyota Highlander reported that the brake failed to engage completely after pressing the brake pedal.

Airbag Failure: The airbag failed to deploy in the event of a heavy impact. There were some reports regarding airbag sensor failure.

There are some other problems, including sudden acceleration and vibration, bubbling paint, and an odor from the A/C. Considering these problems, you should avoid buying the 2013 Toyota Highlander model year.

Ratings of 2013 Toyota Highlander

Edmunds Consumer Rating: 4.2 out of 5.0

J.D. Power Reliability Rating: 81 out of 100

2014 Toyota Highlander Problems

The 2014 Toyota Highlander is quite similar to the 2013 model. So, there are still some issues with it. Let’s check out the problems:

Inactive Airbag and Seatbelt: The 2014 Toyota Highlander continued to face airbag issues during impact, and the seatbelt failed to restrain.

Transmission Failure: Several users reported that the transmission unit does not engage with the gear and fails to keep up with the vehicle’s speed while cruising.

Faulty Fuel Delivery Pipe: Along with the Toyota Highlander 2014 model, four other models have the same issue. A leak in the fuel delivery pipe before entering the fuel pump creates a chance to set fire to the engine area.

Faulty Door: Some problems were reported regarding the automatic door lock and trunk, and the reason is actuator failure. As a result, they don’t close properly and make uneven noises.

Along with these common problems, some other issues include infotainment freezing, windshield leakage, a possible engine stall, and seat orientation.

So you should avoid buying the 2014 Toyota Highlander.

Ratings of 2014 Toyota Highlander

Edmunds Consumer Rating: 4.4 out of 5.0

J.D. Power Reliability Rating: 81 out of 100

2015 Toyota Highlander Problems

2015 Toyota Highlander Problems

The 2015 model of the Toyota Highlander has the highest selling number among midsize SUVs.

Let’s take a look at the complaints that have been made about these cars.

Door Lock System: Many complaints about the door lock system have been registered, and the issue was a faulty door lock. The door lock malfunctions very often. As a result, it fails to respond and remains locked. It takes up to $300 to fix this.

Engine Power Malfunction: According to many complaints, the 2015 Toyota Highlander engine loses its power during operation. No reasons were identified. In some cases, replacing the engine solved the issue.

Brake Failing: Some owners complain that their 2015 Toyota Highlander fails to apply the brakes, which causes collisions.

Power Steering Failure: Some owners of the 2015 Toyota Highlander faced a power steering issue. As per complaints, The steering wheel freezes. In one registered case, it led to an accident.

There are also speed control issues, structural problems, infotainment software glitches, airbag deployments, etc.

Considering these issues, you should avoid buying a 2015 Toyota Highlander.

Ratings of 2015 Toyota Highlander

Edmunds Consumer Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

J.D. Power Reliability Rating: 82 out of 100

2019 Toyota Highlander Problems

2019 Toyota Highlander Problems

The 2019 Toyota Highlander has good build quality, smooth riding, and better fuel efficiency, but the interior and exterior remain the same as previous models.

Now, Let’s check out the problems with the 2019 Toyota Highlander.

Transmission Problems: Poor gear shifting, hesitation in acceleration, Overheating, and automatic acceleration issues were reported.

Engine problems: Faulty fuel pump, malfunctioning engine safety light.

Electrical problems: Uneven behavior of the infotainment system; power steering failure.

Airbag Malfunctions: As in previous models, the airbag remains inactive during impact.

Chipping paint, a second-row headrest issue, and a weak headlight issue were reported by the owners of the 2019 Toyota Highlander.

So you should avoid buying the 2019 Toyota Highlander.

Ratings of 2019 Toyota Highlander

Edmunds Consumer Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

J.D. Power Reliability Rating: 81 out of 100

2020 Toyota Highlander Problems

The 2020 Toyota Highlander comes with various major upgrades over the previous models, such as better off-road performance, a 20-inch wheel option, and becoming more powerful.

Now look at the problems that the 2020 Toyota Highlander comes with.

Braking Problems: It skips to respond at low speed even though the brake pedal is pressed.

Engine Problems: Random losses in throttle response, restart after stopping the engine, and turn off the power steering system in the meantime.

Fuel Gauge Issue: Many customers complain that they can only put in 13 gallons of fuel when manufacturers say they can load 17 gallons. It is very confusing for the user.

Besides that, leakage in the air conditioning compressor, chipping paint, inappropriate driving assistance, and various other problems were reported for the 2020 Toyota Highlander model year.

So, you should avoid buying the 2020 model year.

Ratings of 2020 Toyota Highlander

Edmunds Consumer Rating: 3.9 out of 5.0

J.D. Power Reliability Rating: 85 out of 100

2021 Toyota Highlander Problems

The 2021 Toyota Highlander introduced some changes, like exterior style, changes in LED projection, calibration in suspension, etc.

However, there are still some problems with the vehicle. Now let’s discuss the issues that the 2021 Toyota Highlander has.

Braking problems: the brakes of the 2021 Toyota Highlander wear out before their rated lifetime.

Engine problems: Faulty engine auto start-off features, engine stalling, oil leaks, and less oil pressure are common problems with the 2021 model year.

Insufficient Fuel Tank: As per the manufacturer, the fuel tank capacity is 17 gallons, but the users cannot load more than 13 gallons.

Transmission issues: Due to software problems, the transmission does not work properly when it revs in mid-range shifting.

Along with these issues, vibrations, lane assist malfunctions, and roof painting are other common problems with the 2021 Highlander, per the customer’s complaints.

So considering the issues, you should not buy the 2021 Toyota Highlander.

Ratings of 2021 Toyota Highlander

Edmunds Consumer Rating: 3.7 out of 5.0

J.D. Power Reliability Rating: 82 out of 100

Toyota Highlander Years to Buy

Every vehicle has some pros and cons, like any other vehicle. Instead of purchasing the most problematic year, you should focus on buying the less problematic model years of the Toyota Highlander.

Because less problematic model years are known as the best years of that specific vehicle model.

You can buy these Toyota Highlander model years.

  • 2003 Toyota Highlander
  • 2011-2012 Toyota Highlander
  • 2016-2018 Toyota Highlander
  • 2022 Toyota Highlander

These model years are the good years as the new and used model years of the Toyota Camry.

Toyota Highlander Complaints

Here is a list of Toyota Highlander all model years user complaint numbers, according to NHTSA and carcomplaints.com.

Model Years Complaint Number
(carcomplaints.com)
Complaint Number
(Source: NHTSA.gov)
2001 17 N/A
2002 38 N/A
2003 61 269
2004 36 282
2005 34 N/A
2006 17 263
2007 11 227
2008 78 383
2009 19 165
2010 55 227
2011 41 181
2012 50 178
2013 41 196
2014 49 123
2015 83 163
2016 27 92
2017 23 169
2018 26 5
2019 34 N/A
2020 18 77
2021 7 N/A
2022 3 54
2023 N/A 5

Toyota Highlander Recall History

2001 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to fuel system, brakes, hydraulic system, gasoline, and latch issues.

2002 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to the fuel system, latches, and gasoline issues.

2003 Toyota Highlander recall: This model was recalled due to latch and wheel issues.

2004 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to issues with the engine and engine cooling system, vehicle speed control, service brakes, and hydraulic equipment.

2005 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to engine and engine cooling issues, vehicle speed control issues, service brake issues, and hydraulic equipment issues.

2006 Toyota Highlander recall: Recalled for service brake, hydraulic equipment, and vehicle speed control issues.

2007 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to seat issues.

2008 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to seat belts, airbags, and vehicle speed control issues.

2009 Toyota Highlander recall: Recalled for airbags, speed control, and visibility issues.

2010 Toyota Highlander recall: Recalled due to vehicle speed control, visibility, seats, and airbag issues.

2011 Toyota Highlander recall: Recalled for airbags, seats, and visibility issues.

2012 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to equipment, airbags, and seat issues.

2013 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to seat, equipment, and airbag issues.

2014 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to electrical system, visibility, fuel system, gasoline, and seat belt issues.

2015 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to electrical system, visibility, and steering issues.

2016 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to electrical systems, visibility, service brakes, and hydraulic equipment failure issues.

2017 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to fuel system, gasoline, electrical system, visibility, equipment, and tire issues.

2018 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to fuel system, electrical system, visibility issues, gasoline, service brakes, and hydraulic system issues.

2019 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to fuel system and gasoline issues.

2020 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to the airbag, seat, and fuel system issues.

2022 Toyota Highlander recall: This model year was recalled due to several equipment failures.

Final Thoughts

The Toyota Highlander is a capable mid-range SUV with excellent fuel efficiency.

The number of complaints was extremely high prior to 2010, but thanks to Toyota’s modifications and after-sale services, the number significantly decreased after 2010.

If you are buying a Toyota Highlander, you should avoid the problematic years and pick one from the best-to-buy years.

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