19 Best & Worst Toyota Highlander Years (With Facts & Stats)

The Toyota Highlander is a handsome mid-size SUV that made its debut for 2001.

It’s practical, comfortable, and come with a generous number of standard features.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at its best and worst years…

2022 Toyota Highlander

Here’s The Short Answer To What The Best And Worst Years For The Toyota Highlander Are:

The best Toyota Highlander model years are 2022, 2021, 2020, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2007, and 2001. The worst model years of the Highlander are 2019, 2015, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2002. This is based on auto industry reviews, NHTSA statistics, reported problems, and consumer feedback.

What Are The Best Years For The Toyota Highlander?

Listed below are the best picks when shopping for a Highlander.

2022 Toyota Highlander

The 2022 Highlander is a value-packed option, incorporating the latest infotainment and driver-assistance tech as standard. It also won the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Award.

For 2022 a Hybrid Bronze Edition model was introduced with Cement or Wind Chill Pearl body colors, a stylish set of 18-inch bronze-colored alloy wheels and a unique interior design.

There were no major changes for this year although XLE trims and above were equipped with height-adjustable power seats for the front passenger.

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.3 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2022 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“We fell in love with this vehicle as it’s so comfortable. It rides very smoothly but yet it’s very powerful. It is extremely roomy inside, it came with the weather tech mats. The technology on this SUV it’s amazing, cameras everywhere for safety so you don’t have an excuse to bump anything. I cannot say enough good things about this SUV.”

2021 Toyota Highlander

The 2021 Highlander is part of the 4th Gen introduced for 2020, offering strong reliability and resale values.

For 2021 a new aggressive-looking, XSE trim made its debut equipped with 20-inch alloy wheels, dark exterior accents, and sportier suspension.

Across the lineup, LED projector headlights are fitted as standard as well as additional driver assistance tech such as semi-automated emergency steering.

  • Edmunds: 3.7 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.3 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2021 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“Bought the 2021 Highlander limited with optional 12.3 inch screen and 2nd row bench seat. I won’t lie, I absolutely love this car though it’s not perfect. I’m getting 23.7 mpg with 95-98% city driving. Much better than I expected. Engine and transmission are extremely quiet and smooth. I sometimes think I’m still driving my Outback with the cvt transmission. The interior is spectacular. I find the seating very comfortable…”

2020 Toyota Highlander

The Highlander was all new and significantly improved for 2020, boasting a fresh design, upgraded features, better interior space and Toyota’s latest safety and infotainment tech.

It comes with a potent 295-hp 3.5-liter V-6, which pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission with a choice of either front or all-wheel drive.

It also scores high marks for its safety, superb comfort and above-average fuel economy.

  • Edmunds: 3.8 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.3 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2020 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“Test drove the 2020 Limited. V-6 engine was responsive and ride was very quiet. Very good standard technology and driving safety packages. Interior had quality materials and good fit and finish. Second row captains chair seats are comfortable with plenty of room behind first row, third row seats useless except for small children which you would want in second row…”

2016 Toyota Highlander

The 2016 Highlander is a top pick for families looking for a three-row crossover, offering a comfortable ride, a refined interior and strong reliability.

No significant upgrades were introduced for 2016, although this model was one of the least problematic models of the third generation.

Minor improvements include a standard towing package for all V6 models.

  • Edmunds: 4.3 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.4 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 83 / 100

2016 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“Pros: Rock solid look, feel and handling. Calm-instilling, smooth, quiet ride. Sensible, simple, intuitive controls. Luxury car look, feel and performance at a below-luxury price and with lower cost regular fuel! Safe, effective all wheel drive and active safety systems. Cons: Smaller than ideal cargo space. Very tight third row — for young children or emergency, short trips only…”

2016 Toyota Highlander

2014 Toyota Highlander

As the first model of the third generation, the 2014 Highlander came fully redesigned both inside and out and was available with a wide range of trim levels and drivetrain options.

Highlights included upgraded interior quality,  optional seating for eight, a height-adjustable power liftgate, and a six-speed automatic transmission for the models that carry the V6 engine.

It also came with lots of new features such as Driver Easy Speak which uses the car’s built-in microphone to amplify the driver’s voice via the rear speakers.

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.4 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 81 / 100

2014 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“I purchased the 2014 Highlander after owning a 2006 model for eight years and 130K miles, with minimal problems. The 2006 was a hybrid, and I miss the better MPG, but without a tax credit I couldn’t justify the additional $12K (2014 hybrids only come in the highest trim levels). I’m 6’3″, and the new model is just enough bigger inside to sleep in comfortably with the second and third rows down…”

2012 & 2011 Toyota Highlander

For those looking for the most reliable versions of the 2nd Gen Highlander, look no further than the 2012 and 2011 models, which are essentially the same.

For 2011 the Highlander received a modest refresh that included a restyled exterior and updated standard features.

This included a 50/50-split-folding third-row seat and rear climate controls for the base and SE trims.

The Sport trim was dropped for 2011.

2012 Highlander:

  • Edmunds: 4.5 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.6 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 84 / 100

2011 Highlander:

  • Edmunds: 4.6 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.6 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2012 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“This is a great car, it gives a nice ride and performance is good also. Need to watch your speed as it goes faster than it feels so I use the cruise control on highways. We climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire and came down the mountain using hill assist and never had to use the brakes for the whole decline of the mountain…”

2011 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“Having traded in our ’04 Camry, this Highlander is our 5th Toyota. The styling for 2011 is much improved over the ’08-’10 version and can actually be called a “looker”. After 2 weeks of owning it, I’ve had two strangers stop me and ask about it. Having a great time with the navigation system and bluetooth phone set up and the entertainment system seems to work well…”

2009 Toyota Highlander

Easy to maneuver for its size and powerful yet fuel efficient, the 2009 Highlander is another great choice.

The 2009 Highlander was awarded the IIHS “Top Safety Pick” title and is ideal for family use.

There were not too many changes for this model year although a new 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine was added to the base two-wheel drive trim.

  • Edmunds: 4.6 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.6 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 85 / 100

2009 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“After having researched extensively and test-driven Honda Pilot, Mitsubishi Outlander, Ford Edge, and the new Equinox, I repeatedly returned to Highlander and bought one a few weeks ago. I cannot express how impressed I am with Highlander! The ride is extraordinarily comfortable, quite and smooth. The interior is extremely roomy, well-designed and functional…”

2007 Toyota Highlander

Neither too big nor too small, the 2007 Highlander is another ultra-reliable option.

For 2007, front-seat side airbags and two-row side curtain airbags were fitted as standard.

It also received revised headlights and a Sport trim joined the lineup.

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.7 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 84 / 100

2007 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“My wife and I were shopping for a small/medium size SUV for our off-work vehicle. We were looking at several other SUVs out there before settling for the Highlander. It was not the best of the bunch but it was the best deal of them all. The RAV4 V6 and Murano definitely had more punch and characteristics. But the Highlander had the best value of the bunch…”

2007 Toyota Highlander

2001 Toyota Highlander

The 2001 Highlander, which is based on the same platform as the Lexus RX300, offered car-like handling and superb reliability.

It comes with a spunky V6 engine and automatic transmission in either front or all-wheel drive.

We wouldn’t suggest opting for a vehicle this old although if you are on a tight budget, this oversized Camry wagon is a suitable choice.

  • Edmunds: 4.7 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.7 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

2001 Highlander, Edmunds review:

“This is a very sharp-looking vehicle and so far has been very maintenance-free. Just don’t forget to change your oil and you’re in business. Excellent visibility when driving. This is just a 4 cycl and I find that has been more than sufficient for me. Great get up and go, no one usually beats me at the red lights. Excellent gas mpg for a vehicle that looks like an SUV…”

Consumer Scores For Best Toyota Highlander Years

Below is a table that presents all the consumer ratings of the best Highlander model years from reputable vehicle websites:

Model YearEdmunds 
Consumer Rating
Kelley Blue Book
Consumer Rating
JD Power
Consumer Rating
2022 Toyota Highlander4.4 / 5.04.3 / 5.082 / 100
2021 Toyota Highlander3.7 / 5.04.3 / 5.082 / 100
2020 Toyota Highlander3.8 / 5.04.3 / 5.085 / 100
2016 Toyota Highlander4.3 / 5.04.4 / 5.083 / 100
2014 Toyota Highlander4.4 / 5.04.4 / 5.081 / 100
2012 Toyota Highlander4.5 / 5.04.6 / 5.084 / 100
2011 Toyota Highlander4.6 / 5.04.6 / 5.082 / 100
2009 Toyota Highlander4.6 / 5.04.6 / 5.085 / 100
2007 Toyota Highlander4.4 / 5.04.7 / 5.084 / 100
2001 Toyota Highlander4.7 / 5.04.7 / 5.0NA

Related: 8 Most Common Toyota Highlander Problems (Explained)

What Are The Worst Years For The Toyota Highlander?

While the Highlander is one of the best-selling SUVs on the market, some model years have been more problematic than others.

2019 Toyota Highlander

The 2019 Highlander has racked up a number of complaints due to power loss and stalling whilst driving which was often due to a failed fuel pump. Toyota was forced to recall the 2019 Highlander twice for fuel pump issues.

Here’s how the owners describe the problem:

“While driving approximately 70mph on an interstate, lost ability to accelerate. Car started to slow down, forcing us to stop. Very fortunate no one was behind us or we would have been rear-ended. Multiple warning lights came on. Upon inspection, was told that the fuel pump failed.”

“When we were approximately 100 miles from home our car stalled abruptly in the middle of an intersection. The car was towed to the nearest dealership which informed us the problem was due to a recalled faulty fuel pump.”

The 2019 Highlander had a total of 29 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 247 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Dashboard defect
  • Stalling, loss of power
  • Voice guidance of navigation system not working
  • Bluetooth connectivity issues 

2015 Toyota Highlander

One of the biggest complaints owners of the 2015 Highlander have is that the seats are extremely uncomfortable.

One owner stated that they were the most uncomfortable seats they have ever experienced.

Another widely reported complaint was that the sunroof shattered for no reason, scaring the life out of the passengers.

Owners describe a loud bang followed by glass exploding above their heads.

The 2015 Highlander had a total of 83 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 194 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Extremely uncomfortable seats
  • Excessive wind noise
  • Sunroof exploded
  • Audio system settings regularly reset

2010 Toyota Highlander

The 2010 Highlander had a large number of complaints for a variety of electrical-related issues.

The most common of which was due to its door-ajar light and chime repeatedly going off which drivers found incredibly annoying and distracting.

A number of owners also had problems with the hydraulic liftgate, which would not open as needed electrically or manually.

Another common complaint from owners was that the driver’s side visor fails to stay up and drops to block the driver’s view.

The 2010 Highlander had a total of 54 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 248 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Lift gate not working properly
  • Door closes unintentionally
  • Chiming sound keeps activating
  • Door locks not functioning
2010 Toyota Highlander

2008 Toyota Highlander

If there’s one model on this list you should avoid, it’s the 2008 Highlander which was the first year of the 2nd Generation. It has amassed more complaints than any other Highlander by some margin.

Most of the complaints were engine-related, and owners experienced a number of issues.

The most reported however was low oil pressure due to oil cooler line failure which could lead to blown and seized engines.

There were also a large number of complaints for malfunctioning brakes due to the failure of the brake actuator assembly.

The 2008 Highlander had a total of 77 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 461 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Engine knocking
  • Rattling noise on engine start-up
  • Engine refuses to start
  • CD player not working properly

2006 Toyota Highlander

The 2006 Highlander received a large number of complaints due to brake failure.

Here’s one owner’s report:

“I was driving the car then as I hit the brakes it felt like they were not engaging until I applied more pressure. Then as I was almost home the abs and traction control lights came on. Took it to a specialist and they said that the abs module would have to be replaced. There are tons of people apparently with my same year and model with the same concern.”

There were also a number of complaints on the NHTSA website regarding the vehicle suddenly accelerating on its own.

The 2006 Highlander had a total of 17 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 319 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Loose engine bolts
  • Engine knocking
  • Transmission failure

2005 Toyota Highlander

The 2005 Highlander had a lot of transmission issues, with owners reporting shift delay and hesitation.

Other owners reported that the vehicle would abruptly accelerate for no reason.

Here’s one account:

“Backing up out of driveway put the car into reverse went from brake pedal to gas pedal taping the gas pedal lightly to inch out of driveway slowly. After one tap on the gas pedal, the car accelerated at a very high rate of speed causing the driver to lose control. Vehicle crashed into chain link fence which in turn crashed into a parked vehicle.”

The 2005 Highlander had a total of 34 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 275 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Shuddering while accelerating
  • Fluid leak
  • Soft brake pedal

2004 Toyota Highlander

The 2004 Highlander shares many of the same problems as the 2005 model. A number of owners reported that their vehicle accelerated rapidly without warning.

There were also complaints about the transmission suffering from rough shifting, hesitation and leaking fluid.

Here’s one owners account:

“Transmission shift hesitation on acceleration at lower speeds. Just enough lag time to scare me a few times that I wouldn’t make it across traffic.”

The 2004 Highlander had a total of 36 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 330 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Stripped engine treads and bolts
  • Stripped engine head bolts
  • Heater control is erratic
  • Transmission shift delay

2003 Toyota Highlander

The most commonly reported problems for the 2003 Highlander are engine related.

Owners reported that the cylinder head bolts separated from the lower engine block causing a major coolant leak.

This was often accompanied by a blown head gasket.

In many instances owners were forced to replace the engine.

The 2003 Highlander had a total of 61 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 309 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Threads for engine bolts stripped
  • Engine failure
  • Subframe rusted
2003 Toyota Highlander

2002 Toyota Highlander

The 2002 Highlander had a number of complaints because of engine overheating and coolant leaks caused by engine bolts stripping. This was a widespread issue.

Here’s how one owner had to resolve the issue:

“We found a mechanic with Toyota experience who had a machinist re-drill the bolt holes and inserted longer bolts. The cost was about $2700. We have had the car back a few weeks now and it seems to run well.”

Also, according to many owners, the sun visor allegedly kept dropping down impairing their vision of the road.

The 2002 Highlander had a total of 38 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 336 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Engine failure
  • Excessive oil usage
  • Leak through the back hatch

Related: 7 Most Common Toyota Highlander Hybrid Problems (Explained)

What Years Have The Most Complaints?

The Highlander has been tagged with hundreds of complaints through the years. It is important to take a look at what the statistics have to say to make a well-informed decision.

Listed below are the number of reported complaints and problems for each model year of the Highlander. 

Model YearComplaints (CarComplaints.com)Problems (CarProblemZoo.com)
2022 Toyota Highlander042
2021 Toyota Highlander6102
2020 Toyota Highlander1682
2019 Toyota Highlander29247
2018 Toyota Highlander23202
2017 Toyota Highlander21220
2016 Toyota Highlander27106
2015 Toyota Highlander83194
2014 Toyota Highlander48133
2013 Toyota Highlander40251
2012 Toyota Highlander49207
2011 Toyota Highlander41213
2010 Toyota Highlander54248
2009 Toyota Highlander19160
2008 Toyota Highlander77461
2007 Toyota Highlander11145
2006 Toyota Highlander17319
2005 Toyota Highlander34275
2004 Toyota Highlander36330
2003 Toyota Highlander61309
2002 Toyota Highlander38336
2001 Toyota Highlander17160

What Problems Do Toyota Highlanders Have?

  • Threads for engine bolts stripped
  • Engine failure
  • Transmission failure
  • Extremely uncomfortable seats
  • Excessive wind noise
  • Audio system settings regularly reset
  • Engine knocking
  • Rattling noise
  • Engine turns over
  • Engine will not start
  • CD player not working properly
  • Subframe rusted
  • Lift gate not working properly
  • Door closes unintentionally
  • Chiming sound keeps activating
  • Door locks not functioning

What Are The Best Alternatives To The Toyota Highlander?

The Highlander ranked 14th overall on the list below, beating the likes of the Nissan Murano and the Ford Explorer. It obtained a grade of 7.9 out of 10.

Make & ModelScoreMSRPFuel Economy (MPG)
Kia Telluride8.6$33,390 – $45,190City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 24 – 26
Ford Palisade8.6$33,600 – $48,990City: 19 / Highway: 27
Honda Passport8.4$37,870 – $45,430City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 24 – 25
Mazda CX-98.4$35,280 – $47,210City: 20 / Highway: 26
Hyundai Santa Fe8.3 $27,200 – $43,110City: 21 – 25 / Highway: 25 – 28
Chevrolet Traverse8.3$33,700 – $53,400City: 17 – 18 / Highway: 25 – 27
Honda Pilot8.3$38,080 – $51,870City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 26 – 27
Jeep Grand Cherokee8.3$39,000 – $61,675City: 14 – 19 /Highway: 22 – 26
Buick Enclave8.1$42,800 – $57,100City: 17 – 18 /Highway: 25 -26
Dodge Durango8.0$36,995 – $68,195City: 13 – 19 /Highway: 19 – 26
Volkswagen Atlas8.0$33,635 – $51,505City: 17 – 21 /Highway: 23 – 25
Subaru Ascent8.0$32,295 – $45,445City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 26 – 27
Kia Sorento8.0$29,590 – $43,190City: 21 – 24 /Highway: 25 – 29
Toyota Highlander7.9$35,405 – $49,510City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 27 – 29 
Nissan Murano7.7$33,310 – $46,560City: 20Highway: 28
Ford Explorer7.7$33,745 – $55,995City: 16 – 27 /Highway: 23 – 28
GMC Acadia7.5$34,800 – $48,600City: 19 – 22 /Highway: 26 – 29
Chevrolet Blazer7.3$33,400 – $44,000City: 19 – 22 /Highway: 26 – 29
Toyota 4Runner7.1$37,605 – $52,420City: 16 / Highway: 19
Ford EdgeNA$36,145 – $44,945City: 19 – 21 /Highway: 25 – 28
Jeep Grand Cherokee LNA$40,325 – $62,300City: 18 – 19 /Highway: 25 – 26
Nissan PathfinderNA$34,640 – $49,040City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 25 – 27

Source: cars.usnews.com, edmunds.com

Related: 14 Best & Worst Toyota Highlander Hybrid Years (With Stats)










  • Ian Sawyer

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