The Two Worst Toyota Highlander Hybrid Years You Should Avoid

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has been one of the best SUVs since introduced in 2006. Yet, what are the years of Toyota Highlander Hybrid to avoid?

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Years To Avoid 1 The Two Worst Toyota Highlander Hybrid Years You Should Avoid

What are the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Years To Avoid?

The worst years for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid are 2006 and 2008. The problems are inverter failure, ABS pump, electrical issues, and steering shafts, costing owners plenty. While the Highlander Hybrid has an excellent reputation for reliability, a potential buyer should skip these two years.

The popularity of hybrid SUVs is growing among American families. According to the Department of Energy, over 5 million have been sold over the last two decades. 

As car companies continue to pursue the growing demand for eco-friendly vehicles, hybrids have been a significant step toward complete electrification. The Highlander Hybrid has led the charge for the American public, and that’s due to its reliability and quality. 

What are the Worst Years for Toyota Highlander Hybrid

As great an SUV as the Highlander Hybrid has been, there are a couple of years you should avoid if you are considering purchasing a used one. 

2006 Highlander Hybrid

The issues on the 06 Hybrid were extensive as hybrids go. We’ve listed them below for you. 

Inverter Failure – The Car Goes into Limp Mode

An inverter is a primary component in Hybrids. It converts the raw electricity from the battery pack into usable AC current and then turns the motor into a generator to recharge the battery. 

Without it, a Hybrid is dead on the side of the road or the driveway because it has no power.

Generally, the Inverter went out after several years of use, and it made Toyota owners upset to find out the warranty didn’t cover the repair. 

Many dealers were charged around $8800 for the fix, which infuriated Toyota owners even more. To make matters worse, the problem is expected in the 2006 – 2010 models. 

Eventually, in late 2013, Toyota recalled the hybrids for what it determined were faulty soldering points on the IPM (Inverter Power Module) that could fail when exposed to heat.

The only problem is that many owners had already replaced their inverters or junked their units for something else. 

ABS Pump Failure – My Brakes Pedal is Hard

The ABS on a modern car is an essential safety item and has been a required component on all motor vehicles since 2012

But if brakes don’t work, what good is a vehicle? It might be one thing to make a hybrid go, but it is another thing altogether to give it the ability to stop. 

The pump failure is not just an issue on the 06. It is also an issue for first-generation models (2006 – 2010). 

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Years To Avoid 1 1 The Two Worst Toyota Highlander Hybrid Years You Should Avoid

Customers complained of brake pedals that wouldn’t budge, warning lights on the dash, and many warning chimes going off. (You can imagine the frustration).

While Toyota extended the warranty for the 2006 and 2007 Hybrids to address the issue of the faulty pump, they failed to include the 08 – 10 models. Many Toyota forums describe dealerships charging thousands of dollars to replace the pump, only to have more components fail after the owners returned to pick up their SUVs from the shop. 

Fuel Tank Issues – My Tank Won’t Take the Right Amount of Gas

Imagine going to the gas station and discovering that even though the company says the tank holds 17.1 gallons, the pump always shuts off at 14. 

That is exactly what was happening to owners of the Highlander Hybrid and the standard Highlander. 

Since it is clear that Toyota used the same fuel tank on both its regular and hybrid models, there were many more owners swearing every time they tried to fill up. 

The issue was discovered to be a venting issue, where the tank is equipped with measures to prevent overfilling. 

While Toyota issued a TSB (technical service bulletin) directing dealerships to replace the fuel tank and sending unit, many owners still needed the repair done in the three-year warranty. 

They ended up shelling out hard-earned money to have the repair done when they discovered that the warranty had expired. 

2008 Highlander Hybrid

While the ‘08 model shares many of the same problems as its older cousin, some issues make this model stand out as one of the worst. There are six recalls issued by NHTSA (National Traffic Highway Safety Administration) for this model year, so any buyer needs to ensure that these have been done before purchasing.

Steering Issues – My Car Makes a Clunking Sound

As you might imagine, the constant clunking of the car every time the steering wheel was turned at low speeds, like pulling out of their driveways. 

The sound was aggravating and unnerving for most hybrid owners and generated complaints. 

Eventually, Toyota determined that the intermediate steering shaft needed replacing. Still, by the time the company issued a TSB on the defect (2013), most owners had driven their SUVs for five years and had opened up their wallets for the $1000 repair. 

Air Bag Sensor – My Side Airbags Didn’t Deploy

Any customer who purchases a car wants to know that their vehicle is safe. Unfortunately, Toyota discovered that the side airbags sensor might not have been calibrated and could fail in a rollover without that adjustment.

The recall was also applicable to 2007 – 08 Rav4 hybrids. 

Once again, Toyota was slow about issuing notices to owners about potential problems. The earliest cards were sent to owners in 2011, which scared owners to death, and made many of them wonder why they had bought the hybrid in the first place. 

Electric Issues – Why are the Electric Components not Working?

Without a doubt, nearly a third of the complaints on the 08 hybrid deal with electronic issues. (Many of the models shared the inverter issue described above).

2008 had more than its fair share of electrical issues combined with the inverter repair cost, and owners rose in mass to complain. 

Some models have faulty ECU (Electronic Control Units), while others have lousy master switches on the windows (contacts had too much grease and shorted). 

While electrical gremlins can be tough to trace down, owners were very frustrated about the lack of urgency many dealerships showed. Toyota offered to test electrical systems free of charge and reprogram or replace the bad ECUs if needed. 

Buyers should know that this electrical issue affects almost all 2nd generation Highlander Hybrids. If you own one of these gems and your SUV has not experienced electrical issues, be prepared because you are driving on borrowed time.

What are the Best Years of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

Intellichoice rates the 2022 Highlander Hybrid as its Best Overall Value Award winner. 

The Hybrid is the fourth generation that Toyota has produced and has many excellent safety features that customers have grown to demand and expect on their vehicles. 

Generally, the 2017 – 2019 Highlander Hybrid is considered the best value for used vehicles. While there have been some reports about a squeaking rear end on the 17 models, most hybrids are hassle-free and easy to maintain. 

The Hybrid should last for an easy 200,000 miles or more if properly maintained. 

Key Takeaways

  • The worst years of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid were 2006 and 2008.
  • The best years are 2017 – 19 and 2022.
  • Most issues concerned steering, ABS pump failure, and inverter problems.

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