What are The Best Years for The Toyota Highlander (A Buyers Guide)


Toyota has made some great cars in the past and continues to strive to improve each model they release on an annual basis. Toyota Highlanders are popular models that have sold well since their first release. There are small changes every year though, so some years are better than others. But what are the best years for the Toyota Highlander?

Most research from customer reviews to performance tests have shown that the best years for Toyota Highlanders were 2017 and 2018. Within these two years, there have been great reviews with overall satisfaction on both model’s perks and features.

By sticking to facts and customer reviews, we’ll be going over why these two models of Toyota Highlanders were so great, and if you should look into buying a new or used Toyota Highlander for yourself.

Best Years of the Toyota Highlander

Toyota had some tough years while they figured out how to make the best Highlander, so when 2006 arrived, the company had resolved many of the customer’s problems and were ready to release a new model in their lineup.

This practice increased their overall reliability scores to 5/5 and that streak lasted until the end of 2018. When 2019 hit, Toyota then experienced issues with their electronic settings in their cars that resulted from fuel pumps suddenly causing lower speeds. Thankfully, a recall soon followed. Despite the problems that arose, the Toyota Highlander has continued to prove itself to be reliable and is known to be one of the best SUVs.

It’s no secret that 2017-2018 have been great years for Toyota’s Highlander as complaints have been low and their score of reliability sits at a 5 out of 5. According to Consumer Reports, with the rating out of 5, the acceleration and brakes received a 4, the transmission had 5, leaving the fuel economy with a 2.

With the models being as old as they are, they do have some deals that will work well for buyers with common budgets. An example of this is when buying a Highlander that is 2 years older than the recent model, you end up saving $17,000 instead of buying it new. This also helps when saving money as the used car more likely will have 83% life still, making the best years 2017-18 an amazing purchase even today. Source

It also gives a great boost in buyer confidence when well-renowned car review companies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) give their high praise. The NHTSA gave five stars for safety as the IIHS pronounced the Toyota Highlander the top of their safety pick. Source

The 2017 model has excellent cargo space and can seat up to 8 people with standard safety features ready to act when needed. The fuel economy stands well above the average with rates being 19-21 mpg in the city and 24-27 mpg on highways. While still retaining a stylish look, the motor controls provide smooth transmissions with a new engine design. Drivers can feel the rush of power when they experience the 185-295 horsepower. The midsize SUV even comes with advanced driver assisting features where a rearview camera, collision warnings, braking, and pedestrian detection is found. Source

When the 2018 Toyota Highlander model came out, it received high scores based on its upgraded and comfortable interior settings for long trips with rivaling safety features. The cargo space was also a benefit. Much like 2017, 2018’s model has the V6 engine which is considered better than a four-cylinder when storing cargo and transferring people. It also includes both FWD and AWD drivetrains being backed up with 185-295 horsepower. Source

Toyota Highlanders: Should You Get New or Used?

The Pros & Cons of Used 2017 Toyota Highlanders

PROSSeveral standard driving assisting featuresVery nice interior design while providing comfortThe reliability rate is above-averageStill holds up well after years of use with plenty of life left to use.
CONSHaving a weak 4 cylinder engineNot good with handling The infotainment system has a bit of a learning curve. Doesn’t have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration features

The Pros & Cons of 2018 Used Toyota Highlanders

PROSActive safety features that keep to the standards The fuel economy stands at above average with the city being 19-21 and highway being 24-27. Seats up to 7-8 people while being a quiet yet comfortable drive.
CONSNot the best with performance and handling Has cramped spacing in the third row seating.

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When looking at buying a new 2017 Toyota Highlander model, you’ll find prices ranging from $28,500-$37,300 making the average price around $35,200. Though all of this is applied with the car’s mileage, location, trip, features, and buyer’s location. Buying a new 2018 model can save money though it does depend on your budget. The price ranges from $30,700-$40,600. Once again, this range depends on the previously mentioned conditions.

Owning a 2017 Toyota Highlander for five years can usually cost $25,300 once you factor in the cost of gas, insurance, maintenance, and repairs. If you plan on owning a 2018 Toyota Highlander, when considering 5 years worth of use, you should expect to pay an average of $25,100 or $5,000 depending on the model. Source

If All Else Fails: Backup Models to Buy

However, budgets may have to be tighter even when considering between the 2017 and 2018 Highlander. The 2018 Kia Sorento from Toyota’s Highlanders sits at $25,900 is about an SUV’s midsize with 3-rows of seating, has another great reliability rating, and gas mileage, with spacious comfortable riding experiences as well. Another good model choice is the 2018 Honda Pilot at $30,895 with the same features plus a spacious cargo area and passenger seating. Either way, so long as you take care of it, these models will last you for a long time. Source

So let’s consider buyers with the absolute tightest budget who still want the benefits of the Toyota Highlander. In this situation, the 2007 version isn’t too bad and the only main complaints were A/C problems and interior accessories having issues. Consumer Reports did give the same reliability score of 5 and depending on the model’s condition/mileage, you can find a good deal between $5,600-$7,400. Source

Toyota Highlander Models to Avoid

Just as other cars have their bad apples, the Highlander does as well with model years 2001-05. Overall though, the 2003 model was the worst because of its rifle and engine problems. There were also issues with the interior accessories, cooling system as well as brakes.

The main problems with the 2001-02 and 2004-05 models were the engine and brake problems which caused them to be dangerous vehicles on the road. Complaints stemming from CarComplaints.com also stated that there was excessive usage with oil so any used Toyota Highlander needs a visit to the auto shop when buying used and older models. Source

Other Generations of Highlander Models

The second-generation models (2008-13) seemed to do well as 2008 was larger than its predecessor with the same powerful features as 2011. These features included things like the 3.5-liter V6 engine, telescopic steering wheel, and the glass window that could flip up into its rear liftgate. When models 2008-10 were recalled, they got a new accelerator pedal after previous car acceleration problems. In 2010 a sporty look was added while adding an SE trim. Yet issues kept arising like CD changer failings, Bluetooth pairing malfunctions, and when starting the car there would be strange vibrations.

When the AWD hybrid model came out not only were there clunking and popping sounds coming from the car’s wheel but repairs went up to $500-$900 on maintenance.

During the release of the third generation models (2014-19) the Highlander 2014 model grew to be bigger with a nicer outward appearance. When driven, the car was able to make long swishing lines at the front, and passenger seating sat at eight. Driving assisting was advanced with blind-spot monitors, emergency braking at the front, and high beans were placed on the Limited Platinum trims. The 2017 model had the same features induced as they became a standard requirement only aiming at surface style as the main change.

The inclusion of the 8-speed auto transmission for V6 engines for 2017 was welcomed as well as the revised fuel-injection system. Once the Highlander LE was produced the features of the 18-in alloy wheels, better Bluetooth connections, heated steering wheel, and seating, along with lift-gate windows and Blu-ray DVD players helped make traveling much more comfortable for families.

Lastly, the 4th generation of 2020-today became even more family-oriented with the spacious yet comfy interior design. However, there are reports that the third row did create some cramped seating. Finally, the 4-cylinder engine was dropped and was replaced with a 295 horsepower V6 engine with reaching 21mph in cities and 29mph on highways. This was also around the time the Highlander Hybrid came into manufacturing with the achievement of 36mph in cities and 35mph on the highway.

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Toyota Highlander Reviews: 2017 & 2018

For the Toyota Highlander in 2017, according to edmunds.com, there have been 137 reviews with an overall 4.1 out of 5 stars. Topics that were positive mainly focused on how the handling/steering of the car was great and the manufacturing quality held up very well. Safety was also good as well as the overall driving experience. Some cons that were found were mainly about the interior not meeting expectations, the cost of maintenance/parts, doors having issues as well as the transmission, and other technical problems. Source

Toyota Highlander model 2018 also received a review of 4.1 out of 5 stars on the same site while only having 123 reviews. The main pros that were mentioned were the overall appearance of the car, the quality of the driving experience, and the reliable braking system. Problems with the model included the interior comfort and seating not being the best, maintenance issues, and transmission problems. Source

2017 Five Star Ratings: Relaxing Trips, Model’s Value & Overall Satisfaction

During its first release in 2017, a customer did an early review stating how they bought the car for $35k instead of the sticker price of $40,850. Plenty of space was available along with an elegant appeal and driving on the highway was a pleasant drive in economy mode. Mileage was proceeded better than expected as two years of driving a family of four only resulted in 18,000 miles. It was even impressive when highway trips went over 30mph for a 300hp AWD SUV.

Another customer commented how the Stop-Start system worked out very well. The car was still roomy and after updating after a year, the car was still functioning well with only 10k miles on board. Weather conditions such as ice and snow were handled like a champ as the 4wd button was used numerously and the hauling of mountain bikes, camping equipment, dogs, and hiking gear had excellent storage space. Source

One customer has continued to keep their 2017 model as they found it to be more enjoyable than their ’69 El Camino. Long drives cross country were lovely as the suspension proved to be nicely handled. Children in the car could have less fussing by the 5 USB chargers to keep them occupied on electronics. Being an avid driver in the Florida traffic area the engine had enough “peppiness” to get them where they needed to go. Source

2018 Five Star Ratings: Silky Travels, Fantastic Interior Features, & Permanent Choices

There was a customer who returned to Toyota’s Highlanders after having troubling experiences with the 08′ Highlander Sport model. Their mind was changed as they found the newer model retained features that were found in the ’08 by driving on interstates and highways by having great gas mileage for 65-70 hours with speed feeling like 35mph when in actuality driving at 55mph. The interior was also complimented for its great design with no buttons and the addition of touch screen features.

A different customer exclaimed in their review how much they adored the change, claiming how this car was now the only car they’d need. Everything was awesome for them from the moonroof to the dependable features. The only con they had was the automatic stop and start feature though it was something to get used to. Though the choice was originally difficult the customer exclaimed how happy they became not only owning the 2018 model but being back with Toyota. Wow! Source

Lastly, a customer talked about how worried they were when trying to decide on the best price range. The two car models they had trouble deciding on were the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. The tie-breaker between these two top-of-the-line models was the safety features and the luxurious and relieving ride. This customer loved their 2012 Pilot so it really says something when a Toyota Highlander was seen as the more feature-laden car model. Source

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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