What Are The Best Years For The Toyota Highlander? (Answered!)


Wanting to sink your money into a used third-row SUV? The Toyota Highlander seems to be a popular option. 

But you’ve probably found yourself wondering “What are the best years for the Toyota Highlander?” 

Depending on how used you wish to go, you might enjoy the 2013, 2015, or 2020 model year. 

But is one better than all the rest? And just what kind of problems and repair costs should you expect to incur from buying a used Highlander SUV?

What Are The Best Years For The Toyota Highlander?

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is the best model to get. The 2013 models are hard to find right now, and the 2020 Highlander is still close to its original MSRP. Save some money and time by going middle-of-the-road with the highly regarded 2015 Highlander.

The 2015 Highlander was one of the best SUVs released during its model year and was therefore highly sought-after. 

You can find them for under $25,000 in good condition, and owners have been highly satisfied with these reliable vehicles. 

But Highlanders in general do have some issues worth noting, and you should be aware of potential costs down the road. 

Read on to learn more about our top picks for the best Highlander models and what you might be getting yourself into.

What Problems Do Toyota Highlanders Have?

Highlanders are most notorious for having stripped engine bolts. This is especially true for older models like the 2003. 

This can lead to engine failure and is expensive to repair. Ruptured oil lines are also fairly common, spanning from 2005 to 2013 model years. If you don’t catch this in a timely manner, you can land yourself in big trouble. 

This typically happens around 81,000 miles and costs over $4,000 to repair.

Less serious instigators can be a loose hose or air filter. 

Also, the center airbag sensor sometimes malfunctions, causing the airbag light to come on. 

The airbag itself is fine, but the sensor has to be replaced.

Which Model of Highlander is Best?

There are quite a few trim levels to choose from, so picking your model depends on which features you want to have. Most buyers find the Limited to be practical and affordable. 

It typically comes with front- or all-wheel drive, and newer versions can be gas-only or hybrid models. 

The newer models also come with an available 12.3-inch touchscreen. 

Going to the line-topping Platinum might be a little too expensive for some buyers, but staying one trim level under still gives you an abundance of features.

How Many Miles Will Toyota Highlander Last?

Toyota Highlanders can last up to about 300,000 miles (or roughly 20 years). 

Since these are known to be reliable vehicles, hitting 200,000 miles without too many serious issues can be achieved, given you stay on top of regular maintenance and deal with other problems quickly.

Do Toyota Highlanders Have Transmission Problems?

Transmission issues become more likely on any vehicle as it gets older. The Highlander normally does okay, but there are some model years known for their rampant transmission issues. 

In fact, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Florida regarding the 2018 Highlander XL, which experienced hesitation and surging within just a few hundred miles of being driven. 

The owners ended up returning the vehicle to the dealership four times before 10,000 miles only to be told the transmission was functioning normally. 

At just under 12,000 miles, they returned it yet again without any luck. In 2019, they took it to another dealership, where the transaxle was replaced. After that, its performance was even worse.

Similarly, Toyota has said that its 2017 Sienna mini-van experiences a lack of power and hesitation in the lower gears, among other problems.

After two more bulletins, Toyota was forced to have technicians replace the affected transmissions with remanufactured ones. The lawsuit claims the 8-speed automatic versions they were installed into were hazardous to occupants and others on the road.

Are Toyota Highlanders Expensive to Maintain

Highlanders are relatively affordable to maintain for an SUV. 

They average about $5,771 in repairs and maintenance costs during their first ten years of life, which is about $3,000 less than the competition. 

The chance they will require major maintenance in that time is also smaller than their rivals.

Is Toyota Highlander a Reliable Car?

The Toyota Highlander is highly reliable, just like many other Toyota models. On RepairPal, the reliability rating is 4 out of 5, placing it 7th out of all 26 mid-size SUVs. The segment average is 3.5 out of 5. 

It is known for being one of the longest-lasting vehicles on the road and normally lasts well over 200,000 miles. Drivers who treat them right can get them close to 300,000 miles. 

They are known for their safety, too, which makes them all the more attractive to buy.

How Much Does an Oil Change Cost for a Toyota Highlander?

Oil change costs for the Highlander range from about $90 to $125, depending on the model and on where you go to get your oil changed. Some services will charge you less. 

Taking it to the dealership can cost more, but most used car buyers will already know of a place they can take it to for cheaper changes.

Is It Worth Buying a Used Toyota Highlander SUV?

For the most part, a used Toyota Highlander SUV is a smart purchase, especially if you need plenty of cabin and cargo space. 

These vehicles are known for their reliability, and only a few model years are genuinely problematic. 

You might have some trouble coming across particular model years (like the 2013, which has been continuously in demand) on the used SUV market, but you might get lucky and find one in good shape for a reasonable price. 

The slightly used Highlanders are also worth considering, as we will discuss below.

What is the Best Year for a Used Toyota Highlander?

Let’s end on a ‘High-lander’ note. The 2015 Toyota Highlander is probably one of the best used SUVs you can sink your money into. 

Depending on mileage and condition, its price can range from $18,900 to $25,325. 

This model year is renowned for its reliability, and a lot of safety features were made optional that year, especially the driver aids (like forward-collision mitigation and automatic emergency braking).

NHTSA rated this vehicle with a full five stars for safety. 

Only the four-wheel-drive variant’s overall frontal-crash and roll-over tests received 4 out of 5 stars. Everything else was passed with flying colors.

There are two recalls issued on the 2015 Highlander. 

One is a sudden loss of steering from the steering wheel, and the other is engine stalling as a result of electrical system damage. 

Other than that, the 2015 model year has presented relatively few problems and not a whole lot of consumer complaints.

Closing Thoughts

The Toyota Highlander is a vehicle that you can enjoy taking on long road trips (seriously, you can even sleep in one) or using as a reliable daily driver. If you can, snag a 2015 model or one close to that year. They hold onto a lot of their value without coming off as being outdated. You can save yourself some money and get something you know will do more than just get you from Point A to Point B. It will get you there safely and with a good degree of comfort packed in.

John Nelson

You can find John stringing a hammock from the back of his SUV to a tree camping in the outdoors most weekends during warmer weather. John loves the outdoors and the freedom four-wheel-drive vehicles offer.

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