8 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Model Years You Should Avoid

toyota highlander hybrid years to avoid

8 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Model Years You Should Avoid

What are the worst Toyota Highlander Hybrid model years? The Toyota Highlander has generally been a reliable vehicle. Any vehicle will have its teething problems, problem years, and overall bizarre occurrences. In the grand scheme of things, an SUV like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a standout choice for users looking for a larger vehicle.

That isn’t to say it is faultless by any measure, however. Today’s guide will cover eight of the worst model years for the Highlander Hybrid. Thankfully, there are some standout model runs, like the 2020 to 2023 production run. However, you don’t have to worry, we’re going to cover everything you need to avoid in detail.


2006 toyota highlander
The 2006 production run had quite a few teething problems across the board for the Highlander Hybrid.

The first run of any vehicle is going to be a bit rough around the edges. The 2006 Toyota Highland Hybrid is one of the first model years you’ll want to avoid. Brakes were the major sticking point for the initial run of the Highlander Hybrid. Users have registered hundreds of complaints regarding the efficacy of the braking system.

The 2006 model run also saw issues with faulty brake actuators. Now, most of the problems themselves have been ironed out, especially if you have access to the vehicle history. That said, these issues are relatively expensive to fix.

Given the general value of a 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, you’re looking at thousands of dollars in repairs if you happen to get one without these issues fixed. As such, you might want to just dodge this model year entirely and go for something a bit newer.


2007 toyota highlander
While the 2007 model was improved, there was still some work needed to make a reliable vehicle.

2007 saw some fixes across the board. However, those same braking problems are still very present and accounted for when looking at the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Brake failure is a concern, albeit not to the same extent or scope as the previous model year. The overall cost of repair is still quite high as well, with an average cost of around $4000 to fix all issues.

Like the previous model year, I would personally avoid this one. You’re running some severe risks even considering a vehicle with faulty brake systems. Thankfully, except for the next model year, you’re almost out of the woods entirely when it comes to the brake issues. Instead, you’ll start seeing minor issues being the larger factor in swaying any decision-making.

The 2007 Highlander Hybrid can be a reliable vehicle, provided it doesn’t have any issues with the brakes themselves. If you somehow happen to luck into a lower mileage vehicle, it might just be a matter of time before the issue itself manifests.


2008 toyota highlander
2008 models of the Highlander Hybrid are the worst possible model to buy.

The 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is widely regarded as the worst model year in the history of the vehicle. This is still in the first generation of production, but many of the problems seen are present at a much higher scale. Now, for a vehicle that is nearing 20 years of age, that is fairly impressive.

However, if you’re looking for something reliable, that isn’t going to be the 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. There are a slew of issues to make note of with this production run, with the brake actuator failure being a constant issue.

You’ll also find the loss of power steering, faulty ABS control modules, and the vehicle accelerating all on its own. A good service technician could likely handle most of these issues, but that’s too big a risk to undertake in exchange for a cheaper vehicle. If you’re looking for the top model to avoid, this is the one to steer well clear of.

The issues it has aren’t just an annoyance, they could very easily lead to potential injury or fatalities.


2009 toyota highlander
The second generation of Highlander Hybrid vehicles still had massive issues with the braking systems.

2009 marked the second generation of production for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Sadly, the brake problems were still a constant source of woe for owners. These are generally more reliable than the previous three model years, but still not something I’d recommend for a purchase.

The vehicle can still accelerate on its own, in addition to multiple different brake failures depending on the affected module. ABS faults can still be found on the vehicle as well. None of these shortcomings and issues are cheap fixes either, you’re looking at thousands of dollars alone for any issues with the brake system.

We are getting closer to the golden years of production, but the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a definite miss. Thankfully, the early warning systems for the Highlander Hybrid are fairly robust. That does help to keep a closer eye on any potential mechanical issues as they arise.


2010 toyota highlander
2010 didn’t see many improvements to the Highlander Hybrid, at least when compared to its direct predecessor.

You’re going to find a lot of the same complaints and issues that arose with the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid here. Just going by the overall consensus, this is an overall less reliable vehicle than its immediate predecessor.

The major issues you’ll find haven’t changed in the slightest. There are still massive issues with the braking system, rear door sensors, and the propensity to accelerate on its own. Thankfully, you’re just about out of the woods for the second generation of production.

2011 to 2014 are all generally fantastic vehicles, provided you’re getting one that has been well cared for in the intervening years. Going on the average consensus for the second generation of Toyota Highlander Hybrid, this is where the vehicle is starting to hit its stride.


2015 toyota highlander
You’ll find a host of electrical issues with the 2015 Highlander Hybrid.

The 2015 model run of the Toyota Highland Hybrid is around the start of the third generation of production. As you can imagine, issues are abounding for this run. However, these are all fairly minor issues.

Users have complained about the doors not locking, which is a fairly large concern. However, in terms of mechanical fixes, it is a cheaper thing to rectify. Cruise control is also noted to have some issues maintaining speed, which is especially concerning for highway driving purposes.

Finally, and perhaps the most concerning, is the vehicle just powering off while driving. Hybrid vehicles are generally going to be more complex than a combustion engine or their fully electric counterparts. If you get one with a decent bill of health, the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid might certainly be worth a look.


2016 Toyota Highlander
There are still a plethora of electrical issues to keep in mind when looking at the 2016 Highlander Hybrid.

Many of the complaints leveled at the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid are also applicable to the 2016 model run. There isn’t much to say, although it does seem like the level of incidents is greatly reduced when looking at the 2016 model.

This is a bit of a relief, but there are still concerns about the health of the electrical system. Hundreds of drivers have indicated the door lock failure issue, as well as complete power loss when driving the vehicle.

However, if you happen to snag a decent one it should serve as a good daily driver. Just make sure you have a trustworthy mechanic go over the vehicle from tail to snout to make sure everything is in working order.


2017 Toyota highlander
The most noteworthy issue for the 2017 Highlander Hybrid relates to the Bluetooth system on the vehicle.

This is the final model year to avoid, so everything after should essentially be smooth sailing. The 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid doesn’t have any showstoppers like brake failure. There are some issues with the engine that you can find. Some users have reported issues with the car failing to start, or stalling while driving.

The bigger issue you’ll see is problems with Bluetooth audio. While previous models didn’t have the same level of smartphone integration, the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid could readily stream audio from your phone. However, some users have noted some perplexing audio echoes and a loss of audio fidelity when listening to music in the vehicle.

Other issues are more cosmetic than anything, like easily stained upholstery. Some users have complained about the air conditioning smelling moldy after extended use, but that could very well be due to a lack of ventilation for the condensation to escape while in use.

8 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Model Years You Should Avoid Summary

RankYearMajor Issues
12006Brake failure, faulty brake actuators
22007Persistent braking problems
32008Loss of power steering, faulty ABS control modules, the vehicle accelerates on its own
42009Persistent issues with the braking system and the rear door sensors, the vehicle accelerates on its own
52010Persistent issues with braking and rear door sensors, the vehicle accelerates on its own
62015Doors not locking, defective cruise control, vehicle powers off while driving
72016Persistent electrical issues
82017Bluetooth, cosmetic, and possible AC issues

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Highlander Hybrids reliable?

Once you get past the problem years, yes.

Is Toyota a reputable brand?

Yes, they are a reputable brand with a history of producing reliable and affordable vehicles.

Is the Highlander Hybrid a plug-in hybrid?

The models covered in this guide aren’t plug-in hybrids.

Does the Highlander Hybrid support Apple CarPlay?

The most recent production runs do support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Is the Highlander Hybrid a good purchase?

Usually, yes, but if you’re buying second-hand make sure you pay for a solid inspection to go over the vehicle with a fine tooth comb.

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