The Toyota Highlander is one of the most sought-after family crossovers on the road today.
This generation of the popular model was launched in 2013, and featured numerous improvements — inside, outside, and beneath. Striking looks, solid feature content, enough room to satisfy the needs of most families all came included.
Owners say the increased size and on-board room makes this generation Highlander a worthy upgrade from an older unit, and seating for up to 8 was available. Look for V6 power, all-wheel drive (AWD), and no shortage of safety equipment to help keep you and yours safe.
If you’re shopping out a used Highlander, be sure to consider the following before you buy. Note that Highlander was available as a hybrid, but for this article, we’re focusing on non-hybrid models, as they’re more popular.
Many shoppers gravitate toward Toyota because of the brand’s reputation for making reliable vehicles. Just remember that the way the vehicle was cared for and maintained by past owners is arguably a better predictor of reliability than the badge on the hood.
Accordingly, don’t forget that poor maintenance and care practices by former owners can affect the reliability of any car, regardless of the brand. Take steps to ensure the Highlander you’re considering has been properly maintained and cared for, for maximum peace of mind. As a minimum, obtain full service records that show continual, ongoing maintenance through the life of the vehicle.
Note that any remaining warranty coverage in effect does not generally cover damage or wear caused by a failure to maintain the vehicle properly.
Clunk in the trunk
Sure, Highlander technically has a “cargo area” and not a “trunk.” Still, you’ll want to listen for unwanted noises from the rear of the vehicle, particularly in the form of a somewhat-random thud, clunk or pop, on certain surfaces, that manifests somewhat randomly.
If detected, the culprit could be loose spare-tire provisions, an out-of-alignment interior panel (or broken clip), or worn suspension bushings. If you detect any unwanted noises, have a technician assess the vehicle before you buy. Most owners haven’t reported this concern, but it’s worth being aware of.
Sometimes, automakers release software updates that are uploaded by dealer technicians to your vehicle during servicing. These updates re-program certain vehicle systems, and can help make your vehicle work better, use less fuel, prevent dead batteries, improve safety, improve comfort, and more.
Ensuring your new-to-you Highlander is running all of the latest software updates is a great way to prevent possible headaches down the line. Your dealer service advisor has the full scoop.
Some Highlander models use a camera that looks out through the windshield to gather information for use by on-board advanced safety systems. Damage or cracking to the windshield that happens to impede the camera’s view may negatively affect how these safety systems work. Be sure the windshield on the Highlander you’re considering is in good shape, and that no error or warning messages relating to any of its safety systems are illuminated in the instrument cluster.
A small number of owners have reported serious transmission issues that require re-manufacturing or replacement of the Highlander’s transmission. Hard shifting, clunking, slamming, or difficulty selecting the desired gear are all signs of potential trouble and a great reason to have a technician investigate, or to move to another unit. Note that most owners did not experience transmission failure, and that dealers can reference several Technical Service Bulletins (TSB)’s (30510-45081-84, 30510-48601-84, or 30510-45071-84), which provide instructions for testing and replacing the transmission, if necessary. Importantly, this rare occurrence is most typical in-warranty and at very low mileage.
The information presented above is gathered from online owner discussion groups and collaboration with a network of automotive repair professionals. The above information is not a comprehensive list of all possible issues with the vehicle in question and is instead intended to draw shopper attention to possible trouble spots they may wish to investigate before they buy. In most cases, problems listed above are reported with relative rarity in comparison to total sales volume. Shoppers are advised to have a dealer- performed pre-purchase inspection on the vehicle they’re considering for maximum peace of mind.