Guide to Buying a Used Toyota Highlander [2008-2019]
Introduced in Canada as a 2001 model, the Toyota Highlander was the brand’s first mid-size crossover, conceived as a less-rugged alternative to the off-road-ready 4Runner SUV.
Toyota redesigned the Highlander into a second generation in 2008, making it more spacious and better suited to compete in what was becoming a prime vehicle category for family drivers.
Used Toyota Highlander trim levels and powertrains
In 2008, Toyota offered the Highlander in base, SR5, Sport, and Limited trim levels. All came standard with a 3.5L V6 engine and six-speed transmission, while the base and Limited models could be optioned with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Highlander gained a 2.7L four-cylinder engine for base models in 2009.
2014 Highlander marked the 3rd-generation, 2017 gained more powerful engine
2014 Highlander | Photo: Toyota
Toyota restyled the Highlander into a third generation in 2014 that is mechanically similar to the 2013 model, save for the elimination of the four-cylinder engine. In 2017, the Highlander got a more powerful version of Toyota’s 3.5L V6 engine and, for non-hybrid models, a new eight-speed transmission. Second-gen Highlanders started out in LE trim and topped out in Limited form.
In most model years, entry-level Highlander models were front-wheel drive, with AWD included in higher-end trim levels.
Toyota sold the third-generation Highlander through the 2019 model year, and an all-new fourth-gen design arrived in 2020.
Used Toyota Highlander pricing & reliability
As of early March 2022, Carfax Canada’s value estimate for a used 2008 Toyota Highlander starts at just under $11,000, while a 2014 Highlander LE is valued at about $20,400. If you’re shopping for a late-model Highlander, expect to pay upwards of $43,000 for a top-end 2019 version.
Like many Toyota models, the Highlander holds its value well, so while you’ll pay more to buy a used one, you will also be able to sell it for more the next time you trade up.
2010 Highlander Lineup | Photo: Toyota
Problems and issues to look out for
- Early Highlanders (2008 and 2009) with the V6 engine are among a number of Toyota models of the time that are known for a weak oil line that can develop a leak or suddenly rupture. Either way, if the engine oil is allowed to run dry, the engine can be wrecked.
- Noisy electric windows can be blamed on broken tabs meant to support the glass. Those same tabs can render the windows inoperative, as can a set of bolts that hold the glass in place on those tabs.
- A ticking noise from the Highlander's V6 engine could be related to this service bulletin regarding faulty components in the engine's variable valve timing mechanism. The same flaw could also be responsible for another engine start-up sound, as discussed here.
- An oil leak from the union between the driveshaft and the transfer case is caused by a bad seal around the driveshaft “yoke.” Replacement parts have been redesigned to correct the leak.
- A clunk or pop from the steering as the wheel is turned is caused by a bad intermediate steering shaft, similar to that described in this service bulletin for the previous-generation Highlander.
- ToyotaNation.com offers this collection of service bulletins related to the Highlander.
- If you’re test-driving a 2017 or 2018 Highlander with the gas engine and eight-speed transmission, pay attention to the transmission’s performance. Toyota had to reprogram and/or replace some transmissions to address performance issues.
- During your test drive, listen for vibrations or buzzing sounds and wind noise. Both have generated complaints among owners of third-generation Highlander models.
- If you’re shopping for a Highlander with the optional power tailgate, make sure the door responds to the controls on the dash and key fob. Then, using the fob, operate the door while standing near the back of the car to make sure it opens and closes smoothly and with no unpleasant noises.
2012 Highlander Hybrid | Photo: Toyota
2008 to 2019 Toyota Highlander recalls
The 2008-2010 Highlander was part of Toyota Canada’s recall of more than 430,000 vehicles to fix accelerator pedals that could get stuck under a floor mat and cause unintended acceleration.
The same 2008-2010 models were also recalled for steering wheel assemblies with damaged electrical components that could prevent the driver’s airbag from deploying in a crash.
Highlander models sold from 2008 through 2011 were part of a recall for power window switches that could overheat and catch fire.
Toyota recalled some 2017, 2018 and 2019 Highlanders to replace failure-prone fuel pumps.
Take a look at our current inventory of used Toyota SUV and crossovers here.