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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated Feb. 17, 2024

Older Second Generation Toyota Highlander Overview (2008 - 2013), Reliability, Possible Maintenance Problems, Overall Pros And Cons

Related: How To Get The Lowest Price On A "Brand New" Toyota Highlander

In today's extremely high and overpriced used car market, many shoppers are now looking for "older" models that have aged well as a way to save significant dollars.

2011 Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander would certainly qualify as one of those models, making them a viable and more economical option at this time. It all comes down to reliability as the crucial issue.

Of course, Toyota is known for producing vehicles with excellent longevity, and the Highlander is no exception. In fact, with proper care and maintenance, it's not uncommon for a Highlander to last well over 200,000 miles, and even well beyond for some. But the key is identifying those that have gotten the "proper care".

I'm specifically referring to the 2nd generation Highlanders, those produced from 2008 - 2013. That's where the largest savings are for well-cared for vehicles that could potentially have a lot life left.

Still, known for reliability or not, all car models have some reported mechanical issues. That's just a natural part of car ownership.

So here, ...

- We'll do an overview of this earlier Toyota Highlander generation.

- Then we'll list possible mechanical issues that have been reported by some owners so they can be checked before buying one today.

- And then we'll summarize the overall pros and cons of an older Highlander worth consideration for potential buyers today.

But first, and most importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Highlander

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to travel a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

And My #1 Price Tip: Please, always get online price quotes at auto sites such as and (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business does amazing things to prices, and it's so easy. It really does make a difference.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.

2008 - 2013 Toyota Highlander (Second Generation)

With it's car-like unibody design, these Highlanders provide better handling, a quieter drive, and improved crashworthiness over Toyota's earlier SUV models. It's actually a bit like a large Camry, but with a more elegant interior and additional cargo-carrying abilities.

This version is larger than its predecessor, adding additional cargo space and passenger room, and is available in three trims: base, Sport, and Limited.

Even the base Highlander is well-equipped including standard features such as full power accessories, air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, a fold-flat third-row seat, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack.

The Highlander Sport adds 19-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension along with other more upscale features such as a 3.5-inch information display screen, a back-up camera and an in-dash CD changer (with MP3/WMA capability).

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The top-of-the-line Highlander Limited comes with a softer suspension and additional upscale features such as leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver seat, power-folding/heated outside mirrors, an auto-dimming inside mirror and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Highlander models of this generation can be found with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Under the hood is a very efficient 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated with a 5-speed automatic transmission.

And for the 2009 model year, a four-cylinder Highlander was reintroduced, with a 2.7-liter engine good for 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and coupled with 6-speed automatic transmission.

Front-wheel-drive models have an EPA gas mileage rating of 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, while AWD models come in at 17 city and 23 highway. Gas mileage for the four-cylinder Highlander is 20 mpg city and 27 highway.

There's also an available Highlander Hybrid which is powered by a 208 horsepower 3.3-liter V6 engine with three electric motors. Two of the electric motors are used for propulsion, although they also function as generators when braking. The third motor starts the gas engine and recharges the nickel-metal hydride battery pack.

Combined, the total output is the same 270 horsepower as the regular V6. All-wheel drive is standard on the hybrid, as is a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The EPA-estimated gas mileage for the hybrid is 27 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Although these numbers may not look particularly impressive when compared to a more typical hybrid like the Prius, they were quite impressive when compared to other seven-passenger SUVs.

2008 - 2013 Toyota Highlander Possible Mechanical Problems

2008 Toyota Highlander Limited

While the Highlander is generally known for its reliability, like any vehicle, it may experience some common mechanical issues over time. Some of the more common problems reported by some owners, which should therefore be included in an inspection before buying, include:

Transmission Issues: Some owners have reported problems with the automatic transmission, such as rough shifting, slipping, or failure to engage properly.

Water Pump Failure: Water pump failures have been reported by some owners, resulting in coolant leaks. This issue typically requires replacement of the water pump to resolve.

Power Steering Fluid Leak: Power steering fluid leaks may occur due to a faulty power steering pump or hoses.

Excessive Oil Consumption: Some Highlander owners have reported issues with excessive oil consumption, which may be attributed to faulty piston rings or other engine components.

HVAC System Problems: Problems with the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, such as malfunctioning blower motors or temperature control issues, have been reported by some owners.

Suspension and Steering Components: Premature wear or failure of suspension and steering components, such as ball joints, tie rod ends, or struts, may occur, leading to handling or alignment issues.

Brake System Concerns: Some owners have reported issues with premature brake wear or brake rotor warping, requiring brake pad and rotor replacement sooner than expected.

It's important to note that not all Highlanders experienced these issues, and proper maintenance and timely repairs may have helped mitigate potential problems.

Overall Pros And Cons Of An Older Toyota Highlander

Older Toyota Highlander Pros

Affordability: With the current high prices of new and used vehicles, purchasing an older Highlander can offer significant savings. The lower upfront cost can make it a more financially feasible option for many buyers.

Reliability: Toyota has a reputation for building reliable vehicles, and the Highlander is no exception. With proper care, it typically has low maintenance costs and a long lifespan.

Resale Value: Despite being older, well-maintained Highlanders tend to hold their value relatively well compared to other vehicles in the same class. This can be advantageous for buyers who plan to sell or trade-in the vehicle in the future.

Versatility: The Highlander offers a spacious interior with seating for up to seven passengers and ample cargo space, making it suitable for families, road trips, and daily commuting alike.

Comfortable Ride: The Highlander offers a smooth and comfortable ride, making it suitable for long trips and daily commutes alike.

Proven Safety: Many of these Highlander models are equipped with advanced safety features, such as antilock brakes, stability control, and multiple airbags, making it a safe choice for families.

Fuel Efficiency: Compared to some of its competitors in the midsize SUV segment, the Highlander offers respectable fuel efficiency, especially with its hybrid models.

Older Toyota Highlander Cons

Higher Mileage: Older Highlanders are likely to have higher mileage, which could mean more wear and tear on components and potentially more frequent repairs or maintenance. This could lead to increased costs that offset some or all of the upfront savings.

Outdated Technology: Older Highlanders may lack the latest technology features found in newer vehicles, such as advanced driver assistance systems, updated infotainment systems, or connectivity options like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Fuel Efficiency: Older Highlanders may not be as fuel-efficient as newer models due to advancements in engine technology and efficiency standards.

Limited Cargo Space with Third Row: While the Highlander has a spacious interior overall, the cargo space behind the third-row seats is relatively limited. If you regularly need to carry a lot of cargo with all seats in use, this could be a drawback.

Average Handling: While comfortable, the Highlander's handling is not particularly sporty or engaging. Some drivers may find it less responsive than other vehicles in its class.

Price: The Highlander tends to be priced slightly higher than some of its competitors in the midsize SUV segment. While you get Toyota's reputation for reliability, you may pay a premium for it.

Styling: This is subjective, but some drivers find the Highlander's exterior styling to be bland or uninspired compared to other SUVs in its class.

Lastly, Suggestions For Getting A Low Highlander Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" Highlander if the price was really good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Car. This works just phenomenally well.

More Car Buying Tips:

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Learn To Get The Best Trade-In Value

All About Wholesale And Trade-in Values

Best Used Cars For Reliability

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