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There’s a lot to like about the Toyota Highlander. It’s large, capable, and plenty safe. For many used SUV shoppers, that makes a used Toyota Highlander the best fit for their needs. Before finalizing your purchase, however, there are some things you should know first.

2019 Toyota Highlander close up
2019 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

Which generation of the Toyota Highlander should you buy?

The Toyota Highlander first hit dealerships in 2001. It arrived on the scene sharing the same platform as the Lexus RX and was available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3-liter V6. According to Autolist, in 2007, Toyota replaced the 3.0-liter V6 with a 3.3-liter engine. In 2006, Toyota also introduced the Highlander in its hybrid form, making it the first seven-seat hybrid vehicle.

The Highlander underwent a thorough redesign in 2008. All models came standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission. Autolist reports that this particular generation of Highlander models added nearly 15 cubic feet of additional interior space than previous model years too.

The third-generation model arrived in 2014 and bid farewell to the Highlander’s boxy shape, opting for swooping curves instead. Autolist reports that third-generation models added 4.3 additional inches of interior space. A slew of new safety features were added too, including a blind-spot monitoring system as well as lane-departure warnings and a pre-collision warning system.

Last year saw the introduction of the fourth-generation Toyota Highlander. It’s based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) unibody platform and includes Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) 2.0. It’s also standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, Waze, and Amazon Alexa Compatibility.

Is a used Toyota Highlander a safe SUV to drive?

In its most recent form, the Toyota Highlander earned a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It was also named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That’s not the first time the Highlander has earned such high marks either. Over the years, the IIHS has tapped the Highlander as both a Top Safety Pick and a Top Safety Pick+. It’s also earned itself that five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA multiple times. 

The most common owner complaints

Of course, there are some things to keep in mind when buying a used Toyota Highlander. reports that the most common complaints include engine problems and excessive oil usage. These problems are most prevalent among the 2002 and 2003 models. However, you should have any used Toyota Highlander looked at by a mechanic before finalizing your purchase.

Overall, though, recommends steering clear of the 2003 Toyota Highlander. reports that 2003 models were rife with engine issues. While engine problems were the most common, Highlander owners also took issue with the SUV’s interior accessories, cooling system, and brakes.

Should you buy a certified pre-owned Highlander?

Buying a used Toyota Highlander isn’t the only way to get behind the wheel of this SUV. For many savvy shoppers, buying a certified pre-owned model is where it’s at. Toyota requires all of its certified pre-owned models to undergo a rigorous multi-point inspection before earning the certified badging. A 12-month/12,000-mile limited comprehensive warranty also covers all certified pre-owned models. Each comes with one year of roadside assistance coverage too.


The 2015 Toyota Highlander Is a Great 3-Row SUV for Under $20,000

The best way to find out if this is the right used SUV for you

Still not sure if you should buy a used Toyota Highlander? Then we suggest doing some digging. Determine which model year is best for you, then hit up your local dealerships and car sellers for a test drive.