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The Best and Worst Years for a Used Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is one of the most popular cars in the United States. The car was among the first pioneers of hybrid vehicles to hit the market. Its popularity can also be attributed to the fact that its environmentally friendly features appeal to a big population in the market, especially now with many discussions about climate change and restoring our environment.

Toyota Prius cars were rated among the cleanest cars in the U.S in terms of smog-forming emissions by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board in 2007.

The Prius’s fuel efficiency is also a great selling point as its low cost of purchasing, together with the low fuel costs, make it a great low-cost investment. Although the car model is available in over 90 markets, the United States and Japan are its biggest markets. Toyota Prius has been nicknamed the "Uber car" in the U.S. Since Toyota put it in the market over two decades ago, the Prius has had its ups and downs, but ultimately, it is seen as one of the most innovative cars in the world.

Although it is among the best-selling and most reliable cars in the U.S., many complaints about the car have been registered. Naturally, some specific year models are better than others, so it is best to know which years to consider and which to avoid if you are looking to buy a Toyota Prius.

The best years for a used Toyota Prius

Although most Toyota Prius models are considered reliable, some specific year models have proved more reliable than others. Some of the best models to own are;


This first-generation Prius was the first hybrid car to hit the market. Its hybrid system and amazing fuel efficiency are some of the best things about the 2000 model. No complaints were made to Car Complaints about this model, which is one of the many reasons it tops the list for the most reliable Prius. Even though the 2000 Prius is not aesthetically pleasing, it is one of the most reliable cars in the world.

Manufacturing a car with little to no complaints is no small feat, as most pioneer cars are riddled with issues that manufacturers fix in later models. Most 2000 Prius models can go up to 200,000 and 300,000 miles without experiencing many problems.


The 2001 Toyota Prius enjoys the glory of its near-perfect predecessor. This model confirms that much work, careful evaluations, and tests went into Toyota's creation of the first-generation Prius cars.

Toyota made the cars with a huge emphasis on fuel consumption, space, electric engine capabilities, and ease of use and maintenance. The 2001 model meets all those standards and only nine complaints were made about the car's fuel consumption.


The 2002 Prius was another model that showed that Toyota had taken its time to create the first generation of Prius cars. There is hardly anything for anyone to complain about in these models except for the three complaints about the car’s headlights. The 2002 model got an interior design upgrade specifically on its dashboard.

Customer reviews were among the best, as owners raised the car on almost all fronts, including its reliability, performance, fuel consumption, value for money, and interior design. Despite the raving reviews, one car got recalled for its bad engine cooling systems, but that was just one car out of thousands sold worldwide


The first generation Prius models ended on a high note with the 2003 model. Toyota made several upgrades to the car, including the introduction of foldable seats, which gave owners more trunk capacity. The 2003 model also came with a firmer steering wheel to help drivers have better control over the cars.

Like its predecessors, the 2003 Prius got little to no complaints, as owners enjoyed the model's improved fuel economy. Toyota made numerous improvements to the model to make it more fuel efficient and eco-friendly.


The 2004 model started the second generation of the Prius models. Unlike the rest of the second-generation models, Toyota created the 2004 Prius to mirror the first-generation models. It did not come with many of the problems experienced by other second-generation Prius owners.

It was also the first Prius to be released in the hatchback style we have all come to associate with the cars. The 2004 Toyota Prius is one of the cleanest cars on American roads, with the EPA rating it as one of the most efficient five-passenger cars in the U.S.


The relatively new 2019 Prius model has presented itself as one of the more reliable models of the car. Very few people complained about the car, with a few complaints about minor issues like rodents eating coated electrical wires.

The 2019 Prius also came with the All wheel drive option, the first for Prius models. Despite the AWD upgrade, the 2019 model had excellent fuel consumption rates. According to Cnet, the car’s fuel consumption in the city was 52 mpg, 48 mpg on the highway and 50 mpg combined.


The 2020 hybrid Prius, part of the fourth-generation hybrid cars, is also a reliable model. The model recorded very few complaints made about it, and even those made were for minor issues.

The 2020 Prius continued in the legacy of the hybrid vehicles fuel saving capabilities, and drivers were not disappointed. The model's fuel mileage for the city is 58 mpg and 53 mpg for the highway. The car also upgraded its safety standard features which greatly improved its safety. Us News: Cars rates its safety at 9.2 with an overall car score of 7.7 out of 10.

The Worst years for a Used Toyota Prius

While Toyota puts out many reliable and cost-effective Prius cars, some models are not as reliable and are known to give their owners unnecessary headaches. According to Car Complaints, some of the most problematic Prius models are the 2005 through 2012 models, with 2010 getting the most complaints.

2010 and 2011

Even though the 2010 Prius got the most complaints, the Car Complaints website ranks the 2011 model as the worst model due to complaints about the vehicle experiencing problems at a lower mileage and its higher repair cost. Most owners who filed complaints about the 2011 Prius cited engine problems.

The model has a problem with its fuel consumption rate, which is higher than all other Prius models, as well as higher costs for repair. Prius owners complained about these problems to Toyota, which acknowledged that the biggest problem with the model was its engine, which was consuming oil incredibly fast.

The 2011 model also has many lighting issues besides the engine issues. Many complaints against the model also included the lighting problems starting at relatively low mileage. Although it's not an expensive problem to fix, it can be quite dangerous when it starts to happen. The 2010 model has excessive fuel consumption complaints, but its biggest problem is the model's braking system issues.

The NHTSA received almost 2000 complaints of issues related to the 2010 model braking system, which is a very dangerous problem to have. People also complained that the 2010 model's paint tended to peel, which usually left owners with a bill of about $2500.

3RD Generation Toyota Prius (2005 – 2009 models)

The third-generation Toyota Prius models have become some of the worst and most unreliable models of the Prius production line. This was the complete opposite of the previous models, which are among the most reliable models to date. Owners of the 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 Prius models experienced many problems with their cars that negatively affected their driving experience and put their lives in harm's way.

Some of the common problems that drivers experience for the 3rd generation Prius models include excessive fuel consumption, engine issues that are expensive to fix, lighting problems that keep recurring, and problems with the braking system.

A common problem across the models was complaints of rodents eating coated electrical wiring and the headlights breaking out for no reason. According to the NHTSA, the 2007 model leads the models with the most complaint, with 1977 of them lodged on the website, the 2008 model is not far behind, with 1453 complaints.

Problems Buyers Should Look for in a Prius

Nasty-smelling and stuffy air conditioners

There are many complaints by Prius owners about the air conditioning system of the problem models having a nasty smell, which can result from the car drain pipes being blocked off in the evaporator, trapping water there for a long time.

Issues with the braking system

Many owners complained that at around 100,000 miles, their cars started developing issues with their braking systems, with their brakes refusing for no reason.

Issues with the electrical wiring

To make the cars more eco-friendly, Toyota decided to replace the plastic and glass wiring in the Toyota Prius models with the more environmentally friendly soy coating, but this came with some unforeseen issues. The soy coating attracts rodents that eat away at the wiring and cause issues that Toyota does not cover in its warranty.

Excessive fuel consumption

One of the major issues with vehicles in these years is the excessive fuel consumption that drivers have experienced. This flaw is attributed to a problem with the models’ pistol rings.

How to properly care for your Toyota Prius

If properly maintained and cared for, your Prius will easily surpass the 200,000 miles mark with little to no problems. Owners might get 300,000 miles out of their cars if religiously maintained. Of course, that depends on how you follow your Toyota Prius maintenance procedures.

According to Car Spec, Toyota Prius owners must maintain their cars at different intervals. Some of the maintenance instructions from the manufacturer recur at every interval.

Toyota Prius cars need maintenance at 5000, 15,000, 30,000, 100,000, and 120,000 miles. Common maintenance tasks include oil changes, tire rotations, inspection and replacement of cabin and engine air filters as needed, brake inspections, spark plugs, and replacing the engine and hybrid system coolant. If owners follow all the maintenance instructions, they can expect at least 15 years from their Toyota Prius.

Some common problems with Toyota Prius cars

Although they are mostly reliable, Toyota Prius drivers often experience car problems. The most affected of all Prius owners are those with models in the category of problematic cars. Numerous complaints exist about the cars, but some are more prevalent than others. Some of the common problems potential Toyota Prius owners can expect are;

Windshield cracking

One of the most prevalent problems across all Toyota Prius cars is that their windshields crack a lot, and the reason for this problem is still unknown. The cracks spread rapidly and affect the windscreen fast after the initial crack cost owners around $800 to fix, which they have to do from their pockets since Toyota does not include it in the car's warranty.

Excessive fuel consumption

This problem especially affects owners of the 2010 and 2011 Toyota Prius models, which has become a critical issue with the models. The models’ excessive fuel consumption is attributed to a problem with their piston rings and the cover gasket, which owners can replace to alleviate the problem.

Numerous complaints against the two models primarily stemmed from this problem. Although owners can fix the problem, it is very costly as they sometimes have to fork out thousands to replace the entire engine.

Lighting Issues

Owners of the 2007 Toyota Prius have lodged numerous complaints about their vehicles suddenly going off without warning. The issue can be quite dangerous, especially if driving at night. To fix the problem, owners of the affected models have had to change the light bulbs and, in some cases, replace the entire lighting module.

Problems with multi-function display

Toyota Prius models between 2001 and 2016 were the most affected by their multi-function displays. The displays either become slow or stop working. The problem results from poorly connected wires in the display circuit board.

Although the Prius is no longer the king of hybrid cars, it is still one of the market's best selections of affordable hybrids. Toyota Prius cars are an excellent choice for reliable hybrid cars with a very efficient fuel economy. Like all other car brands, some Prius models are better than others. The list above will help anyone looking to purchase a Prius make a wise and informed decision.

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Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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