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It's What's Missing That Matters - Why Toyota Hybrids Are So Much More Reliable Than Other Brands' Vehicles

Sometimes less is more. In the case of Toyota’s long list of green vehicles, less troublesome parts means more reliable vehicles. Here’s what Toyota got rid of to improve durability and reliability in the Avalon, Venza, Sienna, Prius, RAV4 Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, Corolla Hybrid, and Highlander Hybrid.


Toyota has built its reputation on quality, durability, and reliability. The “Ask someone who owns one” campaign was created specifically because Toyota knew that its owners were getting much better than average reliability compared to other brands. When it comes to modern Toyota’s the trend is to move to all-hybrid drivetrains. The Venza and Sienna are just the latest of Toyota’s vehicles to be offered only as a hybrid (following the success of the Prius). The popularity of the Prius, RAV4 Hybrid, RAV4 Prime, and Highlander Hybrid are enhanced due to the reliability of the vehicles. That reliability is in no small part due to what Toyota got rid of.

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Here is a quick glance at a few items that you won’t find in a Toyota hybrid vehicle. You know the list well. There are things in your previous vehicles that lightened your wallet. Our examples are based on the latest RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime models. Tell us if you think you will miss repairing ay of these pain in the neck items.

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Toyota Hybrid Transmissions – No Gears, No CVT Belts
Toyota hybrids don’t rely on conventional geared transmissions or even the troublesome belt-driven CVTs in many new vehicles. Rather, Toyota has its own unique way of transferring the engine and motors’ power to the wheels. No fluid changes are required in normal use. That saves you hundreds over the life of the vehicle.

Toyota Hybrids – No Starter
Toyota hybrids don’t use conventional starter motors. Instead, the engine is started by Toyota’s motor-generator. This item has proven extremely reliable in use over many years of service. Toyota includes this item in its powertrain warranty. Most automakers exclude the starter from theirs. For a reason.

Toyota Hybrids – No Alternator
Toyota hybrids don’t use alternators. The alternator in my own Subaru Forester quit this past month after just 29,000 miles. The dealer wanted $960 (not including tax) to replace it. Alternators are notorious failure items in many brands. Toyota hybrids use DC to DC converters instead, just like many electric vehicles. No moving parts make them much more durable.

Toyota Hybrids – No Timing Belt
The timing belt service on a typical engine can cost between $500 and $1,000. Toyota hybrids use more durable timing chains with no required service.

Toyota Hybrids – No Accessory Belt

Since the water pump is electric in a Toyota hybrid, there is no need to have an accessory belt. How many belts have you paid to change after they start to slip?

Toyota Hybrids – No Conventional AC
Toyota uses a heat pump in its modern hybrids. A heat pump that does not need any accessory belt to run it.

Toyota Hybrids – No Turbochargers
We love turbochargers in some vehicles, but Toyota stays away from them as a rule. The biggest upside to a turbocharger is increased torque at low RPMs. Toyota Hybrids don’t need troublesome turbos because the electric motors provide outstanding torque at zero RPMs. Say goodbye to turbo lag and turbo replacements.

Toyota Hybrids – No Power Steering Pump
Like most modern vehicles you won’t find a hydraulic power steering pump in a Toyota hybrid. Rather, the vehicle has an electric power steering system.

Internal combustion engines can be a hassle to maintain and expensive to repair. Toyota’s hybrid drive genius is to simply get rid of the parts that break. Tell us in the comments below if you have ever had one of the items Toyota has now deleted cause you trouble in the past.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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Ken Weber (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 8:56AM

Own 5 Toyotas. My wifes 2010 Prius has 247,000 miles. Runs and runs but has had several major expensive issues with the hybrid system. Luckily, most have been covered under warranty. But not after 250,000 miles.

Mark (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 12:30PM

I am happy for the reduction in troublesome components I have to say the parts that have given me the greatest grief are head gaskets and cooling systems.Neither of which are eliminated in this build.
I used to purchase a lot of used cars as a young person and I would always price a water pump and alternator before buying as they were indicators of the marque's service costs. Ironically, I never had to replace a water pump. However I did replace a lot of alternators by going to the junkyard and picking one off a wreck for $10. Those days are long past as cars are far more complex and I am no longer interested in swearing under the hood for a Saturday morning.

Mike Wazowski (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 2:36PM

Thanks for the insight. Low maintenance is exactly why I bought one since I don't know crap about cars.

Melissa Chick (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 2:44PM

I used to have older used Cars on which the alternator or water pumps would go out on regularly because of the higher mileages. Now we have a 2013 Prius plug-in & are above 100k with no issues. Just regular oil changes & recommended maintenance. Thank you to Toyota for building such a reliable & cheap to maintain vehicle!!

David Choo (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 2:55PM

Many thumbs up, UP, UP, UP, for this article and to many more years of trouble-free driving of my Toyotas!

Ned Murphy (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 3:11PM

Just bought a 2020 Avalon Limited Hybrd last month, trading in a 4 month old Tesla 3. I was not aware of the Toyota's enhancements until I read this! Now I feel even "smarter" for getting out of the Tesla for what was an even trade!

JDub (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 3:41PM

Sorry but the water pump is driven by the gas engine internally, not electric. The AC pump is driven by an electric motor that uses power from the hybrid battery pack.
The big reliability item is the hybrid battery pack.

Jack C. (not verified)    February 7, 2023 - 1:46PM

In reply to by JDub (not verified)

It's important to keep the battery pack air filter clean to prolong hybrid battery life. Toyota apparently didn't emphasize this in early versions of the Prius, leading to premature battery overheating. Or they didn't have an obvious labeled cooling port and people would cover it with interior storage objects.

Kevin (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 4:21PM

I have

a 2020 camery hybrid. After less than 3 days
of not being used ,I leave for work and car won't start! I learned how to jump?start car., on my own. After app.2 days later .i needed an update . the computer wasn't reading to start car. Or some variation of that. I was pissed this is not a dodge dealership ! .at zenith (tv ) the quality goes in before the name goes on. This brings shame on the high quality. Toyota. Name

Rob Colucci (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 8:03PM

In reply to by Kevin (not verified)

Never had that problem. Did start car for two weeks . Was on vaca. Car is 2009 and has 224k miles. Don't know why new car did that. Was something left on?

Sach (not verified)    November 5, 2020 - 3:53AM

In reply to by Kevin (not verified)

This is a common problem with the 2020 Toyota hybrids. Dealer needs to update your hybrid's computer firmware because the program is draining the battery while trying to constantly "call home" while not finding a connection.

R Fogarty (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 5:37PM

I've had a Prius since 2005. The first one went 228,000 miles with not a single thing breaking, not a switch, not a light bulb, nothing. The dealership where I bought it offers free oil changes for life.... so no oil or filters ever. Brake pads went 200K before I replaced them. I did replace the 12v battery once and then at 228K replaced the hybrid battery pack for $2495. Then I drove it to 254,000 miles and sold it for $7K to the first buyer with cash.
Then I bought a 2nd one in 2014. Same story. At 110,000 miles so far. I have not spent one dime on maintenance or oil or filters. In both vehicles it was just wipers and tires on a regular basis.

James G OLoughlin (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 10:45PM

I have a 2020 Toyota corolla hybrid!! It is the best car I have ever owned. Titus Will Toyota in Tacoma sold me the best vehicle a person could ever buy!! THANK YOU TOYOTA!

DAVID MORENO (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 10:48PM

The article is well written and no one doubts Toyota's track record. However, all the advantages mentioned also apply to the Honda Hybrids as well.

DAVID MORENO (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 10:50PM

The article is well written and no one doubts Toyota's track record. However, all the advantages mentioned also apply to the Honda Hybrids as well.

Mike (not verified)    October 22, 2020 - 11:06PM

Just traded my 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid for a 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid. 255,000 miles and one component (hybrid controller) broke in those twelve years, it was covered by warranty, and a $300 ignition switch which I decided to upgrade instead. I may have just been lucky.

Floyd E Hutchins (not verified)    September 14, 2022 - 11:50PM

In reply to by Rouss A Hill (not verified)

Ford leased toyota hybrid system but did make some changes. They are essentially the same. I still own a 2014 C-max. Best car we have owned and so easy to get in and out unlike my Rav4 hybrid but like its AWD.

Daniel R Turner (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 4:12PM

Tired of newsies trumpeting the reliability of Toyota like paid reps. I do not find Toyota reliable. 4 wheel bearings replaced on 2003 Prius along with ABS module which failed resulting in no brakes (well, you had to stand on them). 2 hybrid battery modules failed as well as internal connections on the hybrid battery corroding and monitoring wires breaking. AC failed. Passenger side door lock failed. Front windscreen stress fractured. Apparently, not learning or maybe just liking the mpg we replaced it with a 2013. So far that has had a hybrid converter module fail, which was luckily replaced under recall. The map navigation no longer loads. Interior blower fan failed. Can't align rear tires because of solid beam axle so the tires wear unevenly (factory defect). Now we learn that the Gen 3 head gaskets fail because of poorly designed emissions controls. Not any more reliable than anything else. Many problems. I applaud the luck of those that get good ones but that happens with GM and Ford too (not so sure about Chrysler).