Shopping for a used Toyota Prius
John Goreham's picture

Shopping For A Used Toyota Prius - Avoid These Troublesome Years

The Toyota Prius can be a great used car buy. However, there are two major problems to avoid. Here are the years to skip.

The Toyota Prius is a fantastic used car purchase. The Prius has proven itself to be a reliable, affordable vehicle in the used market. Toyota, and the Prius, both win awards over and over again for reliability, durability, and quality. So why the alarm? Not so much an alarm as a heads up that some years have proven less troublesome than others. So why buy one of the years owners have had issues with?

Toyota Prius Excessive Oil Consumption Issue
The Toyota Prius has experienced a problem with excessive oil consumption. The problem generally manifests itself shortly after the 100K miles mark. Not a bad time for a problem to start if you owned the car new. However, if you are buying it used, why buy into a problem?

Here’s what one owner said at about the issue:
“My 2010 Prius was able to go 10,000 between oil changes without issue and then it suddenly started consuming oil excessively when it reached around 100,000 miles. I now get the oil changed every 5,000 miles, but I still have to add 4 quarts of oil in between oil changes. There are no puddles of oil anywhere to indicate a leak, and there's no black smoke coming from the exhaust to indicate it is burning. I'm not sure where the oil is going but is definitely not in the engine. I understand that older vehicles need to have the oil checked and topped off regularly, but going from 10,000 miles between oil changes to having to refill 4 quarts of oil after around 3,000 miles, it's ridiculous. There was supposedly a lawsuit about this, and I heard that Corolla and Camry had a similar issue and the engines were replaced under a recall. Please recall the Prius and fix this issue!”

Which Year Used Toyota Prius To Avoid - Engine Problems
Is that the type of car you want to buy? You can avoid it. The two years in which the Prius most commonly had the oil consumption problem were 2010 and 2011. CarComplaints brands both years of the Toyota Prius with the ‘Avoid Like the Plague” stamp of disapproval.

Toyota Prius Lighting Issue
Another problem that used Toyota Prius owners often report relates to lighting. The lights go out, are replaced, and then fail again. Here’s what one owner told CarComplaints: “The headlamp failure in this Prius has now occurred for the 6th time. The first two times were covered by warranty - all subsequent failures I had to pay the cost of replacement. This must be a design flaw and Toyota has not responded to the many complaints that they have received on this problem.”

Which Year Used Toyota Prius To Avoid - Headlight Problems
The years that owners of used Toyota Prius cars most commonly report the headlight issue are 2003 through 2012. However, the problem seems most common in the years 2008 and 2009.

Since the oil consumption and also the headlight issue overlap the 2010 and 2011 model years, we suggest that used Prius shoppers consider a purchase of one of these two years carefully before buying.

Do you own a Toyota Prius with either of these problems? If so, tell us in the comments below how you dealt with it and if there was a successful fix. You may save a fellow Prius owner some trouble.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. 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 connect with him at Linkedin.

Subscribe to Torque News on YouTube.

Follow Torque News on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.


I bought my 2009 Prius used a few years back, and it seems to need a quart of oil every 3000 miles or so. I think of that as a small price to pay for owning such a great car.
Likewise, I bought a 2009 Prius in 2010 and have been VERY happy with it ever since. Had to replace a water pump at 115,000 miles and may need to do it again. I, too, have recently begun to put in a quart of oil every 3,000 miles. I have 190,000 miles on the car, however. Small price to pay.
2cnd water pump 195,000. Oil leak from oil pan. Hybrid oil runs right thru. I use regular oil.
I have a 2010. I put a quart of oil every 800 miles. It’s a real bummer. Does anyone know of a fix for this issue? I also need to clean out the intake manifold every 10k miles. I installed a oil catch can hoping it’ll eliminate this problem, but it didn’t.
I don't think there's a fix. I believe Toyota redesigned the pistons/rings in 2012 or 2013 or so to fix it moving forward.
I have a 2012 Prius. Great car until about 96,000 miles. It then started going through the oil. The dummy light never comes on so I have to check it weekly. Now at 150,000 miles it has started to do a shudder when running. From the start the dealership said the only thing I can do is replace the engine. I am pretty disappointed. I have owned Toyota’s most of my life and always have had great luck with them. I may be looking for something soon.
My 2012 started having headlight problems after 230k miles. Before that routine maintenance no repairs. After 240K, I had to replaceights and oil MONTHLY and have ar times, replaced oil in between the month oil change. 8 years in and the only repair has been the EGR manifold which cost 1200.00 to replace. (Parts + labor)
My wife leased a 2014 Prius. She liked it so much she purchased it after the lease ran out. Only problem the left rear wheel bearing went out at 40K miles. Current mileage is over 100,000 miles.
Rear bearings especially the right side are problematic. Taking off ramps at high speed increases this problem. Replace your rear bearing with a high quality replacement at an independent repair shop
I had a 2010 Prius. It was great. It did have the issue with oil (the engine ended up dying around 200k miles) and it also had the headlight problem. Still a great car. I'd buy it again in a heartbeat.
My 2011 top of the line 5 was given perfect care with the right 0-20 oil. Never needed any adjustments or repairs except one computer flash upgrade at no cost. Basically a perfect car, no oil use age at 7,000 mile changes with excellent road mileage and comfort with the 17” rims etc. Then suddenly at 125,000 miles the engine developed a scraping noise with a small loss of radiator fluid. Turned out a scope found one cylinder wall badly scored from a suspected blown head gasket. Toyota dealership quoted $8,000 engine rebuild. That was completely rejected. I found a JDM engine (Japanese engine with about 40,000 mile installed for $2,000. That engine runs perfectly, but darn, I thought the Toyota head gasket Problems were solved years ago. Also hear the piston drain back holes get plugged at about the same mileage And resulting high oil consumption. That also is totally unacceptable for engines that don’t run all the time. Most likely 20% less for city driven cars compared to non hybrid.
Y problem is with my 2008 Prius is the collapsible bladder in the gas tank. In winter I can only get a maximum of 7 gallons of gas because the bladder collapse.
I had a 2005 Prius for 2+ years during which I drove for uber, primarily at night. Every 2 monthe like clockwork, both headlamps burned out within hours of each other. To change the lamps you need to loosen the fender, so the attachments wore out and the fenders couldn't be secured properly, but they were still functional. I had only a couple minor repairs while piling up 140K miles in the 28 months I owned the car. I moved up to a 2009 that has run perfectly for the first 22K miles over 4 months of ubering.
My 2014 Prius Plug-in that I bought brand new with only 3 miles now has 210k miles and has not had a single issue. I still have 50% left on the original brakes in the front and 75% left on the original rear brake pads. It has been a fantastic car.
My 2010 had a headlight recall, been fine since they replaced a small portion of the wiring harness.
No problems with my 2012, though only have 60k+ on it.
I currently have a 2010 with 211k on it and have not had the oil problem. I did at one point (probably around 150k) develop an oil leak which I think was due to a stuck sensor valve or something. I have had to replace headlights twice. It has been a great car. No other problems with it.
Have 2008 Prius with 300000 replaced headlights 2-3 times on each side change oil 5000 miles interval have to add 1 quart at 2500. Small price for a 12 year old car. Trying to make 400000
Hu I am from Malta, after 300kmiles how the performance of the battery, & how much the distance ( approximately) the car drives with battery alone . Thanks
I drive a 2011 Prius with 175,000 miles on odo Have had since new. Zero oil consumption. Zero headlight issues. Zero issues to speak of. I would choose an early Prius over the plague any day
How Often do you change your oil? I keep reading people changing the Prius oil at 10,000 miles that seems like a lot of miles to wait for an oil change. Even if it's factory recommended I wish to go electric or hybrid and I'm really serious about the Prius.
i have two Prius models a 2011 Prius 2 and a 2012 Prius V. I gave the 2011 to my son when i bought the 2012. The 2011 has 125000 miles on it and has been a wonderful car. The 2012 though is POS, Toyota recalled a million 2012 Prius for brake issues but excluded the Prius V. Low and behold after my batteries went out at 65,000 miles (fortunately covered by warranty) I started to get four different brake idiot lights coming up at 68,000 miles. I was told it would cost $4600 to repair and they wouldn't guarantee that it would'nt return. I traded it in from a BMW
My wife and I both have 2005 Prius'. I have 215k miles and she has 160k. Aside from the frequent tire changes and my car now using a quart of oil every few thousand miles (not the same for my wife's car, which possibly reflects my more aggressive driving style), the cars have been wonderful. At 210k, I needed a hybrid water pump and over the 15 years two starter batteries, one recent brake change and one headlight. Small prices to pay for cars that will likely go another 100k+ miles.
I have a 2010 Prius with 113k on it currently. To my knowledge I don't have the oil problem but now I feel like I need to check it. I did have the headlight problem but mine was covered under a recall that was done in the last two years that replaced the wiring harness for them and I haven't had an issue since. I would suggest anyone with the headlight issue look and see if their car is part of that recall. Even if not, those lights are very easy to replace yourself. I love this car and I'm driving it until it implodes.
Own a 2010 Prius. Have replaced headlights multiple times. Burning a quart of oil about every 3 to 4 thousand miles. Car has 205,000 miles and is still going strong. Changed one front wheel bearing and have to replace one rear bearing. Biggest expense I've had was a fuel pump that failed around 180,000 miles. Love my car
I have a 2010 Prius with 98K miles and have never experienced a single problem. I get the oil changed every 10k miles and don't even bother to check the oil between oil changes. It's the most trouble free car I have ever owned. Odd that you say to avoid this model year.
I drive with my headlights on day and night. I purchased a 2008 Prius new and the headlights burned out at about 40,000 miles. After going through a couple of sets of cheap China bulbs I purchased Sylvania bulbs. it's been over a hundred thousand miles and my Sylvania bulbs are still burning bright.
I had an 06 and 07 Prius’ that I bought used both with about 145,000 miles. They both started using oil around 200,000 miles. These take conventional oil and I started adding Lucas Oil treatment at each oil change and they went from a quart every 1000 miles to 1 qt between 5000 mile oil changes. Both cars are doing well and now have about 260,000 on each. My only real issue with these cars is the 07 has had three rear wheel bearings go out and the 06 had one replaced. One failure happened on a long 1400 mile trip and created a very dangerous driving experience. The mechanic couldn’t believe the wheel didn’t come off. Just have them checked when the tires are rotated. These cars are still in the family and I haven’t had any other issues. They are great cars.
My 2004 Prius has two problems. The lights started burning out at about 180,000 miles. I have to have them replaced a lot now. My son began putting in the cheaper headlights. That is bad, because they do not broadcast out enough to give me good front headlight vision. That is a safety issue for me. Wish Toyota had an alert signal that warned when lights go out. One day I was stopped by a cop after a headlight burned out. He said none of my cars lights were working, not a one, they had all burned out! 2 months earlier I had gone in for an oil change, and all my lights were checked and working. Driving without lights cost me a $300 ticket, plus $600 more for lost points and 3 years of increased car insurance costs = $900! Another problem, right from the beginning, is the acceleration from a break situation on wet or icy conditions. The road condition reader hiccups and spins in this weather setting, it's very disconcerting. I would not trust this car in rainy or snowy conditions. Fortunately I live in dry sunny CA, so I do not experience this problem often. But, when I do, it gives me great anxiety.
Sounds like that assWhole cop needed to hit his quota.