Skip to main content

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.

Join us...    

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.

Join us...    


David (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 10:17AM

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.

Joseph T. Looby (not verified)    May 12, 2020 - 6:46PM

In reply to by David (not verified)

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.

Rkhard ndorongo (not verified)    May 14, 2021 - 4:15AM

In reply to by Walter Zwicker (not verified)

Had a 2006 Prius with 304000 miles . I just did regular maintenance. I used synthentic oil every 5000 miles,had the water pump changed as a precaution. Front wheel bearings are weak . Had right wheel bearings changed ,@ 230000 miles in my 2006& 2011 prius.oil burning has never been a problem with either car. I m not sure why. Sold the 2006 online in 15 minutes! Great resale value. Now have 2011 Prius with 286000 miles. These cars are almost flawless & reassuring. Both great cars!

Jeremy and Mar… (not verified)    October 9, 2021 - 9:21PM

In reply to by Joseph T. Looby (not verified)

Check the pcv valve. They gum up and allow crankcase oil into the intake manifold. Remove the large black air line above and connected to the throttle body and manually push open the throttle valve. If you see oil pooled in the intake manifold then your pcv valve leaks. The oil will then accumulate and eventually fouls Your map sensor reading. Then you get mpg drop of 5 to 10 mpg. Your oil is pulled thru the intake and is combusted. No noticeable tailpipe smoke because it is gradually doing it. Catalytic converter could be helping also. So you keep adding oil. A new pcv valve is cheap at $10-20 and a diy. HOWEVER....Carefully!!!! Remove and clean the throttle body map sensor with sensor cleaner spray. It's a $200+ sensor. But you need to remove the intake manifold and clean everything else also..... Manifold, intake valves and ports, hoses, map sensor...etc that are oil and carbon covered. It's a long tedious job. YouTube prius intake and EGR and PCV cleanings for details. And add a oil catch can to the pcv line. Do not use a breather on the can, keep it a closed system to keep proper pressure. They are $30-40 on Amazon. The can will help keep your manifold clean in the future. At 100k to 150k you can EXPECT to need to give these a good cleaning on the prius.... Poor design unfortunately. The catch can will allow you to spot a poorly working pcv valve. And Do Not!!! overfill the prius oil as it can enter the pcv valve easier due to the valve being located so low on the vehicle. Again poor design. Hope this helps. P.s. doing this cleaning especially the EGR tube and valve and EGR cooler assembly also keeps the engine running cooler. Excessive heat will blow head gaskets easier, which is also an issue on priuses.

Jay bee (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 3:22PM

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.

Gina Cosden (not verified)    July 24, 2020 - 3:20PM

In reply to by Steve (not verified)

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.

Jeremy (not verified)    October 9, 2021 - 9:37PM

In reply to by Jay bee (not verified)

Replace the pcv valve. That's the entry point of oil into the manifold. Clean the entire manifold and EGR tube and valve and cooler. Pull spark plugs and pour 2oz of seafoam highmileage in each, let sit overnight to loosen carbon buildup on piston rings. Vacuum out with a tube on syringe or turn car over without plugs in to clear combustion chamber. I'd vac it so less goes into catylytic converter. Add 6oz sea foam high mileage to crankcase oil and drive for 300miles then change oil, also add the sea foam to the fuel tank at recommended dose. You might have excessive blow by at pistons.. Forcing more oil thru pvc valve.
Something is gummed up (piston rings or pcv valve and the system is incorrectly pressurized.
Also do not overfill the oil as it will be closer to the all ready low mounted pcv valve. And use sensor spray to clean the map sensor on the throttle body as well as the mass air flow sensor near the air filter. Do not scrub the sensors. YouTube the correct way to clean them as they are $200+ and $100+ sensors.

Hankinson (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 3:33PM

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)

Sue Fetterman (not verified)    December 18, 2021 - 8:22AM

In reply to by Hankinson (not verified)

I've changed my right headlight 3 times in the past year. The first part was replaced and I was told the main part needed replacement at a $500 cost to myself. I also experience the oil disappears. No sign, no light came on. This was over a year ago.. I've been adding oil. Since cold weather hit, it's not as bad, but I've just added a product 201called Lucas to help the flow. No results yet. Only a few days ago. There should be a recall. There is no warning light!! Prius is 2010 @ 184,000 miles. Other than the usual, a new 12 volt battery was added at 1rest of you!! I want answers,too. 80,000 miles. I'd say my Prius has served me well except for the " magic disappearing oil". I'm with the

Larry Rosenow (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 3:37PM

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.

Gerry Szarek (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 7:43PM

In reply to by Larry Rosenow (not verified)

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

Trevor (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 3:44PM

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.

Bill (not verified)    March 4, 2020 - 3:31AM

In reply to by Trevor (not verified)

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.

Jim Tenhundfeld (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 4:06PM

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.

Mike Steinmann (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 4:17PM

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.

Jeffrey (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 4:58PM

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.

Tim (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 5:06PM

My 2010 had a headlight recall, been fine since they replaced a small portion of the wiring harness.

Rick (not verified)    March 3, 2020 - 5:25PM

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.