2012 Toyota Prius V Blue
Peter Neilson's picture

3 Reasons To Steer Clear Of A 2010-2013 Toyota Prius

As a Prius owner and fan, my goal is to inform anyone who is looking for the right car. Take a look at my 3 reasons not to get a Generation 3 Prius.
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I have owned, driven, and fixed a plethora of Prius over the years. As someone who has battled all the problems in the trenches, I have learned a thing or two about what ones are good and what ones to stay away from.

I can also tell you if you are looking to buy what to look for. Here are my three reasons to not buy a 2010-2013 Toyota Prius.

Reason Number One: Headgasket Failure
The generation 3 Prius was a complete redesign starting in 2010. Everything about it was new, including the larger 1.8L all-aluminum engine.

Owners loved these cars, at first. Then the issues started rolling in. The first significant problem people began to encounter was a failing head gasket. If you have not read my other article on knowing if your head gasket is failing, read it here.

Head gasket failure is an expensive repair. Most of the time, people let it go too long and end up bending a connecting rod; at that point, you are better off installing a new engine.

2010 Toyota Prius Bad Head Gasket

After doing multiple head gasket repairs on these cars, I can tell you if you do not catch it early, plan to trade the vehicle in or plan to put an engine in it.

If you can get a car with a bad head gasket for cheap enough and clean, it could be worth your time to have it repaired. Many generation 3 owners have reported 50 to 60 miles per gallon on a good working car, which could be worth it.

Costs for an engine swap or gasket repair usually range in the $2500 to $5000 range, something to consider when purchasing.

Reason Number Two: Inverter Failure
To be fair, Toyota did their best to recall any faulty inverter, but unlike Pokemon, they did not catch them all. Inverters still are failing, and do not expect the repair to be cheap.

2012 Toyota Prius White

A new OE inverter can run you well over $2000, not including diag time or labor to install. Refurbished units from other hybrid places are around $650 before install.

Not a cheap repair, and what is worse, there are no warning signs as to when it could fail. Buyer beware.

Reason Number 3: Ridiculous Maintenance
Two things that grind my gears on Gen 3 Prius are the EGR system that always gets plugged up and the electric water pump.

I understand why the components are there, but honestly, is a regular water pump putting that much additional drag on the engine? Sure, an electric water pump can run when the car is off, but when these things fail, you are really stranded.

2010 Toyota Prius Water Pump

New pumps can cost around $650 to have replaced, and that does not include your tow. So, what about the EGR system? Glad you asked.

The EGR system is there to help lower tailpipe emissions which translates into a nightmare. When the exhaust is pushed back into the intake, it carries with it tiny bits of carbon.

These carbon bits get hung up in the cooler and all the tiny ports inside the intake manifold. The carbon builds upon itself and becomes a hardened nightmare to clean. Not to mention that you have to clean it, or it will help contribute to a faster-failing head gasket.

Unfortunately, we will always have carbon build-up as a by-product of the exhaust fumes getting pumped out through our exhaust systems. So, plan on spending a few hundred bucks every 90,000 miles or so to have the system cleaned out thoroughly.

Conclusion
Are Gen 3 Prius bad cars? Not necessarily; they can be pretty good and reliable if all the issues are dealt with and the vehicle has been well maintained. If the EGR is cleaned out regularly, oil changes are done on time, and any open recalls have been taken care of, these cars are pretty good.

As I stated earlier, if you can find a clean one with some issues and get it for cheap, it is worth the investment. But to buy a Gen 3 in an unknown condition is financial suicide.

Need some extra help? See what Pro Tip I can offer while checking out a used Prius.

I hope this helps. That is all for today. Be sure to check out some of my other articles on Prius and follow me on Twitter for all the latest updates trending in the hybrid and EV world. @the_hybrid_guy

Check out this wild new battery tech that Tesla has and why it will forever change the auto industry.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.


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Comments

I noticed that you only said 2010-2013. Isn't 2014-2015 also Gen 3? Did Toyota fix these problems by then?
Supposedly they did. That is why I purposely left those years out. I have yet to hear of a 14 or 15 with HG issues.
2014 Prius Here. Car in shop bc of HG right now.
I have a 2016 any problems i should look for 82,000
Are these issues true for 2013 Prius C, as well? Same question as above, your photo above is 2014 Prius V. Are 2014 part of these issues. Thanks
I have a 2012 Prius C 3 with 148k. No problems with the engine whatsoever. My brother has a 2010 Prius with 130k, also no problems with the engine.
No issues outside of normal wear parts with my 2011. At 212k and just now replacing injectors and EGR. Went from 45mpg to 55mpg.
I have a 2012 Prius PHV which has the 2ZR-EXE engine and was made for the Japanese Domestic Market. Please advise if the comments in your article above apply to this car.
If it is an early 1.8L 2ZR-FXE more than likely you will have the issue. Plug-Ins.. not sure. but the engine itself in the hybrid format is an issue.
Read another comment about 2014 being in same problem as 2010/2013 model! First let me say I wish I could have read this article 2weeks ago! I purchased a 2014 Prius which ran terrible! Being somewhat an old mechanic I thought well whatever the problem I can fix it! I took it to Toyota dealer and paid $588 for the advanced diagnostic check! The printout showed $6100 to fix a blown head gasket, water pump and more! Solution: dump the car and buy the 2007 model with the 1.4L engine and chalk it up to bad luck!
So my 2010 hatchback with almost 60,000 miles is almost ripe to start having problems? Last check up they said I needed to have a Prius Timing Cover Reseal kit done at $1860.00. They said no urgent need to have it done right away. Is this another common 2010-2013 thing? For some reason I thought I saw paperwork that said mine is a Gen 2. Can’t find that info now. If I gave you my VIN number could you tell? There is nothing on the Title or my purchase papers.
Bought my 2010 at 188k with the timing cover leak, now at 291k 5 years later. Just check the oil and top off if needed for the timing cover and you'll be okay. The head gasket failure seems inevitable though.
have a 2010 prius v 190,000 miles never a problem with stuff listed above
A common problem with the Gen 3 Toyota Prius 1.8 is they had a problem with the rings on the Pistons which after hundred 50 hundred sixty thousand k start to burn oil as long as you keep replacing the oil you'll be okay but it has to be checked every week after 180000 k you have to put a new electric water pump in it because what happens is electric water pump starts running slower and slower and blows a head gasket
That is good and I hope you never do! Just be cautious these things do happen.
We have the 2010 prius and so far we have had none of these issues.
Having 325,000 on mines Worn piston rings and have to keep putting oil in every 3 weeks Battery fan going bad and overheating batteries Water pump was simple and took less than 45 minutes to fix and the part cost 60 bucks on ebay the little magnetic thing inside it The brake booster I bought on ebay for 125 bucks and had a blast replacing it After 11 years 325k miles I am still driving it Oh I did replace brakes once Shocks and a crap load of tires
As a 2010 owner that has done the EGR clean out and oil catch can install, I'm interested to know where I can get this $300 EGR clean out :) My cooler was completely clogged and took at least 8 to clean out alone.
I had to replace the inverter on our 2012 Prius V within a year after buying it. Got it used in 2016. However, I got the money back from Toyota when they announced the recall. They covered the whole repair I had paid for including the used part I bought off eBay. It has 191000 miles now. Unfortunately the smart key system has an issue, a short somewhere in the wiring and so the key fob remote doesn't work. Dealership wanted over $2,000 to fix it and two other places couldn't do it. I'll be trading it in soon.
Own a 2010 Prius, purchased new, 115,000 miles, and have experienced none of these problems. Most trouble free car I have ever owned: having owned other Toyotas, that is saying a lot.
Do these issues apply to a 2013 Prius V?
I bought a brand new 2010. Had to have the engine replaced after HG failure at 260k miles. Got another 80k miles then inverter failure. Now it sits. Loved that car tho.
Just had my 2015 in for EGR issues, needed the carbon build up cleaned out.
Just had my 2015 in for EGR issues, needed the carbon build up cleaned out.
Yep. I had a 2013 that needed a head gasket at 166k miles. So mad. I expected at least 200-250k out of it. Left me stranded 750 miles from home on a road trip.
I have a 100k mile 2010 prius and an 80k mile 2013 prius v without a lick of trouble. Both bought new. The is a worn spot on drivers carpet mat.
I haven't had any of these issues and I have 133k+ on my 2010. This guy has an agenda.
I agree, see my comment on my 2012 prius v that I wrote today, about half hour ago. 126000 and best car I ever owned.
Why does it anger you that other people have issues with a car that you don't? Go check the prius forums, the EGR issue is all over the place there. You have a 2012, which didn't have as bad of an EGR issue because Toyota fixed the piston rings for 2012, causing less blowby, causing less oily exhaust, causing less oil going through the EGR cooler/valve. This resulted in less issues with the EGR. 2010-2011 is the years to watch out for.
Any experience with a plug in, we own two, a 2012 and 2018. We run on elect a lot with 2012 and mostly EV with 2018. Running on EV would reduce the problems you mention. They are both low mileage, 40 k and 25 k respectively

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