Skip to main content

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.


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.

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.


Ken McCauley (not verified)    January 23, 2022 - 8:30AM

In reply to by Jake (not verified)

I have a 2012 prius v with 230k miles on it. I change the oil on it often and it does now burn oil. But I've never had an issue with anything. Hope I don't jinx it. I hope to get 300k out of it. But if it died today it would still be the most reliable car I've ever owned. I'm 62.

Geo (not verified)    February 28, 2022 - 12:16PM

In reply to by Ken McCauley (not verified)

My Prius v now has 127 000 other than the brake booster kicks off more often and the blue tooth stop working it has been a good car. You must maintain your vehicle so it can last as a retired master tech and can say most of the time is not that is a bad car but a
bad owners that don't protect there investment

Thomas D Skaggs (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 1:50PM

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.

Craig Brown (not verified)    January 9, 2022 - 5:32PM

In reply to by Ed (not verified)

I think this guy Is talking about if you don't take care of the car. Duh... regular oil changes... inverter coolant changes ...and regular coolant changes.. I have a 2012 and do all this myself.. I'll let you know when I get 300K.. I'm at 80 K now

David Martel (not verified)    January 25, 2022 - 11:10AM

In reply to by Ed (not verified)

Your car WILL loose the water pump soon, this is the exact when they fail. Replace it immediately. Remember this reply after you blow both the h. g because you read this article and did nothing. These cars run great until they don't. You are warned twice

Carlos Arce (not verified)    February 25, 2022 - 10:26AM

In reply to by Ed (not verified)

I just bought a 2010 Toyota Prius with 30,000 original miles on it, was a city-owned vehicle. How can I find out if this vehicle was recalled and problems repaired. Now I am worried, should have read up on this vehicle before I bought it, paid $16,000 because of the low miles, but now I'm wondering if it was worth it

Mark Elledge (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 2:08PM

No issues outside of normal wear parts with my 2011. At 212k and just now replacing injectors and EGR. Went from 45mpg to 55mpg.

Ross (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 3:19PM

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.

Jerry P (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 3:31PM

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!

Chandi (not verified)    March 20, 2023 - 7:28PM

In reply to by Jerry P (not verified)

Hi, I am considering a 2014 Prius. I have looked at a handful of them. Do you think your experience was unusual? The 2014 is not listed in a year to avoid in all the articles I have found on Prius years to avoid. Any thoughts are appreciated! I am hoping to decide on a car this week. (leaving this comment on March 20, 2023.

Connie Jane (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 6:14PM

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.

J M (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 9:39PM

In reply to by Connie Jane (not verified)

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.

John C. Edwards (not verified)    September 29, 2023 - 7:16AM

In reply to by Connie Jane (not verified)

I had a used 2010 Prius from a dealer with 60,K miles.
I brought it up to 240K miles with a different dealer who replaced everything else associated with it, including timing chain, other gaskets etc.
I'd say the mechanicals were excellent. But they failed to replace a defective horn while it was apart.
The real problem? The dealer system. My first 2010 was only a year old when I bought it, but the dealer hid that it'd been in a major collision -- and sold it as "certified".
It didn't take long to recognize something was wrong, and a technician confirmed it,
but the family-owned dealership denied it. When I tried to appeal, I learned that Toyota Corporate has no control over its dealers. Each dealership is different.
Recently, I traded that 2010 for a nearly identical one with an undisturbed chassis.
I expected it to be as mechnically as reliable as the first because its service record (and CarFax) showed it has always been serviced by a NJ Toyota dealer.
My first Toyota taught me to be suspicious of dealers when a service manager there insisted I needed new rotors & brakes at 100 K. -- I should have laughed at that.
Then they said I had a leaky timing chain cover. Well, I keep my car parked in a garage, where the clean concrete beneath the engine remains pristine. So, forget that one.
The car is better than its dealers. [That dealer system has outlived its usefulness.]
My second 2010 gave lousy gas mileage and began to emit a rattling sound after I bought it, suggesting combustion problems.
Well, 70 years ago, I knew two brothers who'd been WW2 mechanics on the Red Ball Express. Engineers of the time established products like "Rislone" and "Marvel Mystery Oil" to keep the supply trucks running.
I tried the Rislone which cleaned my EGR enough to raise my gas mileage at least 5mpg, enabling me to get 48 mpg on a recent 300 mile drive on the Interstate,
That revealed a cooling problem as the coolant overflows the reservoir. .
I wonder what a coolant flush could do?

Steven Furman (not verified)    April 3, 2021 - 3:40AM

In reply to by Ronsld (not verified)

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